You have waited for decades, literally, for the return of the first family of minority creators to bring back their iconic heroes from the Dakota Universe. Milestone Media is coming back with a new series of releases in September and expanding their offerings in February.
In case you were born between 1993 and now and haven’t had the pleasure of one of the most transformative events in comics, Milestone Media was a company best known for creating Milestone Comics, which were published and distributed by DC Comics. Milestone was founded by a coalition of African-American artists and writers, consisting of the legendary writers Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and magazine mogul, Derek T. Dingle. The goal of Milestone was simple: To address a decided dearth of representation in the mainstream comic companies, both on and off the page, particularly where people of color were concerned. Milestone’s presence would alter the comic reading consciousness of fans everywhere sparking them to create their own characters and comics in the years to come. Like a nuclear explosion, Milestone arrived on the scene putting characters of color in lead positions in stories and changing the face of comics, forever. It’s first four series: Hardware, Icon, Blood Syndicate and Static would headline the “Dakotaverse” the continuity name given to these stories in the fictional Midwestern city of Dakota in which most of the early Milestone stories were set.
They were a DC imprint?
DC Comics was the publisher of the Milestone Books and yet exercised very limited editorial control over the series, only reserving the right to not publish anything they considered objectionable. The Dakotaverse had a complex character bible featuring every important person, place or thing, in their universe and weaving them together is outstanding ways. As a reader, I worried DC would negate their promise and micromanage the stories but from where I sat in the reader’s seat, DC was very laissez-faire, allowing more adult themes and stories than were common in the mainstream DC Universe. Milestone struck a nerve with its adult stories, mature themes, and complex characters. The lead among the flagship titles, Hardware, featuring the technological genius Curtis Metcalf, would go on to have over fifty issues before ending. Hardware was created by Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan.
Milestone on Television
But one of Milestone’s signature creations was on the television screen. They brought to life one of television’s only Black-led animated series, the Static Shock cartoon series. First seen on the Kids’ WB, Virgil Hawkins’ adventures fighting the other Bang Babies in the Dakotaverse, offered the challenges of a young superhero trying to maintain a secret identity, fighting supervillains and getting his homework in on time, with the added dynamics of being a young Black man in a less-racially aware time. Virgil Hawkins would expand his circle of friends, refine his talents, help his best friend become his partner in crime-fighting, meet new superheroes and villains while challenging the status quo for four seasons and fifty-two episodes. The show featured the voice talents of Phil LaMarr (my hero), Jason Marsden, Kevin Michael Richardson and Michele Morgan.
Let me say after the end of the Dakotaverse, DC didn’t do well by those characters. They may have been folded into the DC Universe but the loving attention they received in the Dakotaverse was absent and by proxy so were these incredible creations. I did have a heartfelt moment when Icon, Rocket and Static appear in the more recent Young Justice series. They looked so good on the television screen.
Milestone Returns Zero
DC is not only going to present us with something new, a digital series featuring Denys Cowan and Kyle Baker, but to refresh the Milestone brand as a lead in to Denys Cowan and Reginald Hudlin returning to the fray with new stories from the Dakotaverse and its most famous son, Virgil Hawkins. Keep an eye out in September for Milestone Returns Zero and stay frosty for the ComiXology releases of those sweet old jams from the Dakotaverse. And, if you are committed to promoting minority heroes and creators of color, you should be finding those creative talents such as the team at Griot Enterprises featuring their divine metahumans, The Horsemen, or have your mind altered by 133art’s lovingly-drawn series by Jason Reeves, One Nation. I can also recommend the webcomic awesomeness of the superhero series Project: Wildfire by the mysterious Operative Network whose front man Hannibal Tabu is a force of nature himself. Robert Roach’s Menthu is a one-man masterwork whose style is rich and evocative of better days in the comic industry, when stories and art were fostered by people who loved the work.
Another series off the beaten path produced by Dark Horse was the award-winning Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander’s ‘Concrete Park‘ which delves spectacularly into a prescient, near-future tale of speculative fiction. I have to mention my favorite underdog of the indie comic scene, Kamikaze. I have watched Kamikaze grow into a fully-fledged masterpiece shepherded by my friend, Carrie Tupper and her outstanding team of creators. Kamikaze focuses on a time in the far future, where there are no heroes, only survivors.
There are so many great independents out there now, I need to write an article just on their virtues alone. For now, enjoy the frames I have included which feature the cover of Milestone Returns Zero, the snazzy new costumes of Icon and Rocket and the new look of Static!
Welcome back, gentlemen. It’s about damn time! (We missed you.)
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.