By Nate Jones at Vulture.com
Reginald Hudlin directed House Party while he was still in his 20s; produced Django Unchained, The Boondocks, and The Bernie Mac Show; and helps put on the NAACP Image Awards. So when he wants to talk about race in Hollywood, you listen. In a new essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Hudlin uses the recent Selma Oscar snub to talk about the struggles of the film industry as a whole. “It’s easier for a black person to become president of the United States than it is to be president of a movie studio,” he notes, arguing that, “given the shrinking white population in this country, the lack of people of color in the suites and on the screens is just bad business.” Though the industry will say things have improved since the ’50s, Hudlin notes that many of the excuses for Hollywood’s lack of diversity are the same: Back then, those in power worried openly about turning off southern audiences; now they say the same thing about the international market. Both times, he says, they were wrong.
To make Hollywood walk the walk of its diversity talk, Hudlin proposes “taking action at every point in the food chain”: more internships to get young people of color into the industry, a greater emphasis on multiracial casting, and diversity bonuses for executives. Also, he says, we should change the way we talk about movies: “It would be great if the phrase ‘black film’ wasn’t just used when a movie makes less than $100 million.”
Special to the AmNews
Hollywood will be celebrating its fabulous Blackness with the the 46th NAACP Image Awards, a two-hour star-studded (live) event Friday, Feb. 6, on TV One at 9p.m. (ET/PT tape-delayed).
I’ve had the pleasure of working with host Anthony Anderson (in an indie film), and I know that he’s a hard-working man, despite his comedic persona. So Anderson hosting the NAACP Image Awards for the second time isn’t a surprise, but a welcoming confirmation.
Unless you reside under a very large and isolated rock, you know that Anderson is currently executive producing and starring in, alongside Laurence Fishburne and Tracee Ellis Ross, the ABC series “Black-ish,” for which he is also nominated for an Image Award this year.
“It is an honor and privilege to be asked back to host the NAACP Image Awards,” said Anderson. “The nominees this year are stellar and a testament to the talented individuals in our community. As a nine-time Image Award nominee, I could not be more proud, and I look forward to holding the record for most nominations without a win!”
In addition, also returning are Reginald Hudlin and Phil Gurin as executive producers. The production team includes Tony McCuin as director, Byron Phillips as producer and Robin Reinhart as the talent producer. Actor and musician Lance Reddick will be the in-show announcer.
Hudlin is the executive producer and writer of the “Black Panther” animated series and executive producer of “The Boondocks” animated series. From 2005 to 2009, Hudlin was the first president of entertainment for BET Networks, creating some of the networks’ highest rated shows during his tenure.
This summer, he partnered with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Hollywood Bowl to produce a live cinematic concert experience titled “The Black Movie Soundtrack,” which was a critical and commercial success.
“Building on the momentum and success from last year, we are planning an extraordinary show and securing today’s leading talent to be part of the celebration,” Hudlin and Gurin said in a statement. “It is an honor for us to work with the NAACP and TV One to create a show that recognizes such a diverse group of talented people, and we look forward to producing one of the premier awards show telecasts in America.”
The NAACP Image Awards celebrates the accomplishment of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. Winners will be voted on by NAACP members and announced when the envelopes are opened Thursday, Feb. 5 during the awards ceremony for non-televised categories. The remaining categories will be announced live on stage during the two-hour, star-studded TV One telecast Friday, Feb. 6. The telecast will also include a one-hour, pre-show airing live from the red carpet (8p.m. ET/PT tape-delayed).
For all information and the latest news, please visit www.naacpimageawards.net
Albert Ching, Managing Editor, Comic Book Resources
Milestone Media is back.
The return was made official earlier today, with the announcement that Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle — two of the founders of the original Milestone — have joined forces with Hollywood and comics veteran Reginald Hudlin to form what’s being referred to as “Milestone 2.0.”
CBR News sat down with both Cowan and Hudlin, who explained that in this new incarnation, the “Media” part of the name “Milestone Media” comes with an extra emphasis.
“This company is called Milestone Media,” Hudlin told CBR. “[Milestone] was never just a comic book company. [The] name indicated being bigger than a comic book company. and now that’s true more than ever. We’re going to be working on multiple platforms, and all kinds of ways of presenting these ideas.”
In fact, the next Milestone-related media project was actually revealed months before today’s news, an in-development live-action “Static Shock” digital series to be produced for Warner Bros. by Hudlin and Cowan, starring Static — one of Milestone’s flagship characters, and the star of an animated “Static Shock” series that ran from 2000 to 2004.
