Support Shawn's writng with a donation

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Racism In the Comic book Industry Part 1- The Static Shock Conspiracy

It’s a known fact that the comic book industry is one of the least diverse trades in the United States. However to explore the issue of race in comics I’m going to need to break it up into several articles. In the first installment I’ll be exploring the Static shock Conspiracy. 

In 2000 Kids WB! launched Static Shock, an animated series adaptation of Milestone Media's 1993 comic series  Static. 

Static Shock was one of the most popular cartoons on Kids WB! Especially with younger viewers in the much coveted tween and teen demogarphic throughout all four of its seasons.

It was one of the highest rated animated series to feature an African-American lead character. 

But from the beginning, many white comic fans didn’t like the show. They thought it cartoonish and childish.

But kids loved it. It soon became one of Kids WB!’s most popular shows.

But the show couldn't get funding for a season 5. No, somehow there wasn't any money for new episodes. 

And when the show ended in 2004, there was no DVD release of all four seasons on DC’s Classic collection. Meanwhile other animated superhero shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, The Batman, Legion of Super-Heroes all got full season DVD releases of their entire series. 

Even the Marvel series X-Men: Evolution got a complete series release.

All fans of Static shock the show got was a single DVD of the first six episodes in 2008.

When Shawn wants to watch the other 40+ episodes where Static teams up with Batman & Robin, the Justice League, Green Lantern, Batman Beyond and Superman he has to go to his old VHS tapes. Others who didn’t have VCR’s or Tivo have to go the bootleg route on eBay to see these episodes.

To add insult to injury, Justice League, Batman, Batman Beyond and Superman all got brand-new expensive boxset compilations.

But still no Static shock DVD boxset to complete the Timm-Verse. 

There’s a gaping Hole in the DC animated universe. And I think it’s due to racism.

On the licensing front, Why didn’t anyone want to make action figures of this popular show? Why didn’t DC take the time to license this potentially popular brand?

At the time Static was on, Jackie Chan Adventures, about got toys from Playmates. And Jackie Chan got lower ratings than Static. 

Yet there were no action figures for the more popular Static Shock. Just promotional toys from Subway.

Why wouldn't anyone want to capitalize on this popular license? Don't companies want to make money? Isn't the only color that matters is green?

I'm thinking they didn't like the idea of promoting a positive Black male image in mainstream media. Especially with impressionable young minds. 

No, the perpetuation of the image of a clean cut Black kid isn't good for White Supremacy. 

And when the Milestone universe was integrated into the DC Universe there was no push to launch a Static solo ongoing series.

But it would have been a great opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of the TV show. A great opportunity to reach all those tweens and teens who still recognized him from the show. A great opportunity to have him team up with numerous characters in the DC Universe. A chance to reach those younger readers the industry desperately covets.

Instead the character was buried in the directionless Teen Titans comic. On paper, Static in the Titans would have been a great way to reach those youngsters and expose them to a larger cross-section of the DC Universe. It’d have been a great way to introduce kids to Robin, Superboy, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash.

But it wasn’t capitalized on due to the poor execution of the concept.

Maybe the rape and murder of Sue Dibney took priority.

In 2009 at the height of the popularity of the DC Universe Classics line there was speculation that Static was to be included in a Wal-Mart exclusive wave.

Again many comic fans screamed bloody murder at the thought of including Static in 6” figure form. They complained that he would take a valuable slot from an obscure character who would never be made into figure form.

But this was a popular character with tweens and teens. A popular character with casual customers. Someone with strong brand recognition. Someone who could have moved bulk units. Someone who could have been a wave leader.

But instead of Static we got Kamandi a year later packed at two per case. Who sold poorly. So poorly he pegwarms to on Wal-Mart shelves to this day.

Comic fans finally got a Static figure in a boxset this year. But this was the future Static from Justice League Unlimited, not the classic version of the character many kids saw in his own TV series. And definitely not the classic version of the character from the comic.

In 2011, DC Comics launched another Static Shock series as part of its New 52.

Cancelled in 8 issues it was one of the poorest selling titles of the New 52 relaunch.

But personally, I believe it was sabotoged from within by editorial. By editors who refused to let John Rozum, the late Dwayne McDuffie’s friend write Static in a way that was true to the character. A way viewers of the TV show and the 90’s comic series remembered him. Instead they re-wrote the character to reflect their vision.

And I also believe it was sabotaged by an editiorial dictate from Dan Didio. Didio insisted that Static be moved to New York City. However, Dakota was to Static what New York was to Spider-Man.

The move was the equivalent of Moving Peter Parker to Phoenix Arizona or Denver Colorado. Where’s a web-slinger supposed to swing from webs like Tarzan in a place where there are no tall buildings? And How’s a kid supposed to maneuver a Static Saucer in a city without his principal rogues gallery villains or supporting cast?

