The early 2000s was a shining moment for comic book content as DC was responsible for producing some of the best television shows the genre’s ever had in “Justice League,” “Justice League Unlimited“, and “Batman Beyond.” The era saw long beloved characters reach a new audience through a new medium as well as introduce some new ones. The best example of the latter would be “Static Shock.”
With the help of the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan and others, “Static Shock” brought the electricity-controlling teen to televisions for four seasons as he defended the city of Dakota from scores of meta-humans – or “bang babies” – and often crossed paths with the best heroes DC had to offer.
To honor an incredible series full of them, here’s a list of the best episodes of “Static Shock.”
15. “A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN”
Back in Dakota, most of Static’s villains were fellow bang babies. In other words, they were mostly just confused and angry teenagers trying to find their place in the world and never really had any intentions that were all that malicious. However, that all changed when he and Gear got called up to the big leagues to help the Justice League on the Watchtower.
What started out as filling in as a human battery turned into a full-on battle against none other than Braniac in “A League Of Their Own.” If you know anything about Braniac, then you know he’s always got malicious intent. In this case, his goal was to take over the Watchtower and use it to download and delete all of Earth. With a little assistance, Static and Gear proved their worth by taking on one of Superman’s greatest foes.
However, things never end that easily, as Braniac essentially possessed Gear in part two of the crossover. This time, Static had to single-handedly take on the Justice League after Braniac put them under his control.
14. “SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM”
A primary reason “Static Shock” is still placed on a high pedestal by so many fans is because it told stories that were often ignored and rarely told right in comics. These were the stories of a fully developed character of color, living in an inner city and dealing with inner city problems.
Before he became Static, Virgil Hawkins was just a high school kid from a single-parent home trying to stay out of trouble. Somehow, doing so just got him into more trouble, as a local gang tried to pressure him to join their ranks. For a lot of comic book fans, this wasn’t a relatable life experience. For the rest, it was a glimpse into a life they’d been familiar with.
One night, Virgil unknowingly accepted an invitation to a brawl between rival gangs at the docks. After police got involved, an explosion resulted in chemicals being released as a gas that engulfed everyone around them. Within hours, everyone who was in what was later commonly referred to as the “Big Bang” started to develop super powers that they’d later decide to use either for good or for evil.
13. “SONS OF THE FATHERS”
A major benefit of having a black main character of a show be written by a black creator (Dwayne McDuffie) is the true representation that comes from it. In “Sons of the Fathers,” the subjects of racism, poverty and teen homelessness were presented through a proper lens, whereas they would’ve probably been presented as an after-school special in anyone else’s hands.
For most of Virgil’s life, his best friend and right-hand man was Richie Foley. One day, Virgil realizes that he’s never been to Richie’s house and insists he come over for dinner only to find out that Richie’s father is a closed-minded bigot that has a personal grudge against hip-hop music and “those people.” Virgil’s horror as he heard Richie’s father complain about “one of them” being in his house was genuine, as was Richie’s lashing out at his father’s racism. That’s something you can’t truly depict unless you’ve lived it, and it showed.
Both angry and embarrassed, Richie runs way from home, sending his father and Virgil’s to search squats throughout Dakota for him before running into the Metabreed, a gang of bang babies run by Ebon. By the end of the episode, Mr. Foley realizes his views of the world almost cost him his son and starts the long road of turning over a new leaf.
12. “BENT OUT OF SHAPE”
There was never any set number on how many people were exposed during the Big Bang, which means that you were never sure when you may come across a bang baby – unless they looked like a giant armadillo. This became clear when Virgil’s sister, Sharon, was dating a rapper named Stringer, who was actually a bang baby named Rubberband Man in disguise. After being exposed by Virgil, Rubberband Man was a fugitive on the run with a bounty on his head, since he’d previously escaped from prison.
“Bent Out of Shape” served as an example of giving people a second chance after a horrible first impression. This trope would come back in an episode entitled “Bad Stretch” where Rubberband Man returns from prison after serving his time and decides to be a hero, whether or not Static trusts him. It’s also revealed that he’s the younger brother of none other than Ebon, Static’s primary antagonist.
“Jimmy” may be the most memorable episode of “Static Shock” because of how different it is than the rest. While episodes normally focused on Static overcoming a new obstacle while in costume, “Jimmy” took a brave step and took on some much heavier subjects such as bullying and gun violence.
The episode starts with a cold open, showing Richie being placed in the back of an ambulance in pain for an unexplained reason. Virgil is later seen talking to a counselor about the still unclear events that took place. He recounts the story of a classmate named Jimmy who was being bullied by a group of kids and didn’t really have anyone to support him. One day, Virgil and Richie went to Jimmy’s house to reach out as good friends, until he offered to show them a gun and they quickly left.
