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Icon and Rocket writers are excited to bring Milestone's Black superheroes into the 21st century

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After all this time, it's finally happening: Milestone is back.

Originally founded in 1993, Milestone Media broke new ground in superhero comics by creating diverse characters who broke the mold by neither indulging in stereotypes nor inheriting the mantles of white heroes. One of these new Black superheroes was Static, who went on to star in the popular animated series Static Shock (and might be coming to a movie screen in the near future). Milestone's take on the superhero-sidekick dynamic created Icon and Rocket — the former a centuries-old alien who has lived on Earth as a Black man ever since his spaceship crashed into a slave plantation in the antebellum South, the latter a young Black girl whose friends talk her into robbing that man's mansion without any clue of his true identity. Once she learns the truth, Raquel Ervin encourages Augustus Freeman to embrace his powers and fight for his people as the superhero Icon, with her helping out as Rocket.

Unfortunately, Milestone shut down in 1997, but there were always rumors in the years since that the characters would return to comics someday. Following a panel at last year's DC FanDome event, that day has finally arrived. Earlier this year the original Milestone catalog finally became available on digital comics libraries like DC Infinite and Comixology (check out EW's reading guide if you want to know where to start), and now new books have launched as well. Static #1, written by Vita Ayala with art by ChrisCross and Nikolas Draper-Ivey, launched in June; Icon and Rocket hit stands at the end of July; and Hardware #1, by Brandon Thomas and Denys Cowan, arrives later in August.

Read EW's interview with Icon and Rocket co-writers Reginald Hudlin (House Party, Boomerang) and Leon Chills below, and look for Icon and Rocket #1 wherever comics are sold if you haven't yet. Check out exclusive pages from the issue, featuring art by Doug Braithwaite, below.

DC Comics

Doug Braithwaite for DC Comics Raquel Ervin unknowingly embarks on her superhero journey in 'Icon and Rocket' #1 by Reginald Hudlin, Leon Chills, and Doug Braithwaite

Doug Braithwaite for DC Comics Raquel Ervin meets Augustus Freeman in 'Icon and Rocket' #1 by Reginald Hudlin, Leon Chills, and Doug Braithwaite

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What's your relationship to Milestone and its legacy? How does it feel to be ushering in the new era for these characters?

REGINALD HUDLIN: My three mentors in the world of comic books were Denys Cowan, Dwayne McDuffie, and Kyle Baker. Those guys really taught me the business and introduced me to so many great people. At one point, when they were just starting Milestone, Denys and Dwayne said, "Hey you should write some comics with us." I thought gosh, I just made one movie (House Party), maybe I should solidify my day job before I start doing other stuff. So I passed on the opportunity, to my great regret. Ever since then, I was always a friend to the guys at Milestone, and also a fan. After the company shut down, I was always checking in with DC like, 'what are you doing? You need to relaunch the company, how can I help?" I was always an enthusiastic supporter. So then when the tragedy of Dwayne's death happened, I was invited to host the memorial service for Dwayne. After that event, Derek Dingle and Denys approached me and said, "it's really been too long. We've got to turn this tragedy into something good. We want to relaunch the company and we want you to be a part of that." I was very honored to be invited. We've been working nonstop ever since then for this moment to occur.

LEON CHILLS: Milestone was one of the first times I ever saw a superhero that looked like me. I used to be Reggie's assistant, so I saw a lot of the hard work he was putting in behind the scenes to try and get Milestone relaunched. Ever since I left and became a professional screenwriter, we've always wanted to work together, so when I got the call for this, it was an immediate yes. I feel incredibly honored and grateful to be part of bringing it back to life.

Representation is at the forefront of a lot of superhero fans' minds these days. Marvel recently set up Anthony Mackie to take over as Captain America, and Warner Bros. is reportedly looking to cast a Black actor as Superman. Without putting other projects down, what would you say is the beauty and power of Milestone superheroes as original characters whose powers are specifically rooted in their lives and histories as Black people?

HUDLIN: Like you say it's not either/or in terms of representation. When you look at the history of comics, it's no surprise that all the superheroes in that first wave from the '40s are all white. In the '60s when Marvel came on, you start to see those first Black characters with Black Panther, Luke Cage, and Storm. Those are great characters, but what's really important about Milestone is you have Black artists and Black writers creating not just Black characters in an otherwise white universe but a whole diverse universe of Black, white, Asian, Latinx characters all interacting. It's the next logical step, which is why it hit immediately with all audiences, not just Black readers. Static Shock as a cartoon series was enormously successful.

