Because let’s face it, your mom is a superhero. Here’s some of the company she keeps!
Raquel Ervin had only been a superhero for a short time when she found out that she was pregnant. Still a teenager, she stepped up and decide to have the child and be an awesome mother. She put her heroics on hold for a time in order to raise her son well, but soon returned and kept a beautiful superhero-mom balance. Hardcore. Besides, she named her son Amistad Augustus Ervin. Awesome.
A couple of Thursdays ago, I picked up about Shadow Cabinet #0, which is basically a massive Milestone Universe cast party, with all of the major characters warring against each other to save Dakota. I already reviewed the comic here and introduced a couple of our heroes – Static, Icon, Rocket, and Hardware. Let’s meet some more of them… how about some of the ladies?!
Iron Butterfly (aka Kahina Eskandari)
A corporate translator by day, by night Kahina Eskandari becomes Iron Butterfly, the field commander of Dakota’s illustrious crime fighting crew the Shadow Cabinet. She can manipulate and control metal, down to its molecular structure, moving or reshaping it and even able to sense its particular properties. Donning iron armor in battle, complete with two massive iron wings, Iron Butterfly can fly by levitating herself in her metal armor. She’s also a mean swordsman and tactical genius. We first meet her in Hardware #11 (1993) when she appears and offers Hardware membership in the Shadow Cabinet. Her origins are slightly murky, but we do know that she’s Palestinian (one of few Palestinian superheroes in comics!) and possibly grew up in Iran. Her entire family was murdered when she was a child. Vowing revenge, she took up with the Shadow Cabinet and came around to the vision of global justice preached by Dharma, the Cabinet’s omniscient leader. She later fell in love with Dharma.
Iota (aka Isadora Wellington-Smythe)
Iota is awesome. She’s a supergenius Australian physicist and inventor, who, after an accident in her lab, gained the ability to alter her own physical size and the size of any nearby object at will. She can shrink herself and nearby objects down to microscopic size. Her husband was supposedly killed in this accident, but it was later discovered that he was sent to an alternate dimension where he became corrupted and installed himself as a despot. However, Iota isn’t all goody-goody herself, she has something of a kleptomania problem, stealing and collection various items like helicopters, jets, and military vehicles, which she shrinks down to size. She definitely doesn’t need to steal, because she’s super loaded, but she prides herself on her thieving. She carries many of these shrunken stolen items in battle, so that she can restore them to full-size and wield them as weapons or use them to rescue herself or others. Not all of her weapons are stolen, many of them are her own invention. She usually rocks a jetpack too (unclear whether she stole it or not). She first appeared in Blood Syndicate #10 (1994).
Donner (aka Gerri Brauer)
Donner has superhuman strength and is invulnerable to most physical attacks. Born Gerri Brauer, the German granddaughter of a Nazi geneticist, her superpowers may be due to some early tampering by her grandfather. When she was young, she was involved in Neo-Nazi gangs, but later saw the error of this and dedicated her life to justice, joining the Shadow Cabinet, where she fought alongside her now girlfriend Blitzen (aka Valerie Kameya). When the Shadow Cabinet’s leader Dharma tried to imprison the Cabinet’s members, she broke them out and formed a new group called Heroes. She first appeared in Icon #9 (1994) when she fights alongside Blitzen and Icon to defeat the villain Holocaust who had tried to recruit Icon’s sidekick Rocket to join the villainous Star Chamber group.
Blitzen (aka Valerie Kameya)
We don’t know much about Blitzen, but we do know that she was once a scientist named Valerie Kameya, and she developed a serum that endowed her with superhuman speed. The serum allows her to not only move but also to think supremely fast, making her a force to reckon with in battle. After joining the Shadow Cabinet she fell in love with Donner and the two became one of the first open lesbian couples in comics. She’s known for being brutally honest and like her girlfriend, she has a past of not-so-heroic deeds. She first appeared in Icon #9 (1994) alongside Donner. She also joined Donner in forming the new group Heroes.
Comicazi has a great selection of older comics. It’s the only place I’ve found in Boston with a size-able collection of Milestone back issues. Every few Wednesdays, after I buy my new issues, I take a comb through some of the racks of long boxes full of old singles.
Last week I nabbed a copy of Shadow Cabinet #0 by Dwayne McDuffie, the pioneering comic lover and creator of Milestone Comics, and Robert L. Washington III.
This 1994 issue begins the “Shadow War” story arc and stars all of the major Milestone characters – villains, superheroes and sidekicks – even introducing a new character Xombi, whose title comic came out around the same time.
