When writer Felicia D. Henderson started talking with DC about writing a comic book, one of the first characters she wanted to write was Static.
A writer on TV shows like Fringe and Gossip Girl, Henderson had her first chance to write Static when he was temporarily a part of the Teen Titans.
But later this spring, she gets her wish to write the hero in an ongoing solo title, and she's hoping to develop a book that attracts a diverse audience.
Static is a African-American teen named Virgil Hawkins who uses electromagnetic powers. Originally developed as part of the Milestone Universe — an imprint created to introduce more African-American characters to comic books — Static and all the Milestone characters became part of the DC Universe in 2009, and Static temporarily became a member of the Teen Titans.
But for most Americans, Static is known as the star of the Static Shock cartoon, which ran for four seasons beginning in 2000 on Kids WB. Even after the show ended, Static Shock was syndicated for years, bringing Static to millions of American homes.
As Static's new title begins later this year, we talked with Henderson to find out more about why she wanted to write Virgil's comic, and what she plans for the new title.
Newsarama: Felicia, how did you get the job of working with Static? And what did you think of the idea?
Felicia Henderson: As a kid I was a DC girl. Batman was the first comic book I ever read (while my sisters were reading The Archies). I started talking with Dan DiDio about three or four years ago. From time to time, we’d talk about how I could insinuate myself into the DCU. I started with a JLA Annual. They allowed me to choose any character I wanted to and I chose Citizen Steel. I enjoyed the process so much, I immediately started begging Dan to let me do a Citizen Steel book, he gave me what I have come to know as the DiDio, “ain’t gonna happen” smile.
However, from our earliest conversations, Static was a big part of the discussion because I was so intrigued with exploring his world. In the meantime, the Teen Titans opportunity came about, and I was happy to jump in. But I always had my fingers crossed about Static getting his own book, again. I’m a big Dwayne McDuffie fan, and if I could choose my real life little brother, he’d be Static. The company wasn’t quite ready to approve a Static book when Dan and I first started talking, and now they finally are and I am beyond excited.
Nrama: What were your earliest exposures to Static? And what are your influences as you start writing his comic?
Henderson: Believe it or not it was the animated series my nephews asked me to watch with them that led me to the book. I started with "Rebirth of the Cool," just because I wanted to know if the title was a play on the title of the Miles Davis album, Return of the Cool, but I'm getting dangerously close to a far-away tangent, aren’t I?
Anyway, I picked up "Rebirth of the Cool" and I was hooked. I understood what it was like to be a nerdy freak as a kid. It’s the same reason I love Spider-Man, so I guess you could say I’m influenced by what the two characters have in common. And of course, anything and everything I do — yes, even my TV writing — is influenced by Batman, especially his tortured darkness.
I’m also influenced, in a general way by a desire to normalize the depiction of young, African-American men as bright and inquisitive. I know lots of young, black men who are genius, but I don’t see them much in any form of media and entertainment.
Just to be clear, I see Static as a mainstream DCU book for readers who love everything from Green Lantern to The Outsiders. I don’t want it to be marginalized in any way. I will be writing to invite a diverse audience in, and I’m happy to be doing that through a character I feel so personal about.
Nrama: What are your favorite things about Static and his world?
Henderson: I love his relationship with his family, particularly with his sister. It feels very grounded and real to me. I love how much he cares about Dakota and that he’s a typical guy in a lot of ways. And nothing’s more fun to write than raging hormones, a dedication to doing the right thing for the right reasons, all while still trying to figure out who you are and what you really want.
Nrama: What do you think is the core of the Static concept, and how do you intend to introduce or reinforce that in your comic?
Henderson: Static has had a complicated life and a variety of interesting experiences. I think he now has to be a combination of those experiences while questioning them all. So, I guess I’m saying that at the core of the series will be a further understanding and exploration of the source of Static’s power. How to increase, deactivate, etc. I also don’t think we’ve completely explored the ramifications of the Big Bang. In fact, I think we’ve only scratched the surface. So that exploration will also be at the core of the series.
Nrama: Is there a certain age group that you and DC are hoping to target with the comic? Or is it more all ages?
Henderson: In a perfect world, we’d appeal to 20-something men and women. I’m particularly interested in increasing young female readership. I’ve been meeting more and more young women who dig comic books and I love that. Of course, I’d also like the original Milestone readers to be excited about what I’m doing, try it out, and come on back into the fold.
Nrama: What are your main goals for the character as you start a new comic starring him?
Henderson: One of the main goals is to make Static multi-faceted, grow him up a bit, to show his warts and the lengths to which he will go to protect who and what he loves. I also want him to become more curious about his origins in a way that challenges how he sees the world.
Nrama: Any details you can give us about his supporting cast or his rogue’s gallery?
Henderson: This is the tricky part for me. I’m excited about the general direction in which we’re going, so I want to tell you everything! But a girl’s gotta keep some secrets, right? I will tell you that Dr. Rochelle Barnes, who we introduced in Teen Titans, figures prominently. There’ll be a guest appearance from a big presence in the DCU and Holocaust isn’t finished with Static just yet. A couple of the villains from Static’s original run will be back to raise some major hell with a little help from a DCU rogue, as well.
Nrama: Since it's pretty early in the process, I'm not sure there's a lot more you can tell us. But for fans of the Milestone universe and Static in particular, is there anything else you'd like to tell them about the Static comic?
Henderson: Yes, you’re right — it’s early and I’ve changed my mind a couple of times about where to begin. And I just gotten a new editor, so we’re throwing around new ideas, too. I started out wanting to continue the path I set up for him at the end of my Teen Titans run and some of it will still be in the mix – Cadmus, for example. Static is going to question everything he thought he knew about his world and about Dakota.
And I know this isn’t exactly the question, but my main goal is to write a compelling book that readers will enjoy, add to their pull list, tell other readers about simply because they’re loving what I’m doing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard how hard it is to launch a book and how much harder it is to sustain one.
I know it’s true, but I’m going to put everything I’ve got into this because writing comic books has been my dream since I was 8 or 9 years old. I’d do it for free… actually I nearly do, but that’s not the point. The point is, I’m giving Static all I’ve got and I couldn’t be more excited about doing it!
I hope DC will promote the hell out of it. If there’s a comic book store in Des Moines that wants me to pay them a visit, I’m there… mostly because I really like Idaho, it’s so beautiful. But I’m serious, nothing is more important than getting readers to try the book out and end up staying awhile. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.