Saturday, September 24, 2005

Static: No Shock That It Is Good

Looking back upon the early issues of Static (from 1993), I think it was actually a rare example of a book being HURT by being too good, at least the long-term success of the book. The early issues of Static had SO much care and SO much attention to detail put into it that the later issues just could not compare (or, in the alternative, they could not compare FAVORABLY).

Dwayne McDuffie was meticulous in his design of the beginnings of Milestone Comics, and it really showed. Meanwhile, he was aided by Robert Washington III, whose ear for dialogue was great, a new-to-comics John Paul Leon (who, in case you did not know, ROCKS) and the wily veteran inker Steve Mitchell, who brought Leon's pencils to more of a superhero-style of art to produce a very fine comic book.

Static had a great set-up, which basically was a redo of the standard comic book cliche since the success of Amazing Spider-Man, which was "Spider-Man for the current times." Previous attempts in this direction were Nova, Speedball, Firestorm and Darkhawk. Static, though, actually pulled it OFF! Static was a Spider-Man comic if Spider-Man was a black kid in 1993. Like Spider-Man, part of the biggest appeal of Static (after, in both cases, the fact that they were fun, down-to-Earth heroes who had a lot of funny jokes) was the supporting cast.

I do not know who exactly created the supporting cast, but whoever did it did a great job. Frieda Goren, Virgil "Static" Hawkins' best friend (and his everlasting crush) was a great sidekick, especially how their relationship was not a romantic one, but a platonic one. Nice touch. Also, the gang member Larry who was a real friend to Virgil (Virgil tutored him) and also managed to not come off as a gang stereotype. Meanwhile, Rick, the gay friend, was also handled quite well. And that is just SCHOOL! Virgil's mother and sister were also great characters, who helped ground the book in reality, but reality that we ENJOYED (not like reality when we grimace at how realistic the pain in a comic is, but smile at how realistic the interactions between the characters are).

Static #1 and 2 were, by far, the best two issues of Static, with #2 being my personal favorite. They used the unique idea of having a bully who picked on Static in the past be the villain he is fighting in this issue (which is not too weird of a coincidence, as the whole Milestone conceit was that one night, during a big gang "rumble," the gang members were all gassed...and the gassed killed some and gave some super powers), and the villain kicks Static's behind! It is a drastic way to end the first issue, with Virgil getting a thrashing (and Freida learning his secret identity), but it sets up the origin issue of #2 well, and makes the eventual victory by Static ever more satisfying.

#3 is a fun, action-packed issue.

#4 already ties Static directly into another title, as he meets Holocaust, the former Blood Syndicate member. This is a good issue showing Virgil dealing with temptation.

#5 was an issue about Black/Jewish relations (Freida was Jewish, natch) that, at the TIME, seemed really good. Now? It reads a bit after-school special, but not TOO much. It holds up a lot better than other comics like it from more recent times.

#6 and 7 were the first issues without McDuffie, and there is a noticable drop-off. I don't know if McDuffie was even involved in writing #1-5, or whether he was just credited with the plot, but in either event, when he STOPPED getting credit, the comic also got worse, which was a disappointment.

However, it was still a fine comic. Just not as good as the early issues.

Then again, few comics ARE.

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Blogger T. said...

I actually thought the book really hit its stride when Ivan Velez Jr hit the book. He was really good. I could have sworn McDuffie left after the first arc? Anyway, Velez, Jr. had a good run going when all of a sudden he disappeared and his storylines ended abruptly (and badly). His other book Blood Syndicate was cancelled and also ended abruptly.

The Milestone comics written by McDuffiee were the only ones left, and I didn't like them that much (Icon and Hardware). They were decent, but not as good as Blood Syndicate and Static.

9/25/2005 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Velez Jr.'s Blood Syndicate WAS a good book, and yes, when he joined the creative team of Static, it was like a new burst of energy, but I don't think even those issues were as good as the earliest issues.

9/25/2005 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Nitz the Bloody said...

Never read the comic, but I did like the cartoon a lot. I liked the concept, even if the cartoon itself was campy as all hell ( in a good way, though ), and I've heard good things about the comic even before this article. IIs Static collected in any form?

9/25/2005 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

When the cartoon came out, they collected the first four issues into a trade called "Static: Trial By Fire."

I do not know if it is still in print.

9/25/2005 09:57:00 PM  
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