Dakota was an essential part of the Static character. His city was one of his supporting characters. And his rogues were distinct to that city.

There’s an opportunity for Time Warner and DC to make so much money on the Static property. But do they want to make those dollars? Do they want to reach those new younger readers?

Or do they want to promote White Supremacy?

It’s looking like DC doesn’t mind minority characters. Just as long as they don’t become popular enough to wind up on their A-list with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. As long as they stay in the background like Mr. Terrific (also sabotaged) and Black Lightning everything is OK. But when they start getting popular like Static and Ryan Choi’s Atom, there’s a passive-aggressive attempt to squash them by editorial.

Even though younger readers want more stories featuring African-American, Latino, and Asian characters. And it’s clear they don’t mind reading stories featuring characters of different races and cultures. An entire generation of Kids who grew up on multicultural shows like Power Rangers, Winx Club and another is growing up right now with multicultural media like Monster High. Kids who don’t see themselves reflected in the pages of a comic book.

But see themselves reflected in YA fiction and Manga.

Unfortunately, DC Comics continues to pander to the small niche audience of white males instead of the larger audience. An audience big enough to reverse two decades of declining sales.  

But until comic publishers like DC Comics start making serious efforts to diversify their universe they won’t reach that growing audience of readers of millions strong. 


  1. A few notes-
    McDuffie did try to get a toy deal and there were sketches of various Milestone guys including Kobalt (that recently sold on Ebay).
    With no toy line to fund a 5th season-the cartoon ended (just like the recent He-Man series did).
    We would have had a video game but the company behind it went bankrupt.
    The DVD issue is something other cartoons dealt with too including Young Justice, X-Men Evolution, Fantastic Four & Spider-Man. So it wasn't just Static getting screwed in that situation. There is still no complete series sets for those others. They did managed to get other series releases.
    What made the recent Static Shock series even more disgusting is that a Milestone alum (editor)help ruin the book as most of what you saw was his and the writer's idea. Dan is guilty of moving the book to New York more to deal with Miles Morales than Peter Parker.

  2. Hi there.

    I was searching for Static Shock stuff online and came across your post. I remember Dwayne McDuffie talking about the lack of Static merchandise on his forum back in the day, and it had less to do with some grand conspiracy and more to do with toy companies believing white consumers would be unlikely to purchase action figures from a toyline headed by a black superhero.

    He said something to the effect (and forgive me, since I'm going solely on memory here -- I'm not even sure the old posts about this are even around any more) that if Static were a character on a team show he'd have had multiple figures by now (like Cyborg or Green Lantern from that time) but regardless of Static's rating and broad appeal, they didn't think they would sell to "soccer moms".

    I'll grant that there was something funny going on with the DVDs though. I met Dwayne at Trinity con in Detroit and asked him about the DVDs -- he said that he'd heard the first Static release outsold the first Teen Titans DVD, and had even gone in to record material for a featurette for Vol. 2 (along with other members of the Static Shock creative team, although the only one I can recall specifically was Phil Lamarr). No idea why that never happened, or why they didn't release season sets. The closest thing to an explanation I can come up with was that they didn't think it was worthwhile after the show had been off the air for a while, but then so much library material has been released, it's crazy a show guest starring *Batman* hasn't seen the light of day for over a decade now.

    Since the show was done digitally a blu-ray relase would be great, but personally I'd settle for a Warner Archive release (and if they can dig out that old featurette all the better).

    Have a good day.
    G Morrow

  3. I'm 55, white, and female. I love, love, LOVE, Static. When they were rerun on Disney XD I recorded themon my DVR and watched them over and over again. Since I can't download the recordings from the DVR, I went looking for DVD's and was shocked to find none (except for the pitiful 6 episode release I found on Amazon). Since Amazon has a way to notify you if there is a release of what you are looking for, I did that. I believe that they send these requests to the manufacturer. So if you want to show them how many want the entire show on DVD, go to Amazon and let them know! Other sites probably do the same, so go there! They have now released the 6 episode set on Google Play, So a review there asking for more couldn't hurt. If they gathered a group of people together and showed them the show, I think the majority would like it (even soccer moms). The excuse I've read that older people didn't like the show because it had 'old-fashioned graphics is ludicrous. I can believe older teens would say that, even into early 20's,but they would still watch the show. The same was said of ' Jonny Quest', but people still clamored for the show even 30 years later! Someone is holding it back for reasons of their own, and until control passes to someone else, we are doomed to wait. I finally found what appears to be a legitimate release on , where I was able to download each episode in very good quality. If I have to, I'll burn my own DVD from these. But I still would like 'offical' DVD's.