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Review: Static: Season One #6

Static: Season One #6

Vita Ayala and Nikolas’ Draper-Ivey’s reinvention of Virgil Hawkins for the 2020s comes to a successful end in Static: Season One #6. The plot of the comic is pretty straightforward: Static and his friends are trying to shut down a government black site and rescue some fellow Bang Babies (Aka the metahumans of the Milestone universe.) when they run into other Bang Babies, who are working for the government because of money or other reasons. However, Static Season One has mainly been about Static’s journey so it’s fitting that this comic shows him do incredible things with his electromagnetic abilities.

Best of all, this focus on action in Static: Season One #6 allows Draper-Ivey to flex his skills with layout, poses, and especially color. Kind of like turning up the voltage, Nikolas Draper-Ivey saturates with white space, blue, and cool glitch effects that show the strain that Static is going through to help his friends and get out alive. It’s the climax of some super-kinetic storytelling with Draper-Ivey capturing the greatest hits of a fight scene through speed lines, small panels, and poses straight out of anime. Everything is hyper-stylized and dynamic with the act of throwing a baseball bat turning into a momentum changer as Static’s abilities bleed into almost every panel on the page.

Static has become much more focused with his abilities compared to the early issues, and this visual depiction of him flows directly into Ayala’s words and script, which is all about the importance of community and using anger to create change. Static Season One began with a moment ripped from recent headlines with Virgil Hawkins and the other Bang Babies getting their abilities at a Black Lives Matter protest, and Vita Ayala and Nikolas Draper-Ivey haven’t shied away from exploring the realities of systemic racism and false media narratives. In this issue, Ayala takes aim at the hollowness of the American dream through their writing of the smarmy “G-man” Jones, who unironically extols the virtues of bootstraps capitalism and generally talks shit about folks like Static, who aim to unite their community against injustice.

I might be reading into this a little too much, but Jones’ dialogue, especially about “community building”, reminds me a lot of how Barack Obama was perceived earlier in his political career as a progressive and community organizer. However, he ended up being just another neoliberal imperialist and hasn’t done much in recent years to push back against that, such as ending the 2020 NBA player strike or criticizing the defund the police movement. From his generic name to his shadowy actions, Jones represents the status quo that Static and his friends and family are trying to overturn or shed light on. However, he’s definitely a “Season One” kind of bad guy with Season Two teasing an even more intriguing threat for Static and company.

In the midst of all the fight and cool powers, Ayala and Draper-Ivey don’t neglect the relationship between Static and his family giving them a nice scene bathed in light where he outlines why he wants to be a superhero and their reactions to his plan. It’s only about three pages and most of the characterization has been done in previous issues, but the Hawkinses ground Static giving him a base and set of values as he sets out to change the world and protect his fellow Bang Babies while looking good doing it. You can see what his parents and sister instilled in him through Static’s actions throughout the book, especially as he addresses the whole world via his friend Darius’ streaming rig. (He got some great character development too going from an annoying clout chaser to being Oracle with a Twitch account.

Static: Season One #6 features unique visuals and high energy storytelling from Nikolas Draper-Ivey while showing Static truly coming into his own as a superhero. Vita Ayala and Draper-Ivey use superpowers to explore big universal ideas like family, community, and power structures in an action-driven narrative. I’m definitely looking forward to Season Two, and there’s much to explore with mysterious villains as well as Static’s non-family supporting cast that were such a memorable part of the original comic and WB Kids cartoon.

Story: Vita Ayala Art: Nikolas Draper-Ivey Letterer: Andworld Design
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Milestone’s Blood Syndicate Returns in 2022, Plus an Animated Film and Compendium!

The announcement of The Milestone Initiative in collaboration with Ally as part of DC’s Next Generation DC program was one of many mind-boggling announcements to come from this all-day celebration of DC and its passionate fans. In a discussion moderated by actor Echo Kellum (Curtis Holt/Mr. Terrific, “Arrow”), Milestone producer Reggie Hudlin and Milestone co-founder Denys Cowan shared more details about the future of Static, Icon and Rocket, Hardware, and the Dakota Universe.