If you’re new to the Milestone Universe, Shadow Cabinet#0,might be an overwhelming introduction. That said McDuffie and Washington do a pretty remarkable job working with such a large cast, briefly showcasing the powers, quirks, and personalities of each without too much sacrifice to the story’s action. They gave themselves 48 pages to do it, which gave them a little space to maintain the story arc and flesh out the characters as much as possible in brief bursts of stylized dialogue in between punches.
At times though things do get a bit jumbled and you wonder how any of them manage to talk so much in the melee of electromagnetic pulses, rain of razor-sharp steel, and stomping elephant-rhino morphs. In short, if you’re new to Dakota and the Milestone Universe and you dive into this issue, it’ll feel exactly like meeting your boyfriend’s very large Italian family… at Christmas… while the room is spinning because you had too much wine.
But let’s use this as a chance to meet a few of the faces of the Milestone Universe anyway…
Hardware (aka Curtis Metcalf) first appeared in 1993 in Hardware #1, which was among the first Milestone comics to be published. Curtis was a genius child whose talents and the interests of a rich patron helped him to ascend from his working class roots to a brilliant inventor making lots of money for his patron and now boss Edwin Alva Sr. After he is denied the respect he’s earned for his inventions, and Alva tells him he’s just “a cog in the machine. My machine”, Curtis starts looking into Alva’s business for a little leverage only to find that Alva was a serious criminal. When the legit ways of going about turning in Alva don’t work, Curtis takes justice into his own hands and turns his genius towards himself to create Hardware. Hardware is trained in martial arts, but his main “superpower” is his own genius and the crime-fighting inventions that come out of it, including flight weapons, armor, and sometimes just smart strategy for taking down the bad guy.
Icon (aka Arnus, aka Augustus Freeman III) is from an alien planet called Terminus. He crashed landed in his vessel in the American South in 1839, and his ship reformed his appearance to look like the first human who encountered it, which was a Black slave woman named Miriam, so he became a young Black man and took on the name Augustus Freeman. In the late 20th century, we meet him again as Augustus Freeman III, having assumed the identity of his own son. He is a rich corporate lawyer living in Dakota City. When he encounters a young woman who is part of a gang of youth robbing his mansion, one of the young women Raquel Ervin witnesses him using his alien powers. Raquel is a young aspiring writer from Paris Island, the poorest section of Dakota, and she confronts Augustus for being a privileged and powerful Black man and not using those powers to help the poor and marginalized in Dakota. Augustus is thus inspired to become Icon and he takes the young Raquelunder his wing as a side-kick Rocket, gifting her with a belt that gave her the power to manipulate kinetic energy. Rocket fights crime by his side, but rebellious by nature, she never stops challenging him, especially his conservative politics and values. She later becomes pregnant by her boyfriend and gives birth to Amistad Augustus Ervin, becoming one of the few teen mothers in comics. She continues to fight crime and be a badass mom at the same time. Icon and Rocket first appeared in 1993 in Icon #1 by Dwayne McDuffie and M.D. Bright, which was one of the first Milestone comics.
Static (aka Virgil Hawkins) was a fifteen-year-old self-professed geek when his life changed after the events of the Big Bang in Dakota left him with various electromagnetic powers. Most lost their lives in the events of the Big Bang, which was marked by the release of what police believed was tear gas they were using to break up a confrontation of the city’s gangs, but was actually an experimental mutagen nick-named “Quantum Juice”. When the agency that orchestrated the event tried to capture Virgil for experiments, he fought back, discovering his abilities and becoming Static. Static continues fighting crime in Dakota while coping with all the typical teenage stresses and messes, but he does it all with his own geeky flare and punchy witticisms. He later befriends Rocket and other heroes in the Milestone universe. Static has been the most successful of Milestone’s creations, appearing numerously in the DC universe, getting a (now cancelled) reboot in DC’s New 52, and also appearing in his own animated television series Static Shock.
Founded in 1993, MilestoneMedia was a beacon in the comics industry, where there were few Black characters and fewer popular or non-stereotyped ones.The glory only lasted 3 years though, with the company becoming defunct in 1996.
Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle were among the founders along with Dwayne McDuffie (rest in peace), and they continue Milestone’s legacy in their work. Several of the Milestone characters have survived the imprint, however, and occasionally appear in the DC universe in small roles.
As you’ll see, these folk are kiiinda super awesome-mazing, and we should all campaign for their hardcore revival. Towards that end, I’ll keep shouting ’em out here at GeekOutsider, and we’ll meet up with more of them next week!