Twenty-one years ago, five friends, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, Dwayne McDuffie, Christopher Priest, and I partner to form Milestone Media. The Dakota Universe was born soon afterwards. There was one goal above all: to create a universe of good stories, well told, featuring characters of color.
We did, and when we did, comics changed.
Milestone was international news and on a grand scale. That news rarely, if ever, just showcased one of us. We all had a hand in the creation of what may be the most influential, certainly the most successful, superhero universe featuring characters of color ever.
What we thought was a pretty good idea to create heroes of color became a cultural phenomenon and movement. Needless to say at the core of any real pop culture movement are its fans, and Milestone’s fans take their Milestone seriously.
I was counting on that when two weeks ago I wrote a satirical piece called Static Shock Comes To The Big Screen. I “revealed” a big screen version of Static Shock was in the works. The big screen debut was actually the animated series playing on a newly purchased 80-inch television.
The response ranged from disappointment and anger that it wasn’t real to joy and excitement from some who thought it real to the haters, who wouldn’t know satire if it bit them on their hairy palms, who (what else) thought it was trash.
As you’ve no have doubt heard by now, Static Shock is indeed being made into a live action series, announced this week by Warner Brothers.
That announcement came just two weeks after my article. The project has been in the works for a while and my article was a restrained way of venting my frustration at the studio progress and process. Neither of which I have anything to do with by the way. To be sure, the timing of my article was just a happy coincidence. Also, to be sure, I’d rather cuddle than have a threesome.
Regardless of what lit a fire under WB, this is a huge thing for the Milestone Universe. This will carry the Dakota Universe to mainstream audiences and give young Black kids, as well as other kids of color, a new hero that looks like him or her.
The massive love on social media the announcement is getting is fantastic and, bittersweet for me. For years I’ve fought to have Milestone’s true history represented and the bigger the project, unless stopped, the bigger the myth.
Milestone’s creators changed history and history is changing Milestone’s creators.
It started as soon as Milestone was announced. Back then the big lie was DC Comics owned Milestone. That still prevails as the official account of our publishing and distribution deal.
DC does not and has never owned Milestone.
When we ceased publishing monthly, many thought that Milestone Media ended as a company.
Milestone has operated on some level since 1992.
The false history of Milestone Media is so entrenched as fact that people doubt the words of the founders when we say otherwise. Without a doubt, the biggest fan-fueled invention is that Dwayne McDuffie—and Dwayne McDuffie alone—created Milestone.
Denys Cowan came up with the idea and the plan that created Milestone.
The latest in a long line of Milestone fabrications is this: Milestone stole our business plan from Big City Publishing. Big City published the truly wonderful Brother-Man comic.
Our books were on the stands nine months before the plan was alleged to have been stolen.
Denys Cowan, the architect of Milestone Media and its first creative director, today is mostly known as a Milestone artist. Few know him as a founder, and fewer credit him as the man who started it all. Milestone was named after Denys’ son, Miles, and Denys designed ALL the major characters, most of the minor characters, and a great deal of the City Of Dakota.
Christopher Priest, Milestone’s first Editor in Chief, was the driving force behind the original Dakota Universe Bible. Die-hard Milestone fans know he was Milestone’s first Editor in Chief, few others do. Priest is a very successful Hollywood screenwriter and music writer and producer.
Derek Dingle, the President of Milestone, was responsible for the groundbreaking deal Milestone received. Derek is at best a trivia question. His contributions and involvement in Milestone is almost never mentioned. Derek is STILL President of Milestone, and also heads up Black Enterprise, the biggest and most successful African American financial publication in history.
Dwayne McDuffie defined Milestone, and no one is more responsible for the Milestone mystique than Dwayne. The Dakota Universe that millions of fans can’t get enough of is because of Dwayne. Dwayne was more Milestone than any one of the partners, even more than Denys, and without Denys there never would have been a Milestone. Today Dwayne is widely known as the founder of Milestone and creator or co-creator of all the Milestone main characters.
I was a founder and Milestone’s Director of Talent and Special Projects. I’m mostly known as the creator of the Black Panel, and I’m rarely credited with anything corporate or creative at Milestone.
With the exception of Derek, the partners at Milestone had corporate responsibilities, but also worked on the books as creators. We all choose a book that would be our baby. Denys wanted Hardware, Dwayne, Icon and my baby from day one was Static. The fourth book in the universe, the Blood Syndicate was as Denys puts it; “An orphan child.”
I was not only to create the Static Creative Bible but draw the monthly series as well.
The Static Universe is based on my life. His family, his home, and his friends all come from my experiences. My mother Jean Lawrence became Jean Hawkins. Robert Lawrence, my step-dad, became Robert Hawkins. Static’s original real name was Alan, Dwayne changed it to Virgil. Hawkins was the surname of my cousin’s family on my step dad’s side and Alan was my cousin, crib mate and first best friend.
In a very real way I am Static.
My inspiration for the Static Universe was my mother and sister. In the original bible and comic book, Jean Hawkins was very much alive. The decision to have her killed in a “gang war” for the show was not Milestone’s; that bright idea came from Warner Bros.
What few people know is in real life Jean was not murdered, but Sharon was.
My sister Sharon died alone in a vacant lot people used as a short cut to get to the South Jamaica neighborhood we lived in. She was horribly hurt yet alive after being assaulted late that night. People walked passed her all evening and did nothing and it wasn’t until early the next morning that her boyfriend, of all people, found her.
By the time he did, Sharon Davis, the inspiration for Sharon Hawkins and the Static universe was dead.
My mom, the muse for Jean Hawkins, died June 21st of this year. She often watched old episodes of Static to see the interaction between Virgil and Sharon and never missed an opportunity to repeatedly tell me how she would never forgive me for having her killed on the show.
In my original version of the Bible both Jean and Sharon were alive. Once the notes came down from on high to change that, there was nothing I could do but voice my opposition and you see how well that worked out.
Once again, Static is about to blow up.
The live action version will take the Milestone universe to a whole other level and unless changed that false history will go right along with it and become fact.
This is not just a Milestone problem it’s an industry problem.
Helped along by those like Variant who profess love for our industry but forgo doing the type of real due diligence that will elevate comics. No, instead they and others continue to allow Hollywood to treat us like un-professional, stupid stepchildren when it’s clear no effort is made to speak with one unformed voice.
I have no idea what role if any I will play in the live action series. I may write it or just watch it on TV. That’s the future and I can’t say. I can say Denys Cowan created Milestone. Derek Dingle, Dwayne McDuffie, Christopher Priest, Denys and I created the Dakota Universe and within that universe I created the Static Shock bible.
I can say these things because unlike what you see at Variant’s website, that’s the truth.
Michael Davis is an artist, writer, mentor, and entertainment executive.
His positions as an entertainment executive include: President & CEO of Motown Animation & Filmworks, President of Animation at Magic Johnson Entertainment, President of Publishing at Blackboard Entertainment, and Vice President, Director Of Talent, and Co-founder of Milestone Media. He’s created, written, illustrated, or produced original content for comics, television, radio, publishing, and reading programs as an independent producer. Alumni from his Bad Boy Studio mentor program are some of the most respected talents working in comics, television, and illustration today.
Current projects include graphic novels, The Underground from Dark Horse and Jackie Robinson Day 1, mainstream novels such as Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Black People But Were Afraid To Ask from Full Court Press, White Winter, Black Night Books 1-4 from Simon & Schuster. The Littlest Bitch from Sellers Publishing (with David Quinn) is in its third printing and currently in development for television.
Michael is also the creator and host of The Black Panel, a powerhouse forum that brings together some of the biggest names in the African American media space.
Among his honors and awards are Mentor Of The Year from Mentor Magazine 1995, The Michael Davis Auditorium named at The Gordon Parks Academy 1996, Renaissance Award from the Arizona Black Film Festival 2006, and The Inkpot Award at Comic Con International 2013.
He fully realizes his bio is now the longest and most corporate of the BC contributors, something his haters will no doubt consider just another way to talk about himself.