After confirming that writer Randy McKinnon (Safety) is currently writing the script for the Static Shock feature film in production with Warner Bros. and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society, Hudlin and Cowan dropped the bombshell that Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment are working on a Milestone animated movie based on a screenplay by Hardware Season One writer Brandon Thomas. In addition to his Milestone work, Thomas is writing several Aquaman-focused series for DC: Aquaman: The Becoming, Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target, and the 2022 Aquamen series (co-written with Black Manta series writer Chuck Brown), in addition to a two-part Outsiders story in Batman: Urban Legends as part of DC’s Batman: Fear State comic book event. Thomas has also written several critically acclaimed series such as Excellence, and Noble, in addition to his own creator-owned series, The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury.

This will be the first time that the city of Dakota will be featured in animation since the beloved Static Shock animated series which aired from 2000-2004; episodes are now available to watch for free with a subscription to HBO Max.

As the conversation turned to Milestone publishing, Reggie and Denys enthusiastically shared news that Milestone fans have been eagerly awaiting since DC FanDome 2020: an all-new Blood Syndicate comic book series is in the works for 2022. A writer and artist on the title is still to be announced, but both Milestone execs both talked about how Blood Syndicate has been the book that Milestone fans have been clamoring for, even as they received incredible praise for the current series, Static Season One, Icon and Rocket Season One, and Hardware Season One.

Regarding the current series, both Cowan and Hudlin not only confirmed that the characters will be appearing in each other’s current titles, confirming a connected “Dakotaverse,” but that “Season Two” plans for these titles are underway.

In addition to the new periodical series and a Milestone anthology releasing in February 2022, as a part of DC’s Black History Month celebrations, Cowan revealed his cover for Milestone Compendium One, available February 1, 2022. This massive, 1,300-page softcover is a must-have tribute for Milestone and comic book fans, as well as the perfect gateway for new fans to discover the legacy of the Dakotaverse and its greatest storytellers, including Cowan, the late Dwayne McDuffie (also a Milestone co-founder), Ivan Velez, John Rozum, Frazer Irving, M.D. Bright, and more.

The compendium collects issues #1-12 of Blood SyndicateHardware #1 -12, Icon #1-10, Static #1-8, Xombi #1-8, and Shadow Cabinet #0.

Review: Static: Season One #1

Static: Season One #1

Dynamic and crackling with energy. That’s a great way to describe Static: Season One #1, the ongoing start to the Dakotaverse. After far too long on the shelf, the world launched by the trailblazers at Milestone decades ago returns for a new take for a new time. Even with such high expectations and pressure, Static: Season One #1 is a solid debut that has me excited for more.

With a story by Vita Ayala, the debut issue delivers a nice mix of teenage issues and superhero action. Ayala focuses on the angst of what a kid’s to do when he develops superpowers. Layered on top of an underlying story about a proliferation of powers in general and you have a comic that’s your coming-of-age teen superhero story mixed with social awareness.

The story has a clear focus on Virgil’s struggle with his powers. But, there’s a parable aspect to it with the expansion of powers among the youth. For those who missed Milestone Returns #0, police used an experimental gas to disperse a protest resulting in powers emerging from some individuals. Dubbed “Bang Babies”, the protestors are blamed for what happened to them, not those who perpetrated the crimes. The situation can be applied to so many different real-world situations that it works well. Readers can come at the comic from their own experience and perspective that way though all stemming from an injustice and victims being blamed for the actions taken against them.

But through all of that Ayala reminds us that Virgil is a kid. He plays roleplaying games and has trouble asking out girls. He’s worried about his grades. His family talks at him as opposed to him. And as we’ve seen, he must deal with bullies, a situation far too many can relate to.

The layouts by Chriscross are fantastic. With finishes and colors by Nikolas Draper-Ivey, the comic is beautiful to look at. There’ a youthful energy about it that’s hard to ignore. The page layouts at times pop and all the time feel fresh. This is a comic that has a look and feel that’s perfectly in-sync between the writer, artists, and the characters. What’s impressive is there are some pages and spreads that are packed. But, at no time does it feel overwhelming or cluttered. It’s beautiful to look at playing off the blue energy Virgil’s struggling to keep in.

