First announced last summer during the DC FanDome virtual event, Milestone Comics is finally returning this year. To give readers a taste of what to expect, the creators behind the Milestone revival — writer Reggie Hudlin and artist Denys Cowan (two of the current partners behind the Milestone revival) as well as ChrisCross and Nikolas Draper-Ivey (the artists on Static: Season One) — joined moderator Phil LaMarr (best known as the voice of the titular hero in the Static Shock animated series) for the Milestone Returns panel during the [email protected] virtual event.
The panel began with a brief history lesson of the comics company. Launched in 1993 by founders Dwayne McDuffie, Cowan, Derek Dingle, and Michael Davis, Milestone set out to create more contemporary comics that dealt with real issues as well as fostered greater representation in the comics industry. Despite shutting down its print production in 1997, the Milestone universe and characters (dubbed the Dakotaverse) has grown in popularity in the last two decades thanks in large part to the success of the Static Shock Saturday morning cartoon in the early aughts.
Now that the Milestone Returns Infinite Edition #0 one-shot has finally been released digitally, and the creative teams for the revival have been announced, the creators expressed relief to have the material finally out for the public. Bringing back Milestone has been in the works for over six years with the original plans announced at NYCC in 2017. Unfortunately these plans were ultimately delayed due to a lawsuit with the estate of the Milestone co-founder, the late Dwayne McDuffie. Thankfully, the lawsuit has since been settled with a positive outcome outcome for all involved according to McDuffie’s widow, Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie.
For ChrisCross, who was involved as an artist on the original Milestone books in the ’90s, it feels like coming home. Cowan said a priority for reviving Milestone was mixing established talent of Milestone alumni like Cross with new talent such as Vita Ayala, the writer of Static Season One. Hudlin remembers how many great creators got their start at Milestone and launched their careers, and hoped to replicate that same magic.
Like many people, Draper-Ivey’s introduction to Milestone was through the Static Shock cartoon before his father gave him an issue of the Blood Syndicate comic series. Cross relayed a story of his time at the School of Visual Arts where he entered the Milestone offices off the street to show off his art and get a gig. By the end of the visit, he had met the Milestone founders and walked out with his first gig drawing a Milestone card set.
The panelists said that relaunching Milestone isn’t about ’90s nostalgia, but rather remaining cutting-edge and relevant for the times, hence the updates to the characters such as Static’s origin taking place during a Black Lives Matter protest. It makes complete sense for Hudlin since kids like his own are protesting on the streets currently in America. Not to depict Black America honestly would be irresponsible according to Hudlin.
LaMarr (who unsurprisingly has a particular affinity for Static) praised Draper-Ivey’s designs for Static: Season One, specifically the different hairstyles for the black teen superhero. Hearing that the voice of Static himself appreciated his designs was meaningful for Draper-Ivey. Although he is innovating the character with new aesthetics, Draper-Ivey has great respect for the artists and creators that came before him.
While fan reaction to the planned revival has predominately been positive, panelists said there have been the inevitable commenters expressing displeasure with certain changes, such as the aforementioned change to Static’s origin from gang violence to Black Lives Matter. Draper-Ivey braced himself early on for that criticism but also realized that shows deep passion and fandom for the characters.
As much as he would love to write all the books, Hudlin knows it’s virtually impossible. For Icon and Rocket: Season One he’s co-writing with Leon Chills who actually used to be his assistant before Hudlin encouraged him to pursue his screenwriting passion. Writing these two characters is a dream come true for Hudlin, who remembered telling Dwayne McDuffie he’d wanted to write Icon and Rocket for years.
For Hardware: Season One, Cowan is once again penciling the book with inks by his frequent collaborator, comics legend Bill Sienkiewicz. While the rest of people on the Milestone Returns panel were amazed over the fact that Sienkiewicz would be involved in the Milestone revival, Cowan and Sienkiewicz have been friends for decades since their first comics project collaboration in the ’80s with The Question. LaMarr described the six-issue runs for the three returning Milestone books as “Netflix comics.”
Towards the end of the Milestone Returns panel, Draper-Ivey said he felt great sentimentality and responsibility for honoring the legacy of the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, especially after learning they both grew up in Detroit. This led Cowan to reminisce about his time working together with McDuffie. Though McDuffie may not be alive today to see the love and appreciation for Milestone since he passed away in 2011, the panelists said they hope the new Milestone can reach an even greater audience than when they first launched.