Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Best Character Ever 9: Static

I’ve talked about some of my influences for Lightweight in the past, but one easily stands above the rest. And that character is Static.

Created in 1993 as one of the first four Milestone Comics comics, his title was the one I was least interested in of the original four. The character description and the forced in Malcolm X hat made him a complete pass for fourteen year old Nick. Instead I picked up Hardware, which I liked but wasn’t blown away by, and Icon, a book that instantly drew me in to the fascinating relationship between Augustus Freeman and Raquel Ervin. Blood Syndicate proved to be a great book in the hands of Ivan Velez and Chriscross. But it was Static that proved to be my favorite in the end.

I only tried the book because of how much I liked the previous three number ones. Virgil Hawkins proved to be a great character though as Dwayne McDuffie, Robert L. Washington III and John Paul Leon set out to basically update the original Spider-Man format. Virgil was a nerd, but even a nerd tried for acceptance. During a poorly thought out gang initiation, Virgil gets exposed to the Big Bang and empowered.

This cover was too controversial for DC to release
without an extra wrap around, all because of those
two small packets on the floor.
The comic quickly becomes a mix of teenage drama and superhero battles, even going so far as to end the first issue with the inexperienced hero getting his butt kicked. He would become much more adept with his abilities over forty-five issues. Unfortunately his series wouldn’t survive a price increase and the decline of the comic industry. It faded away with the rest of the Milestone line four years into its short life.

Dwayne McDuffie moved into animation. He ushered Static into animation with him, creating the television series Static Shock! It was never quite the Static I grew to love, but the show had just enough Milestone in it to keep my interest. Season two started to integrate Static into the DC Animated Universe, a move that would continue into episodes of Justice League Unlimited. It was very cool to see Static getting treated as every bit as important as Green Lantern, Superman or Flash.

Those goggles will never not look silly.
Static would rejoin the DC fold with new comics in the last few years. Initially they promised big things for the character, but he quickly was relegated to a cast member in the messy Teen Titans title post-Final Crisis. Even when he was given his own series at the start of the New 52, it seemed DC was more interested in marginalizing the character than using him well. Ultimately the Milestone heroes were never to get their due as part of the DC Universe. With Dwayne and Robert L. Washington now gone, it seems doubtful the character will ever match its original level of greatness, even with the announcement of the upcoming independent Milestone 2.0.

But I still have those forty-five issues. Static—much like his lost creators—will always remain an inspiration to me. The simple flow of adventure to adventure, always tied together by the trials and tribulations of Virgil's everyday life is something I tried to emulate in the first year of Lightweight's adventures. While I am not sure I always succeeded, I cannot overlook the importance of character in super powered storytelling, something Milestone first really made me realize all those years ago.

Thanks, Dwayne. Thanks, Robert. Let's hope Milestone 2.0 can be a lasting legacy to both of you.

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