The comic is fantastic. There is some choppiness at times with some jumps in scenes and some disbelief as to who knows about the events of Milestone Returns #0 but it’s a hell of a fun start. Ayala delivers a balance of action of the grounded issues of growing up. It delivers a start in a classic style of superhero stories with a look that’s full of energy. Static: Season One #1 is a hell of a start that’s well worth checking out and the start of something exciting.

Story: Vita Ayala Layouts: Chriscross
Finishes/Color: Nikolas Draper-Ivey Letterer: Andworld Design
Story: 8.7 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

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Ava DuVernay’s New Gods and Games Wan’s The Trench Not Moving Forward

DC Logo

The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop that Warner Bros. has shelved two of its upcoming, and high-profile, films based on DC properties. Ava DuVernay‘s New Gods and James Wan‘s The Trench are not going forward at this time.

In a statment, Warner Bros. and DC said:

As part of our DC slate, some legacy development titles including New Gods and The Trench will not be moving forward. We thank our partners Ava DuVernay, Tom King, James Wan and Peter Safran for their time and collaboration during this process and look forward to our continued partnership with them on other DC stories. The projects will remain in their skillful hands if they were to move forward in the future.

New Gods was a take on the classic Jack Kirby characters with DuVernay directing and working with comic writer Tom King. The film has been in development since 2018. DuVernay is working on the television series Naomi based on the DC character which will air on The CW.

The Trench was a spin-off from the blockbuster Aquaman. The horror-tinged film featured Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald on the script with Wan developing as producer with Peter Safran. Wan is still working on Aquaman 2 which will begin shooting later this year.

While these two projects have been shelved for now, they may happen down the road. It is believed the issue is there was no “natural” place to release the films in the current upcoming plans.

DC is currently focused on a multi-platform approach with films like The Suicide Squad and The Batman bleeding over into television with the HBO Max series Peacemaker and a show focused on the Gotham police department.

DC is still focused on creating a film universe with The Flash, tackling the DC multiverse, being key to what comes next. Upcoming films include Black Adam, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and projects featuring Blue Beetle, Batgirl, Supergirl, Static Shock, and Green Lantern Corps. There’s also the third Wonder Woman film, newly announced Zatanna, and Superman film produced by J.J. Abrams and written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Michael B. Jordan Joins Static Shock as Producer

Static #1

DC announced during their FanDome event that Static Shock was getting the movie treatment. The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop that Michael B. Jordan and Outlier Society will produce the film.

Jordin joins Reginald Hudlin on the project. Outlier Society is Jordan’s Warner-based banner.

In a statement, Jordan said:

I’m proud to be a part of building a new universe centered around black superheroes; our community deserves that. Outlier Society is committed to bringing to life diverse comic book content across all platforms and we are excited to partner with Reggie and Warner Bros on this initial step.

Static is 15-year-old Virgil Hawkins who gains electromagnetic powers and becomes a costumed crusader.

Static first appeared in Static #1 in 1993 as part of the Milestone Comics imprint. Milestone was a comics imprint founded in response to the underrepresentation of minorities in comics. The comic imprinted the Dakota Verse, filled with minority superheroes and characters. Static was created by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle. When Milestone folded, Static eventually joined the regular DC Universe.

Milestone is currently being revived by DC. Hudlin will be writing a new Static Shock digital comic series that launches in February 2021 as well as a graphic novel with art by Kyle Baker.

Static has also appeared in other media including his own animated series which ran for four seasons and 52 episodes.

11 Things to Check Out Before Black Panther

The hype is strong out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s newest addition — and not without reason. While I am prohibited from revealing major plot points or spoilers from Black Pantherwhat I would like to provide is a sort of guide to what you’re getting into. Think of it like a wine and cheese pairing list to prepare your appetite before you go into see this next film.

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron / Captain America: Civil War.

The second one may seem obvious — it was the first time we saw Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa on screen, and it tells us at least a little bit about his home country of Wakanda. But we’re also introduced for the first time to Martin Freeman as Everett Ross, who shows up a lot in Black Panther. 

