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Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans

Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans

Jeffrey A. Brown
Copyright Date: 2001
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  • Book Info
    Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans
    Book Description:

    What do the comic book figures Static, Hardware, and Icon all have in common?

    Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fansgives an answer that goes far beyond "tights and capes," an answer that lies within the mission Milestone Media, Inc., assumed in comic book culture. Milestone was the brainchild of four young black creators who wanted to part from the mainstream and do their stories their own way. This history of Milestone, a "creator-owned" publishing company, tells how success came to these mavericks in the 1990s and how comics culture was expanded and enriched as fans were captivated by this new genre.

    Milestone focused on the African American heroes in a town called Dakota. Quite soon these black action comics took a firm position in the controversies of race, gender, and corporate identity in contemporary America. Characters battled supervillains and sometimes even clashed with more widely known superheroes. Front covers of Milestone comics often bore confrontational slogans like "Hardware: A Cog in the Corporate Machine is About to Strip Some Gears."

    Milestone's creators aimed for exceptional stories that addressed racial issues without alienating readers. Some competitors, however, accused their comics of not being black enough or of merely marketing Superman in black face. Some felt that the stories were too black, but a large cluster of readers applauded these new superheroes for fostering African American pride and identity. Milestone came to represent an alternative model of black heroism and, for a host of admirers, the ideal of masculinity.

    Black Superheroesgives details about the founding of Milestone and reports on the secure niche its work and its image achieved in the marketplace. Tracing the company's history and discussing its creators, their works, and the fans, this book gauges Milestone alongside other black comic book publishers, mainstream publishers, and the history of costumed characters.

    Jeffrey A. Brown is an assistant professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University. He has been published inScreen,Cinema Journal,African American Review,Journal of Popular Culture,Discourse, andJournal of Popular Film and Television.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-763-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    It was a Saturday afternoon when I first came across Galaxy Comics and Collectibles, a comic book and gaming specialty store located in a middle-class neighborhood on the fringe of downtown Toronto. I had been in dozens of comic book stores before and was confident about what Iʹd find inside, past the larger than life superheroes painted on the glass window. What I wasnʹt prepared for was the sheer volume of activity I found. On this day, Galaxy Comics and Collectibles was abuzz with more energy than I had ever seen in a comic book store before. Though every independently...

  6. 1 Introduction: “New Heroes”
    (pp. 1-14)

    I like the phrase ʺnew heroes.ʺ I have heard it a lot over the past couple of years while exploring the world of comic books and their readers. It is a phrase that is almost deceivingly concise. It is a simple enough combination of words, but it alludes to a culturally important change in the way we see our world. ʺAs anyone involved in fiction and its crafting over the past fifteen or so years would be delighted to tell you,ʺ wrote acclaimed comic book auteur Alan Moore, ʺheroes are starting to become rather a problem. They arenʹt what they...

  7. 2 A Milestone Development
    (pp. 15-57)

    Once every two weeks the promotional posters are changed by the owner of the Comics Kingdom, a medium-sized comic book and fantasy games specialty store located in downtown Toronto. On the third Wednesday of January 1993, the group of boys who made their lunchtime trek from the junior high school three blocks away were surprised to find a new ʺteaserʺ poster on display. The poster depicted seven heroically garbed black characters flying directly out at the viewer from above a burning cityscape. In plain large print across the top of the poster was written, ʺMilestone: 2/27/93,ʺ and at the bottom,...

  8. 3 Comic Book Fandom
    (pp. 58-92)

    The practice of media fandom provides a highly visible and intensely concentrated example of how people interpret, internalize, and use popular texts in their everyday lives. Fans are extraordinarily interested and often active textual participants, and many of them organize into loosely structured interpretive communities based on a shared fascination for a specific text, genre, or medium. Comic book fandom is one of the most popular and best organized of media fan cultures. A readerʹs degree of participation in fan culture is a strong marker of his or her personal involvement with the text and of how the properties of...

  9. 4 The Readers
    (pp. 93-132)

    Whereas the last chapter focused on comic book fandom as an organized activity premised on certain subcultural conventions, this chapter will address a sample of actual comic book readers. The comic book fans discussed here were chosen because they come from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds and because they exhibit some of the most important recurring characteristics that I encountered over the course of my research; specifically, they express a sense of continuity between themselves and the comicsʹ creators and they are experienced in a variety of the social aspects that define comic book fandom, aspects such as...

  10. 5 Reading Race and Genre
    (pp. 133-166)

    I walked out of the air-conditioned lobby of the Holiday Inn located on the edge of a long strip of hotels adjacent to Pearson International Airport. The Holiday Inn was hosting one of Torontoʹs largest annual comic book conventions. After two hours of squeezing my way through the crowds of fans milling around the dealersʹ tables looking for deals and rare Golden Age books, I needed a breath of fresh air.

    It was cooler out on the back steps, but the sun was much brighter than the perpetually dimmed lights of the hotel lobby. My eyes took a minute to...

  11. 6 Reading Comic Book Masculinity
    (pp. 167-188)

    Following in the footsteps of feminist scholarship, there have been, in recent years, a number of studies which have begun to consider masculinity, particularly heterosexual masculinity, as a social construction. Masculinity, always regarded as a natural, stable gender identity, is in the process of being deconstructed on a variety of levels from social politics to pop psychology. Moreover the masculinity of our media-generated heroes is increasingly recognized in much the same way that femininity has been understood, not as a real and unified subject position, but as a carefully orchestrated performance, or in other words as a masquerade. But if...

  12. 7 Drawing Conclusions
    (pp. 189-202)

    In the early 1970s the public service advertisement used by the Black-Owned Communications Alliance asked, ʺWhatʹs wrong with this picture?ʺ A young black boy looked in the mirror and saw only the pale imaginative reflection of a white superhero. Well, the child from that advertisement has grown up and the world of superheroes has changed. In the 1990s Milestone Media, and other black comic book publishers, have replied to that decades-old question by creating a variety of new heroes, a variety of African American superheroes. In fact, on the editorial page of the twentieth issue of the companyʹs flagship series...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 203-204)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 205-208)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 209-224)
  16. Index
    (pp. 225-232)