Static Shadows of DakotaIt’s been nearly two years since the long-awaited Milestone 2.0 launched its initial line of Season One books and fans have been champing at the bit for more Milestone. Good things come to those who wait, because DC is releasing the new wave of Milestone titles in February to coincide with Black History Month. It seems fitting to debut with perhaps Milestone’s most recognizable and popular character, Virgil Ovid Hawkins, better known as the electrifying superhero Static. Readers got a shock to their system with the Static: Season One miniseries from writer Vita Ayala and artist Nikolas Draper-Ivey, and the creative team returns for Static: Shadows of Dakota, with Draper-Ivy taking on co-writing duties as well, as they further explore characters and plotlines set up in the previous miniseries. Last week, The Beat attended a virtual press roundtable with co-writer/artist Draper-Ivey to find out what’s to come in this new miniseries.

Much like the titular character, Draper-Ivey is leveling up by being more involved in the storytelling process as co-writer with Ayala for Static: Shadows of Dakota. “It’s been great,” said Draper-Ivy about the collaboration. “They’ve been very encouraging. We’re very similar in some ways. They hate this comparison but I’m like the younger sibling who has all the action figures. Vita is the more well-spoken and mannered [writer]. If I have an idea, they don’t shoot it down.”    

An unabashed fan of the character, Draper-Ivey has been delighted by the positive fan reception for Season One. However, he recalled his initial hesitation and pressure to take on the project. In fact, he nearly turned it down but came to the realization that he would never hear the end of it if word ever got out that he declined the project. Adding to his anxiety, “You feel a little bit of imposter syndrome and looking for other people to do it. It’s always been pressure. I got Rebirth in the Cool in the mail. The book literally fell apart in my hands, it was so old. As I was doing the first issue, John Paul Leon passed. That’s one of the best artists to draw Static.”

Despite encouragement from Milestone 2.0 producers Denys Cowan and Reggie Hudlin, Draper-Ivey felt the long shadow cast by the original Static team, particularly those who had passed away. “You don’t have a Dwayne McDuffie or Robert L Washington or John Paul Leon to reach out to. Denys is busy. Reggie is doing what he’s doing. You don’t have too many people you can call on all the time, so you have to figure it out yourself. It’s one thing to say you’re a fan. It’s a completely different thing when you’re being asked to live up to the legacy of people that have passed away and you can’t talk to them. It’s hard. I’m doing the best I can.”

Static Shadows of DakotaThe Milestone founders openly admitted that Static was created in the mold of Spider-Man, the quintessential teen superhero. So it’s not surprising that both share more than a few similarities such as a scientific intellect. Science plays a major component throughout the entire Milestone line thanks in no small part to the late/great Dwayne McDuffie who was a scientific genius with a master’s degree in physics. Though Draper-Ivey is no science slouch, he is fully aware that he is nowhere near McDuffie’s acumen. “Obviously no one can live up to Dwayne McDuffie. I’m not even going to pretend I’m on that level,” he said. “I do have an interest in science and studying physics. There are times I’ll write something and [wonder], ‘How do I explain this in science?’ So, I’ll research it. A lot of the decisions that we make are in some capacity rooted in science and does require research. There are times I’ll send Vita something like how you heat rubber. Going into this, I know I’m not Dwayne so I don’t try to write about stuff I don’t know. I can try to research it as best I can. Most of this is an emotional, almost spiritual, story for Static.”

In the vein of Barry Allen’s Silver Age “Flash Facts,” moderator and DC Comics Publicity and Communication manager Michael Shelling proposed the inspired idea of “Virgil’s Science Static Stats.”  

Contrary to what you might assume, according to McDuffie in a podcast interview the original ‘90s Static series was actually the worst selling book of the original Milestone line. Thus, it’s somewhat ironic that he has since become the flagship and marquee character for the company. The reason why Static is such an endearing character is fairly simple according to Draper-Ivey, “[It’s] his compassion and willingness to put himself on the front lines and be vulnerable. It sounds fluffy but it’s true. But his intelligence also resonates with people. His overall optimism. When I write and/or draw Virgil I try to make him feel like somebody you would want to be your friend. Even though he is smart he is still learning.”

Something that informed Draper-Ivey’s take on the character is a note from Denys Cowan that Static/Virgil is the light of his hometown of Dakota. The optimism of the electric powered superhero will be challenged in the form of Ebon. Teased at the end of Static: Season One, fans of the original Static Shock cartoon should be very familiar with the self-proclaimed “master of shadow and darkness.” An original creation for the animated series, Ebon is finally making his comics debut two decades later.

Unbound by the constraints of television standards and practices, this version of Ebon is decidedly more dangerous. “He’s very similar to the cartoon but he’s a little bit more mature in terms of his abilities and his personality,” said Draper-Ivey. “He still feels like Ebon but you can tell in the cartoon there were things they couldn’t do. But we don’t have those restrictions so we can really explore how incredibly powerful and dangerous Ebon can be.”

Static Shadows of DakotaDescribed by the creator as a “scary godbrother,” Ebon in many ways represents the direct opposite of Static and forces the superhero to level up and use his powers in new and unexpected ways in order to fulfil his destiny as the most powerful character in the Milestone Universe. Moreover, Draper-Ivey anticipates that many readers will not only sympathize with Ebon but be torn between siding with him or Static. In that regard, it’s not dissimilar to what we saw with Killmonger and T’Challa in the 2018 Black Panther film.  

The creative team views their approach to this Static run as mix of the original comics and the cartoon. “The audience has grown up with it as well. How do we bring more mature adult themes to this story and keep it kiddy? We took it in a more mature direction,” explained Draper-Ivey. “Sometimes you try to appeal to the OG fans but also try to bring in newer fans. It’s hard and you feel kind of crushed but then you look at the people who really like it. The mindset that I have is we can’t please all of the fans but we can try to please most of them. I think people will be shocked by the tonal shift between this season and the first season. The first season was safe and this season the gloves are off.”

He elaborated further, “There are characters from the cartoon but the tone is more aligned with the original comics. More mature and real. The audience has grown up with it as well. How do we bring more mature adult themes to this story and keep it kiddy? We took it in a more mature direction.”

Teasing that something hinted in the animated series pertaining to family will be explored, Draper-Ivy confirmed that Ebon’s brother, Rubberband Man, will indeed appear in Static: Shadows of Dakota in some shape or form Nevertheless, the creator was hesitant to divulge any specific details opting to play it close it to vest.

When asked if readers can expect new Bang Babies, metahumans created to exposure to mutagen, Draper-Ivey said there will be a few but emphasized that the focus of Shadows of Dakota is on Static and Ebon. It’s for this reason that Virgil’s best friend Richie Foley, doesn’t play as big a role in the new miniseries. As a fan himself, Draper-Ivey is fully aware that readers are waiting for Richie to take on the Gear mantle like in the animated series. One particular element from the Static Shock cartoon he has been itching to incorporate since the Season One is Static’s infamous abandoned gas station lair.

Static Shadows of DakotaRegarding DC’s future Milestone plans, fans can look forward to a Static: Up All Night YA graphic novel from writer LaMar Giles and artist Paris Alleyne. Though he played coy, Shelling hinted that the phrase “Worlds Collide,” the title for the intercompany crossover between Milestone and DC’s universes that also appears on the cover of the first issue for the Hardware vs. Icon miniseries, should give fans a clue on what’s to come.   

Static: Shadows of Dakota #1 is available at now your local comic shop

Static Shadows of Dakota

Chase Conley variant
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