But the focus on “Media” doesn’t mean that Milestone is shying away from its comic book roots. Founded by Black comics and publishing professionals Cowan, Dingle, Michael Davis and the late Dwayne McDuffie, the company started with the goal of increasing representation of minorities in comics, both characters and creators. Milestone debuted in 1993 under a publishing deal with DC Comics, with “Hardware,” “Blood Syndicate,” “Iconic” and “Static” all running for dozens of issues before the imprint ended in 1997.
The characters have appeared sporadically since then — including “Static Shock” being incorporated into the DC Universe’s New 52 line in 2011 — and it looks like the new Milestone will continue this relationship with DC, while also expanding to other publishers.
“We’re working with DC on stuff,” Cowan said to CBR. “We’re currently speaking to a number of different publishers about a number of different projects that they want to do with us. DC’s an important partner for us. We’re exploring everything that’s being put in front of us. It’s been a very busy, exciting time. Hearing people’s enthusiasm about Milestone has been very encouraging to us.”
“Obviously Milestone and DC have a great history together,” Hudlin added. “We’re going to be doing more projects together. but we’re going to be doing business with a lot of different companies. Other publishers, other media companies.”
Other than the “Static Shock” live-action series, the details of exactly what the new Milestone is working on remain to be revealed. But Hudlin said there are “several other deals in motion” and more news will be coming “pretty soon,” as the revived company looks to structure itself based on “maximum flexibility for maximum creativity.”
“I look at what Mark Millar does and I’m very inspired,” Hudlin said.
Milestone 2.0 isn’t something that developed overnight — the origins date back to 2011. In February of that month, Hudlin organized a launch party at Golden Apple in Los Angeles for his website “Reggie’s World,” an online storefront to purchase comics by himself and like-minded creators. Dwayne McDuffie, shortly following the release of the “All-Star Superman” animated adaptation that he wrote, was scheduled to appear at the event, along with Hudlin, Cowan, Rashida Jones, Ziggy Marley and more.
“Dwayne was kind of the unofficial godfather, because he was so helpful to so many up and coming comic book people, like myself,” Hudlin said, citing McDuffie long with Cowan and Kyle Baker — as his three mentors in comics.
As comics fans know well, McDuffie tragically passed away at age 49, a day before his scheduled appearance at Golden Apple. The launch party turned into an ersatz memorial for the prolific writer, who beyond his Milestone work was a frequent contributor to both Marvel and DC’s superhero lore, along with numerous credits in animation.
“It was supposed to go from 7 to 9,” Hudlin said of the event. “It ended up starting at 6. As soon as I got there, there was this mob around the block. And it went to about 11 o’clock. It just kept going and going. At a certain point, it seemed like every Black creator on the west coast was in the room. We all gave some remarks about Dwayne. It was a celebration, it was sad, it was joyous, it was all these things.”
“Golden Apple had ordered all these extra books for the event,” Hudlin continued. “By the end of the night, the stocks were bare. you could not find a copy of ‘Black Panther,’ or any Black character. The place was just stripped.”
A couple of weeks later, many of the same names assembled at a more traditional memorial for McDuffie, with Hudlin, Cowan and Dingle all in attendance.
“After the event, Derek goes to Dennis and myself and says, ‘It’s been too long. We have to restart Milestone,'” Hudlin related. “Basically, at that moment, that was it. Milestone had reformed. Now, there was two years of legal paperwork after that. But that didn’t matter. The moment was right then. It was the call to arms. We’ve got to do this. There was nothing to say.”
Despite being an integral part of this new venture, Hudlin wasn’t a part of the original Milestone Media. His background is primarily in film and TV, having directed features including “House Party” and “Saturday Night Live” spinoff “The Ladies Man,” plus episodes of sitcoms like “Modern Family” and “The Office.” His first published comic book work was co-writing the 2004 original graphic novel “Birth of a Nation,” followed by a run on “Black Panther” for Marvel that started a year later.
Art from “Icon,” one of the flagship books of the original Milestone. Cowan and Hudlin say they’re not going to coast on nostalgia, but will revive existing characters.
That doesn’t mean that Milestone was off Hudlin’s radar — or vice versa. As a lifelong comics fan, Hudlin was inspired by the work the company was doing, and Cowan said they long wanted to work with the writer/director.
“To me, there were a couple of really important things about Milestone,” Hudlin said. “First, the craftsmanship was excellent. The second thing, they kind of fulfilled what I thought their mission was: To make real comic books that really capture the complexities of Black life. There’s not one kind of Black person in those books. There are all kinds of Black people in those books; capturing all of those nuances, subtleties and complexities. That’s what made the line so fantastic.”
