Milestone Media. The average comic fan probably doesn’t know what that means.
In an age where participating in nerd culture is the norm, where everyone has a favorite DC or Marvel character or movie. Comic culture is neither obscure or kitschy as it used to be. In some ways, it’s cool to have so many friends enjoy the large franchises. However, that doesn’t mean that either Franchise is perfect. Both power houses do lack something diversity. Now you may think I’ve being too nitpicky, we’ve got a Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel and queer Latina Miss America. Representation is great but is it any good if the majority of the content producers in the comic industry are a white male?
However, this is not to say that minority driven content isn’t marketable. Diversity sales. But I am not one that is easily impressed. We need more inclusion, we need more people that look like us in the boardroom and on the drawing board.
Which brings us to Milestone media is the company responsible for bringing us great titles such as Static Shock, Icon and Rocket, and Hardware. The company was heralded by Black artists and writers, Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle in 1993. Though they were Black creators, they created an array of characters from different backgrounds. While Milestone media had free reign of their products they were ultimately produced and distributed by DC comics.
Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, Derek T. Dingle, and Dwayne McDuffie created four titles: Icon, Hardware, Static, and Blood Syndicate.
They created the Dakotaverse, a universe where Milestone characters lived in , mainly in the fictitious Dakota city, United States. While the location of Dakota City is unknown many believe it’s supposed to be in the midwest. Many of the origin stories in the Milestone Media begin with a bang, this time amidst a gang fight that took place in one of the most impoverished areas of Dakota city. Police took notice of what happened and in effort to criminalize everyone they released experimental riot control gas . Which inadvertently killed many of the victims outright and mutating some of the survivors.
The survivors are known as “Bang babies” , who are the principal focus of the Dakota verse. Unlike DC and Marvel who have overlapping universe and histories intertwining. Milestone media were consistent and reflective of the 90’s values of multiculturalism,often a bit more progressive that the sudden surge of diversity that we are experiencing now.
An example of this is Blood Syndicate. Blood syndicate is a gang of bang babies from rival gangs who compromised of a team of various gang members. Blood Syndicate’s cast was composed of black, white, Chinese, Korean, canine, Latino, and alien characters. I“Blood Syndicate” featured Latino characters of different Latin ethnicities. Acknowledging the the cultural differences as a strength rather than making a hodge podge of stereotypes under the blanket of Hispanic.
The unique thing about Milestone media which was often coined as a black comic company that notion is dismissive. Their characters were truly diverse, ranging from different ages,ethnic backgrounds, political ideologies.
The team Rocket and Icon is an example of this. Icon is an alien who has taken on the form of an African-American human. Icon came to earth the year 1839, crashing into the American South. He took the identity of an enslaved black man and named himself as Arnus. Icon has gone through several identities but most comic fans know him by his most recent incarnation of Augustus Freeman IV, a politically conservative lawyer who lives in Dakota.
His partner is Rocket, born Raquel Ervin, a young girl from the projects of Dakota City’s Paris island.She aspires to be a writer, but due to circumstance her dream seems distant. Ervin and Freeman are introduced at the scene of a crime in which Ervin is robbing Freeman. It should be noted that in the series Ervin becomes pregnant and eventually giving birth making her a teenage mother.The two eventually come to an agreement, and become a crime fighting pair. A lawyer and teenage mother Ervin uses alien technology, an unlikely pair who together both serve as protectors of Dakota city.
But Milestone media’ most favorite hero to date is Static.
Virgil Hawkins was fifteen years old when he became Static. I like most teen superheroes Virgil attends High School in the city of Dakota. Static is a young black boy interested in science, comic,and video games. He is a bang baby gaining electric power in the large gangwar that also formed the blood syndicate.
Static was your average teen, who like most teen superheroes whose life changed drastically. In turn, Static has electromagnetic powers SuperConductive Electromagnetism, Electromagnetic Fields, Electromagnetic Levitation, Wavelength Tuning. The static main method of transportation is the static saucer. Static also has the ability to turn everyday objects into weapons by using his electromagnetic powers.
There are more characters in the Dakotaverse that i didn’t mention but that gives you an example of the narratives they crafted over the course of a few years before they were defunded in the late 90s. Milestone media was not afraid to discuss, poverty,racism,gangs, and teen mother or topics that are often deemed unspeakable.
While DC owns the rights to the characters, the main group has not made any major content. I can only imagine of seeing Static,Rocket,and Icon in future DC productions but the future is unsure. Milestone media means a lot of things to different people, but to me it gives me hope for the next line of poc creators due to the work they set out to do.
Author: Brittney Maddox
Editor: Han Angus
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.