Friday, May 9, 2008

Reminising on Milestone Comics!

The 1990's were revolutionary times. Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back! Boogie Down Productions, By Any Means Necessary! John Singleton's Boyz in the Hood! Charles Dutton's entire season of live performances of Roc, In Living Color and for me, Milestone Comics.
I'm a science-fiction, horror, comic book geek and in addition to poetry and music, I write stories in those genres. Milestone Comics in association with DC Comics premiered alongside The Dark Detective, Batman!

The core four comics, ICON, HARDWARE, BLOOD SYNDICATE and STATIC had me in my local comic shop every Friday. The printing and color techniques were new and visually arresting. Alot of folks didn't like the look of the books but they had to admit that the characters were drawn well, they looked like real folks not with those perpetual Afros that all Black charaters had in the Marvel and DC comics from 1970 up until recently; Me, I've always been a story guy and what great stories they were.
My Favorites were Static ( also known as STATIC SHOCK) and Blood Syndicate. I don't think that I had ever seen characters so wonderfully complex and flawed before or since in comics.

Fade, who was forced to walk this plane of reality as a virtual ghost who could only stay solid for a minimum amount of time,was a Black Puerto Rican, from a ultra macho family of men struggling with his closeted homosexuality and love for his teammate TECH Nine. Now the comic was still comic code friendly G rated but they didn't just make him THE GAY Superhero in fact they didn't focus on that hardly at all. There was WISE SON, a practicing Muslim and teammate blessed with invulnerability whose could be the most self righteous A hole in the Dakota universe. Top it off that he was loyal, truthful and generous. And Fade's sister Flashback who could go back in time three seconds and change reality. Her brother, Fade was able to stay solid longer when he was in her proximity. She saved the Blood Syndicate's behinds more than once but she coped by using crack cocaine. Well, you see my point; Wonderfully flawed. They weren't a group of superheroes, they were a gang and thier family structure was built on that. When the gang found out Flashback was using they put a stop to it! Wonderfully flawed!

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once wrote in that he preferred ICON's do it yourself, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps philosophy but read all of them. WOW! ICON, who lived from Slavery through the 1990's helping his adopted people while awaiting a ship to rescue him and take him home. But people were still calling him a Black Superman clone. Ok, he was sorta but he had powers even the Man of Steel didn't plus cute teenaged sidekick that had Superboy Prime, turning his head during the Milestone/DC crossovers.

There was HARDWARE, the story of a brilliant scientist, adopted as a child by a rich white mogul who realizes that even though he's called son, he would never inherit the company Daddy created and takes revenge on his father by becoming Hardware, exposing his father's illegial businesses, and practices to the world, and taking his company apart piece by piece before ultimately becoming Hardware, his father's number one enemy. He eventually undergoes a spiritual tranformation after a friend, well aware of his inventions and mischief confronts him, showing him that he is nothing more than a parasite like his father. He turns over a new leaf redeeming himself and becoming a hero. Interesting enough, Hardware's chauvanism comes back to bite him when after he insults a beautiful colleague after she pointed out percieved flaws in the Hardware armour seen on the video playback. She is given the chance to build devices that can potientially capture and kill Hardware. Hardware is shocked when she emerges with a near identical armoured suit with none of the flaws and not only defeats him in battle but nearly kills him. He, of course, apologizes for insulting her, as he secretly heals and licks his wounds.

But my number one was Static because he was a kid, a young Peter Parker molded character except he was a 90's Black kid. He was nerdy, scared, cocky and a virgin. He witnessed the death of his friend, caught up in the fast life of the crack game, fell in love with his best friend, Frieda Goren, Smart, beautiful, Jewish and totally oblivious to Virgil's/Static's crush all set in the post seventies multicutural, multi ethnic educational world. Yeah, High school, remember how it was? How it really was?

The greatest triumph of these comics were that they were not as popularly believed to be copies of white heroes in black face, they were all original, well written, three dimensional characters that stood on their own. Static issue #25 made history as Virgil and his girlfriend Daisy, a Sistah, had their first time together. The issue was banned for months eventually coming out but banned for just suggesting that these teenagers had sex. Again, Comic code G rated. But the company just couldn't make it all they way through. Damn!
In the real world Public Enemy imploded then got back together; BDP broke up with KRS going solo and putting out a string of sometimes brilliant sometimes lame spotty works.
Todd Johnson's and Larry Stroman joined upstart renegade company Image Comics and gave us Tribe, the first African American Comic to sell a million copies of it's first issue and even more importantly gave the world " Rosalyn", the Worlds first Fat Bottomed Superhero. Larry Stroman said he was tired of seeing Black Women not drawn as they were shaped in reality. Thank You Larry! Thank You! (Laughing)

Melyssa Ford, Esther Baxter and Buffie the Body eat your hearts out! Then something happened at Image and Tribe died after just four issues! Damn!
But now that the X files is gone and Milestone is resting in peace. I take solace that even if it was just a little while we were out there and out there being real. They changed the world!

They Did! Denny Cohen, Dewayne Mcduffie are drawing and writing mainstream now including JLA. Stroman is still catching on here and there. And for goodness sakes at least since Milestone, Marvel and DC no longer draw every Black person with an Afro and have them talking as if they just came out of the Mack!
Last, but not least, I gotta give DC comics a pat on the back because they took Milestone on because they were honest and said they didn't know how to write or draw realistic Black characters but they wanted to.
Now....I gotta go catch Dr. Martha Jones in Dr. Who or is she on Torchwood this week? Oh well...

Be Mindful! Be Prayerful! Be Careful!


Serious said...

I never considered the correlation between the rise of Milestone and the hip-hop culture of the time before but it does seem to be related. There was a certain social awareness that seemed to carry over from hip-hop to Milestone as well as other areas of black success. It's to bad that the positive voice of hip-hop has been silenced and replaced with keep up with the Jones' rap. Hip-hop needs more diversity or more specifically hip-hop radio and video shows need more diversity. Talib, Mos Def, Commom, Lupe among others have maintained a positive social message but they can't get those songs played. They don't play Katrina Clap on the radio but they will play Ms. Fat Booty all day. Nothing wrong with Ms. Fat Booty but we need more.

I've gotten a little off topic here, so....Milestone is great! Static was the man. Icon was a Superman clone, yeah I said it. And Milestone slipped up with their coloring process. While better than all of the mainstream comics it was not nearly as crisp and clean as Image Comics digital coloring process and it cost them dearly.

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Samson HR said...

Prayer is the key...Educative post.