was the imprint of Milestone Media, a coalition of African-American comics creators who felt that mainstream superhero comic books severely under-represented minorities. In a special deal with DC Comics
, the latter company distributed Milestone's output, but did not have editorial control over it. Milestone kept the copyrights, but DC got all the trademarks. It should be noted that, despite primarily featuring Black characters, Milestone aimed to showcase more ethnicities, and some of its heroes were Hispanic, Asian and even, yes, White.The primary continuity was known as the Dakotaverse, after the fictional Midwestern city where the initial titles published in 1993 took place. These titles were:
- Icon: August Freeman IV, a wealthy conservative African-American who secretly has superhuman abilities (he's actually an alien) is convinced by a socially aware young woman, Raquel Ervin (who'd been participating in a robbery of his home) to become an inspirational superhero, with her as his sidekick, "Rocket".
- Static: Virgil Hawkins, a bright high school student, gets mixed up with gang violence just long enough to be present when the city's assembled gangs have a riot, the "Big Bang" — which is broken up by police armed with an experimental gas. Gaining electromagnetic powers from exposure to the gas, he becomes a superhero. This was the most popular of the titles, gaining an animated adaptation, Static Shock.
- Blood Syndicate: A street gang that was at the riot mentioned above have all developed special abilities, and become the protectors/rulers of their slum neighborhood. The membership had severely clashing motivations and ethical stances, providing lots of drama.
- Hardware: Curtis Metcalf, a brilliant engineer, realizes his employer/mentor/father figure Edwin Alva (who only saw him as a "cog in his machine") is a supervillain-grade criminal mastermind and develops a suit of powered armor with embezzled funds to battle him and the organization backing him, the "SYSTEM".
After a year, and the first major crossover of the books, Shadow War
, two more titles were introduced, with a third one following a bit thereafter.
- Shadow Cabinet: A globally-active superteam, led by the morally ambiguous Dharma. Initially they shunned publicity in favor of relatively covert action. Arc Words/Catch Phrase:
- Xombi: An Asian scientist develops nanomachines that allow him to regenerate by absorbing nearby materials, making him functionally immortal. This was Milestone's supernatural title and seriously weird (we're talking Doom Patrol weird here.)
- Kobalt: A street-level vigilante is compelled to accept a new Kid Sidekick who is woefully unprepared for the realities of crimefighting.
In 1994, the main Milestone titles crossed over
with DC's Superman-related
books, in the "Worlds Collide" storyline. In this story, a being with the ability to turn fiction into reality
merges Metropolis and Dakota, leading to the heroes meeting and wondering which of them were real
While the distribution deal with DC was sweet, and Milestone's creative teams were good, the line was hobbled by a perception that Milestone was "comics for Black people
", which kept many fans from investigating the books. (The fact many of their character's origins involved negative ethnic concepts -Icon's with slavery, Hardware's with the Glass Ceiling
, Blood Syndicate and gang violence, etc.- didn't help.) At the same time, a glut of "new universes" was followed by a sharp downturn in overall comic book sales.
As a result, Milestone canceled some of its less well-selling series, and launched a new team book, Heroes
, featuring Static and several popular secondary characters in more traditionally heroic action. This failed to overcome the marketing difficulties, and Milestone ceased publication in 1997, concentrating on their Static Shock
Recently, DC Comics
struck a new deal with Milestone, which folds the Milestone characters into the DC Universe
proper, as though they had always been there. For example, Static was recently a member of the Teen Titans
. The revived version of The Brave and the Bold
was used to reintroduce the Milestone characters by teaming them up with DC heroes (e.g., Hardware and Blue Beetle
, Xombi and The Spectre
became a short-lived 2011 ongoing series, and Static Shock
was an (also short-lived) title in DC's New 52
relaunch. How much of the previous history is still in continuity was unclear before, and even less so with the relaunch.
In addition to the above-mentioned Static Shock
animated series, Static was featured in a guest-spot in an episode of Justice League Unlimited
. Young Justice
also features Icon and Rocket as members of the Justice League of America
, and Static joins the cast in season two.
Tropes included in various Milestone Comics include:
- A God Am I: Rift, the villain from Worlds Collide. He believed he'd created both the DC Universe and the Milestone one. However it seems he was just delusional (albeit really, really powerful).
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Icon for Superman, Hardware for Steel, Static for Superboy, etc.- Lampshaded in Worlds Collide.
- Amazonian Beauty: Donner from the Shadow Cabinet
- Ambiguously Gay: Edwin Alva and his magnificent feather boa.
- And I Must Scream: In Xombi, Rustling Husks are mummies animated by the revived corpses of flies who died caught between two window panes - as they died, they could see the outside but could never reach it. Needless to say, their reanimated corpses hate humans and by extensive all living things. In short, they're pissed.
- Anti-Hero: A good majority of Milestone heroes, save for Icon and Static, fall into this.
