When Marvel Comics first launched the character of Black Panther, it was in the July 1966 issue of “Fantastic Four.” As explained in this exclusive clip from the upcoming Disney Plus documentary “Marvel’s Behind the Mask,” premiering Feb. 12, the character of T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, was presented just like any other Marvel superhero — attention wasn’t paid to the color of his skin, but rather to the supreme quality of his abilities.
“The first Black superhero, Black Panther, comes out perfect,” says writer-director Reginald Hudlin, who wrote a run of Black Panther comics in the 2000s. “He’s this cool, elegant, handsome guy who’s just got it on lock.”
But as the clip also demonstrates, there’s one essential element of Black Panther that was glaringly incorrect: His skin is grey, not brown.
“They got so much right, as far as making it just this inevitability that there’d be a Black superhero,” “Behind the Mask” director Michael Jacobs tells Variety. “And yet they still hadn’t caught up yet in, like, just the pure, functional side of making comics. It still wasn’t being produced in a way that represented the rich hue of a true brown color. We see that sort of back and forth along the way, throughout their history, trying to get the lived experience into the comic, but then also realizing the shortcomings of that when it hasn’t been fully worked out yet.”
As initially conceived, “Behind the Mask” was only going to be about the history of Black Panther and T’Challa in Marvel Comics, in anticipation of the release of the feature film “Black Panther.” But as Jacobs and producers Chris Gary and Ryan Simon quickly realized in their research, the full history of Marvel’s efforts to break ground with representation — in race, gender and sexual orientation — was much richer and more complicated than just a single character.
“It became really clear that there was a lot more that Marvel had done as a creator of content to address all the ways that people can be othered or outside of acceptance,” says Gary.
In “Behind the Mask,” for example, we see Marvel guru Stan Lee in his heyday ensuring that background characters in the comics represented the full gamut of racial and ethnic diversity, rather than just a sea of white faces. The comics also included many female heroes, and the relaunch of the X-Men in the 1970s became a clear metaphor for the LGBTQ experience in the U.S.
At the same time, however, Marvel’s first explicitly gay character, Northstar, wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend for years, and at one point was revealed to be, no joke, part fairy. Many of the early female superheroes weren’t nearly as complex as their male counterparts, and they were often drawn as sexualized objects. And along with coloring Black characters as grey rather than brown, for years Marvel used yellow for the skin tone of its Asian characters.
The latter was an especially shocking discovery for Gary, who is Black and has children of Black and Asian heritage. “I don’t know how I would explain that to my kids,” he says. “That’s a conversation you don’t really want to have, but it’s a necessary conversation.”
Rather than shy away from its less than admirable history, the “Behind the Mask” filmmakers say Marvel’s executives were on board with a warts-and-all look at the company’s efforts with representation. “They were complete partners,” says Gary. “They accepted the fact that we were going to make some things uncomfortable.” The company even opened up its vault so the filmmakers could access the full range of its history.
“There were certain things that we needed to scan that weren’t part of the digital history, that were important to the storytelling,” says Simon. “We needed to get that older imagery out of the vault.”
None of the filmmakers counted themselves as die-hard comic book fans, but the experience of excavating through so much of Marvel’s history left them enormously appreciative for the people who worked to bring so many now-iconic superheroes to life.
“So much of the pop-culture imagination around Marvel is now through the movies,” says Jacobs. “This is a nice reminder that that intellectual property was created a long time ago by some really smart, intelligent people who had amazing ideas and amazing artistry and narrative strength. … They did fall into stereotypes, and they did make mistakes. But there was still something uniquely special about making these comic books and creating these characters.”
Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0 Arrives Digitally February 26 and in Comic Book Stores on May 25
Includes New Content Reintroducing the Events of the Big Bang and More
2021 “Milestone Mondays” Debuting in April with New Digital-First Miniseries: Static, Icon & Rocket, Hardware
BURBANK, CA (February 12, 2021) – Following 2020’s surprise panel at DC FanDome Hall of Heroes, DC today announced more details on the return of the fan-favorite Milestone universe of characters from the city of Dakota.
“Since the FanDome panel, Reggie [Hudlin], Denys [Cowan], and our editorial team have been working incredibly hard to bring this new Milestone to life,” said DC publisher and chief creative officer Jim Lee. “It’s been exciting to see fresh and contemporary takes on the Dakota universe coming together; I think that both new fans and old will be pleased with the results.”
