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Christmas just passed, and AWA is well underway to having a spectacular new year. But we could not go into the New Year without highlighting the 20 year anniversary of Milestone Comics. 

Founded in 1993 by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, and Derek Dingle, Milestone Comics was the one of the first comic book companies owned and operated by African Americans. It created black characters who were empowered, three-dimensional, and just really cool. 

The company started as a dream held by Cowan and McDuffie, who felt stifled by Marvel and the limited number of black characters. McDuffie explains: 

"If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren't just that character. They represent that race or that sex, and they can't be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people. [...] We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn't do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that's wider than the world we've seen before."

With McDuffie as editor in chief, Dingle as president, Cowan as creative director and president  and DC Comics as distributor, Milestone created a company that highlighted not only African Americans, but other minorities as well. After a jump. we have a list of key reads to get you acquainted with their work.


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Icon: A Hero's WelcomeThis title follows Augustus Freedman, a super powered alien being turned corporate lawyer who has lived on earth for centuries. Inspired by Raquel Erwin - who becomes his sidekick Rocket and arguably has more development - to take up the mantle as Icon, he finds new ways to save the day and inspire the people he protects. 

Static Shock is the flagship character of Milestone. 

Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans (Studies in Popular Culture): An extensive, researched history of Milestone Comics and the lasting effects. The founders of Milestone were interviewed for this book. Fair warning: The book is highly academic and analytical. But even Dwayne McDuffie reviewed it and approved of (most of) the characterization of Milestone. 

Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool: Static Shock is the story of Virgil Hawkins, a geeky kid who is exposed to a mutagen and gains electromagnetic powers. Virgil decides to become a hero with his new found abilities, and now must balance work, school, and his heroic duties. A great read, Static is the best known character from Milestone Comics. He has even had his own show!

Hardware: The Man in the Machine: Curt Metcalf builds a suit of armor he names Hardware after discovering the true nature of his employer. Highly moral and intelligent, Metcalf hopes to bring his employer to justice for stealing his ideas and engaging in other shady business practices. This story mirrors McDuffie and Cowan's departure from Marvel Comics - an interesting read just for underlying themes it covers. 

Justice League of America: When Worlds Collide: Recently, DC Comics integrated Milestone characters into their new comic book universe. But before that, they had an epic crossover that had Superman and Icon fighting and the fate of the world unknown. A great read and good introduction to multiple, lesser known Milestone characters while still getting your recommended dose of Superman and Batman.

A Ticket to Geppi's! : Geppi's Entertainment Museum is has an exhibition that centers around Milestone and African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture, and Beyond. It runs to April 2014, and is sure to be a great experience. If you've never been to Geppi's before, prepare to be amazed. Make sure you have plenty of time to walk around!

Dwayne McDuffie : Although Mr. McDuffie passed away at the age of 49, he left a lasting influence upon the comic book industry. This website, frequently maintained by his friends and colleagues, gives an inside look into McDuffie's life and work. 

Information  for the history of  Milestone Comics was taken from Mr. Dwayne McDuffie's website, last updated in 2007.  He excerpts from DC COMICS: SIXTY YEARS OF THE WORLD'S FAVORITE COMIC BOOK HEROES by Les Daniels. © Copyright 1995 by DC Comics.