It's been a long road for the Milestone revival. In January 2015, comic book writer and film director Reginald Hudlin and comic book artist and original Milestone co-founder Denys Cowan announced plans for "Milestone 2.0," bringing back the comics imprint that made major gains for industry diversity both on the page and behind the scenes, and gave fans characters like Static Shock and Icon.
Since then, it's been confirmed that DC Comics -- the publishing partner of the original Milestone -- would be involved with the new imprint, but other than that, there hasn't been much news on when to expect the new Milestone or in what form. This past August, it was reported that the estate of late writer and original Milestone co-founder Dwayne McDuffie is suing Hudlin, Cowan and Milestone co-founder Derek Dingle for using Milestone intellectual property without the consent of McDuffie’s heirs. (The legal matter wasn't mentioned during Thursday's panel.)
Details on the imprint's publishing future were revealed on Thursday, at DC Comics' Milestone panel Thursday afternoon at New York Comic Con. On the panel: Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, Reginald Hudlin, Alice Randall, Greg Pak, Ken Lashley, Kyle Baker and Jim Lee, with Dan Evans, DC's VP, Creative Affairs, serving as moderator.
Cowan shared that he wanted Hudlin to join the original incarnation of Milestone, but Hudlin was busy directing House Party. Hudlin briefly discussed his soon-to-be-released film Marshall, starring Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall. Randall, the writer of The Wind Done Gone, told the crowd she has known Hudlin since they were teenagers, and that she "likes weird genres and going into new things." Pak said that Hudlin called him about two years ago to get involved with the new Milestone. "I'm, frankly, honored to be here," Pak said. "This is an incredible group of people who have done legendary things."
Lashley said he was approached five years ago to join the new iteration of Milestone. "This is a dream come true for any Black artist to be a part of this," Lashley said. "I want to make sure that whatever I do here, I'll represent everybody equally." Lee said this is his 30th year in comic books, and that he's known Hudlin since the writer/director was interested in developing Deathblow in the early days of Image Comics.
"When Derek approached Dennis and I about reforming Milestone, we sat down and talked about it," Hudlin told the crowd, saying that they knew they couldn't just repeat what came before. "For us just to repeat and rehash what had been done before was not that exciting to us, collectively."
"The new universe is called Earth-M, inspired by Geoff Johns," Cowan told the crowd of how the Milestone characters will fit into the DC Universe. An "Earth-M" logo was shown to the audience; we'll share an image as soon as possible.
"We thought the Milestone characters work best pretty separate from the original DCU," Hudlin said (in recent years, Milestone characters such as Static Shock have been a part of the DC Universe proper). "It's called Earth-M also because not everything takes place in Dakota," Cowan added.
The first book from the new Milestone will be Milestone #1, feautring Icon and Rocket. The comic is scheduled for release in spring 2018, with a story by Reginald Hudlin & Denys Cowan, with art by Ken Lashley.
"This is a reset, so no previous knowledge required," Hudlin said. "Just pick this book up and go from there. At the same time, we will be reissuing the classic lines over time." "It'll be a story that Superman would never do," Hudlin teased for Milestone #1.
Hudlin & Cowan will also team for a new Static Shock series, illustrated by Kyle Baker. "The book's really awesome," Hudlin said. "I've written about 140 pages of it already. We're way down the road." Hudlin introduced a slide of a new character in the book, a blonde female caped character named Amber. Hudlin said he didn't want to say too much about the character yet, other than, "Usually in a Black neighborhood, there's a white family who can't afford to move out."
Hudlin added that the only thing else he wanted to say about Static Shock at this time was, "I'm from St. Louis. You know what's in St. Louis? Ferguson."
Pak discussed his new Milestone series, Duo, written by Pak with a story by Hudlin & Cowan. It's inspired by the original Milestone series Xombi, but with a twist that sees a couple share an immortal body.
"It was this crazy mix of science and supernatural," Pak said of the original Xombi. "We want to carry through on that vibe. It's going to be a ton of fun."
Lee said that Duo starts as a "very sweet, romantic story" and then morphs into "something more horrific."
Also on the way: Love Army, a miniseries written by Hudlin with art by Ryan Benjamin and starring a new team of characters -- a secret army of super-strong women. Earth M is written by Hudlin and Alice Randall, and illustrated by Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz. Hudlin said the series is about a "really bold new" vigilante character, and as they're making the book, they're finding out "how far" DC is willing to push boundaries with its content.
"We're very proud of this set of characters and books, but wait until you see what the second wave will be," Hudlin said.
Joining the panel after the lineup announcement: Robert Kirkman. The Walking Dead creator discussed his upcoming AMC documentary series, Heroes and Villains: The History of Comic Books, which will include an episode titled "The Color of Comics" -- focusing on the historical lack of diversity in the comics industry, and Milestone's role in that starting to turn around.
Kirkman cued up a lengthy clip from the episode, which included interviews with Denys Cowan, Paul Levitz, Jenette Kahn, Arvell Jones, Milestone co-founder Michael Davis, Christopher Priest and archival interview footage of the late Dwayne McDuffie.
"My only inclination was to create comics that were more contemporary," McDuffie said in the interview clip. "He was a brilliant writer," Priest said of McDuffie. "Not just a brilliant writer, but a brilliant person."
In the clip, Cowan discussed pitching Milestone to Davis, and said that he had always wanted to see superheroes that looked like themselves, and "The only way we will see it is to do it." Davis' initial reaction was to tell him he was crazy.
After the clip, Hudlin -- prompted by the appearance of Priest in the documentary preview -- said, "Of course Christopher Priest will be working on us in the Milestone books.
Cowan closed the panel by saying it's no secret that times are tough currently, and it's a, "Time for heroes. And we intend to show as many of them as we possibly can."