Whether you’re an old head who was there during the original run of Milestone Comics or you’re one of the millions of people who grew up with the Static Shock cartoon, it’s undeniable that the character of Virgil Hawkins, a.k.a Static, has come to represent young Black cool to multiple generations of Black nerds. When it was announced last summer that Milestone comics was going to be relaunched, there was much curiosity on how the iconic hero would be reintroduced.
The Root was lucky enough to be invited to a press conference with Static: Season One writer Vita Ayala and artist Nikolas Draper-Ivey where they discussed the challenges and the joys of relaunching such an iconic character.
One of the things that immediately struck me when reading the first issue of Static: Season One is how seriously it takes the trauma of Virgil Hawkins’ transformation from an average high school nerd who plays tabletop role playing games with his friends to the electricity manipulating superhero known as Static.
In a rather brilliant update to Static’s origin, the Bang Babies receive their powers after the police use experimental tear gas on a group of young people at a Black Lives Matter protest. It’s a messy, horrific sequence, and Ayala and Draper-Ivey don’t shy away from how that would deeply affect a kid’s psyche.
“What I wanted to do was examine a person, who’s generally optimistic and a happy person— even though he’s gone through a lot just by virtue of being a black kid—but when we meet him he’s not happy. When we see him, he’s gone through this incredible trauma, and I wanted to find a balance between those two things,” Ayala explained. “He’s angry, he’s sad, and he’s scared because he literally just watched his classmates die horrible deaths. And now he’s an electric ball sometimes.”
While this Virgil has shades of his prior depictions, it feels like a whole new take on the character, and that was very much by design. “We are not our predecessors. You have to have a respect for them, and a reverence for them, but ultimately we had to make this our own,” Draper-Ivey said.
Speaking of Draper-Ivey, I’m so happy I have a platform where I can sing this man’s praises. I’ve been obsessed with his work for a minute now. He has this incredibly unique style that’s a beautiful fusion of his western and eastern influences. His style gives a vibrant energy to Static: Season One that keeps your eyes glued to the page.
One of things I was most curious about was the challenge of taking on a character who means so much to so many people, especially to the multiple generations who grew up seeing Static as one of the few mainstream Black heroes. “It’s a lot of pressure. It really is. Not a single day goes by where I’m not always thinking about this and trying to make sure people feel as represented as possible,” Draper-Ivey said. “It’s really hard, there’s no other way to put it.”
“It is really hard, and it is really stressful, but for me I couldn’t not do it. I promised myself I wasn’t going to take on more work because I was just tired, but then the universe said ‘what about this though?’” Ayala said.
“I think for me, what I want to do is present a singular experience because he as a character is very specific. He can’t represent every single Black person because that’s not possible, nor should he, that would not be a good story,” they added. “But, I mean, it’s Virgil Hawkins, come on. You gotta do it, you gotta do it. Even if it’s hard, you gotta do it”
While the process sounds like it was very much a challenge, the end result was a certified banger. They revived Static in a way that’s exciting, emotional, and has me ready for the next issue. The first issue of Static: Season One is available now at your local comic shop, digital storefronts, and DC Universe Infinite, so what are you waiting for? Go check it out!