But many of us will have forgotten (or tried to forget?) that Andy Serkis showed up for about 10 minutes in Age of Ultron as Ullyses Klaue, a South African arms dealer who stole vibranium from Wakanda, which Ultron then took from Klaue, along with a sizeable portion of his arm. This becomes important, so it’s worth revisiting at least that scene from Age of Ultron, and then watching Civil War, because Civil War is just so. dang. good.

It’s also worth noting T’Challa’s character arc in the film, especially as it relates to him being on Team Iron Man. In Black Panther, we’re treated to seeing just how much he respects international law and being subject to the Sokovia Accords. . . which is not at all, as we first see him in the film running an operation outside of Wakanda’s borders to rescue a colleague.

Also, note the final scenes he’s in with Zemo, and with Cap and Bucky in Wakanda. Boseman’s character work and scripting is excellent here, and this carries over into our film here.

Oh, and anyone who felt teased by this scene where a Dora Milaje is about to throw down with Black Widow?

“As entertaining as that would be. . .” Well, we get that entertainment in Black Panther. And the wait is worth it.

2. An Encomium To The Black Experience: Why I Am Excited To See Black Panther

This article by our own Troy Powell is a must-read. This is an incredibly thoughtful take on why Black Panther’s vision of afro-futurism is refreshing and exciting. Just go read it. I’ll wait.

3. Fruitvale Station and Creed

Director Ryan Coogler‘s career so far has been pretty well entangled with that of actor Michael B. Jordan and it’s great to see Jordan stretch his wings as the villain of Black Panther, Eric Killmonger. The MCU has often been faulted for relatively weak on-screen villains, but Killmonger is a rare exception.

To see their first collaboration, go back to Coogler’s first film, Fruitvale Station, which he both wrote and directed. It tells the true story of Oscar Grant who was shot by a San Francisco Transit Officer on New Year’s Day in 2009. It’s a heartbreaking story of hope and tragedy, and a film which I first reviewed as being “the best and most important film of 2013 that everyone who truly needs to see it never will.”

Coogler followed this up with the most unlikely of films– the Rocky franchise reboot/sequel Creed, also starring Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed who seeks out the aging champ Balboa to train him. The single shot of the young Creed’s first fight is such a masterwork of filmmaking it’s worth the price of admission alone.

You add onto that really brilliant character work and an intense understanding of the franchise, and you can understand why Coogler was a great choice to take on the MCU. Coogler grows as a visual director, and it’s great to see his growth from a low budget film to a medium budget studio film to using Disney/Marvel money.

4. That Kendrick Lamar soundtrack

black panther soundtrackAnother common complaint about the MCU is lack of memorable music. And especially where the films have tried to pair up with popular music, results have been. . .  mixed. Yes, I love hearing Foo Fighters play Walk in the bar in Thor (and over the credits), but it doesn’t quite mesh with the film overall. And then you have Soundgarden playing some nonsense over the credits to The Avengers — in my mind, the only problem with that film at all. They should’ve just licensed a good Soundgarden song and called it good. (How much better — and more fitting — would “Rusty Cage” have been there?)

But from the moment we heard a hip hop sample of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in the first trailer for Black Panther, we knew we were getting something different.

You can listen to the album streaming on Spotify here and now.

5. A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates

a nation under our feet 1

While this current run on Black Panther may not have a lot to do with the movie from a narrative or character standpoint, it shares something incredibly important which is a social commentary. Coates’ opening run on Black Panther may have been set in Wakanda and been about the politics of Wakanda, but it wasn’t hard to see parallels to our current political situation in the US.

This is completely true of the film as well. It’s also clear that Coogler and Coates are of similar minds about presenting a critique of colonialism (and our current neo-colonialist attitudes towards Africa). Our film also hits hard on the oppression faced by black Americans, a struggle Coates has written on extensively and which finds itself woven into the philosophical discussions of A Nation Under Our Feet.

Beyond that, the basic premise of this run is whether T’Challa and Wakanda have some duty to the larger world or only to their country and their throne. That resonates thematically with T’Challa’s growth in the film. It’s also paced similarly– with lots of dialogue and character and less action.

