February 28, 2015

STATIC SHOCK



STATIC SHOCK
(WB, September 23, 2000-May 22, 2004)

Warner Bros. Animation



MAIN CAST:
Phil LaMarrStatic/Virgil Hawkins, Mr. McGill
Jason MarsdenGear/Richard “Richie” Foley, Carmendillo (season 2-4)


            Noticing a lack of minority representation in comics, creators Denys Cowan, Dwayne McDuffie, Michael Davis, Christopher Priest and Derek T. Dingle banded together to correct that oversight with the formation of Milestone Media, named for Cowan's son Miles.

Milestone's logo.


            Milestone entered into a publishing deal with DC Comics, wherein DC would publish and release their books with a right of refusal while everyone involved in Milestone kept absolute control and all rights to their creations. Their first batch of comics was released in 1993 along with a trading card series by SkyBox. Although initially strong in sales, their publication began during the 1990s period of glut that eventually led to the market crash in 1994. Sales began to fall dramatically on their books, partially due to the crash, partially due to retailers being hesitant to stock “comics for blacks” and their books’ higher cover prices to cover their expensive coloring process. Milestone began cancelling some of its lower-selling titles in 1995 and 1996 before ceasing publication altogether in 1997. Milestone had instead become a licensing company, utilizing its characters in different media, such as the show you’re now reading about: Static Shock.


Static #1.

            The comic book version of Static was among Milestone’s initial launch titles. Created by Davis with some input by McDuffie, Robert L. Washington III and John Paul Leon, the character was designed to be a contemporary take of Marvel ComicsSpider-Man: a teenaged hero who has to balance his heroics with real life, and meets life-threatening challenges with witty banter. Static's real name was Virgil Hawkins, chosen by McDuffie after a black man that was denied entrance to the University of Florida’s law school in 1949. Originally, Davis wanted to name him "Alan" after his cousin. Virgil was a self-professed geek into comics and video games, as well as creating his own comics with his friends at Ernest Hemingway High School. Seeking revenge against a gangbanger that had been bullying him led Virgil to the scene of a gang war. When the police arrived to break it up, they released tear gas with a radioactive marker so that they could find and track any of the bangers who managed to escape. However, the gas had been laced with a mutagen called Quantum Juice that altered the cellular structure of all exposed and gave them powers. The incident became known as the “Big Bang” and all given powers from it as “Bang Babies.” Virgil, gaining electromagnetic powers, decided to use them to fight crime. Designing a costume comprised of a black body suit with a lightning bolt, mask, yellow coat and a baseball cap, he became Static.


Static vs. Hot-Streak in the comics.

            It was decided to try to bring the character to television, and partnered with Warner Bros. Animation to do so. Although McDuffie was asked to produce an early draft of the series bible, his involvement was minimal in the production. Instead, it was helmed by Alan Burnett, Christopher Simmons, Scott Jeralds, Shaun McLaughin and Cowan. 


Static's new animated look.

A number of changes between the comic and the show were made as it was undergoing development. Virgil’s (Phil LaMarr) motivations for being at the Big Bang were altered. Virgil was saved from bully Francis Stone, aka F-Stop (and later Hot-Streak after gaining fire powers, voiced by Danny Cooksey), by gang leader Wade (Omar Gooding) who wanted to recruit Virgil. Unlike the comics, Virgil’s mother, Jean (based on Davis’ mother and played by Alfre Woodard), was killed five years prior by gang violence making him hesitant to accept. Wade took him to the site of a gang fight that ended up interrupted by police. A fired shot hit a nearby store of gas canisters, releasing the experimental gas within that created the cartoon’s Bang Babies. In this incarnation, the gas, known as Quantum Vapor, was the product of Alva Industries and its less-than-scrupulous CEO Edwin Alva, Sr. (Kerrigan Mahan). Alva was originally a supporting character in fellow Milestone hero Hardware’s comic.


Richie rocks science class.

