30th Anniversary of Milestone Comics Day Thread

Milestone preview poster. I’ve also found websites that say Hardware #1 was on stands February 23 or 26, and DC’s planning a “30th Anniverasry Special” on March 7.

30 years ago this week, Milestone published “Hardware #1”, the first of their comics line.

Hardware #1 Covers by Denys Cowan inked by Jimmy Palmiotti

The artists and writers behind the line had first really started the project at the San Diego Comic Con in 1991. Derek T. Dingle, Denys Cowan and Dwayne McDuffie along with Christopher Priest (as he details here: https://christopherpriest.com/legacy/comics/milestone.html) launched the line to introduce “New Heroes” that could connect with an audience better than the same Superheroes created by mostly white guys in the 1940s.

Milestone founders Michael Davis, Derek T. Dingle, Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan. Wish I could remember what event this was at.

Sometimes called “The Dakotaverse”, after the fictional Dakota City where most of the titles took place. A lot of its teen superheroes were empowered in “The Big Bang”, a big gang fight on Paris Island that the Mayor decided to douse with basically the ooze from Ninja Turtles (the modern ‘Earth-M’ Reboot changes it to a protest).

The first 3 titles were Hardware, Blood Syndicate and Icon. Hardware was the story of Curtis Metcalfe. Vigilante inventor and self-professed “Angry Black Man” using alien tech to fight (and kill) the forces of the Edison-style Corporate Villain who betrayed him.

Hardware literally breaks through a Glass Ceiling with his jetpack. Because Superhero Comics aren’t the place for subtlety, certainly not ones in 1993. Hardware #1, art by Cowan, Palmiotti and Giddings.

The Blood Syndicate were a gang of “Bang Babies” trying to make sure nobody else got turned into what they were

Third Rail, Flashback, Tech Nine and Brick discuss the best way to smash up a Crack warehouse before their resident loose cannon Holocaust just burns the whole block down. Blood Syndicate #1, art by Trevor Von Eeden, Andrew Pepoy and Janet Jackson.

and Icon was an Out Of Touch 154 year old Superhuman Alien dragged into Super-heroing by a teenager who finds out what he can do.

Augustus Freeman takes flight. Icon #1 art by Mark “Doc” Bright, Mike Gustovich and Noelle Giddings.

All in all, Hardware and Blood Synidcate especially are really 90s: Anti-heroes with lots of guns and pouches trying really hard to be cool. Cowan’s art on Hardware and the deadpan comedy of Curtis Metcalf being a “Superhero” and also kind of a dick works pretty well. And Icon gets a lot out of an Alien from the 1840s who has become successful as an African American Businessman having interesting (and usually framed as wrong) takes on Respectability Politics.

It would be another 2 months before they published the most well-known hero “Static” from McDuffie, Robert Washington III and John Paul Leon.

Static #1 covers. Pencils by Denys Cowan, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti, colors by Noelle Giddings.
Milestone promotional poster painted by Bill Sienkeiwicz circa 1994.

After the Speculator Market Crash and the Comic Distribution shakeups ending in Marvel’s Bankruptcy in 1997, Milestone Media stopped publishing monthly comics. The print runs had already dropped and DC Comics, who was Distributing their books but was supposed to have minimal editorial input, had started axing Covers and Content they didn’t like. McDuffie and Cowan brought Static to Warner Animation in “Static Shock”. Denys Cowan even directed the animation in several of the episodes).

Static remained the most popular character. His first “Rebirth of the Cool” miniseries was in 2001. The second Milestone revival started with Icon in McDuffie’s Justice League run and Static joining DC’s Teen Titans in 2009. The Milestone heroes appeared in Brave and the Bold (vol. I dunno, depends on what miniseries you count) #24-26, capped off with a 2-issue Prestige Format mini called “Milestone Forever” drawn by John Paul Leon. Static relaunched again in 2011 from John Rozum and Scott McDaniel, along with a Frazier Irving Xombi miniseries but there was editorial pressure to fit them into the “New 52” and Static Shock vol. 2 didn’t last long.

The last page of Milestone Forever #2, art by John Paul Leon and ‘Snakebite’.
Static Shock (2011) #1 cover by Scott McDaniel & Guy Major. Xombi (2011) #1 cover by Frazier Irving.

Dwayne McDuffie died in 2011, and Robert Washington III in 2012. Both of them were big losses for comics, sadly Washington didn’t find a more lucrative path in the larger Superhero Franchise Media and apparently hadn’t gotten any major publishers’ comic work since 1998. After a long legal fight with McDuffie’s widow about Character Rights, and at least one Shelved Kyle Baker Static Graphic Novel we saw the art for at cons in 2018, Milestone/”Earth-M” finally relaunched in 2020. This time Reginald Hudlin (who apparently Dingle and McDuffie approached in 1992 about writing for them) is writing the Icon and larger “Universe” titles. So far there have been a Oneshot in 2020 and a batch of “Season One” miniseries in mid-2022. We’ll see what the future holds for Milestone, they have a 30th Anniversary Special and a “Milestone Initiative” New Talent Showcase coming up.

Milestone Returns #0 cover, 2020. Denys Cowan and Chris Sotomayor

If you want to get to know Milestone more, University Press of Mississippi (who have a whole long line of great books of comics scholarship) published a book in 2001 and Warner just did a documentary last year. Or, just putting this out there, the whole line’s only 271 issues, you can read that in a weekend.

The Book and The Movie