Please also check out our video review of this on Facebook.

On a side note, a quick shout out to one of my favorite podcasts, Funnybooks and Firewater, which covers comics and offers drinking games and custom cocktails to go with your reading. They covered this a few weeks ago, and if you ever wanted to hear four white guys from Utah and California struggle with their privilege and talk about why they love this book so much, this is worth a listen. Also, they’re currently halfway through Watchmen and inching up on their 100th episode, so check them out.

6. Black Panther by Christopher Priest

h/t to my colleague Jon Carroll, who recommended this to me. Starting in his 1998 run on Black Panther, Christopher Priest introduced the Dora Milaje and the character of Everett Ross, whom we see a lot of in this film.

7. Static Shock

Speaking of Christopher Priest, it’s worth mentioning and recommending Static Shock, which he co-created with Dwayne McDuffie (Rest in Power– we miss you still), Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, and Michael Davis.

For kids of a certain age who will remember this fondly from the Kids WB lineup of cartoons, this was simply the height of early 00’s superhero awesomeness. It was also important to remember how groundbreaking this was at the time to have a superhero show led by a young black hero. Sure, Storm had been on the X-Men cartoon, but only as a part of a team that also included a fuzzy purple demon.

But this was the impetus for creating the character in the first place– greater representation and diversity in the world of comics and tv. Here’s hoping we also see more of him with the upcoming Young Justice continuation on Netflix as his inclusion was a highlight of Season 2.

8. Blade II 

Yes, for all the hype about this being the first time we’ve had a black comic book superhero in a big budget Hollywood movie, we’ve forgotten that Blade was a Marvel comics character before Wesley Snipes took on the role. However, in my opinion, the first film was good, not great. But Blade II is the far superior film.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, contender for Best Director this year for The Shape of Water, we get Blade teaming up with a vampire clan to take out the Reapers, new creatures that feed on vampires. This also reunites Del Toro with Ron Perlman from their previous work on Cronos, but perhaps more importantly, set up Del Toro and Perlman to make Hellboy. 

The major difference between the Blade movies and Black Panther? It’s missing a broader social conscience. This is something the Blade franchise always seemed to approach but never quite executed on, using vampires as stand-ins for parasitic and oppressive capitalism and the resulting income inequality. You can read that into the first two Blade movies (we dare not speak about the third one), but it isn’t quite there in the same way Black Panther wears its social commentary on its sleeve.

Some have suggested along with Blade, I should also recommend Spawn, which also starred a black superhero. But then I would be recommending Spawn. And I just can’t bring myself to do that. The Summer of 1997 was very cruel to comic books at the movies. I’m still not sure what is the bigger ignominy– nipples on the batsuit or the entirety of Spawn. 

9. Ultimates II

A Marvel animated film based off the second arc of The Ultimates, or the comics themselves, in which the Ultimate Universe versions of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (which became a sort of meta-blueprint for a lot of the MCU) enter Wakanda and meet Black Panther.

10. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Because one good cartoon deserves another, this cartoon series for some reason met an early death after only two seasons despite some amazing work. Klaue shows up fairly early, and T’Challa shows himself the equal or superior of all of our Avengers.

11. Luke Cage and Black Lightning

Last but certainly not least, these are great tv shows, and certainly Luke Cage is set in the same universe. But I didn’t want to just fall into a trap of just listing every superhero adaptation with a black protagonist. What sets these apart is a clear connection with a strong social commentary on what it is to be black in America right now. It should go without saying that if you aren’t watching Black Lightning every week on the CW, you should be. And if you somehow skipped Luke Cage on Netflix, it’s a good time to catch up, especially before the next season of Jessica Jones comes out in a few weeks.

 

Well, there we go. While certainly not an exhaustive list, this should help you as you wait patiently to see this film later this week.

Did I miss anything? Have a favorite Black Panther tie-in? Leave it in the comments section. Wakanda Forever.

