This partnership allowed DC Comics to lead the way in diversity because Milestone Media published a line of books reflecting a diverse universe of superheroes and villains.
In the last 22 years, Milestone comic books and characters have been in and out of publication, but never out of the comic book fan consciousness.
The relationship between Milestone Media, Inc. and DC Comics has been one of peaks and valleys, and shifts from individual superhero mythologies to shared superhero mythology.
Interestingly enough, the first meeting of the worlds of Milestone and DC took place through a crossover event called “Worlds Collide” in which the Milestone characters fought with, then worked alongside the Superman family of characters, to stop an event that would lead to the destruction of both worlds.
In the most recent cooperative ventures between the two companies, the Milestone characters were established as a part of the DC Universe, most notably in 2011 with the “New 52” initiative that reintroduced the African-American teenage superhero Static Shock to the public, in a monthly series of the same name that lasted eight issues.
That character is at the core of the relationship between the two companies.
Just as Disney purchased the Marvel and Star Wars intellectual properties, companies and characters because, in part, the young male demographic that was elusive to Disney was captured by Marvel and Star Wars, the teenage Black male is a demographic that the DC Universe does not seem to understand.
That archetype is not significantly represented in the DC Comics Universe, and the character of Static Shock has appeared in an animated series, a limited series, a one-shot tribute book, various DC Comics titles, and the aforementioned ongoing series since the end of the first “Static” series in 1997.
With all of this, on July 11, 2015, at Comic-Con International in San Diego, arguably the most significant pop culture and entertainment event in the United States for the film, television, and comic book industries, the relaunch of Milestone was clarified with an announcement that the first wave of new titles would happen in conjunction with old publishing partner DC Comics.
During the Milestone 2.0 panel, a special guest appeared, adding a new layer to the groundbreaking significance of the event.
DC Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.
One would be hard-pressed to find a person more instrumental to the DC Universe and its creative developments over the last decade than Geoff Johns.
Writer of the company’s flagship hero, Superman, along with Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and the Titans, all of which have either been translated into cinematic media or will be in the near-future with identified networks, Johns has represented the combination of relative youth and respect for the core mythos and characters that lie at the heart of the DC Comics Universe.
Johns’ presence, his admiration of the Milestone characters and of the Milestone founders, and his announced involvement as writer of an upcoming Milestone project, is symbolic of a new kind of commitment, one unprecedented in the entire history of the Milestone/DC Comics partnership.
That of the creative corporate advocate.
Derek T. Dingle stated at the Milestone panel that the decision to bring the company back in full strength for consistent presence and output was initiated by the death of Milestone Co-founder and Editor-in-chief Dwayne McDuffie.
McDuffie passed away in February of 2011, so this reunion of creative and corporate parties has been in the works for four years.
While the subject of diversity has continued to build in momentum and intensity, this was happening.
With Johns as the more youthful voice of the three, the one who produced the largest body of creative work revealing his knowledge of the DC Comics mythology and characters, the person who made the historic leap from a vital force in the publishing company to a vital force in the umbrella company encompassing the publisher, the most recent act of his presence at the panel identifies him as the “Superman” of this business equation.
Denys Cowan would be the “Hardware” representative, with his arsenal of visionary skills in which to turn ideas into reality.
Derek T. Dingle, the “Icon”, the business acumen and perspective sitting alongside the creative fictional world of Milestone.
Reggie Hudlin, the “Static”, the newest member of the equation, bringing a new energy and point of view to the company and the cooperative venture.
Hudlin and Johns are the most vocal of the new ingredients to the relationship.
With both men consistently operating in the comic book, television, and film industries, they represent a bridge of worlds and experiences that is at the ethos of the new Milestone 2.0, to expand into different media and increase the exposure of the Milestone characters.
The “Static Shock” live-action show, to debut on the Warner Bros. digital platform, and the upcoming “Static Shock” 6-inch figure by DC Collectibles, are unprecedented extensions of the character and license.
The Black teenage male demographic will be captured, and represented in heroic form. Just as Static preceded the teenage Black/Latino Spider-Man by more than a decade and a half, the character will return to reclaim that space as the most relevant reflection of that demographic.
DC Comics, a company unable to match the level of diversity left vacant by the absence of Milestone, despite their various attempts and various characters of color created or re-imagined by DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns, will resume the position they held from 1993-1997, as the American superhero comic book publisher with the most focused representation of ethnic and cultural diversity in the business… through the new partnership with Milestone.
Above and beyond the excitement and talent announcements and new art and press releases and panels is that significant point.
The truth of the point is the understanding that the most prevalent narrative of diversity in comic books in the last quarter-century started with Milestone Media, Inc. and no single comic book publisher or combination of comic book publishers has been able to sufficiently replace that narrative.
Milestone will now be poised to reclaim and redefine the narrative.
DC Comics will, once again, be the vehicle of facilitation.
Worlds which collided, have united.
There is no better likelihood of success than this, no better social environment open to receive and embrace the Milestone universe than the one in which we now live.
The commitment of Milestone and DC Comics is clear and defined.
If we really want a more diverse fictional world, with creators from different backgrounds writing the stories of characters with different backgrounds, on platforms of global interest and visibility, then nothing should stop us from supporting the fruits of this union.
The quality will provide their commitment.
The sales and loyalty will prove ours.
On February 1993, Milestone Media and DC Comics released the first issue of the Milestone universe of comic books into stores.
I wonder what February 2016 will reveal.
Joseph Phillip Illidge is a public speaker on the subjects of race, comics, and the corporate politics of diversity. In addition to his coverage by the BBC and Publishers Weekly, Joseph has been a speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Book World’s forum, Digitize Your Career: Marketing and Editing 2.0, Skidmore College, Purdue University, on the panel “Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books” and at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City.
Joseph is the Head Writer for Verge Entertainment, a production company co-founded with Shawn Martinbrough, artist for the graphic novel series “Thief of Thieves” by “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman, and video game developer Milo Stone. Verge has developed an extensive library of intellectual properties for live-action and animated television and film, video games, graphic novels, and web-based entertainment.
His graphic novel project, “The Ren,” about the romance between a young musician from the South and a Harlem-born dancer in 1925, set against the backdrop of a crime war, will be published by First Second Books, a division of Macmillan.
Joseph’s newest comic book project is the upcoming Scout Comics miniseries “Solarman,” a revamp of a teenage superhero originally written by Stan Lee.
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