With just a few days until the series end, we come not only to prepare to bury Young Justice, but to praise this series and its creative team for not just engineering one of the best seasons by an animated series–perhaps one of the top five ever–but for doing so while making full, honest use of a cast of characters that got only more diverse as the series went on.
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
DC Comics’ Deadman brought to television by the folks behind Supernatural? Makes sense, if the story holds up.
Much like SPN’s Winchester brothers, Deadman (aka ghostly acrobat Boston Brand) would give showrunner Eric Kripke another outlet for his horror/comedy stylings. Since Boston has to possess people to do anything in the physical realm, one can only hope a Deadman TV show, if it actually gets past the pilot stage, would actually feature more people who aren’t white.
But we wouldn’t bet on it.
Still, the biggest problem with Deadman is, before recent miniseries like Blackest Night and Brightest Day revived interest in him, DC played Boston as more of a “professional” guest-star, to be called upon for stories involving demons, posession and whatnot, crack wise with the core characters, then shuffle off back to the afterlife. And with DC’s “New 52″ relaunch starting tomorrow, it’s a good time to highlight characters who have come into greater prominence than Deadman over the course of the past decade, only to get passed up for bigger media opportunities.
Now that DC Comics has announced all 52 books for its’ upcoming reboot/relaunch, it can be said that, yes, the company looks to be featuring a more diverse group of characters as protagonists – for now. But what happens after the new DCU debuts in September will be the key.
Dwayne McDuffie left a lasting legacy on the world of comics that many writers can only aspire to. He will not only be remembered as the extremely gifted writer whose scripts have been realized as comic books, in television shows and on the silver screen, but as the creator or co-creator of so many of the much-loved Milestone characters, including Static Shock. The industry has lost a true talent.
- Dan DiDio, co-publisher, DC Comics, Feb. 22, 2011
This June, Felicia Henderson, Denys Cowan, Prentis Rollings, Eric Battle, John Rozum, Matt Wayne, John Paul Leon and others will contribute to a STATIC SHOCK Special, with a cover by JH Williams III.
This Special is our way of acknowledging the industry’s loss. It is not a tribute comic intended to raise proceeds for charity.
We regret if there was any confusion regarding our intentions caused by the solicitation of this project.
The short answer is, DC Comics doesn’t have to do anything to honor Dwayne McDuffie, who suddenly passed away last month. But the disconnect between the two statments above show that, even if the company’s intentions are good, its’ approach in this case came off as tone-deaf.
Reginald Hudlin summed up a lot of fans’ concerns about DC Comics’ recent storylines during his annual “Black Panel” in his response to a fan’s question: “DC Comics is very much into the nostalgia business,” Hudlin said; later in the hour he called it “bad business.” No one in the room packed full of POC fans disagreed with him.
And make no mistake – POC fans and cosplayers abounded at the convention. From my perspective there were more of us at the convention compared to last year. The sad thing, however, is that heroes of color were under-represented, either in cosplay (Isaiah Bradley there was an exception) or in the news; the biggest announcement regarding a POC superhero – unless you’re counting Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, and that character’s a whole other ball of wax – concerned DC’s kicking off a new Static ongoing series next year, with a black writer, Felicia D. Henderson (Fringe, Teen Titans) at the helm. But Henderson’s run on Titans garnered several negative reviews, prompting an equally bad response on DC’s own website.
With the Teen Titans themselves going through a cast white-washing under Henderson’s replacement, J.T. Krul, the status of most diverse cast in the DCU now falls to Eric Wallace’sTitans For Hire, a series which generated its’ own share of controversy when the Atom, Ryan Choi, was murdered in the first issue. I got the chance to talk to Wallace about Choi’s death, his own experiences as a black comic-book fan, and on diversity in DC’s stories.
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World