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Milestone Comics are finally back. The diverse comic book universe, which built its name by pushing boundaries with a diverse cast of superheroes, returned this year after nearly two decades. Now, the creators want the comic universe to reach its full potential, saying they want the revival to be as "cutting edge" as the originals.
Milestone Media, the company behind the comics, was founded in 1993 by a team of African American artists and writers. The mission: tell the stories of underrepresented communities while tackling big issues like homophobia and racism.
"We were four Black creators who got together and formed a company with the intent of doing multicultural characters from our point of view and the people we wanted to work with — that alone was revolutionary," Denys Cowan, a co-founder, told CBS News.
That same year, Milestone's founders signed a distribution contract with the famed DC Comics. But throughout the partnership, DC often became uncomfortable with the progressive storylines and artwork on the pages. The most well-known example: the artwork for an issue of Static, the group's most popular character and arguably one of the most beloved Black superheroes.
The artwork showed the hero, Virgil Hawkins, and his girlfriend kissing on a couch with condoms nearby. DC refused to print the cover, straining its relationship with the Milestone's founders. Both parties compromised by printing a close-up of the two kissing. Inside the book, co-founder Dwayne McDuffie wrote a letter addressing the controversy: "Static is a fun comic but it's never shied away from topics like gang violence, homophobia, and racism. It's not about to start now."
In 1997, a downturn in the industry forced Milestone to cease publication of its comics. Over the years, there were short-lived attempts to revive the comic book universe. Static joined the comics "Teen Titans" in the 2000s and later headlined his own comic series, which only lasted eight issues. In 2011, McDuffie died after complications of heart surgery and legal troubles between Milestone and his estate further prolonged attempts to bring back the universe to fans.
"It was a series of unfortunate circumstances that made that happen and it's taken a tremendous amount of effort on behalf of all parties to bring it back, but it had to be done," said Reginald Hudlin, a partner and writer with Milestone. "We said we were going to make this happen —we're glad that that day has arrived."
The comic book universe returned in February with the digital edition of "Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0," a preview into the universe and its upcoming books, with the physical edition releasing on May 25. The revival draws from the original books by reimagining the "Big Bang" event. This time around, the incident takes place at an anti-police brutality rally where police fire untested chemicals at protesters who gain superpowers.
The book sets the stage for each major Milestone character to be featured in their own books, including Static (June 15), Icon and Rocket (July 27) and Hardware (August 10). Milestone has largely remained on the minds of comic fans thanks to the popularity of Static, who appeared in his own television series, "Static Shock," from 2000 to 2004. Last summer, actor Michael B. Jordan announced he would join Hudlin to produce a new Static film for Warner Bros.
"When the first round of Milestone came out I was a fan. There was a hole that was open and that needed to be filled with great storytelling. There were no other books saying what those books were saying. The challenge for all of us bringing it back was we're not interested in nostalgia. We're interested in being as relevant and cutting edge today as the first launch of Milestone was," Hudlin said.
Milestone returns to a comic book industry that is noticeably more diverse than the '90s — with Black superheroes like Marvel's "Black Panther," "Luke Cage" and "Spider-Man: Miles Morales" gaining mainstream popularity with TV and film spin-offs. Still, Hudlin and Cowan believe Black representation in comics has a long way to go.
"Blackness is a constantly evolving and expanding term. There was a time when almost all Black Americans had a similar set of experiences — that's not been true for generations now. So when you go by exploring every aspect of it, thankfully that's a lifetime mission," Hudlin said.
Hudlin says everything is on the table for Milestones' future, including new television shows, live-action and animated films, along with toys and trading cards. And in addition to Milestone's well-known characters, Cowan said the creators will introduce new characters to the universe.
When Devin Robertson, a 28-year-old fan, was a child, his mother would give him $10 before he tagged along with his brother to a local comic book store in Jackson, Tennessee. Robertson never enjoyed "Goodnight Moon" or Dr. Seuss' books but credits Milestone with helping him learn how to read.
"Milestone Comics has been an integral part of my life since childhood," Robertson said. "I loved seeing so many diverse characters interact, not just diverse in race, but diverse in every way."
"Every character felt important and connected to the rest of the world, even the talking dog — the talking dog was my favorite," he added. "I'm beyond excited to see how their world has evolved."