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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 26

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at the initial arc of Static!

Enjoy!

Dwayne McDuffie co-wrote the first four issues of Static with Robert L. Washington III. The artwork was by the brilliant John Paul Leon.

The way I look at Static is that it was probably the best comic character who tried the formula of updating Lee/Ditko’s Spider-Man to a contemporary scene (it’s still something that people try today).

Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man is quite similar, set-up-wise, as Static – both books spend most of their time developing the characters, so much of the book is entrenched in the interaction of those characters.

Most important in this regard was Freida Goren, the best friend of our hero, Virgil Hawkins (AKA Static), who Virgil has an unrequited crush on.

Here’s our introduction to the pair…

Then after a fight, where Static mops the floor with the bad guys, he puts the finishing touch on things…

We then see Virgil try to perfectly time his trip back home and along the way to his room, he encounters his mother and sister, who give him some grief, but he gets past it and gets to his room just in time for…

Again, McDuffie and Washington do a marvelous job establishing a unique set of characters.

The end of #1, though, was particularly special…

Nice little twist, huh?

This leads us to #2, where we see how Virgil, in an attempt to impress Frieda, got his butt kicked by a wannabe gangster in front of everyone. Her call to console him had the opposite effect…

This then inspired him to be “macho.” He had a friend of his get him a gun and he went to a spot where a bunch of gangs were going to have a massive rumble. When the police arrived with tear gas to disperse the gangs, unbeknown to anyone, the gas was laced with some sort of radioactive material that killed many of the people there and those that did not die received super powers.

After this origin recap, we see Virgil make his heroic return.

The remaining two issues are intriguing because #3 sees how the new dynamic of Virgil and Freida does, with her helping him cover up his secret identity.

Issue #4 is a strong issue examining Static being seduced by the super-powered gangster, Holocaust, before his heroism helps him get through. It’s really strong character work, which was a highlight of Static.

And, naturally, the artwork by Leon was wonderful, as you can see above.

These issues were collected in the Static Shock trade (Static Shock: Rebirth of Cool), which is why I group them together here.

20 Comments

I normally like John Paul Leon’s art, but I really don’t like this.

Yeah, my initial reaction was of disappointment in the art also.

And then, on top of that, I realised the hero was wearing a Malcolm X baseball cap!!!!!

No.

Just…. dear god, no.

It’s funny people think that because I feel the opposite and often wish John Paul Leon would go back to this style. I think it’s the best his art ever was. Has a very graffitiesque vibe to it. As for the X cap, it was the 90s and was very timely. At the time many of us black readers reading it were actually wearing X caps at the time and found it a nice touch.

I think this looks and reads great. Some of the fashion seems a little off now, but it wasn’t then (Frieda’s oversized jacket when she goes to the arcade, primarily).

I think the X hat is great.

Great, great comics– along with Icon and Blood Syndicate. (Hardware never clicked for me in the same way.)

I mostly love the art. Different body types, cool representations of electricity doing things that aren’t just straight-jagged lightning bolts, very expressive faces, detailed backgrounds, and a great sense of movement. Sometimes Frieda looks too little-girly, like her hair is half her body weight, but that settled down pretty quickly.

Another thing to keep in mind, the X hat may seem cheesy and dated to many of us now, but black/hip-hop 90s fashion really looked that bad, just like all 90s fashion looked bad. When I look at old 90210 I cringe similarly too. That’s the catch-22 of properly capturing the zeitgeist of an era, it makes it extra awesome at the time it comes out, but makes it look extra dated to all future generations. But compared to how badly black cultural trends were portrayed in mainstream comics (comic writers seemed to believe high top fades and jheri curls were popular waaaaay into the late 90s) it was a breath of fresh air.

liked static for thought Dwayne and co had something unique with him. and glad some of the run is now in trade . showing DC may not have any plans for any more adventures with Static in his own comic now but his orginal adventures will make fans revisit the character

Great book. JPL’s work on WINTER MEN is on another level but he was great here too.

I think this might be the best John Paul Leon art i’ve ever seen. It’s a nice change from his dark and moody stuff you see more often. I like it!
The story isn’t so bad, doesn’t really give off a “go buy me vibe” though.

This is early Leon art. He got better. Looking at this, I’d say he was influenced a lot, at least inking-wise, by Klaus Janson. Thank god he outgrew THAT.

Some of the dialogue, though- “Babypop”? “You’re ‘smoke’ “? Hoo boy.

I bought Static for my son, who was about 12 back then, for a while. He really liked them (and Superboy, and Impulse), and I’d read them when he got done with them…ah, memories.

Johnny Bacardi, four things:

1. “Babypop” was real hip-hop slang in the 90s, along with its sister term “baby paw.” I think its usage actually helped the authenticity and veracity of the story, not hurt it in any way.

