You Don't Start None....

As I was cobbling this together, I saw a great announcement- they are bringing the Milestone universe back. I wish I had a hand in this and hope they don't mess this up but I'm very happy. Okay. Back to my ramblings...


Forgot how skintight that suit was...
For some folks, Barry Allen is their Flash. For others, it's Wally West. Most people have a single character that pops into their head when someone says Robin- Dick Grayson, JasonTodd, Tim Drake, Damien Wayne and even Stephanie "Spoiler" Brown. For each person the character you assign to the superhero role is based on your age, when you were introduced to the character and/or your personal preference with your heroic portrayals of stated character. This is very evident with the character of Spider-Man. Even  beyond the choices of Peter Parker, Miles Morales or Ben Reilly and the constant revamping of the classic Spider-Man origin, the idea of a "Spider-Man character" changes by generation. A new teen superhero is often created to fill the niche of Spider-Man for a specific time, to fit in with the "attitudes" of the teenagers of that particular time. A non-Spidey Spider-Man. Some famous ones are Nova, Speedball, Darkhawk and even Terry McGinnis in the Batman Beyond cartoon. My personal favorite non-Spidey Spider-Man was Virgil Ovid Hawkins aka Static.


Static was part of the Milestone Comics line which was distributed by DC Comics from 1993-1997. He was created by the Milestone team but written by the late greats Robert Washington III and Dwayne McDuffie with illustration provided by John Paul Leon. Static was the alter ego of Virgil Hawkins, a bullied nerdy kid with a quick mouth living in an urban environment who gains his powers after being exposed to a radioactive mutagen called Quantum Juice. He uses his powers to help others after making a tough call to do the right thing while trying to balance family life and school. He is infatuated with his close redhead friend who he eventually marries in the future. So Spider-Man. So very Spider-Man.
So very damn Spider-Man.
But there were definite differences and these differences combined with the time of the release of this series is why Static is MY non-Spidey Spider-Man.

Static came out in the summer of 1993. I was entering into my freshman year of high school at a private school that I had attended the previous year. I was a nerdy, black, comic book kid in a school of wealthy and predominately white people. I had my small group of mostly POC friends, kids from faraway tough neighborhoods and a few comic book fans but I was definitely not the norm, fitting in the slim overlap of the Venn diagram of those three groups. Static arrived at exactly the right time for me.

Virgil was a black kid who came from the diverse Dakota City and lived near Paris Island, a place connected to the rest of Dakota City via bridge. It is an area with gangs and where Virgil's school bully who would become Static's first real supervillain nemesis, Hotstreak, lived. Virgil had to walk the precarious line between being a good kid and surviving in a place where weakness and a mistake could get you beat up or worse. I was Virgil. I come from Far Rockaway which is on a peninsula located in the borough of Queens in New York City. It's a seaside community reached via bridge and is very popular now but growing up there back then wasn't a cakewalk. There were groups of mostly teens/twenty-somethings trying to survive in any way they could and this included drug dealing, robbery and "crew" affiliations which is just an NYC way of saying drug gangs. I was the nerdy kid in the midst of the toughest kids you could meet and had to walk that line that Virgil did daily whenever I left or returned to my house. These stories felt familiar.

Police militarization.
Virgil didn't gain his powers from a super suit or by a bite from an irradiated spider, although he did gain it by radioactive means. He was caught in a raid between the gang members and the cops after he decided to do the right thing and not shoot his bully. The police released tear gas that contained Q Juice and created Bang Babies, people who gained metahuman powers from this event called the Big Bang. Now, I hadn't been exposed to any super power boosting chemicals but I have definitely been around for police actions and been caught up in the midst of law enforcement swarming an event. The good are often adversely affected with the bad. This rang very true growing up in a neighborhood where I clearly remember instances of "stop and frisk" before they called it "stop and frisk" and police officers pulling guns out in any situation, completely oblivious to children and innocent people being around.

Static also approached the topics of race (important for me then and now), navigating high school (still oddly kind of helpful) and sex (VERY vital to my naive sensibilities then). The cover to that issue addressing Virgil talking to his dad and losing his virginity was changed for sale because it showed two teens making out on a couch and about to engage in sexual activities with condoms on the floor. DC changed it and Dwayne McDuffie wasn't happy about it. This decision was pretty par for the course back then- kids were having sex and being exposed to sexual imagery but couldn't be exposed to the actual reality of real sex, including the responsible use of protection. Even the discussion Virgil has with his father in the issue was awkwardly accurate and, for folks like me, was the closest to that type of conversation I would get with an adult.
Outside new cover, inside original cover.
The teen growing pains that Virgil experienced lasted from June 1993 until March 1997, which coincided with my high school teen growing pains exactly. The last issue was number 45 and concluded with a cover by the legendary artist Moebius, again lining up with my time of truly beginning to appreciate the work of the master comic book artists. They would eventually bring Static back in the Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool miniseries, the Static Shock cartoon, the 2 issue Milestone Forever series that wrapped up the future of the Dakotaverse, appearances in the DC Animated Universe and a cancelled series in the mainstream DC New 52 Universe in 2011. They have a new Milestone Universe in the works for next year and I hope they give Virgil Ovid Hawkins aka Static the proper story and the due that he deserves. He's my non-Spidey Spider-Man and probably the non-Spidey Spider-Man for a few other folks like me.

 
         

Sean Fields is an aspiring writer and has been in the education field for more than a decade. He works mostly with teenagers nowadays which both keeps him well informed on pop culture and makes his hair turn grayer daily. He has a few blogs but is currently focused on this one and this other one. You can also find him on TumblrTwitter and Instagram, if you want to be entertained or infuriated.
You Don't Start None.... You Don't Start None.... Reviewed by Sean Fields on Friday, October 06, 2017 Rating: 5
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