What I Remember: Once again I’m cheating and this is my original copy, rescued from my parents' house. I really liked the character of Static, mostly because he is a teenager and has typical teenage problems and I thought I could relate as a 10 year-old. It wasn’t until years later when I got my hands on a few issues of Spider-Man Classic, which reprinted the old Stan Lee and Steve Ditko stories that I realized that Static was an updated Spider-Man for the 90’s. I haven’t read the book in years and I don’t remember any details, so I’m going into this nearly blind.
Static #2 ”Everything But The Girl”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie & Robert L. Washington
Penciler: John Paul Leon
Inker: Steve Mitchell
Colorists: Hanne Kieldgaard & Noelle Giddings
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Publisher: Milestone Media (DC)
Publication Date: July 1993
Is It Any Good?
Before I begin, I think it’s important to give a little background on Milestone Media. Milestone was founded by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan and other creators, trying to rectify the problem of under-representation in the comics industry. McDuffie, a former Marvel editor and writer who lampooned how black characters were presented at Marvel in the famous “Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers” pitch.(Check it out here)
In 1993, Milestone landed a distribution deal with DC Comics, allowing them creative control over their characters and to keep the copyrights and merchandising rights. Milestone’s characters would exist in a separate (but equal?) universe, away from the main DC continuity. According to McDuffie, having a line of minority heroes was more important than creating one or two characters because:
If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren't just that character. They represent that race or that sex, and they can't be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people. You know, Superman isn't all white people and neither is Lex Luthor. We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn't do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that's wider than the world we've seen before. (wikipedia,originally posted on DwayneMcDuffie.com)
The “Dakotaverse,” was named after the city that was central to the Milestone world and the most popular character was Static. The character eventually landed his own Saturday morning cartoon show in the late 1990’s. This issue tells his origin.
The parallels to Spider-Man are apparent, but updated. Our hero, Virgil Hawkins, is the new kid in school and is an outsider in a white neighborhood and gets picked on by a white “gangster” Biz Money B, who cuts in while he tries to flirt with the Kelly Kapowski-esque, Freida and smashes him into a locker. Like Parker, Virgil also has a missing parent but his mom’s still in the picture. Also, when he goes after the villain in the playground he cracks jokes like Parker would and they both seem to only have confidence when in costume.
He’s rescued from the bullies by by another black kid who’s advice seems to be more fit for the prison yard than the schoolyard, offering to get Virgil a gun to take out Biz Money B, so that he doesn’t spend the next four years eating shit.
Virgil takes the older kid up on his offer and is about to whack the kid, but reconsiders just as the “Big Bang” that creates the Dakotaverse happen, Gang members converge on a park and police release as special tear gas that inadvertently kills most of the gang members but inexplicably gives Virgil electrostatic powers.
Virgil is an interesting twist on the Peter Parker story, rather than being white and lower middle class, he’s black and struggling, which adds a different dimension to his problems. He gets his powers in what is pretty much a gang initiation but instead becomes a hero. He’s an outcast not because he’s a nerd but because he’s black in a white school. He gains his powers due to excessive force used by the police.
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Not really, the book screams 90’s, the styles of clothes, Static’s Malcolm X hat, the coloring of the book, he even cracks a joke about the movie House Party. I think that’s one of the issues with writing a book about teens, what’s current changes so fast. This book would have seemed dated in 1996, much less in 2016.
However, the issues an the theme are still relevant today. I wish they would do more with Static in the main DCU, where the Milestone characters now call home. The writers of this book got why Spider-Man is the icon and it’s not only climbing walls,it’s that he is a teen character with very real problems that his powers can’t solve.
He’s a marketable, original, minority character. If some marketing effort was put behind him, he could become a major character. Put him in the Teen Titans, let him get another shot at a solo series and advertise it. If DC cared enough, Static could actually be an African American hero with staying power.
Next issue: We begin a two-parter with Spectacular Spider-Man 150. Where Daily Bugle editor, Joe "Robbie" Robertson goes to jail? Find out why in 7!