Immediately, I latched onto the character of Static like the electricity for which he’s named. A Black, lower-middle-class kid, skinny and somewhat socially awkward, whose method of dealing with problems usually involved his wit rather than his fists, capable of using such terms as “Pythagorean renown” for no real reason other than they sound pretty and prone to breaking into a capella renderings of the theme to The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly at the drop of a hat? It was as if McDuffie and co-creator John Paul Leon had based the character on me. I faithfully bought every issue each month until the series ended in the late 90s.
When I was in college, I was pleased to see the character brought into the mainstream with the Static Shock animated series on the WB, happy to see Milestone’s highest-profile character get the respect and appreciation he deserved in mass-market media. It proved something I’d always maintained about the character: that Static, more so than Black Panther, Icon, or Hardware, was actually capable of appealing to all comic book readers, not just Black ones. Like Spider-Man, he was a bright young man who dealt with the problems middle-class youth have to face; like Spider-Man, he grew up in an urban environment, part of a faceless anonymous class of people in an enormous city. Like Spider-Man, he wanted to work his way up from his circumstances; like Spider-Man, he had to do it with his brains, not his body. The difference—and this was a difference large enough to ensure the character was far from derivative—was that Virgil Hawkins was Black, and lived a life according to this social experience.
In essence, Virgil Hawkins lived the kind of life Spider-Man would have lived, had he been Black.
- From “Why Virgil Hawkins Is More Significant Than Miles Morales,” on Komplicated.com