“We wanted him to join,” Cowan said of Hudlin. “From before we did our first comic book, we wanted Reggie to join. We were after him to join. We’ve always considered him part of the family.”
“I just thought, I’ve only made one movie, I should probably get this movie thing down a little bit before I overextend myself,” Hudlin added with a laugh.
There’s still a lot to be unveiled of the new Milestone Media, but Hudlin and Cowan both made one thing clear: While the old characters will be a part of it, they won’t be the only part of it, as they’re looking to also aggressively pursue new ideas and concepts, to develop across multiple platforms. And even the familiar characters may not be so familiar.
“We’re not just going to be a legacy company,” Hudlin said. “Yes, there were some fantastic creations made, and we’re going to certainly revive those characters. But we’re not just going to revive them. We’re going to make them relevant for this generation.”
“We’re not in the nostalgia business,” Cowan added. “We feel, if anyone wants to read those books, those books exist. You can go out and find those books and read them. If you love those characters as they were then, those characters exist as they were then. But in order to reintroduce them, there’s going to be some necessary adjustments made to these iconic characters.”
In the Washington Post article announcing Milestone 2.0, this July’s installment of the annual Comic-Con International in San Diego was named as a possible venue for debuting more of what Hudlin, Cowan and Dingle have in the works. Whether or not a new comic book or the live-action “Static Shock” will be the first product released to the public isn’t yet clear, but Milestone is aiming to be a lot of different things in a lot of different places, while building off of the legacy and ideals of the original company.
“We have so many new ideas, some of which might be right for comics, for television, for movies, for online,” Hudlin said. “We’re going to be a lot of things. That’s who we are. We are a new company with this fantastic legacy behind us.”
Albert Ching, Managing Editor, Comic Book Resources
On Wednesday, comic book fans were surprised to learn that Milestone Media has returned in what’s been dubbed “Milestone 2.0,” a company headed by original co-founders Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle, plus comics and Hollywood veteran Reginald Hudlin. Though specific plans have yet to be revealed, the new Milestone looks to return to comics — again pairing with ’90s publishing partner DC Comics, along with reaching out to new outlets — and also pursuing opportunities in a variety of media, buoyed by the original goal of increasing minority representation in both characters and creators.
But maybe fans shouldn’t have been quite that surprised. Back in October a live-action “Static Shock” series was announced as part of the initial lineup of programming for Warner Bros.’ new short-form digital division, Blue Ribbon Content, with both Hudlin and Cowan on board as producers. While it’s still early in the process, the show will feature Static, one of the marquee Milestone characters who gained a larger audience through the 2000-2004 “Static Shock” animated series and was subsequently introduced into the DC Universe alongside that company’s iconic roster.
Though Static is a more than 20-year-old character at this point, Hudlin and Cowan told CBR News that they feel a live-action “Static Shock” series — starring a teenage Black male science nerd superhero — is “more timely than ever,” both due to growing changes towards minority representation, and the multiple recent headlines of violence and murder towards Black youth.
CBR News: Reggie, Denys, fans were surprised when the “Static Shock” live-action digital series was announced back in October — it was the first we’ve seen from the character in a while, and not necessarily the obvious choice of a comic book character to lead a new digital initiative. What can you share about how this came to be?
Reginald Hudlin: We’re working out our deal , pretty excited about all this, and then, we get this random call from Blue Ribbon — the division of Warner Bros. “Hey, we want to do a live-action Static. What do you think?” Uh, yeah! “But we want to do this deal super-quick. We want to announce our division, we want this to be sort of the prime driver — we have a lot of exciting properties, but this is the most exciting thing.”
Denys Cowan: Part of us were like, “OK, yeah, right. I’m sure you want to make this your prime thing.” But OK, we’ll take the meeting. So we took the meeting, and Sam Register was very excited about it, and quite serious, and they made the announcement. Big picture of Static Shock. They used Static Shock to announce Blue Ribbon, basically. That’s when we knew they were very serious, because they could have picked anything. They could have picked Flash, they could have picked Superman, but they didn’t do that.
Hudlin: Every meeting we’ve had with Sam Register and the folks at Blue Ribbon has been bigger and better. We’re so in love with each other — we’re having so much fun on this property. Denys, of course, had already done tons of brainstorming of what we thought it could be.
Cowan: Reggie pitched them a story, and they loved it.
