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Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans

By Jeffrey A. Brown

256 pp.

1578062810 Unjacketed cloth $50.00S

1578062829 Paper $25.00S

Unjacketed cloth, $50.00

Paper, $25.00

A history of the trailblazing comics that broke color barriers and portrayed African Americans in heroic storylines

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.

256 pp.