 Virgil’s friends were reduced and combined to create Richard “Richie” Foley (Jason Marsden); Virgil’s best friend and confidant, and sidekick. Frieda Goren (Danica McKellar), who actually filled Richie’s role in the comics as well as served as Virgil’s crush, was retained although her role was reduced to a supporting character and Virgil’s crush on her was short-lived. Virgil’s comic girlfriend, Daisy Watkins (Crystal Scales), was also retained and reinvented from her original shy personality to being a child prodigy who had attended the Vanmoor Institute before its dubious origins were revealed and she ended up in Virgil’s school. Virgil’s father, Robert (named for Davis’ step-father and played by Kevin Michael Richardson), was made a social worker while his sister, Sharon (based on Davis’ sister and played by Michele Morgan), took over Robert’s comic vocation of working at a hospital. Their surname, Hawkins, came from Davis’ cousins on his step-father’s side. As for Static himself, his costume was altered to more-resemble street clothing. He was given boots, black pants, a white t-shirt with a lightning bolt, a mask with goggles, and a blue and yellow coat.


Static vs. Rubberband Man.

The series premiered on Kids’ WB on September 23, 2000, produced by Cowan with several episodes written by McDuffie, and animation handled by Slighty Offbeat Productions Studios in New Zealand. It focused on Static’s juggling of his personal life with fighting crime and real world situations like racism and mental illness; using his wits as well as his powers to overcome various situations. Initially using his powers to fly on a garbage can lid, Richie eventually gave him a circular sheet of Mylar allow that could fold out into a disk shape. They also used specialized walkie talkies, called a Shock Vox, which they created for a science project to communicate. Richie also came to supply Static with a tracking device he could use his powers to trace within 2 miles, and Zap Caps, which were specialized grenades Static could charge and throw. With its focus on strong characters of diverse ethnicity and stories, the series became a hit.


Static's refined look.

Unlike many cartoons that keep a permanent status quo, the series and characters were allowed to grow and evolve. Adam Evans, aka Rubberband Man (named for creators Adam Blaustein and Yves Fezzani and voiced by Kadeem Hardison) began as a villain before reforming to focus on his music and being a hero and big brother figure to Static, as well as dating his sister. In season 2, Robert gained a new girlfriend, police officer Trina Jessup (Sheryl Lee Ralph). By season 3, exposure to Static and the residual gas on him eventually gave Richie genius-level intellect that allowed him to create equipment to turn him into Static’s sidekick Gear. This was done because focus groups determined kids would love the idea, and it allowed the writers to organically work Richie into the stories, which they had increasing difficulty in doing. Season 3 also saw the debut of a more-refined Static costume, going for a blue on black motif with yellow accents and a pair of shades. Only his mask was retained from the original (however, the episode "Consequences" was shown out of production order and featured Static's original suit). It was meant to convey, according to that season’s story editor John Semper, the fact that Virgil was aging, becoming more serious, and his look reflected his new attitude. Some of the character designs were also tweaked, such as Hot-Streak who was rendered a bit thinner, and Virgil gaining a new orange shirt to replace his red and yellow one. Static and Gear took residence in an abandoned gas station for their base, dubbed the Gas Station of Solitude.


Static and Gear hang with the Justice League.

Beginning in season 2, Static Shock became part of the DC Animated Universe when the network suggested that characters from Batman: The Animated Series pay a visit to Dakota. “The Big Leagues” saw just that, with the Joker (Mark Hamill) recruiting meta-humans to go on a crime spree when they’re foiled by Static, Batman (Kevin Conroy), and Robin (Eli Marienthal). With positive reaction to the episode by audiences and the production team, additional team-ups were planned. Season 3’s “Hard as Nails” saw Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) and Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) luring Bang Baby Nails (T'Keyah Crystal Keymah) to Gotham City with the promise of a cure in order to exploit her powers, once again pairing Static with Batman and Robin (this time voiced by Shane Sweet). The “A League of Their Own” two-parter paired Static and Gear up with the Justice League from Cartoon Network’s JusticeLeague against the threat of Brainiac (Corey Burton). “Toys in the Hood” brought in Superman (George Newbern) and the threat of Toyman (Bud Cort), at the suggestion of Paul Dini. Season 4’s “Future Shock” sent Static to the future where he encountered that era’s Batman (Will Friedle) and had to aid in rescuing his older self. Static’s final crossover was with his hero Green Lantern (the John Stewart version, also voiced by LaMarr) in “Fallen Hero” when Lantern seemed to pick Dakota to launch a crime spree.


Lil' Romeo meets (and dresses) as his hero.

While Static had his share of fictional encounters, real people made their way to Dakota as well. In season 2, Shaquille O’Neal appeared as himself. The producers wanted Shaq to appear in the Superman episode, as Shaq was a tremendous fan, but couldn't make it work out. Static Shock fan Lil' Romeo made an appearance the following season and provided the series with a new theme song. In season 4, NBA players Steve Nash, Yao Ming, Karl Malone and Tracy McGrady revealed that they moonlighted as superheroes on a team called The Hoop Squad as Point Man, Center Force, Pulverizer and Spin Drive, respectively. Their appearance was at the behest of the network. And, while not a popular episode by the production team by any means, was done out of gratitude for the support the network gave the series.


Screenshot from the aborted Static Shock game.

Despite being a ratings success throughout its run, only beaten by fellow Kids’ WB show Pokemon, the series was cancelled after four seasons. Even though it was a hit, and even more so when reruns hit Cartoon Network, the show was hard-pressed to find licensors willing to create Static Shock merchandise. Without the additional revenue to offset the cost of producing the animated series, it wasn’t economically feasible for Warner Bros. to continue production. Although, Scholastic did adapt two episodes into pictured storybooks and Subway gave away kids’ meal toys based on the show. Midway was in the process of creating a game based on the show for the GameBoy Advance until financial troubles forced the project to be scrapped. In 2008, the first six episodes were released to DVD, the only release the series had experienced thus far.


The Big Bang.

For the final three episodes of the series, the concept of a cure for the gas was introduced and administered to many of the characters; some willingly, others not so much. The resulting battle over the original gas leaves several characters re-powered, including Static, and merged villains Hot-Streak and Ebon (Gary Sturgis) into a singular creature of shadow and flame (a merger of their powers). The series ran for 52 episodes, which surpassed the 45 issues the comic itself ran before Milestone folded. The series’ success did prompt a 2001 mini-series called Rebirth of the Cool set in the original Dakotaverse.


Old Static with Warhawk and the Batman of the future.

Following its cancellation in 2005, Static made a final appearance in the two-part first season finale of Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing” (or rather old Static). This appearance would be the basis for the first, and so far only, Static action figure as part of a Justice League Unlimited boxset by Matty Collector in 2012. In 2008, DC announced it would be folding the Dakotaverse into the main DC Universe continuity, bringing their characters together. The following year, Static appeared in Terror Titans #4 and in 2010 appeared as a major character in the mini-series Milestone Forever, which chronicled the final fates of the original Milestone characters. An ongoing series was planned for 2011, but was cancelled upon the death of McDuffie and instead a one-shot special was released. In September 2011, Static Shock was launched as part of The New 52 reboot of the DC Universe written by John Rozum (#1-4) and co-written by series artist Scott McDaniel, who was also scheduled to work on the aborted attempt. That series moved the Hawkins family to New York City and resulted in Sharon being duplicated. The series, poorly received by fans and suffering from internal conflict, was cancelled after only 8 issues. Static (Bryton James) returned to Saturday mornings as part of the second and final season of Young Justice in 2012. Static also appeared in a villain mission for the MMO DC Universe Online and as a playable character on the mobile version of Injustice: Gods Among Us. In 2014, Warner Bros. announced they had begun development on a live-action Static show, which had been off and on over several years.
 



EPISODE GUIDE:

Season 1:
“Shock to the System” (9/23/00) – A gang war at the docks results in some gas canisters being penetrated, giving everyone present—including Virgil—super powers.

“Aftershock” (9/30/00) – Virgil takes to the streets as Static to stop the new Bang Babies running rampant and to prove Alva and the Mayor are responsible for the gas.

“The Breed” (10/7/00) – Popular jock Derek Barnett learns he’s a Bang Baby and is kidnapped by The Breed, whose leader Ebon collects Bang Babies and wants Static to join them.

“Grounded” (10/14/00) – Virgil and Richie end up locked in school with a protesting journalism class while an amoeba is mutated from the Big Bang.

“They’re Playing My Song” (11/11/00) – Adam Evans, aka Rubberband Man, tries to get revenge on rapper Ice Pack for stealing one of his songs.

“The New Kid” (11/18/00) – Virgil’s acceptance to the Vanmoor Institute ends up being a ploy by Alva stooges Specs and Trapper to help them find a way to capture Static.

“Child’s Play” (12/2/00) – Arron exploits his step-brother Dwayne’s newfound Big Bang powers.

“Sons of the Fathers” (12/9/00) – After arguing with his father over his racist attitudes, Richie runs away only to end up kidnapped by Ebon.

“Winds of Change” (12/16/00) – Static becomes annoyed by Richie’s heroing vicariously through him, causing a rift between them as new villain Slipstream makes the scene.

“Bent Out of Shape” (1/27/01) – Rubberband Man escapes from jail and becomes rapper Stringer, who ends up dating Static’s sister Sharon.

“Junior” (2/10/01) – Vying for his father’s approval, Alva Jr. learns to control the Big Bang gas and becomes Omnifarius with the ability to access various powers at will.

“Replay” (3/3/01) – A freak accident allows Replay to create an evil duplicate of Static that ruins Static’s reputation in Dakota.

“Tantrum” (5/21/01) – Scrawny Thomas Kim becomes a giant purple monster that rampages through the city whenever he gets angry.

Season 2:

“The Big Leagues” (1/26/02) – The Joker comes to Dakota and Static teams up with Batman and Robin to stop him.

“Power Play” (2/2/02) – Ragtag gives Richie super powers turning him into Push, but in order to keep them Richie has to commit crimes for Ragtag.

“Brother-Sister Act” (2/9/02) – Virgil has to juggle stopping two new Bang Babies while keeping Sharon from discovering his secret identity.

“Static Shaq” (2/16/02) – Shaquille O’Neal comes to Dakota while the Ruff Pack hunt Static.

“Frozen Out” (2/23/02) – The holidays threaten to be snowed out when homeless Maureen Connor’s powers rage out of control due to her mental problems.

“Sunspots” (3/2/02) – Static learns that sunspots can have an adverse effect on his powers.

“Pop’s Girlfriend” (3/9/02) – Virgil runs from a cop to keep her from finding his Static costume, only to learn the cop is his father’s new girlfriend.

“Bad Stretch” (3/23/02) – Rubberband Man’s tenure as a reformed hero may be brief when his brother Ebon offers him a place in The Metabreed.

“Attack of the Living Brain Puppets” (4/6/02) – Madelyn Spaulding turns almost everyone in the city into her zombie slaves in order to win the class president elections.

“Duped” (4/27/02) – Replikon is determined to get a recording deal right out from under Rubberband Man in any way possible.

“Jimmy” (5/4/02) – Bullied Jimmy Osgood brings a gun to school for protection and ends up accidentally shooting Richie.

Season 3:

“Hard as Nails” (1/25/03) – Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy lure Bang Baby Nails to Gotham City with the promise of a cure for her powers in order to exploit her abilities.

“Gear” (2/1/03) – Richie discovers he’s a Bang Baby with hyper intelligence and uses his inventive skill to turn himself into the hero Gear.

“Static in Africa” (2/8/03) – Vacationing in Africa leads Static to teaming up with local hero Anasi to stop the theft of an ancient African treasure and saving hundreds of lives.

“She-Bang” (2/15/03) – Static and Gear learn the new superhero, She-Bang, is a genetically engineered superhuman whose creators want her back.

“The Usual Suspect” (2/22/03) – Static and Gear take on a monster seeking revenge on those who angered a school bully.

“A League of Their Own (Part 1)” (3/1/03) – After being called on to restore power to the Justice League’s Watchtower, Static and Gear have to defend it from Brainiac.

“A League of Their Own (Part 2)” (3/8/03) – Brainiac takes control of Richie and the Justice League, leaving Static to figure out a way to rescue them without hurting them.

“Showtime” (3/22/03) – Sleazy TV producer Bernie Rast makes a show about Static, which drives a wedge between him and Gear when Static constantly shows off for the camera.

“Consequences” (4/5/03) – When Daisy is hurt during a fight with Puff and Onyx, Static goes on a rampage to hunt the two down, which they use to their advantage.

“Romeo in the Mix” (4/19/03) – Bernie Rast convinces Lil Romeo to shoot his next video in Daktoa, but his Static costume causes him to be kidnapped by Leech.

“Trouble Squared” (4/26/03) – Specs and Trapper’s latest scheme to get Static gets them fired, leading them to kidnap Alva Jr. for ransom, forcing Alva to turn to Static for help.

“Toys in the Hood” (5/3/03) – Static teams-up with Superman to help him stop Toyman.

“The Parent Trap” (5/24/03) – She-Bang tracks Static and Gear to their base to ask for help in finding her parents.

“Flashback” (6/7/03) – Helping a time-traveling meta-human control her powers leads to Static being accidentally sent back in time where he encounters his mother.

“Blast From the Past” (6/21/03) – Generations clash when Static is forced to team-up with retired 60s superhero Soul Power to take down his old foe Professor Menace.

Season 4:

“Future Shock” (1/17/04) – Helping Batman and Robin leads to Static being sent to the future where he encounters that era’s Batman, Terry McGinnis.

“She-Back!” (1/24/04) – She-Bang returns to Dakota as Madelyn Spaundling’s powers change and leads to her escaping prison with others to get revenge on Static.

“Out of Africa” (1/31/04) – Anasi comes to Dakota to stop his foes from acquiring the source of his mystical powers.

“Fallen Hero” (2/7/04) – Green Lantern appears to commit crimes around Dakota, leading Static to confront his idol.

“Army of Darkness” (2/14/04) – Ebon leads the Nightbreed, Bang Babies who can’t be exposed to sunlight, on a mission to blanket Dakota in darkness.

“No Man’s Island” (2/21/04) – Alva kidnaps several Bang-Babies to revive his son, forcing Static and Hot-Streak to work together to save them all.

“Hoop Squad” (2/28/04) – To rescue Gear from Dr. Odium, Static teams up with The Hoop Squad: a team of basketball players who moonlight as superheroes.

“Now You See Him…” (3/13/04) – A teen manages to manipulate time in an effort to win Daisy’s affections.

“Where the Rubber Meets the Road” (3/27/04) – Specs and Trapper have stolen a fusion reactor from Alva Industries, and the fate of the city relies on a dyslexic Rubberband Man.

“Linked” (5/1/04) – A football player stands to be exposed as a Bang-Baby.

“Wet and Wild” (5/8/04) – Hot-Streak sabotages the cure Aquamaria receives for her powers, rendering her unstable and lashing out at Dakota.

“Kidnapped” (5/15/04) – Omnara uses her knowledge of Static’s identity to force him to steal parts from her former boss Alva to finish her device that will allow her to control technology.

“Power Outage” (5/22/04) – A cure for Bang-Babies is administered, but when several Bang-Babies try to steal the original gas Ebon and Hot-Streak end up merged.

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