Back in the 1990’s, a group of black comic book creators believed that minorities were underrepresented within the medium. These creators were Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle, who, together, created Milestone Comics in 1993. Milestone’s comics were published by DC Comics, but were not controlled by DC’s editorial team. This allowed the writers at Milestone to create their own shared universe of characters.
The company launched their first comic, Hardware, in February, 1993. Created by McDuffie and Cowan, the comic followed the superhero Hardware, a genius inventor who fights crime using his high tech gadgets. His gadgets include external armor, a sonic drill, a plasma whip, a retractable sword, energy fields, a holographic projector and a flying car. The irony of the comic is that Hardware’s employer and supplier, Edwin Alva, is also the leader of the organised crime group that Hardware is trying to stop. The comic ran for fifty issues before it ended in April, 1997. You can get Hardware: The Man in the Machine here.
Milestone’s second comic, Icon, was created by McDuffie and comic artist M.D. Bright. Released just three months after Hardware, Icon starred Augustus Freeman, an alien who crashed into the middle of a cotton field in the American South in 1839. Due to his alien physiology, he ages much slower than humans. Because of this, he periodically assumes the identity of his own son. After his house is broken into, Freeman uses his powers for the first time in decades, which is witnessed by one of the intruders, Raquel Ervin. Ervin was a teenage girl that was born into the most gang-ridden neighborhood of Dakota City. Until her encounter with Freeman, she had little chance of rising above her terrible upbringing. Once she sees his powers, she convinces Freeman to become the superhero Icon, with her serving as his sidekick, Rocket. Together, the two fight crime and oppression. The comic ran for 42 issues until its cancellation in February, 1997. You can buy Icon: A Hero’s Welcome here.
Blood Syndicate was Milestone’s primary team-book, focusing on a group of heroes instead of just one or two. Created by McDuffie, Cowan and Ivan Velez Jr., the Blood Syndicate consisted of multicultural super-powered people brought together through circumstance. The comic was primarily written by Velez Jr. The Syndicate’s members were all survivors of the Big Bang, a large gang war. To deescalate the conflict, police unleashed strange tear gas into the cloud, which led to many deaths, with the survivors gaining super powers. Members of the Blood Syndicate’s main members include Tech Nine, a telekinetic and the leader of the group, Flashback, who has the ability to travel three second back in time, Fade, who can walk through solid objects, and Dogg, a dog with human-level intelligence. The comic ran for 35 issues from April, 1993 to February, 1996.
The last of the main series created by Milestone was Static. Created by the founders of Milestone, the comic followed Virgil Hawkins, a high school student that was caught in the Big Bang. Because of this, he gained the ability to generate, manipulate, and control electromagnetism. He dubbed himself the superhero Static and protected Dakota City from evil “bang babies” who were using their new found super-human abilities for their own gain. The original comic lasted 45 issues, being published from June, 1993 to March, 1997. Because of his popularity, Static received a mini-series in 2001 titled Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool to clean up the plot threads left by the sudden cancellation.
However, most people recognize Static from the animated television series, Static Shock, where he was voiced by Phil Lamarr. Static Shock loosely followed the events of the original comic, with some slight changes to his family and a larger rogues gallery. The show was also part of the DC Animated Universe, which consisted of other DC animated shows, such as Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Justice League Unlimited. Static Shock is available on the DC Universe app, or you can buy the first season on Amazon.
After the Milestone shut down its comic division in 1997, its characters would not appear in another comic for nearly 11 years. In 2008, DC’s then executive editor, Dan Didio, announced that Milestone’s characters would be revived and implemented into the main DC Universe. This merge saw the addition of Static to the Teen Titans, Static, Icon and Rocket appearing in the Young Justice television series and various characters appearing in the Justice League of America comic.
With DC soft rebooting its universe with The New 52 in 2011, most Milestone characters were no where to be seen. Static received another ongoing series, but it only lasted a handful of issues before being cancelled. The characters then remained unused until it was announced in 2017 that Milestone Comics would return in October 2018 with five new titles, Milestone, which featured Icon and Rocket, another new Static series, Duo, following the character Xombi, and two new titles, Earth-M and Love Army.
Milestone’s comic characters may share some characteristics with other characters at DC and Marvel, the stories told with them make them unique. These characters, especially Icon and Rocket, deserve their moment in the sun. Hopefully DC gives them the spotlight in a future event.