New York Comic Con 2017: Milestone’s Earth M Debuts Spring 2018

After lots of rumors and the feeling like it’d never happen, at New York Comic Con, DC Publisher Jim Lee, writer/producer/director Reginald Hudlin and Milestone co-founder and artist Denys Cowan announced the return of popular characters of the Dakota Universe in a new collaboration called Earth M in spring 2018. Cowan, Hudlin and Lee were joined by Milestone co-founder Derek Dingle and Earth M collaborators Alice Randall, Kyle Baker, Ken Lashley, and Greg Pak to share details of the re-emergence of classic Milestone characters, including Static Shock, Icon, and Rocket, as well as brand-new character creations from Hudlin and Cowan, which will debut in a series of different titles under the Earth M imprint.

Fans also received a surprise visit from The Walking Dead comic creator and writer Robert Kirkman, who stopped by to show a first look at his upcoming AMC documentary featuring the creation and history of Milestone Media. This episode is just one of six parts which comprise AMC Visionaries: Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics—a new series focusing on different, significant chapters in American comic book history. The miniseries is set to premiere on Sunday, November 12, at 11p.m. ET/PT.

The launch book will be titled Milestone, and will create the foundation and over-arching storyline for future Earth M titles. The series, from writer Reginald Hudlin and artist Ken Lashley, will focus on Icon and Rocket and will feature other classic Dakota Universe characters from the ‘90s.

Panelists shared more details on other titles readers can expect:

Static Shock, an ongoing series from Hudlin and Kyle Baker, focusing on 14-year-old Virgil Hawkins, a kid with a love of comics and science who develops dazzling, electric superpowers.

Duo, a new Earth M miniseries written by Greg Pak, introducing the twisted story of a couple sharing one body for eternity.

Love Army, a miniseries with story by Hudlin, about a secret army of women with amazing abilities and super-strength, sworn to protect the planet.

Earth M, a new series from Hudlin and Alice Randall featuring a mysterious new vigilante character.

The Earth M Universe will share Milestone’s dedication to the creation of diverse characters. Moderator Dan Evans, DC Vice President of Creative Affairs, and the panelists also unveiled the new imprint logo and shared exclusive covers, artwork and concept designs from these upcoming series which you can catch below.

Friday Flashback Review: Static Shock: Trial by Fire

StaticTBFFor my first installment to the GP Time Portal that is “Flashback Friday,” I’m going to go back to the 90’s for a re-read of Static Shock: Trial by Fire, originally Static issues #1-4, the name change came with wanting to capitalize on the cartoon from the WB.

This collection is the first appearance of our hero Virgil Hawkins aka Static, a superhero most of us could relate to, a scifi geek making it through high school, battling the bad guys while trying to get the girl and this is only a taste of what the Milestone crew brought to this series.

Co-written by Dwayne McDuffie and Robert L. Washington III, both gone too soon, you would think that something written over 20 years ago would be dated. The writing is able to balance humor and danger like phasers and photons. With the exception of one or two words, the pacing of the dialogue is a master class in writing teens, the issues our hero faces in and out of costume are sadly problems young kids still face today.

static-01-02And let’s not forget the art, the early work of then newcomer John Paul Leon is full of energy and I’m not just talking about Static’s power effect. From fighting to walking down the street, JPL infused a crazy amount of kinetic flow into the movement of the characters, but he doesn’t stop there. His character designs, based off of Denys Cowans work in the Milestone bible, Static is like a snapshot of today’s kids walking around being teenagers, minus the video chatting.

If by this point I haven’t persuaded you to run to your local store to track down this trade. I’ll put it to you this way, if you like Miles Morales and Riri Williams, you can thank Virgil for paving the way. Static is that super smart, geeky kid that shows us how anyone can be a hero and still be cool. This series was that it talked about bullying, dating, gangs and just about everything else a modern teenager faces today and not in a condescending manner, instead it did it in a way that makes you think about how these issues can be fixed.

For more of my money bring back Static, bring back Milestone.

 

George Carmona 3rd is an Artist/Writer, former Milestone Media Intern, former DC Comics paper pusher, current book lover, and lifelong comic geek. You can find his work at FistFullofArt.com or follow him on twitter at GCarmona3.

Another Universe Is Possible?

