I love musicals. Not all of them, but here’s a list of ten of my favorites, in rough chronological order.
SINGING IN THE RAIN
There’s a reason why this is considered the masterpiece of the golden age of musicals. Some of the greatest artists in front and behind the camera came together at the peak of their powers and made a movie that stands the test of time.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
This is Gene Kelly’s run up to SINGING IN THE RAIN; in Prince terms, it’s 1999 right before Purple Rain. Also brilliant.
One of the greatest musicals ever made, one of the greatest movies in the history of Black Cinema, one of the greatest expressions of Black culture ever put on screen.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Between IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, ROLLERBALL and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, director Norman Jewison had one of the most diverse and brilliant bodies of work in the modern film era. And the material itself is not only great musically but taught me more about Jesus than years of Catholic school.
ALL THAT JAZZ
Bob Fosse’s masterwork, an innovative, stylish film that pushed the musical into the modern day.
This opera is the movie that made me want to make movies. An underrated inspiration for the modern music video.
What a great, great movie. Like Enter the Dragon, it perfectly succeeds at its goal. A perfect showcase for a superstar.
Baz Luhrmann’s trilogy of musicals climaxes with the brilliant summation of his reinvention of the genre. When I first heard his mix of Nirvana and LaBelle, I got choked up. Finally, a musical that embraces my wide tastes.
LA LA LAND
This movie had me right from the opening number. Grounded, relevant to today but at the same time it can break into song and dance and stand tall next to the classics.
Hamilton is one of the greatest works of art of the century.
The DC Comics imprint Milestone Comics was initially formed in the 90s to provide representation for marginalized and misrepresented characters and creators in the world of comics. Founded by a team of African-American creators that included Denys Cowan, and the late Dwayne McDuffie, Milestone was responsible for the creation of fan-favorite hero Static — who later starred in the Static Shock animated series and gained a place on the Teen Titans — as well as Hardware and Icon. Recently, all three of these Milestone heroes have been rebooted in new series that takes place outside of the mainstream DC universe.
Reginald Hudlin and Leon Chills, two of the creators behind the new Icon and Rocket Season One series, sat down with CBR for an interview to discuss the series’ second issue. In Icon and Rocket Season One #2, the African-American hero Icon, who has been widely regarded as the Superman of the Milestone universe, has a violent confrontation with slave owners during the Civil War era and kills Jefferson Davis, the historical leader of the Confederacy.
CBR: Was there any kind of particular statement you were trying to make with Icon killing Jefferson Davis?
Reginald Hudlin: I grew up reading comic books where superheroes would stop bank robbers. Banks, which are FDIC protected, right? What were they doing? They were just protecting the property of rich people. They weren’t really solving problems. The point of Icon and Rocket is that they solve problems. And we see what happens when you solve real problems. What are the consequences of that? Who would object to that?
We ask the question of what would happen if superheroes started solving real problems, and in the process, Icon is showing Rocket how the world really works. Whether it’s stopping drugs in Rocket’s neighborhood or stopping slavery, it’s the same thing. People just want to be left alone to live their lives in peace, but there’s always someone who refuses to allow them that peace and insists on exploiting them. And when you stand up against the exploitation of other people, huge forces are going to be marshaled against you. That’s the Black experience, not just in America but around the world.
Leon Chills: Has there ever been a Black superhero who had powers but was a slave? I think once he realizes and comes into his powers he’s going to do something about what’s going on around him.
Hudlin: If you look at the book, Icon says, “Me and mine are safe. Anybody who makes it here is safe.” He was willing to try coexistence. But the slave owners refused to accept it because they couldn’t bear the thought of free Black people. So he said, “Okay, I tried to accommodate you, which was more than you deserved. But you can’t bear the thought of Black freedom. Fine. Now I’m going to free everybody.”
CBR: Icon has widely been regarded as Milestone’s Superman. How is this character different from the Man of Steel?
Chills: I feel like a lot of the threats that Superman handles are on a macro level — like someone’s trying to destroy the planet or take over the world. Because Icon has lived in the skin of a Black man, what he goes up against is a lot more personal because he’s been oppressed. Like Reggie said, they’re actually going after societal ills. You don’t really see Superman or most other heroes doing this, and that’s a huge difference.
