A look at Milestone Media, Comics

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Left to right: Icon, Rocket, Static, & Hardware.

Milestone Media and comics began in 1993 by four successful black comic writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers: Dwayne McDuffie (RIP), Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle. In the beginning they created black characters for their universe “Dakotaverse” (in a fictional Midwestern city called Dakota) but soon expanded to having characters of other ethnicities (Asian, Latino, and White) as well as characters of various class, gender, sexuality, and political beliefs. The founders of Milestone didn’t want to be pigeon holed as a company that made “Black” comics, and strive to have diverse characters with challenging, thought provoking, and interesting stories. Milestone touched on subject matters that mainstream comics like DC, Marvel and other established comic companies only tiptoed around or ignored completely (some will argue this is still an ongoing situation).

A unique thing about Milestone was that the founders were able to negotiate an unprecedented deal in the comic book industry, a distribution deal with DC comics which was as follows:

  • Milestone does not relinquish any of the legal or creative rights to their work.

  • That they would retain total creative control.

  • That they would retain all copyrights for characters under the Milestone banner.

  • That they would have the final say on all merchandising and licensing deals pertaining to their properties.

This is comparable to other industry like music where you have musician Ray Charles owning the masters to his recordings, or with Hip-Hop music in 1993 (coincidently the same year Milestone was founded) the Wu-Tang Clan secured a deal with Loud/RCA to sign them on but allow each member to be able to release their own solo albums. Another Milestone and Wu-Tang Clan connection, one of the founders of Milestone, comic illustrator Denys Cowan designed the cover for GZA’s classic album Liquid Swords (1995). Denys Cowan laid down the black and white line art, Milestone’s inker Prentis Rollins did the ink work, and Milestone’s color editor Jason Scott Jones created the cover’s color art digitally at a time when digital coloring in comic art was still at it’s infancy, latter on this practice becomes a standard.

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Milestone had a diverse staff that reflected their work, and it was an incubator for a lot of talented then up and coming comic book writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers. To name a few notable names that had their start at Milestone:  John Paul Leon, Christopher Sotomayor, Christopher Williams (aka ChrisCross), Ivan Velez Jr., Shawn Martinbrough, Tommy Lee Edwards, Jason Scott Jones (aka J.Scott.J), Prentis Rollins, J.H. Williams III, Humberto Ramos, John Rozum, Eric Battle, Joseph Illidge, Madeleine Blaustein, Jamal Igle, Chris Batista and Harvey Richards. 

Milestone had a dedicated fan base of readers (they sold a lot of books), but as the comic book market started to dip later in the 90’s, Milestone had to end the publishing of their comic series in 1997. But the Milestone characters continued to live on in the minds of fans and have even crept into other comic universes (DC Universe beginning with “Worlds Collide” story lines that crossover between DC’s Metropolis and Milestone’s Dakota), and other mediums (TV, Video Games). For example:

  • The character Static had a 4 seasons, Saturday morning cartoon show on the WB network called Static Shock (2000-2004).

  • In 2008 DC decided to incorporate Milestones character in their universe:

    • Having Static appear in Teen TitiansYoung Justice, and Batman: Brave and the Bold TV series (reference in connection to the Black Lighting character, though the two are not related as father and son).

    • The Shadow Cabinet appearing in Justice League of America.

    • Dakota was referenced in Batman: the Brave and the Bold episode “Aqua man’s Outrageous Adventure”.

    • Characters Icon, Rocket, and Virgil Hawkins’ appearance in Young Justice.

  • Static was featured as a member of Teen Titans in the MMORPG game DC Universe Online.

  • In 2010 DC released a limited two issues comic series called Milestone Forever which details the fate of Dakotaverse characters and finalizes the merging of DC and Milestone universe.

“Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.”  – Frantz Fanon

Milestone Media and comics was a pioneering company in independent comics in the 90s. They have helped detect, challenge, and dispel stereotypical narratives coming from systems of domination and oppression (race, class, gender, sexuality, ageism, ableism, etc) in our comic fantasy worlds and imaginations. Milestone characters and stories still continue to challenge us, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

Below we have some interviews, panels, and a documentary short on Milestone. Enjoy!

Milestone Comics Short featuring  Dwayne McDuffie (RIP)

This short is from a documentary White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black Masculinity In Comic Books. For more clips of this documentary check it’s youtube channel at blackherodoc.

Nerds of Color – Hard NOC Life Episode 011: A Milestone Anniversary (2013) 

Milestone Comics 20th Anniversary panel @ San Diego Comic Con (2013)

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