Milestone Media’s Grand Return at SDCC 2015 is Extremely Important – Here’s Why

I don’t work 9+ hours a day/5 days a week solely for the press badge that I get every year at SDCC, but it does feel like something of a reward for all of the hours spent when I get to witness real-life milestones in the comic book world. Such was the case this past weekend at the final press breakfast for DC Comics, where legends such as Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, and Dan DiDio spoke on the coming events in DC’s post-Convergence world. Morrison’s wide-range storytelling is being held together as a web of worlds inside of his brilliant noggin, and I cannot wait to read some of the new titles, especially Titan Hunt.

But the real highlight of the breakfast (with love for DC and the amazing bacon strips that the hotel staff served, respectively) was the amazing return of Milestone Media, the trailblazers of the 90’s that were responsible for the creation of Static Shock, Icon, and Hardware. Milestone stood for diversity and representation throughout the 90’s, and their return brings promise of diversity not only in their heroes, but their creators as well. The company’s focus on stories told from the perspective of LGBT heroes, heroes of color, and superheroines makes them a valuable imprint for DC, in a time where the demand for diversity from fans like you and I has been amplified to a point where it can no longer be ignored.

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I was so ecstatic to speak with Milestone co-founder Derek T. Dingle, who spared the time to share insight on what the company is looking for in new creators, and their goals for the future.

Fast-forward to 4PM that day, when the hilarious and talented Orlando Jones took the stage in Room 9 to introduce the founders of Milestone once more. The panel, open to the public this time, took fans through the history of Milestone Media, detailing the tragic story that led to the company’s revival. Original co-founder Dwayne McDuffie, whose career spanned such a good deal of my younger years (from Static Shock, to Justice League Unlimited, to Teen Titans and so much more), passed away in 2011 at the young age of 49. The devastation of this loss left a company in limbo until McDuffie’s memorial service (attended by company heads Dingle, Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan), when a fan approached the co-founders and explained how much Milestone meant to them as a person of color.

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Static Figurine shown at SDCC 2015

The realization hit them like a brick wall: Milestone could not just disappear. It was needed, important, and as relevant as it had been back in the 90’s. With that in mind, Milestone began building their foundations in silence, and four years later, their grand return is one of the most highly anticipated “milestones” in modern comics.

As relevant as it was before, Milestone is, in my opinion, especially needed now. In an amplified society like ours, where the subjects of diversity, bigotry and acceptance are a constant talking point, Milestone stands firm for people that still find themselves underrepresented, disrespected or made mockery of in modern-day comics.

Milestone serves to show fans that everyone can be a hero, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, or identity. But, what’s almost more important, is Milestone’s style of honesty: the stories of their heroes reflected the real world around us, and along with supervillains, many of Milestone’s flagship title leads struggled with actual problems that real people face on a daily basis. Milestone flies us away into fantasy, but does not create a world where the issues that surrounded us are overlooked for the sake of anyone else’s comfort.

For their part, the company is opening it’s doors to new IPs “down the road” and reviving beloved characters as well as introducing a wide range of new heroes for people from all walks of life to adore and identify with. The honest, iconic, human stories of Milestone’s past once again have a home, and yes — the figurines are already on their way. Overall, I absolutely cannot wait to see what becomes of Milestone Media over the next few, likely explosive years.

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Review — Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy (NO SPOILERS)

In the darkness of Gotham City, one man (and anywhere between 1-4 kids at a time) is tasked with protecting the citizens who fear him. But within the pristine walls of Gotham Academy, a new team of detectives has formed.

Gotham Academy Volume One: Welcome to Gotham Academy, by the incredible talents of Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher, was an instant hit when it released. Amidst the gritty, bloody, hardcore world of DC superheroes, this fun yet mysterious look at a private school detective agency is fantastic for new comic book readers, young adult fans, teens, and anyone interested in the expansive universe that exists within Gotham.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 3.59.01 PMFeaturing a diverse cast and two young female leads, Gotham Academy is a step forward for DC, opening up the world that the comic book powerhouse has created to readers who might not line up with the conventional superhero story. The protagonist, Olive Silverlock, went through what seems to be a traumatic experience over the course of the previous summer, leaving her with a weird case of amnesia and a strange fear of bats. This prompts her bubbly new classmate (and the younger sister of her sort-of-boyfriend, Kyle), Maps Mizoguchi to launch a full-on investigation — dragging the irritable and strangely stand-offish Olive along with her.

This title is also great for fans of the Gotham television show, where the Penguin constantly takes center stage with incredible performances by Robin Lord Taylor. The penguin himself is not present, but there’s something dark in the Cobblepot family tree, and it has dropped itself directly into Olive’s lap. This spells trouble for Olive soon enough, which doesn’t help when she’s in the middle (well, the start) of a break-up with someone she still cares for deeply.

Without giving away any spoilers, this book stood out from the crowd for me because of its fearlessness when it came to being different from the beloved, standard DC fare. In a time where comics seem to be undergoing a massive expansion to reach a wider audience, titles like Gotham Academy that focus on human emotion, suspense, and drama are a unique and positive turning point. Gotham Academy doesn’t diminish the traditional superhero; in fact, this first volume seems to compliment the dark hero of Gotham by giving him a connection to our characters, but not too much of a prominent role.

Make no mistake: Olive and Maps are the heroines of this comic.

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In fact, the girls’ contrasting personalities seem to sum up the comic extremely well; Maps’ bubbly, outgoing and curious demeanor directly contrasts Olive’s originally hesitant, irritable reactions. The very same can be said for how the fun, airy, slice-of-life high school drama is balanced by a looming darkness that only Olive can resolve.

The book totters with a bit of a slow start, and because the reader is just as unaware of what happened to Olive as she is, it can get a little confusing at first. But readers who stick with it will be rewarded with a genuine, rich Young Adult mystery, where a new kind of Scooby Gang begins the trial-and-error process of their fledgling, inexperienced detective work. The story takes off after a while and stays that way; it is absolutely worth the full read.

Volume One, “Welcome to Gotham Academy,” collects issues 1-6 of the comic series in to one shiny new paperback. With gorgeous art by Karl Kerschl, an incredible, unique cast, and a wonderful balance of giggles VS. creepy suspense, Gotham Academy is a great read for anyone who needs a break from the grit of other titles, or really, any Bat-fan. Get it on June 23rd at your local comic shop or Amazon.com.

DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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Summer Reading List: June 2015

Summer is just beyond the rain clouds, and with the change of seasons, I’ve decided that it’s time to kick this blog into high gear again! While the weekly podcast and occasional post that gets folks in a huff have seemed to please enough of you, it’s about time I start using this domain proper, and what better way to do that then committing to a summer book review schedule?

That’s right – every other week starting in June, I’ll be reviewing books, comics, and graphic novels thanks to my membership at NetGalley (or my actual money, ha)! These will be honest reviews, and while not all of them may be popular opinion (I loved Lords of the Sith, but most everyone I know totally hated it) you’ll always get what I genuinely believe.

That said, I’ve already got a few reports cooking, so here’s a taste what you can expect this summer:

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