Hudlin Entertainment

Milestone Media Rises Again

Hudlin, Cowan and Dingle will revive company with eye toward characters of color

By David Betancourt January 21, The Washington Post

Milestone Media’s Reggie Hudlin

ED. NOTE: Four years ago next month, comics and animation figure Dwayne McDuffie died suddenly at age 49. “He was at a career peak,” friend and colleague Reggie Hudlin told me at the time. “His life was hitting on all cylinders. … That is the tragedy of it.” Hudlin also noted that McDuffie fought for multiculturalism in comics: “He was a great comic writer and editor,” as well as a successful businessman who launched “the first black comic-book company with Milestone Media, [creating] characters that have a huge cultural footprint.” Today, Hudlin and his Milestone partners bring us big news born out of McDuffie’s untimely passing.
– M.C.

THE IDEA AROSE not just in the wake of Dwayne McDuffie’s death, but also at the wake to remember the man.

Reggie Hudlin, the “Django Unchained” producer, spoke at the gathering in 2011 with artist Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle, who with McDuffie had co-founded Milestone Media, the prominent minority-owned comics publisher. McDuffie, also known for his DC Comics work, was widely considered to be a pioneer in his efforts to diversify the comic-book industry, prior to his shocking death at age 49.

“Derek said, ‘It’s been too long. We’ve got to restart the company’,” Hudlin recounts to The Post’s Comic Riffs, of that day in 2011. “So the three of us have been working for the past two years on sorting out all the business, and now we are the core of Milestone Media 2.0.”

Jungle Action featuring The Black PantherThat’s right. Hudlin, Cowan and Dingle tell Comic Riffs that they are working together to revive the company that debuted more than 20 years ago before its demise in 1997 — a publisher that could boast of such heroes of color as Icon, Hardware and Static Shock. That means Milestone titles will soon return to comics shops physical and virtual.

“One thing I’ve always loved about the company [is] even the name, Milestone Media,” says Hudlin, who has written for Black Panther, the Stan Lee-era Marvel character who so inspired McDuffie to pursue comics as a career. “It’s going to be a company that will not just be doing comic books. [We’re] going to be working on a lot of different mediums.”

Hudlin says that Milestone Media will bring back many of the classic characters, as well as introduce new heroes. (It has been announced that a live-action Static Shock series is in the works from Warner Bros., which owns DC Comics.)

Milestone originally had a partnership with DC Comics, and in the early ’90s, DC and Milestone collaborated on a crossover, called “Worlds Collide,” that introduced heroes from the DC universe to heroes from the Milestone universe.

The triumvirate behind the new Milestone Media says that there are many things to sort out on the company’s business side, including potential partnerships. The L.A.-based Milestone Media “will be working with a wide array of companies — both different publishers as well as other media companies,” Hudlin tells The Post.

In recent years, major comics publishers have aimed to make real strides in character diversity. Marvel, for example, has introduced a half-black/half-Puerto Rican Spider-Man (Miles Morales); a black Captain America (formerly the Falcon/Sam Wilson); and a female Thor. DC Comics has made similar advances with such existing characters as Green Lantern John Stewart, and by introducing Batwing (a black member of Batman’s team of crimefighters) during the debut of the New 52, and announcing that there will be a black Power Girl (Tanya Spears).

Yet Cowan says that putting a character of color in a well-known, previously white mantle doesn’t hold the same impact as creating a new wave of heroes for an ever-diverse readership and new generations of fans.

“There are all kinds of challenges that are facing people of color — that part hasn’t changed,” Cowan tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “What has changed is, there are a lot more characters of color in comics. What we feel is now, Milestone is necessary because of the types of characters that we do, and the viewpoint that we come from.”

Dwayne McDuffie“We’ve never just done black characters just to do black characters,” he continues. “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.

“Having been a creator of these characters and a consumer, I always looked at it like, ‘Well, geez, couldn’t you give me an original character?’ ” Cowan adds. “Black Panther worked because he was original. Static Shock worked because it was an original concept. It’s a good time to come back and reintroduce original characters, as well as some new ones.”

