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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Milestone Media and Me

This week it was announced that Milestone Media, one of the most exciting imprints in the comic book industry, is returning!  For those unfamiliar, Milestone was the brainchild of legendary creators Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan, along with Michael Davis, Derek Dingle, and media icon Reggie Hudlin.  Debuting in 1993 as an imprint of DC Comics, Milestone was focused on bringing minorities in comics to the forefront, both in terms of creators and characters.  Their biggest property, Static, went on to become a worldwide phenomenon thanks to an award-winning animated series, though they also had hits on their hands with Hardware, Icon, Shadow Cabinet and more.  I was a huge fan of these comics growing up, which is a big surprise to most people.

To be honest, I probably wasn’t the target audience for Milestone’s titles.  When the imprint launched, I was a ten year old white kid in the one of the whitest cities in America.  Their books were on the mature end of the scale and focused mainly on minority characters.  It didn’t matter to me though, I was hooked.  Milestone had a unique voice for the comic book industry as it represented an end of our culture that had never been prominent in our industry in particular, but it was an entirely new voice to me altogether.  

I grew up in Dubuque, Iowa which, at the time of Milestone’s launch, was almost entirely white.  When I was kid, there would be a handful of non-white students in my school.  I had two African American friends when I was in first grade that lived down the street, but after I moved at the end of the year, I didn’t even meet another black student until high school.  When I was in elementary school, Dubuque made national headlines because of multiple cross-burnings and a rally held by the KKK.  For years, my hometown was known for little more than misplaced hatred.  It was heartbreaking to me as a kid and even to this day is something that I am incredibly ashamed to have seen happen.  Over the past twenty years, Dubuque has done its best to improve its image and to make up for the horrors committed by a small number of its inhabitants.  

I bring this up to help you understand why Milestone’s debut was so bold and shocking me as a ten year old growing up in this era of racial tension without having much exposure to anything but the white bread culture of a small Midwestern city.  Milestone’s characters were unlike anything I had seen.  All of the superhero comics I had read were about white guys from big cities modeled after the East Coast, but Milestone’s characters were unique and hip—and they were from the Midwest.  The comics were bold and action packed with great characters and awesome art.  Compared to Icon, Superman was just like every other superhero on the stands and I had seen enough of that.  I loved my traditional superheroes, but I wanted to know more about the culture that spawned these awesome new creations.

I may not have been the reader that Milestone had in mind when it launched in 1993, but those comics spoke to me.  Static was someone I wanted to be friends with.  Icon was the man I wanted to see take on all of the badass supervillains.  I can’t even begin to describe how cool and unique Blood Syndicate was to me.  Milestone opened me up to an avenue of American culture that I had never seen before and because of that, it has always held a special place for me.

Six years ago, Dwayne McDuffie was the special guest at a comic book convention in Minnesota that I regularly attend.  I had never met him, but dreamed of telling him just how much Milestone meant to me for all of the reasons that I’ve outlined above.  Unfortunately, I was only two weeks away from my wedding, so I had to pass on going to the show (though I did send my well-worn copy of Static #1 to get signed).  Sadly, McDuffie would pass away a few years later and I never did have a chance to talk with him about how much his creations meant to me—and how much of an inspiration he was to me as a writer.  I will always regret not going to that show.

So, Milestone Media is back and I could not be more excited.  Now how can I get on board as a writer?!

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