What’s the deal with Static?

On January 19th, 2015, /u/switchfade asked me the following on /r/DCcomics:

You always give great answers!!!! So could you tell me everything you know about static? Are there any versions running around the multiverse? Who is the guy with the red and green suit who I sometimes see in pictured with static?why isn’t static being used? And why doesn’t DC use static more?

Ahhh, Static. While he is yet another black superhero with lightning powers he’s reasonably unique and justifiably beloved. So here’s what you want to know!

So could you tell me everything you know about static?

The Milestone version of Static

So, like lots of DC characters, Static actually started life at another publishers. The character first appeared in 1993 as one of the founding heroes of Milestone Comics, created by writers Dwayne McDuffie and Robert L. Washington III, and artist John Paul Leon. Milestone was formed by a “coalition of African-American artists and writers (namely Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle) who believed that minorities were severely underrepresented in American comics. Milestone Media was their attempt to correct this imbalance.”

Here’s how he got started:

Virgil [Ovid Hawkins] first gained his electromagnetic powers at a huge showdown between the gangs of the city … The authorities arrive and release tear gas with what they believe to be a harmless radioactive marker so that any gang members would not escape arrest. The cops do not know the marker had been further spiked with an experimental mutagen called Quantum Juice (Q-Juice). This event ultimately came to be known as the so-called “Big Bang.” Those who were exposed came to be referred to as “Bang Babies” because the Big Bang was their metahuman birth.

The Big Bang

Most in the Big Bang died but it leads to Virgil getting powers, creating the identity of Static and becoming the hero Dakota City needed. The great (and sadly late) McDuffie described the character thusly:

“Like any other awkward 15 year-old, Virgil Hawkins worries about pocket money, getting beaten up, and drugs. But recently, he’s had even more on his mind: stuff like his powers, his secret identity, and drugs. Because, when innocents are in danger, and Virgil can slip away from class, the geeky youth becomes Static, the dashing, adventurous superhero!”

What can Virgil do? Well, he can cling to surface, levitate things – most easily metal, which he uses to allow him to fly on a disc, called the Static Saucer but also at times trashcan lids or manhole covers – and a whole bunch of other neat things too!


Edit: I’m just going to briefly interrupt my own post here. The most excellent /u/wisesonAC pointed out on Reddit that I did skip some things about his powers and what makes Virgil awesome. This was mostly due to the 10,000 character limit Reddit imposes on comments but on a blog we have no such thing! /u/wisesonAC, being an expert on Milestone, actually recently wrote a great post praising Static and gave me permission to reproduce part of it here.

I’ll also be breaking it up with images from this awesome appreciation thread he links to at the bottom, which is well worth checking out.

Cracks me up every time…

Facts

Real Name: Virgil Ovid Hawkins

My favorite quote: “Don’t start none, won’t be none”

Publisher: Milestone Media llc.

Created by: Denys Cowan, Dwayne McDuffie, Derek Dingle, Christopher Priest and Micheal Davis

1st appearance: Static #1, 1993

Trivia: He’s most famous for having his own award winning cartoon series on Kids WB lasting 4 seasons and making guest appearances on the cartoon network Justice League.

Nationality: American

Team Affiliations: Teen Titans, Shadow Cabinet

Legal Status: High school minor with no criminal record

Weight: 140 lbs

Height: 5’7

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Brown

Skills and Abilities: Virgil is a keen scientific mind

Known Relatives: Robert Hawkins (father), Jean Hawkins (mother), Sharon Hawkins (sister), Homer Hawkins (grandfather), Cassandra Hawkins (Cloned Sister)

Alternate reality children: Larry Hawkins (Son), Sadie Hawkins (Daughter)

Personality

Spider-man impression by clinging to the walls

On the outside, Virgil appears to be a relatively typical example of a teenager that grew up in the nineties. He can be loud, sarcastic, falsely confident and in many ways annoying. But once you get past his exterior appearance and antics, it is easy to see that he is an awkward (and somewhat geeky) youth that deeply cares for the people who surround him and truly has the best intentions at heart.