Hudlin: They said, “OK, don’t start writing yet…” So I started writing. [Laughs] Everyone’s been just so fired up and so supportive and so enthusiastic. It’s just a great process. It’s literally the most exciting thing I’m working on right now. It feels like some sort of weird summation of everything. Everyone who hears about it, they’re like, “That’s the thing.”
It’s weird, because so much of it comes from what Static is as a concept. It’s amazing, because Static as an idea is more timely than ever. Part of it is just how history moves. But in terms of social relevance and who he is and what he represents, it’s perfect. You’ve got these fans who grew up reading the comic book when they were 10 or 12, now they’re young adults, they’ve got kids. It’s a project that’s very much on the fast track. I don’t have a timetable for you, I don’t have any real details about it, but it’s moving very quickly, and literally everyone who’s in the room loses their mind. That’s what’s so crazy! No one doesn’t get it. Everyone goes, “Oh, yes. That!” It’s really been a fantastic experience.
Let’s talk a bit more about those qualities of Static as a character — of all the original Milestone characters, Static has endured the most, gained the most popularity, starred in an animated series and relatively recently was in his own DC Comics series. What do you think it is about the character in particular has contributed to that long life, heading into this new spotlight of a live-action digital series?
Cowan: To me, a lot of it has to do with the kinds of stories that we told with “Static Shock.” But a lot of it has to do with his personality, because Static isn’t a dark character, he’s not a dark, driven, blah blah blah — he actually represents light in every situation. Whenever you hear his name, there’s a positive feeling, not a bad feeling. He has a lot of the same qualities as Spider-Man, and was designed very specifically to have certain qualities that we like about that character, and we like about a lot of the heroes that we like.
Hudlin: The only thing more alienated that a science nerd is a Black science nerd. [Laughs] At the same time, we’re living in this era where nerds rule.
Cowan: And a lot of people identity with Static. He’s aspirational. He’s basically the skinny kid, the nerd, scientist, who got picked on and then got powers. And then still got picked on, but at least he had powers.
Hudlin: It’s his personality, it’s his attitude about life, and the fact that the Milestone Universe, in a lot of ways, just feels more grounded in the real world than a lot of superhero characters. A lot of times when people talk about “grounding,” what they mean is grim and gritty, which turns into a shock effect approach. As opposed to, just being really honest about the complexities of being a young person and all the choices you have to make.
Cowan: Having to figure things out.
Hudlin: When you deal with ethnicity, with class from an inside-out way — not like, “What are those people doing?” but, “Here are experiences that we went through, that we can just take on a larger scale once you add superpowers.” When you look at the world that young people are living in today, and the diminishment of opportunities, the vilification of being young, of being of color, certainly of being a young Black male, where you’re presumed guilty until proven dead — and then we’ll really talk about you.
Cowan: Or you’re taking your life in your hands every time you go outside. There’s a lot of powerlessness that comes with that feeling.
Hudlin: That’s a great way of putting it. So what happens with this kid when he gets a little bit of power? What are those choices? When there’s not clear right or wrong, how do you know what to do? What’s your relationship with your parents? What’s your relationship with the world? What is it you really desire?
Cowan: And, what does it mean to be a hero, and how do you use your powers for good? And why? And how do you measure good? These are all the things that we talked about in “Static Shock,” and that we’ll continue to talk about in the [live-action] series.
Hudlin: It’s all about, “Y’know, these choices really aren’t that easy.” We really tried to create as many moral dilemmas as possible. If you’re any kind of writer, you try to make the antagonists as relatable as possible, and I really love our antagonist in this series. We try to never take the easy way out, and give them all very good reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing, so you can feel conflicted even as the hero may be winning or losing — because what’s really the win, or what’s really the loss, here? All those actions are the ripple effect that keeps going on — we’re not going to have clean resets, everything goes back to normal at the end of that storyline.
It’s also the fun of having your own universe. It’s great to have the extraordinary legacy of DC and Marvel Comics, where you have characters that have a 75-year history. But there’s also something great about [not having] to feel insecure because you don’t know about all these stories and characters that were created before you were born. I know I like that when I read new characters and new comics.
Cowan: It’s easy entry, as opposed to this complex thing.
Hudlin: And as popular as those characters were in their first incarnation, there’s no doubt they’re all going to be bigger now, because frankly, the mental health or our nation just keeps getting better. When my 10-year-old daughter has play dates with her friends in Beverly Hills, amongst the pile of Barbie dolls, there are some Black Barbie dolls, because people are just less racially hung up. People just want the cool thing. They just go, “Oh, that looks cool.” We know that our audience is really broad, and we’re going to make multiracial comics for a multiracial generation.
