Milestone Media

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Milestone Media
Status Defunct (as publisher, 1997)
Founded 1993
Founder Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle
Country of origin U.S.A.
Headquarters location New York City
Publication types Comic books
Fiction genres superhero
Milestone Media's Static character

Milestone Media is a company best known for creating Milestone Comics and securing an unheard of publishing and distribution deal with DC Comics and the Static Shock cartoon series. It was founded in 1993 by a coalition of African-American artists and writers (namely Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle) who believed that minorities were severely underrepresented in American comics. Milestone Media was their attempt to correct this imbalance.

Christopher Priest participated in the early planning stages of Milestone Media, and was originally slated to become the editor-in-chief of the new company, but bowed out for personal reasons before any of Milestone's titles were published. By early 1995, Davis had left Milestone as well, to become President of the new Motown Machine Works imprint, published by Image Comics. Cowan soon joined him to serve as Editor in Chief.[1]

History[edit]

Publishing deal[edit]

Although Milestone comics were published through DC Comics, they did not take place in the DC Universe. Under an arrangement similar to the one DC and Wildstorm established later, all Milestone characters existed in a separate continuity that did not fall under DC Comics' direct editorial control (but DC still retained right of refusal to publish). Unlike Wildstorm, whose properties were bought by DC Comics, Milestone Media retained the copyright of their properties.

Fundamental to Milestone’s agreement with DC was they would not relinquish any of the legal or creative rights to their work. Throughout the negotiations, Milestone insisted on three basic points:

  1. that they would retain total creative control
  2. that they would retain all copyrights for characters under the Milestone banner
  3. that they would have the final say on all merchandising and licensing deals pertaining to their properties.

In essence, DC licensed the characters, editorial services, and creative content of the Milestone books for an annual fee and a share of the profits.[2] Dwayne McDuffie said that DC held up this agreement even though some of Milestone's storylines made them "very uncomfortable" as they were from perspectives that DC weren't used to.[3] The biggest conflict they had was when an issue of Static showed the hero kissing his girlfriend, which DC didn't want to publish on grounds that it was using sex to sell comics (which many DC covers at the time did); Milestone covered most of the image as a compromise, and McDuffie believed it made DC uncomfortable because it was specifically "black sexuality".[4]

All Milestone Media titles were set in a continuity dubbed the "Dakotaverse", referring to the fictional midwestern city of Dakota in which most of the early Milestone stories were set. Before any titles were published, an extensive "bible" was created by McDuffie and other early creators which provided back-story and information on all of the original Dakotaverse characters, as well as detailed information about the history and geography of Dakota. Cowan produced the original character sketches that served as a guide for the other artists.

Milestone was criticized by several black independent companies and creators for their DC deal, claiming that Milestone Media was compromising itself by working with a 'white' company like DC Comics and was being used by DC to undermine independent black companies.[5] While this critique has been leveled it has never been explained how Milestone would have negatively impacted other black-owned comic book publishers.

Debut[edit]

In 1993, Milestone Media launched its first batch of titles: Hardware, Icon, Blood Syndicate and Static. At the same time, SkyBox and DC issued a trading card series, Milestone: The Dakota Universe (1993).[6]

A year later, Milestone Media published its first company-wide crossover, Shadow War, which spawned two more titles: Shadow Cabinet and Xombi. Another ongoing series, Kobalt, was introduced later.

"Worlds Collide"[edit]

In the summer of 1994, DC Comics and Milestone Media published an intercompany crossover storyline called "Worlds Collide". It featured a meeting between Metropolis-based superheroes from the DC Universe and Dakota-based superheroes from the Dakotaverse. Unlike many intercompany crossovers, it was intended to be part of the regular continuity and took place in the monthly issues of the involved series. The situation was somewhat complicated by the fact that in the Dakotaverse, DC superheroes were known as fictional characters from comic books. Although the crossover had no lasting consequences in DC continuity (DC's Zero Hour event cancelled out everything before), it was remembered by Milestone's superheroes.

Milestone had several advantages in its publishing efforts: Their books were distributed and marketed by one of the "Big Two" comic book publishers, the comics industry had experienced remarkable increases in sales in preceding years, they featured the work of several well-known and critically acclaimed creators, they used a coloring process that gave their books a distinctive look, and they had the potential to appeal to an audience that was not being targeted by other publishers.

Title card for Static Shock animated series.

They also suffered from several disadvantages: The comics market was experiencing a glut of "new universes" as several other publishers launched superhero lines around the same time (a slump would start in 1993 and a market crash in 1994), a significant number of retailers and readers perceived the Milestone books to be "comics for blacks" and assumed they would not interest non-African-American readers,[7] the books received limited exposure beyond existing comics-shop customers, the coloring process added slightly to the cover price of their books, and overall comics sales had peaked around the time of Milestone's launch and declined dramatically in the years that followed. Initial sales, however, were found to be decent - albeit not as high as other companies. The perception of "comics for blacks" would be used by industry insiders to justify these early sales issues, ignoring the existence of the glut; few people at the time wanted to believe that the market conditions might be unsound and excuses were needed for why newer companies were struggling.[8] It also should be noted that even though they received press coverage from non-comics related magazines and television, they were virtually ignored by the comic book press such as Wizard Magazine.

