Milestone Media is a company best known for creating the Milestone comics imprint (that was published through DC Comics) and the Static Shock cartoon series. It was founded in 1993 by a coalition of African-American artists and writers (namely Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle) who believed that minorities were severely underrepresented in American comics. Milestone Media was their attempt to correct this imbalance.
Christopher Priest participated in the early planning stages of Milestone Media, and was originally slated to become the editor-in-chief of the new company, but bowed out for personal reasons before any of Milestone titles were published.
Although Milestone comics were published through DC Comics
, they did not take place in the DC Universe
. Under an arrangement similar to the one DC and Wildstorm
established later, all Milestone characters existed in a separate continuity
that did not fall under DC Comics' direct editorial control (but DC still retained right of refusal to publish). Unlike Wildstorm, whose properties were bought by DC Comics, Milestone Media retained the copyright of their properties.
Fundamental to Milestone’s agreement with DC was they would not relinquish any of the legal or creative rights to their work. Throughout the negotiations, Milestone, and their lawyers, insisted on three basic points: (1) that they would retain total creative control; (2) that they would retain all copyrights for characters under the Milestone banner; and (3) that they would have the final say on all merchandising and licensing deals pertaining to their properties. In essence, DC had in effect licensed the characters, editorial services, and creative content of the Milestone books for an annual fee and a share of the profits.
All Milestone Media titles were set in a continuity dubbed the "Dakotaverse", referring to the fictional midwestern city of Dakota in which most of the early Milestone stories were set. Before any titles were published, an extensive "bible" was created by McDuffie and other early creators, which provided back-story and information on all of the original Dakotaverse characters, as well as detailed information about the history and geography of Dakota. Cowan produced the original character sketches that served as a guide for the other artists.
In 1993, Milestone Media launched its first batch of titles: Hardware
, Blood Syndicate
, and Static
. A year later, Milestone Media published its first company-wide crossover, Shadow War
, which spawned two more titles: Shadow Cabinet
. Another ongoing series, Kobalt
, was introduced later.
In the summer of 1994, DC Comics and Milestone Media published an intercompany crossover
called Worlds Collide
. It featured a meeting between Metropolis
-based superheroes from the DC Universe
and Dakota-based superheroes from the Dakotaverse. Unlike many intercompany crossovers, it was intended to be part of the regular continuity and took place in the monthly issues of the involved series. The situation was somewhat complicated by the fact that in the Dakotaverse, DC superheroes were known as fictional characters from comicbooks. Although the crossover had no lasting consequences in DC continuity (DC's Zero Hour
event cancelled out everything before), it was remembered by Milestone's superheroes.
Milestone had several advantages in its publishing efforts: Their books were distributed and marketed by one of the "big two" comic book publishers, the comics industry had experienced remarkable increases in sales in preceding years, they featured the work of several well-known and critically acclaimed creators, they used a coloring process that gave their books a distinctive look, and they had the potential to appeal to an audience that was not being targeted by other publishers. They also suffered from several disadvantages: The comics market was experiencing a glut of "new universes" as several other publishers launched superhero lines around the same time, a significant number of retailers and readers perceived the Milestone books to be "comics for Blacks" and assumed they would not interest non-African-American readers, the books received limited exposure beyond existing comics-shop customers, the coloring process added slightly to the cover price of their books, and overall comics sales had peaked around the time of Milestone's launch and declined dramatically in the years that followed. It also should be noted that even though they received press coverage from non-comics related magazines and television, they were virtually ignored by the comic book press such as Wizard Magazine.
Milestone cancelled several of its lower-selling series in 1995 and 1996, and aborted plans for several mini-series. Heroes, a new team book featuring Static and several of its more popular second-tier characters, was launched, but failed to sell well enough to justify an ongoing series. Milestone shut down its comic book division in 1997, with some of the remaining ongoing series discontinued in mid-story. Today, it is primarily a licensing company, focusing on its television property, the Emmy Award and Humanitas Prize winning animated series Static Shock.
At the 2008 Comic-Con
DC Comics executive editor Dan DiDio
announced that the Milestone Universe and characters would be revived and merged into the DC Universe
proper. The merger will treat the characters as new to the universe, ignoring the "Worlds Collide" crossover of 1994.
Milestone's founders were joined by young professionals who formed the early production team for the startup company. The first two non-founder employees of Milestone were Matt Wayne
, a script and comic writer who became editor, then managing editor; and Christine Gilliam, the office manager–cum head of corporate communications. By January, 1993 Noelle Giddings
, who had previously worked in comics as a colorist, became Milestone's color editor, supervising the line's painted art; and Joe James, an experienced graphic designer, served as designer and creative associate. Later the production staff would expand to include Erica Helene, Jason Medley, Jacqueline Ching, Joe Daniello, Andrew Burrell, Marcus Bennett, and Michelline Hess. Allen Epps, CPA, was the CFO and Bob Stein, Esq., was the legal counsel.
Milestone provided the opportunity for many emerging talents who had been passed over by larger established companies, beginning the careers of many comic industry professionals. Among them are John Paul Leon
, Christopher Sotomayor
, Christopher Williams (aka ChrisCross)
, Shawn Martinborough
, Tommy Lee Edwards
, Jason Scott Jones
(aka J.Scott.J), Prentis Rollins
, J.H. Williams III
, Humberto Ramos
, John Rozum
, Eric Battle
, Joseph Illidge
, Madeleine Blaustein
, Jamal Igle
, Chris Batista
and Harvey Richards
Comic titles published by Milestone include:
- Hardware - 50 issues.
- Blood Syndicate - 35 issues.
- Icon - 42 issues. The first eight issues were collected in a graphic novel (or trade paperback): Icon: A Hero's Welcome
- Static - 45 issues. Also made into an animated series Static Shock. The first four issues were collected in a graphic novel: Static Shock: Trial by Fire in 2000; and a new mini series was published in 2001 called "Static Shock: The Rebirth of the Cool", it ran for 4 issues.
- Shadow Cabinet - 17 issues.
- Xombi - 21 issues.
- Kobalt - 16 issues.
- Heroes - 6 issues.
Limited Spin-Off Series
- Deathwish - 4 issues (Hardware Spin-off)
- My Name is Holocaust - 5 issues (Blood Syndicate Spin-off)
- Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool - 4 issues
- Wise Son: The White Wolf - 4 issues (Blood Syndicate Spin-off)
- Shadow War- Company-wide crossover. Involved all comics, including the newly premiered Xombi and Shadow Cabinet.
- Long Hot Summer - Company-wide crossover. Three issues of the comic by the same title along with tie-ins in every Milestone title. - July-September 95
- Worlds Collide - 1 issue (crossover with Blood Syndicate, Hardware, Icon, Static, and DC's Steel, Superman, and Superboy).