In addition to being one of the co-founders of Milestone Media, Denys Cowan is a legendary comic book artist with a prolific DC pedigree, providing art for series such as The Question, The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage, Batman Black & White, and Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child. Reginald “Reggie” Hudlin is a partner in Milestone Media, as well as an Oscar- and Emmy-nominated film and television producer and director. His comic book credits include award-winning runs on Black Panther and Spider-Man for Marvel.
Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0
The excitement kicks off February 26 with a digital-first “extended cut” of the Milestone Returns #0 one-shot. Originally available only during 2020’s DC FanDome Hall of Heroes and Explore the Multiverse, this updated edition also arrives in comic book stores on May 25. Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0 combines the original 17-page comic with an additional 24 pages of completely new material written by Reginald Hudlin and drawn by artists Denys Cowan, Nikolas Draper-Ivey, Bill Sienkiewicz, and more.
This added content includes a retelling of the events of the Big Bang, the police-brutality protest that unleashed a sudden wave of superpowers in the city of Dakota. This $4.99 “director’s cut” also features content introducing the full new creative teams behind Static, Icon & Rocket, and Hardware, the digital-first series spawned by this new Big Bang, along with a reveal of their issue #1 covers.
“The response from fans after the DC FanDome panel was overwhelming, and that makes this news even more exciting for Denys and me,” said Hudlin. “Introducing these ‘seasons’ of Static, Icon, Rocket, and Hardware is just the beginning. There will be more stories with these favorite characters to come, and fans will see appearances from the legendary Blood Syndicate, setting the stage for an explosive Milestone event later in the year.”
In addition, DC’s future plans include the long-awaited launch of Earth M, a new line of comics conceived by Cowan and Hudlin, which will include the return of Duo, introduced to readers in Milestone Returns “#0, and other characters who will also appear in Milestone comics.
FullFuStatic Digital-First Miniseries
Following in April, fans can expect new adventures of Dakota teenager Virgil Hawkins in a six-issue Static digital-first series.
In this monthly miniseries (20 pages per issue), bullied nerd Virgil is gifted with incredible electromagnetic powers in the wake of the Big Bang. Now he finds himself caught between an over-militarized police response to Black kids getting special abilities and some of those kids who are using those powers in dangerous and destructive ways. But when the bullies who terrorized him before the Big Bang show up with powers of their own, can Static be the hero that Dakota needs?
Static launches Monday, April 12. Each 20-page issue will be available on participating digital platforms for $3.99.
Icon & Rocket Digital-First Miniseries
The return of Augustus Freeman and Raquel Ervin is also in the works, with a new series featuring Icon and Rocket.
What happens when superheroes actually make a difference? When Raquel Ervin broke into the home of a wealthy Black lawyer, she didn’t expect to learn that he was a nearly omnipotent alien, lost in despair of ever returning home—and he didn’t expect that she would inspire him to emerge from the shadows and become a force for change on the planet he’s trapped on. What starts out as a simple request to stop the drug trafficking in her neighborhood turns into a mission to eliminate the drug trade worldwide. However, this act of heroism has unexpected consequences, making the pair the two most wanted criminals in the world when actually stopping crime leads to the collapse of the global economy!
The debut issue of this six-issue monthly series (20 pages each) arrives June 21 for $3.99 per issue.
Hardware Digital-First Miniseries
The relaunch of Milestone would not be complete without some mention of Curtis Metcalf, and beginning August 23, the first wave of new Milestone stories climaxes with the return of Hardware in a new digital-first series. This six-issue monthly series features the return of legendary artist and Milestone cofounder Denys Cowan with Bill Sienkiewicz on the character that completes the foundation of Milestone and the Dakota universe, both past and present.
All his life, young prodigy Curtis Metcalf was told he was special, and that he would save the world. But it turns out that Alva Industries wanted his beautiful mind for something a lot less noble than that—and his technology has made him the fall guy for the tragedy of the Big Bang. But Curtis is smart enough to not go out like that—and smart enough to steal his inventions back from Alva and start the process of remaking the world his way.
“Bringing back Milestone and the Dakota universe with DC has been an amazing journey,” said Cowan. “Getting the chance to do Hardware again with Bill Sienkiewicz is a dream come true. It’s the book that Dwayne McDuffie and I did together at Milestone originally, and I’ve always felt a strong connection to Curtis Metcalf. We can’t wait to bring fans the new adventures of Hardware!”
New issues of this series will be available each month for $3.99.
Milestone Media is a Black-owned content creation company that produces publishing, motion pictures, television, and other forms of entertainment. The three principals of the company are Denys Cowan, Reginald Hudlin, and Derek Dingle. For more information, go to www.milestone.media.