Valiant-Logo-Red_primary_webRight now Valiant Entertainment and Action Lab Entertainment are each focused on building out shared universes for their heroes to inhabit. This could have lasting positive effects on diversity in comics, much like WildStorm did back in its day. I don’t know how either publisher will fare but I’m excited that they are trying.

The cultural and economic impact of Marvel and DC Comics‘s universes won’t be surpassed in our lifetimes, if ever. But could another superhero U succeed on it’s own terms? In Elle Collins’ latest column she asserts that we should look for depth not breadth in our new U’s and I’m inclined to agree. We can also use new universes as ways to bring diversity in to comics and unbridled experimentation.

My colleague Sarah Rasher has some great coverage of yesterday’s Valiant Summit. What Valiant is embarking on sounds ambitious and interesting. Sarah was excited to report that Valiant is very deliberately baking in diversity as the publisher builds out its new world. I suspect that will contribute greatly towards establishing diverse characters at the core of the stories their readers will care about. The diverse characters won’t end up as tokens or “Smurfettes” as Sarah explains. Sarah and I are n00bs to Valiant but we are both intrigued by what we heard.

Valiant’s new series Faith, staring a plus-size, geek-girl superhero has been a universal hit at Graphic Policy. We interviewed series writer Jody Houser on our podcast and we love her vision for the comics.

FUTURE-OF-VALIANT_007_DIVINITY-III-STALINVERSEWhat Valiant is trying to do with its Stalinverse sounds really creative even if it’s only temporary. It could end up being Valiant’s version of the Age of Apocalypse but with real world historical influences. It certainly sounds like writer Matt Kindt did his homework on Soviet history.

But one ‘verse I truly loved and miss was the WildStorm Universe. Planetary offered brilliant new distillations of heroes from all genres of genre entertainment stretching back to the late 1800′s. StormWatch and The Authority gave us the gay Batman and Superman in love that we always needed (even though as Elle brilliantly asserts in her podcast about Midnighter, Midnighter is actually Wolverine, not Batman– at least as written by Steve Orlando). WildStorm gave me my fictional girlfriend Jenny Sparks– a character who has no analogue because fiction never gave us a woman like her before. The Engineer was Iron Man at its best and also at it’s most latina.

I was sad when WildStorm got bought by DC because I prefer WildStorm standing as its own universe. Folded in to DC it lost a lot of what made it special. Culturally, giving a big two publisher the IP for characters like Midnighter and Apollo was incredibly significant, making it easier to bring major league gay superheroes to the forefront. But artistically, the WS characters will never be as interesting as they were in their own world.

Midnighter #1The exception of course is that Steve Orlando’s Midnighter is FAR better written as a character within his own solo series at DC then he was at WildStorm. It benefited greatly from having fresh talent like Orlando, himself a bisexual man, writing the book and the fact that it was a solo series focused on Midnighter unlike The Authority which was a team book. Orlando even found something interesting to do with Henry Bendix in the DCU, WildStorm’s particularly malicious evil mastermind. But it wasn’t DC comics that gave Midnighter room to grow by having him in a larger Universe, it was the talent on the book that gave Midnighter room to grow.

One experiment we’ve seen of folding new universes in to existing ones is Milestone Media‘s relationship with DC Comics. Milestone was invented to be a black superhero universe by black talent featuring black characters. Static Shock was wildly successful, staring in his own cartoon and really being Spider-Man to a whole generation. Milestone suffered from the comics industry implosion of ’93 and retailers stereotyping it as comics only black reader would by. DC Comics needed to do more to keep this important imprint afloat. While key characters were brought in to the cartoons I’ve yet to see DC market Milestone intelligently.

milestone media logoI was excited to hear announcements that Milestone is coming back. It will continue to be in partnership with DC and it sounds like the characters will be on their own planet, Earth M, but exist within the regular DCU. This would give them space to build their own world without being overshadowed creatively but still enable easy, audience building crossovers. However it’s been a year and a half since that news was announced and the whole project seems to still be in limbo. We need Milestone just as urgently today as we did in the 90s.

