Representation matters, but in the eyes of pop culture, its significance is hardly ever enough. The imaginative minds of children often rely on the larger-than-life ideals and imagery presented in comic books. For many of us, that reliance spans deep into the years of adulthood. Few sensations match the experience of seeing a character with any resemblance to you perform impossible feats. Superman has left many of us jumping around our homes with our mom’s sheets tied around our necks. Within the blink of an eye, the trashcan lid easily becomes Captain America’s unbreakable shield. African American and Hispanic readers have historically not had those same options.
Every child and adult should have the ability to relish in such gratification. This specific need embodies one of the many reasons Konkret Comics is so important for minority cultures. A coalition of black and brown creators manifesting powerful and original black and brown characters creates a vast amount of opportunity for the minds who digest the content. With that being said, bear with us as we shed some light onto Milestone Media, a company that trail-blazed through barriers and opened doors for minority comic creators in the entertainment industry.
In 1993, Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle founded Milestone’s Dakotaverse. The Dakotaverse was a name given to the array of interconnected stories from the artists at Milestone. After a vat of chemicals was dumped into Dakota, a minority neighborhood, an explosion resulted in the creation of metahumans known as Bang Babies. The heroic and villainous deeds of the bang babies account for all the stories. The first four stories crafted were Hardware, Icon, Blood Syndicate and Static. These stories were so rich with detail that McDuffie and the others crafted a manual of information known as the Milestone “bible” to protect the integrity of the continuity. From there, the groundwork was laid for some of Milestone’s characters to achieve a popularity that rivaled those from the industry’s “big two,” Marvel and DC. The latter became a profitable partner in securing the success of the launch.
A publishing deal with DC Comics gave Milestone an advantage over its competition. The terms of the deal with DC Comics gave Milestone full creative control over their characters and stories. Milestone also retained all merchandising and licensing rights as well. In exchange for a share of their profits, DC Comics would publish and distribute all Milestone Media. DC Comic’s brand and large market presence gave Milestone a mainstream visibility for its diverse pantheon of characters.
One of Milestone’s most recognizable characters is Icon. Icon was an alien being who crash landed in an American corn field in 1839. His pod caused him to mimic the identity of the first human it encountered, an African American slave woman named Miriam. The slave woman raised him as her son. As decades passed, Icon’s aging slowed after reaching adulthood. To hide his identity, he aged into the present day by pretending to be his own descendants. His power-set includes superhuman strength, energy generation, super speed and reflexes, flight, invulnerability and a healing factor. With his power-set, Icon has proven to be a challenge for even Superman during Milestone/DC Crossover events. He and his female sidekick Rocket have been featured many times in DC animation such as Justice League and Young Justice.
Another of Milestone’s popular titles was its Blood Syndicate series. The blood syndicate featured a diverse mixture of minority characters. Two of its initial Hispanic heroes were Aquamaria and Brickhouse. Brickhouse premiered in Blood Syndicate #1 in 1993. Brickhouse has a rocky flesh which makes her invulnerable to most forms of damage. She also possesses Super Strength. Maria Molina became Aquamaria. Her entire body is made of water. Maria can manipulate and control all water, whether it originated from her or not. She can shift between all three phases of matter: gas, liquid and solid forms. Considering the strength and fluidity of water, she is a formidable opponent to any who opposes her. She appeared twice on the television show, Static Shock, where she was voiced by actress Erika Velez.
That brings us to arguably Milestone’s most successful character, Static. Static is a favorite for comic book fans of all races. Teenager Virgil Hawkins has the personality, charisma and intelligence of Marvel’s Spiderman. After the big bang event, Virgil becomes Static, gaining powers that provide him control over electromagnetic energy. In September 23, 2000, Static became the star of his own animated television series with Static Shock. The show lasted for four seasons. Static has also made appearances and/or regularly starred in other television series’ such as Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice. In the wildly popular sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, there is a framed copy of Static #1 on the wall of Will and Carlton’s pool house apartment. Static’s popularity has regarded him as a mainstay within pop culture and has opened countless doors for characters like him to delight the eyes of young minority readers.
The 1990s was not a period known for gender fluidity, especially within the still conservative bounds of comic book storytelling. The creators at Milestone Media were however far beyond the times. The Blood Syndicate's Masquerade was written to be a transgender character. Although he kept his gender identity hidden from the rest of the team, Volume 1 of the Blood Syndicate often referred to the character using the 'her' pronoun. Not only was Masquerade's lifestyle the embodiment of free will and self-identity, but his powerset furthered that same theme. Masquerade was able to manipulate his own form to take on the appearance of any human, animal or inanimate object. The character was truly an agent for positive change.
Last month, Denys Cowan made the announcement that Milestone Comics is returning as a part of the DC Comic’s multiverse. He is quoted as saying, “There’s going to be some new things that are going to be announced. But for all people who are thinking about Milestone, we thank you for your continued patience. There will be stuff to see and there will be stuff to see relatively soon. And hopefully, people will be back on the Milestone bandwagon, and it’ll be good because I think that now, it’s needed more than ever.”
If you’re a Milestone fan, let’s continue our discussion in the comments section below. For more greatness within minority comic book storytelling, check out all of Konkret’s Issue 1 comic books and stay tuned for announcements on future issues as well. As always, keep it Konkret!