Virgil was always the class clown and a bit of a geek in middle school. His antics and humour were his only coping mechanism that kept the bullies off of him, and gave him an “in” with the popular kids. As he transitioned to high school, he became less impressed with doing what was funny, and became more focused on doing what was right. Like a young Peter Parker, Virgil has a deep understanding of the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Despite this, Virgil is a bit of a ham, and will take any chance he can to through a sarcastic barb at his opponents and batter their self-confidence as well as their body.

Powers

Known Superhuman Powers: As a result of exposure to the “Quantum Juice” laden tear gas that was unleashed at the Big Bang, Virgil’s body gained the ability to generate and release large amounts of electrostatic energy which he can utilize for a variety of different effects.

Stops a tidal wave by using electrolysis, but inadvertently causes an hydrogen explosion.

He has full control of the amount of electricity he releases; he is capable of mentally restraining his output to a simple painful shock or a full charge blast that is capable of delivering enough voltage to kill a full grown man at a distance.

He can also use his body as a transformer; in the past he has absorbed the electricity from a nearby power source and utilized the excess energy to augment his own power.

When Virgil’s is actively utilizing his powers, anyone who makes direct contact with his body is in danger of being electrocuted (Virgil himself is immune to such dangers).

One of the cooler parts of his New 52 run…

Static can use his electrostatic energy in other ways rather than simply emitting electrical energy. With concentration, he can:

  • Alter the charge on the atoms of both organic and inorganic matter (causing them to become attracted to or repelled from oppositely charged objects).
  • Monitor and broadcast radio-wave transmissions.
  • By manifesting lines of intense electrostatic force around metallic objects, can cause them to be surrounded by an intense magnetic field that he can use to manipulate them.

Using his brain to beat Hotstreak

Virgil gets angry in the Dark Side Club

The magnetic fields he creates in this manner are highly potent; the strongest field he can create without utilizing an exterior power source can levitate an object the size of the average sedan. Static makes good use of this facet of his power; he often performs feats as simple as magnetically levitating convenient objects (like a trash can lid) while standing upon it to effectively gain the power of flight, or shaping ferrous objects during battles into: cages, lassos or whatever is needed to hold his opponents prone.Through some unknown application of his abilities, Static can create a durable electrostatic field of force. The field can reflect metallic objects like bullets or pipes with ease, and in some unknown manner can also withstand intense impacts from other non-ferrous objects. The exact strength and/or nature of the field is currently unknown.

Abilities: Virgil is a surprisingly gifted student that possesses a natural comprehension of the natural sciences.He is able to apply scientific theory and analysis to most problems that he encounters in the field and come up with a workable solution within a very short period of time.

Creating his first proper Static Saucer

Reading List

Start with this: Static Shock: Trial by Fire

Then go to this: Static Shock, Vol. 1: Rebirth of the Cool

More information: World of Black Heroes profile

Lots of pictures showing why you should respect static: ComicVine respect thread

We now return you to your regularly scheduled post! :)


The DC version of Static

In 1997 Milestone stopped making comics and DC folded all the characters, and their home of Dakota City, into their main continuity. There was even an in universe explanation:

Following the death of Darkseid (as chronicled in Final Crisis), the space-time continuum was torn asunder, threatening the existence of both the Dakotaverse and the mainstream DC universe. The being known as Dharma was able to use energies … to merge the two universes, creating an entirely new continuity. Only Dharma, Icon, [more on him in a second!] and Superman are aware that Dakota and its inhabitants ever existed in a parallel universe.

One of the other things to come from this was the awesome Static Shock TV show, which was tied into the same continuity as the beloved Batman, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited (most often known as the Timmverse). In the comic books, Virgil was part of the whole Dark Side Club story arc and eventually joined the Teen Titans and had a bunch of adventures before the continuity of New Earth ended with Flashpoint.

