Continuing the Legacy of Dwayne McDuffie, Milestone Comics is Back
I mean even without the broader context of McDuffie's career and ambitions, you'd still be bawling over "The Terror Beyond."
Nearly four years ago, the comics world was rocked by the news that one of its best and brightest stars had suddenly gone out. Dwayne McDuffie, founder of Milestone Comics, creator of Static Shock, major contributor to Teen Titans, Justice League, and Ben 10 had died of complications related to emergency heart surgery, one day after his 49th birthday. Now McDuffie’s Milestone colleagues have announced they’re ready to bring Milestone Comics back.
Producer Reggie Hudlin says he and artists Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle (also founders of Milestone), had begun to discuss the revitalization of Milestone Comics almost immediately after their friend’s death, feeling it was an important way to carry on McDuffie’s career-long efforts to diversify comics both on the page and behind the scenes. After freelancing for a number of comics publishers, including Marvel and DC, McDuffie and his partners founded Milestone Media with the express purpose of creating a broad cast of original superhero characters of color, outside of the older, overwhelmingly white established ’90s era superhero universes where such characters would necessarily be tokenized. McDuffie’s own words on the necessity of having a cast of characters, rather than a single one, to represent other races, genders, sexualities, and perspectives are some of his most famous.
It’s a problem that, Hudlin tells The Washington Post, still exists in the big superhero continuities, despite strides in representation from the early ’90s when Milestone was founded.
There are all kinds of challenges that are facing people of color — that part hasn’t changed. What has changed is, there are a lot more characters of color in comics. What we feel is now, Milestone is necessary because of the types of characters that we do, and the viewpoint that we come from. We’ve never just done black characters just to do black characters. It’s always come from a specific point of view, which is what made our books work. What we also didn’t do, which is the trend now, is [to] have characters that are, not blackface, but they’re the black versions of the already established white characters — as if it gives legitimacy to these black characters in some kind of way — [that] these characters are legitimate because now there’s a black Captain America. Having been a creator of these characters and a consumer, I always looked at it like, “Well, geez, couldn’t you give me an original character?” Black Panther worked because he was original. Static Shock worked because it was an original concept. It’s a good time to come back and reintroduce original characters, as well as some new ones.
Hudlin, Cowan, and Dingle are still working out things on the business side, including partnerships with media companies in print as well as other mediums, and they don’t yet have a date set to being publishing new comics. But Hudlin promises the return of many classic Milestone characters in addition to brand new original heroes. Presumably among those characters are Static, perhaps the most famous of Milestone’s creations, who’s got an announced live-action series in the works from Warner Bros. through the licensing of the character to DC Comics; and hopefully also Icon and Rocket, an alien whose young female sidekick has to convince him to become a superhero. While DC’s licenses have allowed them to incorporate Milestone characters into the New 52 continuity, they are still owned by Milestone Comics.
It’s not just new characters Milestone plans to introduce, however, but also a new, diverse pool of talent, particularly from the world of digital and online comics that’s grown with the internet since the era in which Milestone was founded. Work out that business stuff quick, guys! The other big change that’s come with the internet is the diversification to the market for comics. I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of folks out there who’ll be pretty interested in a Milestone comeback, and even more excited to spread the word.
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