It’s taken far too long, but Virgil Hawkins—better known to millions of fans as Static—has returned to comic racks with Static: Season One #1, the first ongoing series released as part of the new Milestone Media. Originally conceived to fill the slot of a wisecracking teen hero when Static first debuted in 1993, creators Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and Robert Washington III soon crafted a more human world for Virgil within the wild and cosmic universe of Dakota. It was that special blend of comedy and drama that brought the character to the small screen in animated form, and through that television series, Static’s appearances increased to where he’s now an icon of Black superheroes. But there’s more to the turbo-charged teen than just his origin story. Let’s go through a list of five things the average fan might not know about Static.
Static Isn’t Always Part of the DC Universe
Although Milestone was published and distributed through DC Comics in 1993, its characters existed in another universe when they made their debut. Superman, Batman and the rest were as fictional to Virgil Hawkins and his contemporaries as they are to us. This was made abundantly clear in the 1994 crossover Worlds Collide when Static, Icon and Rocket, Hardware and the Blood Syndicate crossed over with Superman, Superboy and Steel. The former heroes greeted the latter with jokes and derision, asking where Lois Lane and Krypto the Superdog were, bewildering the Super-Team. It wouldn’t be until Dwayne McDuffie’s run of Justice League of America in 2008 where the Milestone and DC heroes officially started operating in the same universe, with only Icon and Superman aware of the discrepancies.
This was also the case in the initial seasons of the animated series. “Frozen Out” had Static cheerfully referring to Daisy as “Lois” when he rescued her from falling debris. Of course, by the third season when Static would meet Superman, the worlds were subsumed as one within the DC Universe.
However, all of this changed again with the release of Milestone Returns #0 earlier this year. While all of Milestone’s heroes will operate within the same universe, it will be separate from the DCU. As writer Reginald Hudlin put it in a recent interview, “We’re telling our own stories and we need our own universe to do it.”
That doesn’t mean crossovers couldn’t happen down the line, but don’t expect to see Static joining Young Justice any time soon.
Virgil’s Friends and Family Changed From Comics to TV
In adapting Static for animation, small changes were made during the transition. In the Milestone series, the only person who knew Virgil’s secret identity was his friend and crush Frieda Goren. Discovering his secret after a failed attempt to rescue her from the villain Hotstreak in Static #1, Frieda was his sole confidant, helping him with excuses to his friends and patching him up whenever he returned injured from a fight.
While the character was included in the animated series, the role of Virgil’s best friend was occupied by Richie Folely, who was a modified version of another character from Virgil’s comic book supporting cast—Rick Stone.
The most notable change to Virgil’s cast, however, was with his family. In the comics, he was the youngest child of Robert and Jean Hawkins, and younger brother to Sharon. In the TV series, Jean had been killed before the events of the first episode due to gun violence. Although McDuffie objected to this change as his intentions with Static was to show a young black hero with a nuclear family, he did appreciate the storytelling opportunities the change afforded the series, such as in the season three episode “Flashback.”
While Static: Season One is just starting and we don’t yet know what’s ahead, so far Virgil’s full family seems to be intact and both Frieda and Richie look like they’re in on the secret. We’ll have to see how things progress with all of them as the series continues.
Static Can Do More Than Just Zap You
Contrary to popular belief, Static’s electromagnetic abilities have a much wider breadth than just the power to shock and electrocute people. Creator Dwayne McDuffie had a master’s degree in physics and wanted Virgil’s geeky personality to come from a place of real intelligence. As such, Virgil often uses his abilities in a variety of unexpected ways, even surprising himself with new discoveries.
Many of his capabilities are derived through his electromagnetism, which he employs to levitate himself across town. When he was first starting out, Virgil would fly on metal trash cans and sewer covers, but eventually he developed his Static Saucer—an aluminum disk he uses to travel at a moment’s notice. His powers also enable him to control any electronic machinery or technology, and even increase his healing factor. An example of this can be found in his New 52 series, when his arm was sliced off at the end of Static Shock #1. In issue #2, it instantly reattaches itself, leaving only a minor bruise. This discovery freaked Virgil out, as the new limits he was learning about himself were happening at too fast a rate for him to handle.
Static’s Villains Have Become a Part of the DCU
In the animated series, a number of new villains were created to round out Virgil’s rogues gallery. Ebon, Talon, Shiv, Onyx and Kangor were all original creations for the series. However, there were still several characters from Static’s series that were brought along for the adaptation. Hotstreak, the first villain Virgil fought in his comic series, was the first villain he battled in his animated show as well. (Keeping with the tradition, he’s also Virgil’s first adversary in Static: Season One.) Edwin Alva, the main antagonist of the hero Hardware—referenced in the episode “Gear”—was included to bedevil Static as a criminal businessman. Other characters like Puff, Brickhouse and Aquamaria—some of which were members of the Blood Syndicate—were also carried over from the comics.
However, one of Static’s most prominent antagonists, and a chief member of the Blood Syndicate, was Holocaust. A Bang Baby with a powerful control over fire, the two first crossed paths in Static #4. Later, when Static was brought over to the DCU and joined the Teen Titans, he returned home to Dakota after he’d been kidnapped for months by the Terror Titans. There, he ran into Holocaust again, who tried to have Virgil join his side.
Virgil refused, but Holocaust was too powerful to take down alone. Fortunately, the Titans arrived to back him up and with the combined help of Superboy, Kid Flash and the others, they literally put Holocaust into the ground for good. Though never represented in the Static Shock animated series, Holocaust did show up in season three of Young Justice.
In the Past, Static and Tim Drake Have Been Bros
Static’s interaction with the Teen Titans—particularly Robin—has a storied history. As he was originally separate from the DCU, Static only first met Batman and Robin in the season two premiere episode “The Big Leagues.” While Batman was stern but eventually respectful, Virgil struck up an easy friendship with Robin. This carried over into the episode “Future Shock,” but it was in “Hard as Nails” where Static’s future with the Teen Titans would be obliquely foreshadowed as Batman surmised that Virgil would join up with them someday.
This prediction came true on the comic page in Terror Titans where a kidnapped Virgil was forced by the Clock King to compete in the Dark Side Club, a gladiator-like deathmatch between metahumans. Too powerful to be controlled, Virgil was under heavy sedation until the Titans rescued him. He remained a member until he mysteriously lost his powers during a rescue mission to recover Raven. Aiming to return to Dakota for good, he’d been persuaded by Cyborg to stay close with the team, as Dakota would be better off with Static as a fully powered hero.
We next see Virgil in the New 52, having moved to New York with his powers fully restored. Armed with a sweet laboratory HQ and a new costume courtesy of Hardware, Virgil is approached by Tim Drake to help fix Kid Flash, whose speed powers were affecting his health.
We won’t be seeing Static and Robin hanging much in the future, but what came before still exists, and we like to think there’s some planet out there in the Multiverse where Virgil and Tim are kicking it together as they clean up the streets of their cities.
So, did you know those five facts? If you did, congrats—you’re a Milestone master! But it’s all good even if you didn’t. Static: Season One #1 is a fresh start. It’s a good guess that much of what’s been true for Virgil in the past may be true no longer. After all, despite what you might have heard, lightning can strike more than once. But it never strikes in the exact same way.