Milestone Returns: Introducing the Talent

Comic News

It’s hard to believe it’s finally here. But with Static: Season One #1 on shelves right now, it looks like the Milestone Comics which redefined the medium are back to do it again. Soon, Rocket and Icon: Season One and Hardware: Season One will follow Static’s lead, and it almost feels like we’re seeing long-lost friends come home. But in truth, what really made Milestone revolutionary was never just the characters, but the talent involved. Originally founded by four Black creative giants—Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and Michael Davis—Milestone’s message of diverse, boundary-pushing comics has always extended to its own staff, where the marginalized could tell their stories through these characters without qualification or hiding behind impermeable layers of metaphor. Milestone wasn’t just a line showing the disenfranchised that they had heroes, it was a line which allowed them to tell their stories from their own perspective.

For the Milestone relaunch, some of the original creative team’s most celebrated talent have returned to answer the call. But Milestone has always stood to promote new voices as well. So, in the Milestone spirit, it’s really not enough to know the names Virgil Hawkins, Augustus Freeman and Curtis Metcalf—it’s just as important to know the talent behind them too.

The Old Guard

To ensure that the new wave of Milestone Comics follows in the spirit of what came before (and also because many of the people who worked on them just love these characters, and still have more to say) many of the names you’ll see in this new line of comics were there during the original ‘90s wave.

One of the artists on Static: Season One is Christopher “ChrisCross” Williams, who broke into comics through the Milestone line. ChrisCross was the definitive artist for Milestone’s Blood Syndicate, penciling over two thirds of the series with writer Ivan Velez, Jr. ChrisCross has been lending his talents to DC ever since those early Milestone days, on titles like Firestorm, Superman/Batman and Xero—a challenging title written by Christopher Priest in 1997 about a Black government assassin who disguised himself in the field as a white man. Most recently, ChrisCross drew the inaugural Vixen story for the launch of DC’s Truth & Justice and illustrated the Icon and Rocket pages in the Milestone Returns #0 one-shot. In this new age for Milestone, will ChrisCross be returning to the Blood Syndicate that launched his career, 28 years ago? We’ll have to see, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Denys Cowan, one of Milestone Media’s original founders, will be returning as well to pencil Hardware—a task he first took on for the character’s original series in 1993. Cowan has been penciling for DC since 1980, hasn’t stopped in four decades, and has only refined his signature style with every passing year. As if co-founding Milestone itself wasn’t enough, Cowan produced Static Shock as an animated series and also served as Senior Vice President of Animation at BET, where he helped develop The Boondocks. And before any of that, Cowan established himself as the most definitive artist of the Question since Steve Ditko, penciling the faceless truthseeker with writer Denny O’Neil and inker and frequent collaborator Bill Sienkiewicz. This legendary Question art team recently reunited for The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage under DC’s Black Label imprint. Bill’s been working for DC himself since 1984, and this time Denys is bringing his frequent partner-in-art along with him for this long-awaited second round on Hardware.

The First-Time Veterans

Milestone has always stood apart for what should be an uncontroversial purpose, and yet one which has been neglected by the larger comic industry for decades: to provide a platform for minority voices in comics, unrequired to compete with the systemically created glut of white men who populate every other corner of the industry. It’s a mission statement which has attracted and inspired some of the biggest names in comics from outside the standard shape and color of a comic book artist or writer, so it should be no surprise that a few veterans have seized the opportunity to participate in the Milestone relaunch as well.

It’s likely that none of this would be happening at all—at least, not in this form, at this time—without the ceaseless efforts of Reginald Hudlin, a man who has always believed in the Milestone Brand. Hudlin spent many years working on Black Panther for Marvel Comics, and has been a writer, producer, and director of movies and television since 1990. You may be familiar with a film called Django Unchained—that’s one of his productions. His first DC work was a commemorative one-shot for Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday, celebrating two of DC’s Black heroes created by the comics great: Black Racer and Shilo Norman. Hudlin will be co-writing Icon and Rocket, and doing his darnedest to make the series’ original writer Dwayne McDuffie proud.

Also working on Icon and Rocket is artist Doug Braithwaite, an African-English penciler who’s been working with DC since 1989’s Doom Patrol #25. Along with an impressive body of work at Marvel, Braithwaite helped define the look of Oliver Queen’s son, Connor Hawke as the Emerald Archer himself in Green Arrow #125-137, penciled with the great Alex Ross on the lavishly illustrated Justice, and most recently has been drawing covers for The Next Batman: Second Son.

Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz will be penciling and inking Hardware with writer Brandon Thomas. Thomas has contributed a story or two to DC in the past, particularly in recent anthology titles, but is best known for his creator-owned work such as the interplanetary war story Horizon, the high stakes astronaut mission Noble and the high fantasy epic Excellence. Thomas has demonstrated himself time and again as a writer of broad and diverse talent, and as such we would be well-advised to go into his Hardware: Season One expecting nothing but the unexpected.

The New School

It’s always nice to see a trusted and familiar face when picking up a new comic. But if the “Milestone Returns” relaunch was just a collection of industry legends and veterans, it wouldn’t really be Milestone. This line has always strived to be a platform for the unheard to be heard, and the unseen, seen. So it should come as no surprise to find new faces in the Milestone talent pool this year as well.

Vita Ayala isn’t exactly new to comics—they’ve been steadily burning up that charts of comics’ top talent since their debut in 2017’s New Talent Showcasebut Vita’s rising star is still far from its zenith. Vita’s been contributing powerful stories to many of DC’s anthology titles over the past four years, including a charming Renee Montoya feature in this month’s DC Pride. And while they’ve been making most of their big moves over at Marvel, we’re proud to have lured them back to DC to write Static: Season One.

Drawing Static with ChrisCross is Nikolas Draper-Ivey, whose first work for DC was in Milestone Returns #0 itself. Nikolas’s manga-inspired art style is showcased in his creator-owned afro-futurist sci-fi action series XOGenasys, and luckily appears to be bringing that same flair to Static. After all, Virgil Hawkins fans KNOW that nerd’s got a deep bench of tankōbon.

That brings us to Leon Chills, who will be co-writing Icon and Rocket with Reginald Hudlin. Chills was the producer of the 2019 film The Black Godfather and is a staff writer on the ice-skating drama Spinning Out. Icon and Rocket will be his first work in the comic book medium. I’m excited to hear what he has to say.

So what about you? Which new Milestone Comics series has you most excited? Which writer or artist are you most thrilled to see? Head on over to the DC Community and let us know!

Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly “Ask the Question” column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.

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