Milestone Comics was, I think it is safe to say, at the very least a noble experiment. A group of African American comics creators were looking to put more diversity into mainstream comics, and, backed by DC, they created Milestone, a line of comics featuring African American heroes from African American creators. I covered one of those character before with Icon.
This time around, I’m covering the best known of the bunch, namely Static.
Static was one Virgil Hawkins. Originally part of a gang war, Virgil was part of a large gang brawl in Dakota City when the local police showed up and dropped some tear gas. The gas had what was thought to be a harmless radioactive tracer in it, but instead if was a bit more than that. The result was anyone hit by the gas with a metagene became what was known as a “bang baby,” developing superpowers of some kind.
In Virgil’s case, that was electromagnetic powers.
And unlike many of the other gang members out that day, Virgil didn’t decide to keep doing the gang thing only with superpowers. Instead, he put on a costume, assumed the name “Static,” and went out as a hero instead of a criminal.
Virgil’s powers are actually incredibly versatile. He has a good deal of control over all manner of materials that can be affected by electromagnetism. Initially, he used his powers to lift manhole covers, allowing himself to float around Dakota City as he fought evil. His only real restrictions were against insulators.
Now, Static was probably the break-out character from Milestone, and it showed in how much DC keeps trying to do something with him in their main universe. At some point after Milestone itself ceased publication, DC integrated the characters into its main line, and for the most part, that meant Static. Other heroes appeared a lot less often, but Static was a mainstay for a wide variety of reasons. He joined up with the Teen Titans, made a few guest appearances, and was even given his own series with the New 52 relaunch, the only Milestone character to get one.
And then it got canceled. His appearances since then seem to be limited to guest appearances in other books, often acting as a sort of tech support for other characters.
But why? I am a bit baffled by that, truth be told. Virgil was actually the lead character of his own animated series, Static Shock. It ran for four seasons on the Kids WB and was later tied into the DCAU, getting Static a guest appearance on Justice League Unlimited and gaining a number of guest appearances on his own show. I’m not sure if that connection was planned or something that was decided later, but it did happen and the series got a lot of high marks from critics and fans alike.
Heck, Virgil is a supporting cast member on the current Young Justice series as a juvenile protege of Black Lightning.
So, why can’t he keep a comic series going? Is it the character isn’t as popular as DC wants him to be? That seems to me to be a good question. He does have a Spider-Man like appeal and character type, but somehow, I think we haven’t seen the last of Virgil. Guys like him tend to stick around, and sometimes they really stick out enough to eventually get some real notice.