- Anti-Villain: Hardware's Arch-Nemesis, Edwin Alva. After spending dozens of issues ruthlessly pursuing our hero, he dies saving the lives of hundreds of people.
- Breakout Character: Thanks to the Animated Series, Static has become the poster boy and best-known Milestone character.
- Canon Immigrant: As of right now, all of the Milestone characters appearing in the DCU.
- Captain Ersatz: Buck Wild from Icon was a parody of Marvel's Luke Cage — specifically his Blaxploitation Jive Turkey Dork Age. The "Funeral for a Fool" story revealed that he'd become ersatz versions of other famous black superheroes in his career, and he even became Icon's successor for a while.
- The Chessmaster: Dharma.
- Crisis Crossover: Shadow War, Worlds Collide, Long Hot Summer.
- Expy: Several examples:
- Icon intentionally evokes Superman, both in his origin and status as "Earth's greatest hero."
- Hardware can be seen as an expy of Steel. Personality-wise, they are on the opposite ends of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, with Steel on the former and Hardware on the latter.note
- Likewise Static can be seen as an expy of Spider-Man. Both Peter Parker and Virgil Hawkins are teenage superheroes who gained their powers through an accident. Both of them keep their crime-fighting a secret from their parents and tend to work alone yet always seem to wind-up involved in all the big team-up storylines. Both tend to use their genius-level knowledge of science to fight crime just as much as their superpowers. And they're both geeks with a sarcastic and referential sense of humor who crack wise during fights.
- Kobalt is Batman, but more violent and reality-grounded version, if still non-lethal. Page, his Kid Sidekick, is
Robin a proto-Kick-Ass whose dad fed him to Kobalt as an attempted "Scared Straight" experience (that backfired).
- Fallen Hero: John Tower
- Fox News Liberal: Icon is a conservative black man, but this is partially "explained" by his background and longevity.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Rocket.
- Grand Finale: Milestone Forever, which also served as the point where the Milestone Universe was blended into DC Canon. It also ended up being Dwayne McDuffie's farewell to the characters, as he passed away not long after it was released. In this finale, we see several long-running storylines resolved: The Blood Syndicate reform, Holocaust dies, Hardware retires and gets married, Rocket eventually takes over the mantle of Icon, and Virgil grows up to become a doctor, retires from Superheroing, and marries Frieda. In the end, Dharma reboots the universe to migrate them into DC Canon.
- Green Rocks: Quantum Juice.
- Hide Your Gays: In-universe, Fade is heavily closeted. A demon calls him "faggot" just to get under his skin.
- Hurricane of Puns: Xombi. The entire series has punny characters like Nun of the Above, Nun the Less, Manuel and Manuella Dexterity (both of them are disembodied hands), Sheer Shears (living scissors), and so on.
- Kick the Dog: In the final issue of Kobalt, his Kid Sidekick gets both arms broken and quits superheroing forever, chiefly due to the storylines being forcibly wrapped up.
- Let's You and Him Fight: Rift does this in Worlds Collide to Superman and Icon, stating that the two similar characters had to fight because that's what they're supposed to do. They play along and pull their punches. Rift is Genre Savvy enough to realize this and forces them into real No-Holds-Barred Beatdown when he states the loser's universe would be destroyed.
- Mass Super-Empowering Event: The Big Bang.
- Mutually Fictional: The "Dakota-verse" and the DCU in Worlds Collide.
- My Grandson Myself: Icon resorted to this in his backstory.
- No Communities Were Harmed: Dakota.
- Plea Bargain: Buck Wild had one of these in his backstory.
- Precision F-Strike: Deathwish #3: "Fuck art, let's dance!"
- Redemption Equals Death: Edwin Alva.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Tech-Nine.
- Save Scumming: Flashback of the Blood Syndicate had the power to rewind time by three seconds, which was a literal lifesaver more than once. Partially Deconstructed as the fact that she's had to see her friends die on several occasions takes a toll on her mentally.
- Story Reset: As per joining the DC Universe, they performed a sort of "soft reset" on the world.
- Shock and Awe: Static.
- Marisa Rahm, the hero (but not the title character) of the Deathwish miniseries. Maddie (nee Adam) Blaustein based the character on herself. Like Marisa, Maddie was also pre-op.
- Also, in Blood Syndicate, Masquerade, a shapeshifter. Born a woman, but uses his powers to become the man he always felt he should be. This isn't known by other members of the team at first, and is a notable Reveal about a year into the book's run.
- Universe Bible
- We Can Rule Together:
- Hardware gets this offer from his employer/arch-enemy Edwin Alva. The second time, he accepts.
- Holocaust typically uses this ploy to try to recruit the heroes to his side. It never works as Holocaust is not nearly as smooth a talker as he thinks he is.
- Weirdness Magnet: Dear God, Xombi, in spades.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Rift. He's just a mailman, really.