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.
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.
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.
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