2. Hotstreak was meant to be a wannabe “wigger” so his slang usage was overdone on purpose.

3. All of this was still light years better than attempts at hip-hop slang seen in mainstream comics to date. Karl Kesel’s Superboy, published in the same era, had some of the most cringe-inducing hip-hop and youth slang ever (he was still using the term “posse” for example). Paul Levitz’s Huntress stories and Frank Miller’s Daredevil had some of the worst street talk as well. Don’t get me started on the average perp in an 80s Batman comic.

4. No offense but if you were old enough to have a 12 year old son back when this first came out, you’re likely way out of the demographic being represented and catered to and really not equipped to judge the slang. Trust me when i say me and my black friends, all high school seniors at the time, viewed it as the best black/hip-hop slang we’d seen in a superhero comic to date when it was released.

Gee, every time I comment anymore I get shot down. Guess I’m not as smart as I think I am!

I stand corrected!

And you’re right, neither me or my son (white middle class Kentucky natives) were in the demographic at all…but we enjoyed reading Static quite a bit anyway. No offense taken!

Not being even remotely anything resembling urban , but still reading and watching quite a lot of stuff all around at the time, some of which touched on the lifestyle- I swear I had not heard the expression “babypop” until this very morning. I guess when I read #1 years ago I just overlooked it, and the rest of the slang, as typical comicbook street talk, which was (as you say) pretty dire in general back then. Interesting that it was more correct than I thought.

“Baby pop” was in a lot of rap songs, but I think the most famous mainstream rap song to use it was Salt N Pepa’s “Push It.” (“Yo baby pop! Come here and give me a kiss! Better make it fast or else I’m gonna get pissed.”)

Another was Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” (“Ooh ah! Ooh ah! There it is baby paw!”)

You called someone of opposite sex “baby pop” and someone of the same sex “baby paw.” Of course as I’m typing it out I realize how it could sound totally ridiculous to someone not immersed in the culture! :D

For the record, I like the art. And since I’m always right… Well, you get the picture.

@ T, I actually sort of know those songs but tend to never completely know what is really being said in most songs (I just recently learned the lyrics to Magic Carpet Ride). So thanks for that bit of knowledge, as I also never heard the term “Baby Pop”.

That said, I have to say I really like the orgin McDuffie gave to Static. It’s not quite the tragedy of Spiderman’s but I think it works much better, since it creates an nice dichotomy between Virgil trying to be “macho” and Virgil trying to do good. And for the record I like the art as well.

LouReedRichards

January 27, 2010 at 1:56 pm

JPL’s artwork did get better, but this is still nice. Considering this came out in ’93, knee deep into the Image age, the art could have been a whole hell of a lot worse.

Well, for me JPL reminds me of a combo of some of my favorite artists from the 80s, Walt Simonson and Mike Mignola. I love both of them and I see a lot of it in JPL’s early stuff combined with street and graffiti art. So his early stuff is an artistic wet dream for me even if I can see why so many others don’t like it. His later stuff was still good but has too much black ink in it for my tastes, comes off a little murky.

Someone said he has a Jansonesque vibe about him. I personally disagree, or maybe I just can’t see it, but I totally HATE Janson’s inking and if I picked it up in this artwork I’d have been totally turned off.

LouReedRichards

January 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I agree with the Simonson and Mignola stylings and to my eyes I see some Hernandez Bros. and Evan Dorkin in his stuff – but I might be analyzing it to death.

I was getting out of most comics around this time and didn’t buy any of the Milestone comics, I really enjoyed Denys Cowan’s art though and was pleased to see he was associated with interesting comics. Mostly I just remember looking at several Milestone comics and saying “Thank God they’re doing this their own way and not aping the Image look”. That took some guts in ’93.

I’m with you on Janson, although he actually did a good job inking some Gene Colan and Gil Kane in the 70′s.
He really detracts from the art in The Dark Knight Returns and most everything else I’ve seen from him.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm

I enjoyed this when I read it recently, and the collection of Icon, however, I found with both of them that the characters and the way scenes play out are nice, but I found the plots themselves to be a bit lacking – some really having nothing more to them than ‘this monster pops up and now they fight’.
I know a lot of comics are like that, but I felt Static and Icon didn’t even try and hide from it.

I also had some issues with my total unfamiliarity of the setting, or really that time period – being raised in middle class Australia is so totally different to the setting that this book has, and some of the social issues I’m aware of in the US seems to have changed – so some parts like everyone turning on Static for getting beaten, to the point that without much hesitation he’s all for getting a gun and killing someone, seem really odd, and a bit forced to me.
However, as I say, I’ve no familiarity with being a lower class Black teen in 90′s America.

But all that griping aside, it’s a pretty good book.
I haven’t read the second mini in the recent collection – were there more issues of Static between the two, or has he just had two mini’s, and then appeared in other Milestone books or something?

Static started as an ongoing series (the first four issues are what comprise this story) and was around for all of Milestone’s history I believe. Early 2000′s after the success of his TV show there was a four issue mini, then nothing until he started popping up in DC stories along with other Milestone characters in the last year or so.

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