Hudlin: You’re exactly right. These guys are both aliens, and their main difference is due to how they grew up. One grew up in Smallville in the 40s or 50s. The other man grows up on a plantation in Georgia in the 1850s. They have very different life experiences and life hacks. They’re both guys with a strong moral compass. They’re both genuinely great people. So it’s not that we’re knocking Superman, but he’s working through the cultural matrix that shaped him. And so is Icon, but his cultural matrix is different. It doesn’t mean that one is more moral than the other. It’s just that they see the world and how to make it better in different ways.
This is not Superman. Icon is his own character. And one of the things that is important to me and the book is that we tell stories that you’ll never see in an issue of Superman. He not Superman painted brown. He’s a unique character with his own set of choices and storylines that reflect who he is. The point of Milestone isn’t to tell typical comic book stories with a Black character. We tell our stories from our own unique perspectives.
CBR: What can you tell us about the villain we see in this issue, Benedict Lord?
Hudlin: He’s a badass. You have to have villains who can beat the hero, and he’s a terrifying challenge for Icon and Rocket. He’s taken out Icon before and he can do it again.
Chills: He has a lot of skills at his disposal that I don’t want to spoil. He has an approach that I don’t think a lot of villains would take. It’s sometimes better to use stealth than brute force.
CBR: Is there a Season Two planned for Icon and Rocket?
Hudlin: We have so many ideas. I really try not to get too far ahead of ourselves. We’re wrapping up the first arc now, but we’re always making plans to top ourselves.
Chills: We’re firing on all cylinders for Season One. We send the script and they get excited, we see the art and we get excited. All that energy goes into the next issue. I fully expect that to continue going into Season Two. There’s just so much more for you to see.
Following the reboots of his Milestone Comics compatriots Staticand Icon and Rocket, Hardware returns in Brandon Thomas, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Chris Sotomayor, and Rob Leigh’s Hardware: Season One #1. The creative team conjures up the sensational nature of the original series while adding a contemporary sense of urgency to its proceedings. Overall, Hardware: Season One #1 is an excellent first issue.
Hardware: Season One #1 begins after the events of Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition Zero by Reginald Hudlin, Denys Cowan, Nikolas Draper-Ivey, Bill Sienkiewicz, Chris Sotomayor, ChrisCross, Juan Castro, Wil Quintana, and Andworld Design. Alva Industries lands in hot water when an experimental crowd control gas they developed horribly injuries and mutates the people of Dakota at a Black Lives Matter protest. Edwin Alva, the nefarious head of the company, blames the incident on a brilliant young scientist named Curtis Metcalf; however, Curtis has no tolerance for being punished for a crime he didn’t commit. So, he puts on a suit of high-tech armor and becomes Hardware: a man on the run fighting for justice.
Hardware: Season One #1 is narrated by both Metcalf as well as his enemy/former benefactor, Edwin Alva. Brandon Thomas brilliantly contrasts their opposing points of view and attitudes in a way that makes their conflict feel simultaneously deeply personal and representative of a larger social conflict. By using two narrators, Thomas is able to provide a substantial amount of background information while throwing readers into the thick of things and establishing two central characters. By the time Hardware and Alva actually speak to each other, readers are already intimately familiar with their building tension, which makes their conversation feel even more climactic than the explosive action that defines much of the issue.
Denys Cowan, who penciled the original ’90s Hardware, is joined by his longtime collaborator Bill Sienkiewicz who inks the issue. The two seasoned artists bring the same dynamic style they developed together in the pages of The Questionto Hardware: Season One. Their lines are at once precise and frantic. This aesthetic suits the fast pace and emotional intensity of the narrative. Metcalf is on the run for the duration of this issue, and the dense, ink-splattered pages convey a sense of anxiety and motion that will put the reader on the edge of their seat. At times, the action sequences can be chaotic and difficult to follow, but a second glance is always enough to make sense of things, and the confusion is in keeping with the comic’s tone. And, even when the action isn’t as clear as it could be, the pages are beautifully composed.
At first glance, Hardware: Season One #1 is a page-turning action-adventure. It is a thrilling read. But, both the writing and the art merit a closer look. Each page is filled to the brim with complex and intriguing ideas that will be bouncing around in the reader’s mind long after they’ve finished reading. Hardware: Season One #1 is so much more than a reboot of the original series. It is the beginning of something entirely new and remarkably exciting.