Static in the Teen Titans

The New 52 version of Static

In the New 52 he was given an overhaul and solo title and moved to New York but the series was pretty crap. Scott McDaniel really didn’t have a handle on the character at all and it was just a mess that was cancelled after only eight issues. One of the few redeeming things was it was implied through flashbacks that most of his previous Milestone/New Earth continuity was in tact.

He also showed up in Lobdell’s Teen Titans run to help Kid Flash where he was working at S.T.A.R. Labs. As far as I know, he hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

Are there any versions running around the multiverse?

Well, not as many as you’d expect from more prominent characters but here’s a good list of the various incarnations:

Static in Young Justice

Static in his own cartoon, Static Shock

As part of this, it’s important to note there was a comic published in 2010, long after Milestone Comics ceased, called Milestone Forever which was “designed to detail the final fates of the Milestone launch characters prior to being assimilated into DC’s continuity.”

In Static’s tale, … Virgil is attending his ten year high school reunion, and has given up his life of crime-fighting and is now pursuing a career in medicine. Without warning, Hotstreak … attacks the reunion, claiming that he now realizes that Static must have been one of his old classmates. Virgil briefly takes up the Static mantle again for one last fight with his old nemesis, and eventually defeats him.

Old Static faces new problems…

The story then skips ahead another ten years to show that Virgil is now married to Frieda and has two children, Larry and Sadie (both of whom have inherited his electrical abilities), and now works as a doctor. The story ends with the couple reflecting on their life, and Virgil playfully asking Frieda if she wants him to return to his role as Static. She simply smiles and tells him “absolutely not”, and the two passionately kiss.

The rumour is Jaden Smith may play Virgil in the new TV series. I’d prefer someone who can act but to each their own…

Who is the guy with the red and green suit who I sometimes see in pictured with static?

Icon and his sidekick, Rocket.

I’m guessing you’re referring to Augustus Freeman, better known as Icon, and another classic Milestone Comics character:

Icon is an extra-terrestrial superhero from the planet Terminus who protects Dakota City. Jettisoned in an escape pod after a space ship malfunction, he was discovered by a slave woman in America’s Deep South in 1839. He mimicked the woman’s appearance, and as Augustus Freeman, he lived through four generations. He eventually settled in Dakota City as a wealthy conservative lawyer. Though gifted with great powers, he would not use them until he encountered the idealistic teen Raquel Ervin, who felt he could become an icon to inspire others.

He had a brief cameo in the New 52’s Static Shock #8 but otherwise has been even more ignored that Virgil, which I’ll get to in a minute. I don’t have space to go into detail on him at the moment, but here’s some links:

Why isn’t static being used? And why doesn’t DC use static more?

Why? Well, that’s a hard question. I mean, the main reason seems to be the same reason that DC is not really great at showcasing minorities and people of colour. I don’t think it’s as much a thing against the Milestone Characters themselves as that DC just really doesn’t know how to use them.

For the last few years there have been rumours that just refuse to go away that it’s due DC losing the rights to the characters. This was before Young Justice, before the new TV show and before he was included in a fan poll for the next character to be added to Injustice: Gods Among Us. Despite the fact nothing was ever proved people keep citing other people citing the original rumours to this day – this is actually a really good write up on what happened and why it’s nonsense :)

Milestone forever…

Why, this fellow sounds pretty wicked kick-flippin’!

That’s because he is! I’m sorry I couldn’t go into even more detail but I’m quickly running out of the 10,000 character limit here on Reddit so I’ll leave you with a reading list:

Hope this was helpful – and a big thanks once again to /u/wisesonAC for letting me add his excellent write up on why Virgil rocks to this post :)

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2 thoughts on “What’s the deal with Static?

    • Lachlan "Warlach" Hibbert-Wells says:

      What references are you referring to? It’s all my own head, wisesonAC’s head and all the things I link to in it.

      Like

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