Later on, Jimmy is bullied to the point of tears. To seek revenge, he tracks down the bullies, holds them at gunpoint and things go horribly wrong as they often do whenever kids and guns are involved. Richie got shot. Fortunately, he only received a non-fatal leg injury, but it’s made very clear just how close he came to death. The episode also made sure to include statistics on gun violence and offer suggestions on gun safety and anti-bullying efforts.
Alva Industries was responsible for creating the gas that caused the Big Bang. The head of which is a man by the name of Edwin Alva, who rules his company with an iron fist and isn’t any kinder when it comes to raising his son, Junior. Growing up with a father who constantly neglected and sometimes verbally assaulted him, Junior had a huge chip on his shoulder. To earn his father’s respect, he showed his genius by studying the Big Bang gas and learning how to use it better than anyone else had. If one bang baby with powers is bad enough, imagine someone who can use multiple powers at once and that’s what you’ve got with Junior.
Too bad he cared more about ruining his father’s company than doing any good, as his personal vendetta sent him spiralling to his doom. One would think that if a company was making chemicals that turned dozens of civilians into super-powered meta-humans, they’d be in some hot water, maybe even enough to make them go under. However, as history shows, big corporations are very rarely held accountable for their mistakes, especially in comic books.
9. “THE BIG LEAGUES”
“Static Shock” ran at the same time as lot of other DC Animated Universe properties. However, the one he crossed over with the most was “The New Batman Adventures,” which featured Batman and Tim Drake as Robin. Static’s first call up to the big leagues, which was conveniently the title of the episode, didn’t bother giving him a small taste of what it was like to team up with one of the greatest heroes around. After his gang got locked up back in Gotham, the Joker saw the growing number of misguided, super-powered youth in Dakota as an opportunity to upgrade in the henchmen department, so he took over the Metabreed while Ebon was in prison.
Instead of being in completely over his head, Static proved himself by holding his own against one of the most menacing villains comic books has ever had to offer. If that wasn’t enough, he also took a trip to Gotham in an episode called “Hard as Nails,” while tracking down a bang baby named Nails who was being manipulated by Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Batman had been in the superhero game for years and knows better than anyone about the risk of giving someone second chance. However, Static was able to convince him to give Nails a chance to prove herself.
Every good hero has had a sidekick, even if it was only brief. Captain America has Falcon. Superman has Krypto. Batman has Robin. So why shouldn’t Static get one? Fortunately, some interesting writing choices revealed that Virgil’s best friend, Richie, was actually a bang baby in his own right. While he wasn’t at the big bang, he was with Virgil immediately afterward he was and was still doused in the big bang gas. It makes perfect sense (at least, as far as comics are concerned) that he’d have a delayed reaction since he wasn’t in direct contact with a concentrated dose.
While Static could control electricity, Talon could fly and Ebon could manipulate shadows, Richie got the power of becoming a super-genius. He was always pretty smart, but now he was smart enough to design an advanced robot that could read his thoughts and rocket boots that even the military wasn’t capable of creating. Richie was admittedly bummed out about his powers in comparison to everyone else at first, but he learned to appreciate the importance of intelligence in crime fighting.
7. “STATIC IN AFRICA”
While “Static Shock” didn’t beat race over anyone’s head, it made sure to do justice to the fact that he was a black character, which comes with an entirely different world of experiences. One of those was traveling to Ghana and meeting a superhero named Anansi, after the spider of African folktales. Younger viewers probably related to Virgil as he rolled his eyes at his father’s trivia tidbits about African history, but they still heard it. Learning about Ghanaian independence, the country’s role in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and more was beneficial to everyone who watched.
No worries, though. Anansi’s introduction to the episode gave reason for plenty of fights and cool stunts such as sticking to walls and playing tricks on Osebo, a cat-like villain who was actually voiced by Michael Jai White. Anansi would return to the series one more time, only he’d be the one coming to Dakota to keep Osebo from retrieving an ancient artifact of massive power.
6. “TOYS IN THE HOOD”
If you ignore the super corny name of the episode, “Toys in the Hood” was still a very strong episode of “Static Shock.” Due to his absence in “A League of Their Own,” it was the only time that Static and Gear got to interact with Superman. While on a field trip, a school bus carrying Virgil, Richie and his classmates is attacked by a giant cymbal monkey toy. Static and Gear are caught completely off guard and look like they’re done for before Superman swoops in to the rescue. At least, he tried to. That same school bus that was attacked gets thrown right on top of him, so Static has to now come to Superman’s rescue.