I miss the WildStorm Universe being its own universe. I’m not asking to have it back, but it still felt like a loss. Parts of it are a bit of a time capsule of the 90s and 00s mores and aesthetics – these are not my preferred aesthetics but its series did feel very timely.  I’m first to admit Gen-13 is kinda laughable. It was so 90s I couldn’t even stand it in the 90s! I never cared for WildCATS for similar reasons but GP founder Brett has assured me there’s a run that offered sharp commentary on corporate power.

Kurt Busiek‘s Astro City universe is a pleasure to read though I haven’t kept up with the series. It featured loving and intelligent re-imagings of characters like Robin and the Fantastic Four and it continues to build out to this day.

Meanwhile WildStorm served as a place of brutal satire at times. It could be nasty fun and it paved the way for beloved titles like Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen‘s Next Wave: Agents of HATE at Marvel.

In The Authority, the WSU gave Mark Millar (who I normally can’t stand) the space to point out that if a superhero team really could make a difference The Powers That Be in corporations and governments would do anything to stop them from making a difference. Because if you are in power you like things the way they are. I’ve never seen a mainstream comic make that point as clearly as Millar did in his controversial run which had the whole team killed and replaced by corporate-backed superhero stooges.

Works like Planetary and the best runs of The Authority stand the test of time. I don’t think they could have happened within the Marvel or DCU. They were too experimental. They relied too much on reconfiguring existing superhero worlds to really take place with in an existing property. They weren’t afraid to challenge readers. They were both meta-human and meta-textual.

Here’s to hoping places like Valiant go where the big two can’t or won’t as they build out their own superhero universes. Let’s hope they establish themselves as sites of experimentation and diversity that reflects our real world. If they do this they will have an outsized impact on the comics world no matter how many issues they sell. It will pressure the big 2 to build more diverse and inclusive worlds themselves. And it will make for some awesome reading.

Warner Bros. Announces Static Shock

STATIC SHOCK #1Warner Bros. has revealed some of the details about its digital production unit. The unit named Blue Ribbon Content has unveiled some of its initial development plans, including some more work based on comics.

Already announced is Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles, which will debut on Machinima in 2015 as well as the virtual reality experience, Batman: The Animated Series Experience. Warner Bros. has a stake in Machinima, so the project makes complete sense. Some other projects are tied into The CW, the television network that Warner Bros. is also involved with.

Today brought even bigger news, a project based on Static Shock.

The action series include Static Shock, an adaptation of the Static comic from writer-producer-director Reginald Hudlin (Django Unchained).

That’s a pretty big announcement quietly put out there. Warner Bros./DC Comics was the first to announce a movie based on one of their female characters, as well as an African American character. Now we have Static Shock out of nowhere. Seems like the company that had been receiving lots of criticism is now beginning to fire on all cylinders.

Here’s more details on the comic related projects:

Static Shock — Writer/producer/director Reginald Hudlin (Best Picture Oscar nominee for producing Django Unchained) leads the creative team behind a live-action adaptation of Static Shock, featuring the African-American super hero Static, aka Virgil Ovid Hawkins. Static Shock is based on the Static comic co-created by the late Dwayne McDuffie with co-writer Robert L. Washington III and artist John Paul Leon, which was originally published by the DC Comics imprint Milestone Comics and, later, by DC Comics. Milestone Media co-founder/comic book artist/TV producer Denys Cowan (the original Static Shock animated series) is collaborating with Hudlin on the new Static Shock.

Batman: The Animated Series Experience — As previously announced, Blue Ribbon, DC Entertainment and visual effects pioneer OTOY are teaming up on an immersive entertainment experience that will see the Batcave from the acclaimed Emmy Award–winning Batman: The Animated Series brought to life via interactive holographic video for virtual reality displays. OTOY is collaborating with series producer Bruce Timm on this interactive narrative experience which will give fans the opportunity to explore Batman’s world like never before, allowing them to feel what it is like to be inside the show’s stylized universe on devices such as the Samsung GALAXY Gear VR, the Oculus Rift, and on forthcoming “glasses-free” light field displays that will power future TV and mobile devices.

(via The Hollywood Reporter)

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