Milestone cancelled several of its lower-selling series in 1995 and 1996, and aborted plans for several mini-series. Heroes, a new team book featuring Static and several of its more popular second-tier characters, was launched, but failed to sell well enough to justify an ongoing series. Milestone shut down its comic book division in 1997, with some of the remaining ongoing series discontinued in mid-story. Today, it is primarily a licensing company, focusing on its television property, the Emmy Award and Humanitas Prize winning animated series Static Shock.

Return[edit]

At the 2008 Comic-Con DC Comics executive editor Dan DiDio announced that the Milestone Universe and characters would be revived and merged into the DC Universe proper. Examples of the integration include Static joining the Teen Titans and appearing in the Young Justice TV series, various appearances in Brave and the Bold, and the Shadow Cabinet appearing in Justice League of America.[9] Following its assimilation into the DCU proper, Dakota was referenced in the animated Batman: the Brave and the Bold episode "Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure". Several Milestone charters appear in Young Justice, including Icon, Rocket and Virgil Hawkins.

Milestone Forever[edit]

In 2010, DC released a limited series titled Milestone Forever. Taking place in the original Milestone Universe, it detailed the final fate of several of Dakota's heroes and revealed the events that led to its merger into the DC Universe.

Staff[edit]

Early staffers[edit]

Milestone's founders were joined by young professionals who formed the early production team for the startup company. The first two non-founder employees of Milestone were Matt Wayne, a script and comic writer who became editor, then managing editor; and Christine Gilliam, the office manager–cum head of corporate communications. By January, 1993 Noelle Giddings, who had previously worked in comics as a colorist, became Milestone's color editor, supervising the line's painted art; and Joe James, an experienced graphic designer, served as designer and creative associate. Later the production staff would expand to include Erica Helene, Jason Medley, Jacqueline Ching, Joe Daniello, Andrew Burrell, Marcus Bennett, and Michelline Hess. Allen Epps, CPA, was the CFO and Bob Stein, Esq. was the legal counsel.

Starting careers[edit]

Milestone provided the opportunity for many emerging talents who had been passed over by larger established companies, beginning the careers of many comic industry professionals. Among them are 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.

Publications[edit]

Comic titles published by Milestone include:

Monthly series[edit]

  • Hardware – 50 issues. A trade paperback Hardware: The Man in The Machine was published in 2010, collecting issues #1-8.
  • Blood Syndicate – 35 issues.
  • Icon – 42 issues. The first eight issues were collected in the trade paperback, Icon: A Hero's Welcome in 1996, and a second edition was released in 2009. The issues that feature Buck Wild, Icon's return to his home planet, and the rampage of Icon's enemy Oblivion have been collected as Icon: Mothership Connection in 2010, collecting issues #13, 19-22, 24-26 and 30.
  • Static – 45 issues. Also made into an animated series Static Shock. The first four issues were collected in a graphic novel: Static Shock: Trial by Fire in 2000; and a new mini-series was published in 2001 called "Static Shock: The Rebirth of the Cool", it ran for four issues.
  • Shadow Cabinet – 17 issues.
  • Xombi – 21 issues.
  • Kobalt – 16 issues.
  • Heroes – six issues.

Miniseries[edit]

  • Deathwish – four issues (Hardware Spin-off)
  • My Name is Holocaust – five issues (Blood Syndicate Spin-off)
  • Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool – four issues
  • Wise Son: The White Wolf – four issues (Blood Syndicate Spin-off)

Crossovers[edit]

  • Shadow War – Company-wide crossover. Involved all comics, including the newly premiered Xombi and Shadow Cabinet.
  • Long Hot Summer – Company-wide crossover: three issues of the comic by the same title, plus tie-ins in every Milestone title. – July–September 1995.
  • Worlds Collide – 1 issue (crossover with Blood Syndicate, Hardware, Icon, Static, and DC's Steel, Superman and Superboy).

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

  • The Milestone property Static was most notably used as the star of Static Shock animated series, which ran for four seasons on Kids WB.
  • Icon and Rocket were featured as supporting characters in Young Justice, with Icon featured as a member of the Justice League. Static was also featured as a recurring character in the second season, Young Justice: Invasion.

Video games[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "GCD :: Issue :: The Crush #1". Comics.org. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  2. ^ Brown, Jeffrey A. (2001). Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics and their Fans. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-281-0. 
  3. ^ Unfinished Milestone documentary; 01:50 to 00:58
  4. ^ Unfinished Milestone documentary;10:48 to 12:37
  5. ^ Unfinished Milestone documentary; 00:36 to 00:58, 09:35 to 10:47, and 12:38 to 13:16
  6. ^ "Card World". Dacardworld.com. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  7. ^ Documentary 07:58 to 09:15
  8. ^ Jacobs & Jones, Will and Gerard (1997). The Comic Book Heroes (page 354). Prima Communications. ISBN 0-7615-0393-5. 
  9. ^ Renaud, Jeffrey (2008-07-27). "CCI: McDuffie Reaches Milestone with DC". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2009-05-31. 

External links[edit]