The team says it hasn’t decided when Milestone will officially begin publishing new content, though Cowan hopes that the company will have new visuals to display at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con.

Dingle says the return of original characters and new creations aren’t the only goals deemed important with the forthcoming return of Milestone. He also emphasizes the development of new talent — artists who have grown up in a digital age.

This “also becomes an opportunity to mine some [new] talent,” Dingle tells Comic Riffs. “We’re going to find a new group of creators who are knowledgeable and grew up with digital [formats]. It is part of their DNA in terms of what connects them from a digital standpoint, from a social-media standpoint, and I think there are all these tools out there to get our stories told, and to promote our characters, that [are] going to make it a very exciting era for Milestone.”

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Did Voters Have “Racial Fatigue”?

‘Django Unchained’ Producer on ‘Selma’ Oscar Snubs: Did Voters Have “Racial Fatigue”? (Guest Column)

by Reginald Hudlin  The Hollywood Reporter 1/21/2015

I hate whining.

Ironically, when I was asked to write about the Oscar “whiteout,” I was in a planning meeting for the NAACP Image Awards. For those who don’t know, the NAACP created the Image Awards almost 50 years ago in response to the lack of recognition of black talent in front of and behind the camera in mainstream (white) awards shows. You’d think this show wouldn’t be needed by now, but that’s clearly not the case.

Was there Oscar-worthy work in Selma that was overlooked? Absolutely! Why did it happen? One obvious problem is that not enough screeners were sent to the voters. And regardless of race, every Oscar year is full of heartbreaking overlooks of worthy performances and filmmaking. The unknowable question is whether the same voters who supported 12 Years a Slave had racial fatigue after supporting a black film last year. But in a year with a cascading series of racial controversies in Hollywood, the lack of black nominees highlights a bigger problem.

Articles decrying the lack of black presence in the Oscars is an annual event. Every once in a while there will be a miracle like 12 Years a Slave winning big, or Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Sidney Poitier all winning Oscars. Those exceptional anecdotes don’t make up for the tiny percentages of black and brown people working in entertainment.

Why is our business so behind the rest of the country? It’s easier for a black person to become president of the United States than it is to be president of a movie studio. In the ruthless world of the Fortune 500, there are now black chairmen or CEOs at American Express, Microsoft, McDonald’s, Merck and Xerox. When it comes to executive vps, managing directors and other feeder positions for future CEOs, the entertainment business can’t compare to the banking world, which is perceived to be a far more conservative environment.

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.

In the 1950s, Hollywood was reluctant to make movies with black stars because Southern distributors wouldn’t support them. Now the South is one of the biggest markets for black entertainment product. But the problem still isn’t solved because in the 21st century, Hollywood is reluctant to make movies with black stars because the international market won’t support them.

Samuel L. Jackson told me a story about talking with a distributor in Japan who was telling him how he doesn’t “play” there because no one knew who he was. But as they walked down the streets of Tokyo, Japanese people kept stopping them, excited to see Jackson in the flesh! The executive did not register the irony.

So how do we make things better? By taking action at every point of the food chain.

I know the Academy has already been working very hard to diversify its membership. My agency is bringing more people of color through its internship program. I hope other institutions do the same. Corporations should look at their vendor relationships and do business with companies owned by people of color. Make diversity a metric in annual bonuses.

When three of the biggest new TV shows of the year have black casts and producers, it would be prudent for other networks to follow their lead. It would be prudent for more films to emulate the multicultural casting of the Fast and Furious series, which is more successful with each installment.

And it would be great if the phrase “black film” wasn’t just used when a movie makes less than $100 million. When a movie with a black lead makes more than that, they aren’t black movies but “Will Smith movies” or “Denzel Washington movies” or “Kevin Hart movies.” If a movie makes enough money, then color goes away. It’s kinda like how some people think Egypt isn’t a part of Africa.

Like Martin Luther King Jr., we can all make a difference if we believe the time for action is now.

Reginald Hudlin is an Oscar-nominated producer of Django Unchained who produced the 2014 Governors Awards for the Academy.

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