REVIEW: ‘Milestone Generations’ Chronicles An Important Part of Comic Book History

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Milestone Generations - But Why Tho

Milestone Generations is an HBO Max original documentary presented by Ally and directed by Justice A. Whitaker. Narrated by Cliff “Method Man” Smith, the documentary explores the creation of Milestone Media—including the role the late, great Dwayne McDuffie played in its inception. The documentary also covers Milestone’s shutdown, and its eventual rebirth in 2021 as well as the impact characters like Static and Hardware have had on the comic book landscape.

The inception of Milestone is perhaps one of the most important moments in comic book history, especially when it comes to more diverse heroes. Many of the founders, including McDuffie and Denys Cowan, were already working in the comic book business prior to Milestone. However, they had a question: “Where are the Black heroes?” While there were Black heroes, they often fell into stereotypes (see Luke Cage’s early appearances) or their tenure was short-lived (Black Lightning’s first solo series only lasted eleven issues). With Milestone, creators aimed to craft characters that represented all manner of ethnicities and experiences. They also wanted to hire creators from different walks of life as well.

A key example comes with Ivan Velez Jr., the co-creator of Blood Syndicate. Velez, an openly gay man, says that Milestone approached him to help flesh out the members of the Syndicate. He did this by adding Latinx characters including siblings Fade and Flashback (the former an openly gay man like himself) and the transgender shapeshifter Masquerade. I’ve often said that who is behind a character’s story is just as important as the characters themselves, since having different perspectives can lead to more emotionally resonant stories. Velez’s work with the Syndicate is a clear example of this. Cowan also shares that other creators, including Jim Steranko (Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Bill Sienkiewicz (Moon Knight) encouraged him to launch the imprint.

Milestone Generations also doesn’t shy away from McDuffie’s influence. Cowan and other Milestone creators including Derek T. Dingle and Michael Davis describe him as a “genius.” Cowan even said they were like brothers and fought accordingly at times. McDuffie was probably well known for his animation work including serving as story editor on Justice League Unlimited and Ben 10 Alien Force/Ultimate Alien, but everyone correctly points out that it was writing for Static Shock that gave his career its second wind. Even Phil LaMarr, who voiced Virgil Hawkins, said that Static was the first time that he had a lead role as a Black actor.

But though he’s essentially Milestone’s biggest name, Static was also a major reason the publisher’s relationship with DC deteriorated the first go-around. Static #25 (written by Velez, coincidentally) features a cover where Virgil and his then-girlfriend Daisy Watkins are embracing one another, with Virgil holding a pack of condoms in his hands. DC refused to print the cover based on a policy that there was no sex shown on their comic covers. In an editorial, McDuffie pointed out the underlying issue: “I understand that teenage sexuality is a difficult subject for a lot of people. And, as is the custom, I won’t even mention Black sexuality. But I don’t think that the people who read Static are afraid to explore storylines grounded in the issues of contemporary life. Static is a fun comic, but it’s never shied away from topics like gang violence, homophobia, and racism. It’s not about to start now.”

All of this history is broken up by segments where Method Man acts as a professor of sorts, giving his students, and by extension, the audience, a crash course on Milestone’s history. It’s fitting that Method Man is the narrator of this piece: his work with the Wu-Tang Clan, as well as other rap artists, was a major influence on Milestone’s early output. He’s also a huge comic book fan, providing an original song for Luke Cage and even cosplaying as the X-Men’s Bishop! Having created a visual masterpiece in Beyonce’s Black is King for Disney+, Whitaker goes back down to Earth with Milestone Generations, zooming in on the people who made Milestone and the people who were touched by it. It’s enough to overcome the final few minutes, which feel more like an ad for Milestone’s upcoming projects than an integral part of the documentary.

Milestone Generations is a must-watch for comic book fans and creators alike, as it tackles an important piece of comic book history. Static means so much to me, so I’m finally happy that the Milestone Universe is receiving its due. And hopefully, we will continue to see more of these characters in the future.

Milestone Generations is currently available to stream on HBO Max.


Milestone Generations
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Milestone Generations is a must-watch for comic book fans and creators alike, as it tackles an important piece of comic book history. Static means so much to me, so I’m finally happy that the Milestone Universe is receiving its due. And hopefully, we will continue to see more of these characters in the future.

But Why Tho? A Geek Community
%d bloggers like this: