Last year DC helped relaunch the iconic Milestone line of comic books with all-new “seasons” of Static, Icon and Rocket, Hardware and Blood Syndicate. Yet, of all the four headliners, Static remains the most popular by far. Aided by a generation who grew up seeing an animated Virgil Hawkins on screen, Static: Season One was a healthy blend of the original comic series and the animated series of the early 2000s.
But now that the retelling of Virgil’s origin story is out of the way, Nikolas Draper-Ivey is ready to get serious with the just-launched Static: Shadows of Dakota. Bumped up to co-writer alongside Vita Ayala, Draper-Ivey is taking Static and the world of Dakota to some intense new places as he reimagines a popular villain from the animated series into the stuff of modern-day nightmares.
On the heels of the first issue’s debut, we spoke with Draper-Ivey about returning to Milestone’s flagship title, what differentiates Static: Shadows of Dakota from Season One, his take on the character Ebon and so much more!
From one Static fan to another, I appreciated a tweet you made recently lamenting how he’s often misnamed “Static Shock” by people. Was there any pressure to title the series “Static Shock” for the name recognition?
No, DC knew exactly what they wanted to call it right off the bat. If anything, they emphasized to me how important it was to keep calling him Static. They brought that to my attention. Now, since I’m writing and drawing it, it’s my job to bring it to everyone else’s attention. And if it’s literally my job to get the character’s name right, then I can’t be wrong. (laughs)
Ebon is the major player in the new series, and right away he’s a far scarier and violent iteration of the character compared to his animated original. What about Ebon really captured your imagination, and how was the collaboration process with him in particular like between you and Vita?
I’ve always liked Ebon as a character, and it was a good use of him for our story for me to kind of vent about some things. Obviously, Static is a more hopeful, optimistic character, but…there’s a lot of things you want to talk about and express, and Ebon is the perfect character to get that out of you. Things that have been weighing on my heart. It’s really personal. I don’t want to give anything away or reveal anything, but the thing that drew me to him is how cutthroat he is. In our version, it’s going to take more than a flashlight to do away with him, you know? His abilities are really going to affect people, getting them to ask, “How do you fight that?”
I love how you and Ayala have been blending different elements of the original Milestone comic and the Static Shock cartoon. At the end of issue #1, we see Ebon asking about his brother, who in the cartoon was Rubberband Man. Should we expect a similar relationship here, or will this be something else that’s new to the mythology?
I’ll say it’s similar to the show, in that Rubberband Man is his brother. But people are going to be excited by this version and know why it’s important that Ebon finds him. It may end up being controversial at first…that’s all I’ll say.
One thing that really struck me with Season One was how Virgil’s powers were made public to a lot of people in Dakota. Is the secret identity something you and Vita aren’t interested in with this version of Static?
In Shadows of Dakota, we see more of him trying to keep it a secret. Even though it’s obvious when you sort of squint at Static that you can know who he is, in this season, it’s more of a regular thing. In this story, once he picks up his superhero mantle, things have really changed. And that’s something that we kind of make a joke about with Ebon who looks at Static like, “What are you doing? Why are you advertising yourself?” (laughs) That’s another way in which the two differ, but Virgil’s secret identity is more of a thing in this season.
What has come to characterize this modern Milestone relaunch—and in particular, the new origin for Virgil—is the current torrent of race-related real world events that would impact the characters if they existed. What’s been the biggest real-world influence on the Static “seasons” and was there something in particular that inspired Shadows of Dakota?
Yes, several things. I would rather not go into them because there are so many. Much of this is a response to a lot of pain I’m feeling and a lot of other people are feeling. Asking questions like, how would you go around with the powers of a god if it meant bringing harm to others types of people? Would you do it? Would you try to scare them? Save them or be the Boogeyman?
I don’t want to give too much away, but there were a lot of real-world events that inspired us. When I started working on this, it was 2020 and like a lot of others, I was in a pretty dark place, but I was also wondering if this would still be relevant upon release. It sucks that sadly a lot of these things are still relevant, still happening.
Virgil’s got both Daisy and Frieda in his corner as we enter this season. Will there be any romance between any of them?
Well, the story isn’t really centered around that, but there’s a few hints here or there, and the reader can see where we’re going. The story is so intense that there’s not much time for smooches, but there’s some of it there.
Do you have a playlist you listen to when working on Static? Is there a playlist you recommend to readers when reading Static?
I love listening to a lot of movie composers, like the Tenet soundtrack. There’s a lot of movie scores that I’ll go into, but it’s usually within the tone of the story I’m trying to tell. Tenet, for instance, has an electric, fast-paced kind of feel.
Finally, what’s your favorite episode of Static Shock, and do you have a favorite story from the previous Static comics?
Definitely Rebirth of the Cool I really love, especially that John Paul-Leon artwork. As far as the cartoon, the episode with Richie’s dad (“Sins of the Father”), where Robert tells Richie’s dad to stop being a racist. I love that episode, and Ebon’s in it! I also like the episode (“Consequences”) where Static’s really feeling himself and Daisy gets hurt as a result and it teaches him to chill out and not be so hubristic.
Static: Shadows of Dakota #1 by Nikolas Draper-Ivey and Vita Ayala is now available in print and as a digital comic book.