But when we revived the company, we were determined not to be a nostalgic company. We're not about being stuck in the past but being as cutting-edge in 2021 as they were in 1993. That's why it's so important to have new voices, like Leon, like Vita [Ayala], like Brandon writing the new books. We have new energy and people talking about where the culture is today, mixed with folks like Denys Cowan who is a legend in the business. That combination of great new voices and experience makes for a very unique working environment.

CHILLS: Just to add to what Reggie said, one of the important things about Milestone is that it was never just representation for the sake of representation. It always was, and hopefully will continue to be, really good comics that elevate the genre as a whole. That's what we want to continue: Tell stories that elevate the genre, regardless of the characters being Black.

HUDLIN: And also acknowledging the wide range of what it means to be Black. That's the fun of Icon and Rocket. There's a beautiful phrase that Dwayne used to use to describe them. He called it the "unity of opposites": male/female, alien/human, old/human, conservative/progressive. They're as different as they can be, which is why they're the perfect pair.

What do Icon and Rocket bring to each other?

HUDLIN: Icon has a historical perspective. He's been on Earth for over 150 years. He's seen and done a lot of things that a 16-year-old girl hasn't done. Plus he's got the perspective of having lived on other planets, so he has a unique perspective from anyone on Earth. At the same time, anyone who is raising a teenage girl knows they're smarter than anybody, and they're not shy in telling you. There's a drive that comes from all that passion, whether you know what you're doing or not, that leads to great things happening. That's what she does. She does meet a guy who's just waiting for Earth's technology to catch up so he can build a rocketship home, and she's like, "no! We're gonna make changes on Earth right now. You and I are gonna make it happen." It's an infectious naivete that makes all the difference.

CHILLS: It's interesting because Raquel tries to hit him with "you're not Black, you're an alien!" And he's actually like "no I've actually lived the Black experience for over 100 years. I might know a little more than you do."

Doug Braithwaite for DC Comics Raquel Ervin meets Augustus Freeman in 'Icon and Rocket' #1 by Reginald Hudlin, Leon Chills, and Doug Braithwaite

Doug Braithwaite for DC Comics

Doug Braithwaite for DC Comics Raquel Ervin meets Augustus Freeman in 'Icon and Rocket' #1 by Reginald Hudlin, Leon Chills, and Doug Braithwaite

What are the meanings you read into Icon's name? How is he struggling with his own status as an icon?

HUDLIN: I think it's easy to be cynical. It's easy to say, 'oh god things will never change, things will never make a difference.' But Rocket is a booster; she makes things go! She's going to push him to move past that kind of cynicism and say, "no, we're going to keep pushing for change. Most of your life, you've been doing all kinds of things over the decades. It's time to go to the next level with it." She makes him see who he really is. It's easy to lose perspective. Her perspective is as legitimate as anyone.

CHILLS: There's a Nipsey Hussle quote: "The highest human act is to inspire." Icon is extremely literal. Well even if we do this, this is gonna happen, so we won't even be saving anyone." But Rocket understands how important it is to inspire, because even if they don't save the world right now, they'll inspire the people who will. That's what she's getting at: If they do what they need to do, they'll collectively inspire others to do the same. Then the world really will be saved.

Looking forward, are you looking to bring characters back from the original Icon comics, or are you more focused on creating new characters?

HUDLIN: The answer is yes! We're gonna be bringing back old favorites and creating new characters. And, we'll be taking some of those old favorites in unexpected directions.

What is Doug Braithwaite bringing to the art?

HUDLIN: He's so good! I've always been a fan of his, and when it turned out he could draw the book, I was like 'are you kidding me?' He has the gravity; he draws in a realistic style that feels very grounded, which makes the epic feats they do feel even more impressive, because it's not cartoonish.

CHILLS: That's been a huge thing for me. This is my first time writing comics, so it's just mind-blowing every time to see how he's bringing it come to life. I'd put it on the same level as watching a TV script get filmed.

Any updates on the Static Shock movie that was announced at DC FanDome last year? I know it hasn't been the easiest year for movie development.

HUDLIN: It's going very well. Our writer Randy McKinnon is hard at work. He's an enormously talented writer, and every time we talk we have a great time bouncing off each other. I'm excited as I wait for the pages coming in. We're very pumped about it.

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