Cowan: One of the reasons why Static, and a lot of the Milestone characters, are popular, is that he’s an original character. We gave them qualities that we liked in other things, but he’s an original character, from a very distinct point of view, and not derivative in terms of being “the Black version” of anything.
People responded to that, and that’s why they responded to “Blade.” Even though he was a vampire hunter, you hadn’t seen a vampire hunter like that. He wasn’t the Black version of Van Helsing, or something.
There definitely seems to be increasing diversity in high-profile comic book-based adaptations — shows like “The Flash” and “Arrow” have major Black characters — but minorities haven’t been the lead character yet, as opposed to in this instance, and a few other upcoming projects. That seems like a huge part in the move forward.
Hudlin: People clamor for “Black Panther” or “Luke Cage,” and the incredible response when the “Static” show was announced — that wasn’t just Black fans going “yay, about time.” That was fans going, “yay, about time.” Everyone knows diversity is good. We want Black superheroes, we want female superheroes, we want Latino superheroes. That makes things better. And they don’t have to be sidekicks or buddies, they can be rock stars themselves.
Cowan: Original rock stars.
“Static Shock” is relatively uncharted territory in that it’s a superhero show released in a digital format, with short-form episodes. It’s early still, but how has that shaped things, creatively?
Hudlin: I’ve been lucky enough to work in movies, in TV shows, in comic books, in music videos, in commercials. One thing I’ve learned is, you just have to respect the rules of each medium. Everything is different. Doing short-form is important, and you have to make it work, so when you sit down and click on it, and it may be the first one you click on, it works as a standalone piece. At the same time, when you watch it, you’re going to want to see more, for sure. My job is to hook you.
At the same time, that property is probably going to have an afterlife. You’re going to see all those pieces, and they may form like Voltron at the end of it. It’s a tricky process, but as we’ve been working on it, it’s been really satisfying.
The thing I also love about digital, quite frankly, is the speed. I’ve worked in movies and TV a long time, and there’s a lot of thinking, there’s a lot of masticating, and digital is, “Sounds great, let’s do it now. How fast can it be on? How fast can you make another one?” It’s just not so slow. I don’t know if all that overthinking is making better product. Most pilots fail, right? I like the idea of, “Let’s just go do it.”
Sometimes you just have to go for it, and that’s what makes thing happen. The attitude, the spirit of digital production, I think is really helping us. You just got to make moves.
By Joshua Rivera, Entertainment Weekly
The late Dwayne McDuffie is an icon of the modern comics landscape. As the writer of offbeat and much-loved series like Damage Control and Beyond!, McDuffie’s work was wholly unique—and as a producer on Justice League Unlimited, he played a huge role in the development of one of the most iconic and successful superhero TV series ever made. Although he was a widely recognized, award-winning writer and editor, a big part of McDuffie’s legacy was the enormous amount of energy he put into championing diversity in comic books. To that end, he founded Milestone Media in 1993, to better represent minorities in the comics industry. Milestone’s comic books (which were published via an arrangement with DC) mostly petered out in the late 90s, while its characters—Static Shock being the most famous—would occasionally be brought back throughout the 2000s.
Now, in the four years since McDuffie’s death (he was 49), his former Milestone cofounders Derek Dingle and Denys Cowan—along with writer-producer Reginald Hudlin—are ready to bring Milestone back.
According to The Washington Post, Hudlin, Cowan, and Dingle are planning on bringing back Milestone’s roster of characters, from Static Shock to Icon and Xombi, while also introducing a bevy of new ones. The trio’s ambitions are huge—they don’t want to just return to comics, but to work across a variety of mediums (like that live-action Static Shock project). The company’s commitment to characters of color won’t waver in the least.
“We’ve never just done black characters just to do black characters,” Denys Cowan told the Post. “It’s always come from a specific point of view, which is what made our books work. What we also didn’t do, which is the trend now, is [to] have characters that are, not blackface, but they’re the black versions of the already established white characters — as if it gives legitimacy to these black characters in some kind of way — [that] these characters are legitimate because now there’s a black Captain America”
Even though it reads as a not-so-subtle jab at Marvel’s recent efforts, it’s also an ethos that’s definitely in keeping with McDuffie’s original intent for Milestone—to create a universe full of diverse heroes so that no one character would ever have to represent an entire race. But it’s not just about characters—a big part of Milestone’s legacy, and the trio’s plan for its revival, is in fostering diverse talent as well.
While the new Milestone hasn’t announced anything yet, Cowan hopes to show off the start of Milestone’s next chapter at this summer’s San-Diego Comic-Con.