denys cowan knows about the Joe Biden-liquid swords Cheep.
At San Diego Comic-Con, the 61-year-old comic book artist and co-founder of Milestone Media who drew the cover of GZA’s classic. liquid swords from 1995, he hits the table laughing after I tell him about a viral meme from 2014 that marked the name of the album. It’s the first time she hears it.
The meme goes like this: Before, when his public image was rather satirical. Onion articles than his actual policies, President Biden (then Obama’s vice president) interrupts Obama when asked to name his favorite Wu-Tang album. Biden yells his own response into the microphone: “LIQUID SWORDS.”
“I’m a member of the Wu-Tang family,” says Cowan. Reverse with pride in his voice.
Cowan’s art for “Diamond Joe” Biden’s favorite album is a milestone in a career filled with them. Another big one is Milestone Media. In 1992, Cowan co-founded Milestone with other African-American comics contemporaries including Michael Davis, Derek T. Dingle, and the late Dwayne McDuffie. Through a partnership with DC, Milestone made comics for an underserved black and ethnic minority audience.
Milestone stopped making comics in 1997 but returned in 2021 with new titles starring the comics company’s characters, who inhabit the “M-Earth” parallel within the DC multiverse.
“The relaunch has been great,” Cowan enthuses. Reverse about Milestone in 2022. “We have managed to keep a lot of old fans, who are parents who now buy books with their children. But we have also managed to attract new readers, people exposed to what we are doing for the first time”.
Cowan admits that Milestone hasn’t peaked yet. “We can always sell more,” he says, “but that’s what all publishers want.”
During its heyday, Milestone lit up the industry with bold characters and new talent like Christopher Williams (aka ChrisCross), Iván Vélez Jr., Humberto Ramos, the late John Paul Leon and more. Of the many heroes that inhabit Milestone’s “Dakotaverse,” the most popular is Static, a nerdy teenager with electrical powers. In addition to his comics, Static starred in his own popular animated series, static shockwhich ran for four seasons beginning in 2000.
At Comic-Con, during the Jim Lee & Friends Panel (a de facto DC panel focused on comics), DC and Milestone announced the continuation of their current Static Noble comic books Static: Shadows of DakotaCowan says the book is a direct sequel to last year’s book. Static: first season.
“dakota shadows really is Static: Season TwoCowan says. He bluntly explains, “We can’t call it Season Two. People don’t buy the second season. They buy Season Ones. And they buy things like dakota shadows.”
Written by Vita Ayala and illustrated by Nikolas Draper-Ivey and ChrisCross, Cowan confirms dakota shadows reintroduces Ebon, a villain who originated from the static shock T.V. series.
“We’re bringing a character from the animated show into the comics and letting him wreak havoc,” says Cowan. “Nicholas has done a lot of redesigns, but Ebon is still Ebon. You will recognize it. His face is in shadow, he still has dreadlocks. He is going to be a lot of fun.”
Milestone also released its first movie, after Comic-Con. Posted on July 29 milestone generations is an hour-long documentary on HBO Max chronicling the rise, fall, and rebirth of Milestone. Narrated by Wu-Tang’s Method Man, the documentary puts the history, economics and importance of Milestone into context in the context of an era when black artists around the world were finding and tapping into his creativity.
Shooting the documentary was difficult for Cowan, who places more importance on the future than on the past.
“I’m not a person who likes to live in the past,” he says. “Examine why you did what you did and when you did it. We were 30 years old, making decisions. Now looking back, I say, ‘I don’t know why I did any of that.’ We were so busy trying to work and get things done.”
Amid Milestone’s original operations, there was little opportunity to pause and take stock. “None of us took the time to say, ‘Wow, we really accomplished something.'”
“They wanted to do films with the characters, they just couldn’t come to terms with DC.”
While Milestone is back, the way things work in 2022 is very different from 1992.
“We had an office on 23rd Street [in New York City]Cowan says. “We had a bullpen, the whole thing. A place that people come to visit.”
Cowan remembers when legendary music producer and film and television producer Quincy Jones visited the Milestone office. “I wanted to see what Milestone was all about,” says Cowan. The visit left an impression, and the film deals for Milestone almost came to fruition.
“Immediately after his visit, if you look at the fresh prince of bel airSuddenly, you have Milestone posters on the wall. You can search it on Google. He kept them there until the show was over because he visited us. They wanted to make movies with the characters, they just couldn’t come to terms with DC. But that was so cool when we had a place where people would come.”
2022 is not without its advantages. “People consume comics in different ways,” says Cowan. “One of the most exciting things for us is the technology and what we can do in those spaces.”
He adds: “There are people reading comics, queuing at Starbucks. They are not reading comics as we know them. In the ’90s, there was nowhere near the ability to put things in the hands of people that you have today.”
Milestone originally set out to feature heroes of color, specifically black heroes. In many ways, the Milestone legacy lives on, with plenty of black heroes on the comic book shelves. But how can Milestone compete in a culture that he created?
“The landscape is different,” says Cowan. “But how many original characters are available right now? How many iconic and original characters? Looking at the landscape now, there is still opportunity. There are still things that need to be done. Can be done. We are in a unique place to do it. We have original characters and lots of ideas of where to take them vertically.”
“The scripts are yet it is working”.
Does that mean Milestone’s own cinematic universe? A static live-action movie has been in development since 2020, with an update a year after Michael B. Jordan is on board as producer. At Comic-Con, Cowan gives Reverse One minor update: “Not much to talk about. The scripts are still being worked on. All of that is still in development.”
Regardless of what the future holds for Milestone, there is a future. “We want to be in spaces where there aren’t a lot of people of color, and Static is uniquely positioned to do that,” says Cowan. “There is animation, there is live action. I can’t tell you exactly what they will be.”
All Cowan knows is that it will be a shock to the system, just as Milestone always intended.