DC, a WarnerMedia Company, creates iconic characters, enduring stories, and immersive experiences that inspire and entertain audiences of every generation around the world and is one of the world’s largest publishers of comics and graphic novels. As a creative division, DC is charged with strategically integrating its stories and characters across film, television, consumer products, home entertainment, interactive games, and the DC UNIVERSE INFINITE digital subscription service and community engagement portal. For more information visit dccomics.com and dcuniverseinfinite.com
The Apollo celebrates 30 Years of House Party in an evening featuring performances, conversations and highlights from the musical and comedy cult classics House Party (1990) and House Party 2 (1991). These iconic films were among the first films to center the Black teenage experience for a mainstream audience.
30 Years of House Party will feature performances by Kid N’Play, hip-hop group Full Force, Lisa Lisa, and DJ Wiz and appearances by some of the film’s key players including A.J. Johnson; Darryl “Chill” Mitchell; writer and director Reginald Hudlin; and other special guests. This ultimate 90s throwback is a celebration of a pivotal moment in Black cinema and hip-hop history.
Created and produced by Cali Green, the Screen/Play series celebrates “throwback” films and their soundtracks.
Appearances by: Kid ‘N Play AJ Johnson Darryl “Chill” Mitchell Reginald Hudlin
Performances by: Full Force Lisa Lisa DJ Wiz
HOW TO WATCH:
On the day of the event, use the BrandLive Link that is sent to your email address to access the online stream.
When prompted, enter the email address that you used to purchase your ticket
Warrington Hudlin, Sr. was born in Hot Springs Arkansas in 1933, became a celebrated Lindy Hopper in the Roxy in New York City and was the table tennis champion of New York. He served in World War Two, was a journalist, and was one of the first Black graduates of St. Louis University.
He founded Hudlin and Co. Insurance Agency in East St. Louis. He also built the home he raised his family in and founded State Community College, among other civic causes where he took a leadership role. He died in 1988.
Here we see Hudlin in 1947 in an article in the Pittsburg Courier.
In honor of Black History Month, the City of East St. Louis would like to celebrate the success of East St. Louis Champions.
Reginald Hudlin is a pioneer of the modern Black Film Movement.
Hudlin grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, Reginald is a 30-year veteran of film and television.
Hudlin has written, directed and/or produced numerous popular feature films including House Party (1990), Boomerang (1992) and Bebe’s Kids (1992). Hudlin was also an executive producer of The Boondocks. He wrote the first 38 issues of volume 4 of “Black Panther” and made the Panther “unapologetically black.” He also created T’Challa’s sister, Princess Shuri, and sculpted her into a strong African warrior who brought feminism to the series. Along with the original founding members, Hudlin revived the beloved comic book company Milestone Media.
As Black Entertainment Television’s first president of entertainment (2005-2009), Hudlin shepherded some of the networks’s biggest hits, including Sunday best, BET Honors and The BET Hip Hop Awards. He also built BET’s profitable home entertainment division and revamped the network’s news division, which went onto win more than a dozen awards during that period. #bhm #ESL #estl #Black History Month
A-Rod is swinging for the fences. Alex Rodriguez has filed for a $500 million IPO through a special purpose acquisition company named Slam Corp. The retired baseball great is CEO of the SPAC, which intends “to focus on businesses in the sports, media, entertainment, health and wellness and consumer technology sectors, however, we do not intend to target professional sports franchises,” according to the prospectus filed this afternoon with the Securities & Exchange Commission.
Joining Rodriguez in the venture are eight other executives, including Kelly Laferriere, a sports and media executive who has worked with A-Rod Corp., and at ESPN; Jagdeep Singh, the founder of QuantumScape, a high-profile publicly traded battery maker; Himanshu Gulati, the founder of Antara Capital and other of his executives. Reggie Hudlin, who has written the Black Panther comic and been involved as a writer, director and producer in numerous Hollywood projects, including Django Unchained, is among the directors. Marc Lore, former CEO of Walmart is a special advisor to the SPAC.
A-Rod, along with partner J-Lo, Jennifer Lopez, recently saw an investment in Hims & Hers Inc., pay off when a SPAC brought that business public. SPACs are blank check companies that raise money in an IPO with the intention of then acquiring an operating business. A-Rod’s effort is another of more than four dozen sports-related SPACs to enter the marketplace since DraftKings went public by SPAC last spring.
Slam will sell units for $10 each, consisting of one share and one-fourth of a warrant to buy an additional share at $11.50. Goldman Sachs and BTIG are the bookrunners, the banks that will market the offering to Wall Street.