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Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans

Publication Year: 2001

What do the comic book figures Static, Hardware, and Icon all have in common? Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans gives an answer that goes far beyond "tights and capes," an answer that lies within the mission Milestone Media, Inc., assumed in comic book culture. Milestone was the brainchild of four young black creators who wanted to part from the mainstream and do their stories their own way. This history of Milestone, a "creator-owned" publishing company, tells how success came to these mavericks in the 1990s and how comics culture was expanded and enriched as fans were captivated by this new genre. Milestone focused on the African American heroes in a town called Dakota. Quite soon these black action comics took a firm position in the controversies of race, gender, and corporate identity in contemporary America. Characters battled supervillains and sometimes even clashed with more widely known superheroes. Front covers of Milestone comics often bore confrontational slogans like "Hardware: A Cog in the Corporate Machine is About to Strip Some Gears." Milestone's creators aimed for exceptional stories that addressed racial issues without alienating readers. Some competitors, however, accused their comics of not being black enough or of merely marketing Superman in black face. Some felt that the stories were too black, but a large cluster of readers applauded these new superheroes for fostering African American pride and identity. Milestone came to represent an alternative model of black heroism and, for a host of admirers, the ideal of masculinity. Black Superheroes gives details about the founding of Milestone and reports on the secure niche its work and its image achieved in the marketplace. Tracing the company's history and discussing its creators, their works, and the fans, this book gauges Milestone alongside other black comic book publishers, mainstream publishers, and the history of costumed characters. Jeffrey A. Brown is an assistant professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University. He has been published in Screen, Cinema Journal, African American Review, Journal of Popular Culture, Discourse, and Journal of Popular Film and Television.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi

I am extremely grateful to a number of people who have helped make this study possible. First and foremost, thanks to Ivan Kalmar, who offered exceptional advice and guidance throughout every stage of this research project. My thanks also go to Craig Werner, Hy Luong, Bonnie Mac Elhinny, Richard Lee,Marcel Danesi, Grant McCracken, Trudy Nicks, and Caryl Flinn for their ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

It was a Saturday afternoon when I first came across Galaxy Comics and Collectibles, a comic book and gaming specialty store located in a middle-class neighborhood on the fringe of downtown Toronto. I had been in dozens of comic book stores before and was confident about what I’d find inside, past the larger than life superheroes painted on the glass window. What I wasn’t...

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1. Introduction: ‘‘New Heroes’’

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pp. 1-14

I like the phrase ‘‘new heroes.’’ I have heard it a lot over the past couple of years while exploring the world of comic books and their readers. It is a phrase that is almost deceivingly concise. It is a simple enough combination of words,but it alludes to a culturally important change in the way we see our world.‘‘As anyone involved in fiction and its crafting over the past fifteen or so years...

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2. A Milestone Development

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pp. 15-57

This racist administrative government with its Superman notions and comic book politics.We’re hip to the fact that Superman never saved no black people.Once every two weeks the promotional posters are changed by the owner of the Comics Kingdom, a medium-sized comic book and fantasy games specialty store located in downtown Toronto. On the third Wednesday of January 1993,...

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3. Comic Book Fandom

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pp. 58-92

The practice of media fandom provides a highly visible and intensely concentrated example of how people interpret, internalize, and use popular texts in their everyday lives. Fans are extraordinarily interested and often active textual participants, and many of them organize into loosely structured interpretive communities based on a shared fascination for a specific text, genre, or me-...

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4. The Readers

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pp. 93-132

Whereas the last chapter focused on comic book fandom as an organized activity premised on certain subcultural conventions, this chapter will address a sample of actual comic book readers. The comic book fans discussed here were chosen because they come from a variety of cultural and economic back-grounds and because they exhibit some of the most important recurring ...

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5. Reading Race and Genre

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pp. 133-166

I’m not really sure why, but I still love just sitting back and reading, I mean really reading,my comics. It’s not that I don’t read anything else, ’cause I do, but there is always something exciting about the feel of the paper and the energy in the stories. I’ll read my favorite comics over and over again. I’ve got some Luke Cage and other early Marvels from when I was a kid that I’ve pretty well memorized by now. And it’s kind of weird—...

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6. Reading Comic Book Masculinity

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pp. 167-188

Following in the footsteps of feminist scholarship, there have been, in recent years, a number of studies which have begun to consider masculinity, particularly heterosexual masculinity, as a social construction. Masculinity, always regarded as a natural, stable gender identity, is in the process of being deconstructed on a variety of levels from social politics to pop psychology....

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7. Drawing Conclusions

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pp. 189-202

In the early 1970s the public service advertisement used by the Black-Owned Communications Alliance asked, ‘‘What’s wrong with this picture?’’ A young black boy looked in the mirror and saw only the pale imaginative reflection of a white superhero. Well, the child from that advertisement has grown up and the world of superheroes has changed. In the 1990s Milestone Media, and...


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pp. 203-204


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pp. 205-208

Works Cited

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pp. 209-224


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pp. 225-232

E-ISBN-13: 9781604737639
E-ISBN-10: 1604737638
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578062829
Print-ISBN-10: 1578062829

Publication Year: 2001