As the episode goes on, it’s revealed that Toyman has come to Dakota to find his cherished Darci who’s disguising herself as a teacher. It turns out that Darci is tired of being a toy and wants a real body. Her unfortunate choice was Daisy, one of Virgil and Richie’s classmates. Both Toyman and Darci offer a grocery list of things to never do to people you care about, but things wrap up nicely. Static and Daisy fly off into the sunset, hinting that their friendship could become more one day.
Virgil was no exception to the unspoken rule that superheroes have to suffer. As far back as the first episode, it’s made clear that his mom died from gang violence, but details were sparse. “Flashback” filled in those gaps and showed that “Static Shock” could lean into family drama and do it well. It was revealed in this episode that Virgil’s mother, Jean, was a paramedic and died five years prior during a night of gang riots.
Early in the episode, Static and Gear run across a young girl named Nina who was being chased by Ebon. Conveniently enough, she’s a bang baby who can manipulate time and gives Virgil a chance to travel to the past and save his mother’s life. When Virgil went back, he managed to save his mother from being crushed by a burning building and took her to a nearby roof. He pleaded with her to stay safe for the rest of the night after revealing his identity. Unfortunately, she is overcomes by her need to help other people and was soon right back on the streets, leading to the unavoidable future.
Looking back, it’s great that Virgil got another chance to see his mother and say goodbye. He was even able to make a small impact by finding out that his mother called him “my superhero” before she passed away.
4. “BLAST FROM THE PAST”
Time travel is one thing, but hanging out with an older version of yourself is another thing altogether. In “Blast From the Past,” Virgil gets stuck helping his sister out at a retirement home. Like most young whipper-snappers, he hated it and was thankful when he got an excuse to leave in order to stop some attacking evil robots. He ends up getting help from an elderly resident who reveals himself to be a retired superhero named Soul Power who could also control electricity. For the rest of the episode, Soul Power takes Static under his wing to show him some tricks of the trade.
It’s worth noting that this episode was meant to feature Black Lightning, DC’s first black superhero created by Tony Isabella, but DC didn’t approve his use. While it would’ve been incredible to finally get a Static and Black Lightning team up, Soul Power definitely got the job done.
3. “FALLEN HERO”
In case there were ever any doubts, let’s make this clear: the decision to include John Stewart in the DC Animated Universe is one of the best decisions DC has ever made.
Instead of throwing Hal Jordan into the Justice League, which would’ve been objectively fair, John Stewart instead came in with a series of untold stories and quickly won over viewers. For an entire generation, including Virgil Hawkins, John Stewart is the Green Lantern. Which made it so hard to believe when everyone saw him committing crimes all over Dakota with their own eyes.
Static was understandably furious as he watched one of his idols turn to evil and it showed when they came to blows. Fortunately, GL was able to prove that he was being framed by Sinestro and used Static and Gear’s help to take on his longtime rival. The episode is also a fan-favorite for how much it expanded on the DCAU incarnation of Sinestro’s character.
2. “POWER OUTAGE”
The series finale of “Static Shock” appeared to come out of nowhere. One day, Static’s becoming one of the best young heroes the world has to offer. The next, he’s riding off into the skyline with Gear to never be seen again. “Power Outage” focused on Dakota finally stepping up to combat the scores of meta-humans that had been popping up for years. They did so by coming up with a cure for the bang babies. However, they decided to administer it by spraying it in the air without getting anyone’s consent, therefore taking away everybody’s powers.
While every bang baby in the city was coming to terms with being normal humans again, Ebon managed to steal the last canister of the big bang gas in an attempt to monopolize the bang babies’ power. A select few met up at the docks where their whole journey started. Things got out of control pretty quickly and Ebon and Hot Streak get merged together as a fire-shadow monster, after fighting over the canister and setting off all the gas. Close enough to breath in some of the gas themselves, Static and Gear regain their powers. Static then takes the monster down without a problem.
1. “FUTURE SHOCK”
“Future Shock” is, arguably, the best episode of “Static Shock.” In this episode, Static gets sent 40 years into the future while trying to help Batman and Robin. He ends up in the Batcave fighting against Terry McGinnis, the new Batman after Bruce Wayne’s old age forced him to retire. Bruce eventually intervenes and tells them they’ll be working together to rescue a kidnapped hero. This wasn’t just any hero, though. It was one of the greatest heroes in the world: Static.
While it was brief, viewers got a glimpse into just how amazing Static would grow up to be in the future. For example, he was able to single-handedly take on more than 20 bad guys with a couple punches that Terry and Virgil weren’t even sure they cold handle together. Even the Joker gang made an appearance in this episode, which was more than welcome since “Batman Beyond” had been off the air for a couple of years at this point.
Future Static also made an appearance about a year later in an episode of “Justice League Unlimited.”
Which episodes of “Static Shock” were your favorites? Be sure to let us know in the comments!