American comic book publishing company founded in 1993 and best known for its line of groundbreaking multicultural comic books.
If you've ever read comics, you may have noticed that the characters are a bit... pink. A bit vanilla. A bit overwhelmingly honkey. For decades, the only time you'd see a black person, a Hispanic, an Asian, was if they were an insultingly racist sidekick or an insultingly racist villain. The first black superhero, Marvel's Black Panther, didn't appear until 1966, and the first African-American superhero, the Falcon, again from Marvel, debuted in 1969. DC's first major black superhero, Black Lightning, didn't appear until 1977.
Things haven't changed a lot since then. The American comic industry is run by white people, and most comics readers are white people. No matter how well-intentioned comics creators may be, they tend to create new comics characters who are white, and to populate their comics with white people. They've still got a better track record for integration than most TV shows, of course, but nevertheless, the demographics of your average superhero universe doesn't look very much like the real world.
So in 1993, a group of African-American comics creators -- Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle -- frustrated with the homogeneity of Marvel and DC, decided to create their own comics company. Dubbing the company Milestone Media, they originally planned to hire Christopher J. Priest as the editor-in-chief, but he had to exit the company due to other commitments before any comics were printed.
Milestone had a unique relationship with DC Comics. DC published the Milestone comics, but Milestone's stories were outside of DC's superhero continuity, and Milestone retained all copyrights, all creative control, all merchandising rights, and most of their editorial control. Milestone was a completely independent superhero universe that was published by DC for a share of the profits and for the prestige factor. There was only one crossover of Milestone and DC characters -- during the "Worlds Collide" series in 1994, Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, and Steel traveled to the Milestone Universe.
Most of Milestone's comics took place in Dakota, a Midwestern city with high crime, a problem with gangs, and more criminal conspiracies than you can shake a stick at. Most of Milestone's marquee characters were African-American -- there were fewer characters who were Hispanic or Latino, and fewer still who were Asian. The smallest superhero demographic in Dakota was Caucasians.
Milestone's comics included:
- Hardware - a man in a high-tech battlesuit fighting against his own corrupt billionaire boss.
- Static - a wisecracking teenager with electrical and magnetic abilities.
- Icon - a wealthy and conservative alien-in-disguise who is persuaded to become a superhero by his teen sidekick, Rocket.
- Blood Syndicate - a metahuman street gang whose members walk the line between heroes and villains.
- Shadow Cabinet - a secret superhero conspiracy trying to save the world from a prophesied apocalypse.
- Xombi - a man granted powerful regenerative abilities by a nanotech virus. His adventures often read like something out of Grant Morrison's surreal "Doom Patrol" comics.
- Kobalt - a violent vigilante and his moderately inept sidekick.
- Heroes - a more traditional superteam that included Static and several former members of the Shadow Cabinet.
Milestone received some excellent publicity from the mainstream media and throughout the African-American community for their non-traditional and multicultural outlook on comics. However, the comics press, particularly Wizard Magazine, seemed to be generally hostile to the concept of non-white heroes other than the X-Men's Storm, and preferred to pretend that Milestone didn't exist.
Milestone was, like many other publishers, hit hard by the comic book collapse of the late 1990s and stopped publishing comics in 1997. However, in 2000, an animated cartoon series called "Static Shock" debuted, starring Milestone's Static. It ran for four years, received outstanding reviews, and included several crossovers with the animated "Justice League Unlimited" cartoon.
And in 2008, DC began introducing Milestone characters into their mainstream continuity, starting with Static in the "Terror Titans" miniseries and quickly followed by Icon and the Shadow Cabinet in "Justice League of America."