DCnU Take 2: Making STATIC SHOCK 'Urban', 'Kinetic'

DCnU Take 2: STATIC SHOCK

 

This week, Static Shock becomes part of DC's line-up for September with a new setting and a new cast of characters.

But that doesn't mean long-time fans of the character should worry. While Static is starting over in the Big Apple with a new cast of characters, his origin and history are intact.

Static Shock is also shaking things up on its creative team. The comic features John Rozum as writer and Scott McDaniel as artist, although the two are collaborating on plot as well.

In this week's first issue, readers will meet Virgil Hawkins, a smart kid from Dakota City who is moving to New York City with his family, adjusting to his new school and life there. An intern at S.T.A.R. Labs after school, Virgil also introduces New York to his electromagnetic powers as the superhero Static Shock.

The character was originally developed as part of the Milestone Universe -- an imprint created to introduce more diverse characters to comic books -- but became part of the DC Universe in 2009. He's also well known for the cartoon Static Shock, which ran for four seasons beginning in 2000 on Kids WB.

Despite all that history, with this new Static Shock comic, Virgil gets a new supporting cast and a new batch of customized villains, while keeping the old cast around for support.

Newsarama talked with Rozum and McDaniel to find out more.

Newsarama: John and Scott, how did you hear about the opportunity to write Static Shock, and why did it sound like something you wanted to do?

John Rozum: I'm guessing it came my way because of my long history with the Milestone characters. It was exciting to me, because I don't usually get to write straight-up superheroes. And he's such a great character with a lot of potential. I'm really looking forward to bringing him into the DC Universe as an A-list character with his own comic.

Nrama: Is there even an added desire to make sure this launch goes well after Dwayne's recent death?

Rozum: Definitely. Dwayne was one of my closest friends, so I'm very interested in continuing his legacy, and making sure it's a living legacy. And that it isn't just "once upon a time he created these great characters." I was part of the Milestone family, and I'd like to see the character treated appropriately, and carry on what happened before. Static Shock is a really beloved character.

Nrama: So how did you guys end up co-writing the first few issues?

Rozum: I was juggling a bunch of other stuff when this all came about, so we decided to have him guide the first three issues because he was so gung ho and was coming up with so many ideas.

McDaniel: I think it was just that a lot of demands for the series changed over time. The DC relaunch had been brewing for quite awhile. Back when the series was supposed to be launched with Felicia Henderson as the writer, the intent and purpose of the series was a little different. Even when John was brought on for the series, when it was finally set for the DC relaunch, the series was evolving into what we have now. And John is a very accomplished writer. He's a great storyteller. But I think editorial wanted some immediate heat on the book, and I was able to immediately get some ideas going that fit with their wish for the first few issues to really hit the ground running. So I think it was just easier to allow me to execute that action up front, and then allow John to play out all the concepts and ideas.

Nrama: Scott, did you have an interest in writing?

McDaniel: I do have an interest in writing, and it's an excellent opportunity to be able to talk about story and character with guys who are accomplished. John is an excellent writer, and quite frankly, I've been impressed with Harvey Richards' ideas. He's brought a lot of ideas to the book.

 

For me, as someone branching out into this new area, it's very exciting to work with these two guys. And to work on this character. I don't know how widely known Static is among the comic reading fandom, but once you learn about him, you realize there's a lot of depth to that creation.

Nrama: So explain this collaboration. How is the work breaking down?

Rozum: On the first three issues, it's almost all Scott. He's doing most of the piloting. He came up with the plots and shaped them, then I'm going through and adding dialogue and just helping guide it to the next issues. And of course, he's doing the art. I don't know how he can fit so many hours in the day, but he's been pushing a lot on this book. He's very enthusiastic about it and has been coming up with some great ideas. And he knows a lot about science, so that's been really helpful. Dwayne was always my go-to guy whenever I had any physics questions, but Scott seems to be pretty knowledgeable about that stuff.

But yeah, he's guiding the first three issues, and then it's just kind of balancing out from there.

Nrama: As you guys mentioned, Felicia Henderson was originally slated to work on the title. Do you know anything about what happened?

Rozum: The only thing I really know about that, and I don't know how accurate my information is, is that she's primarily a television writer, and my understanding is that at some point, between when the book was announced last fall and when it was supposed to debut in the spring, around the same time Xombi did, she had to work on TV work and had to back out. And then it got pushed back from there.

Nrama: So let's talk about the comic. How would you describe Static Shock?

Rozum: He's in high school, and his whole family has moved from Dakota to New York City. He's the new kid in school, the new kid in a city. And he's trying to reinvent himself like everybody does when they go to a new place. But he's trying to figure out who he is. And he's got a new job working at S.T.A.R. Labs, after school, which will lead into some of the adventures he has.

McDaniel: He's got these really cool electromagnetic powers. But what's really fun about him is that he's a young guy who's really smart, but he has this ability, and he is forced to figure out how to use it. Part of the fun is to see him grow into his ability and his expertise in using that ability.

You'll also see new things about Static's abilities. And that's going to be fun to explore in the book.

Rozum: We also looked to see what's different about this character from everybody else. He's always been presented as being really smart, and his powers really give him the potential to be one of the more powerful characters in the DC Universe. And that's all within the body of a teenager who makes mistakes. So there's that dynamic that we're going to explore.

We really want to show him off and make people see what's so different about him from other characters and what makes him unique.

Nrama: The solicitations reveal that Static goes up against the "Slate Gangs" and an "inhuman assassin" named Virule. Was the idea to create new villains for him?

McDaniel: Yes, very new. And we dive into that conflict right away, as he's confronted in a way that brings fast action to the book.

Rozum: One of the first priorities we gave ourselves when we started this was to round out his rogues gallery. A lot of the villains he had from the old Milestone run weren't an important part of the book, because the stories seemed to revolve more about his life as Virgil. The villains were not really A-list villains. They were usually in one issue, and they weren't the kind of character you would bring back.

 

We wanted to look at what makes Static who he is, and we wanted to define him by the villains he has. We want to make a rogues gallery that will show him off as a hero. It's giving the book a very unique identity.

McDaniel: When he was in Dakota City, there was a whole context of gangland and the tribal warfare between the gangs.

But now, in New York City, the element he's going to face takes a different character. It's more sophisticated. It's more adult. It's more modern. It's more technical. So he's moved from gangs into a much more threatening and organized element of crime. He will come onto their radar in a very serious way.

Rozum: And you'll see more new villains introduced. We want to create a whole bunch of characters for Static who really feel unique to him. We're really making this more of a scienc-y book, so there are technology based villains and other rogues who fit with Static.

Nrama: Will he also have a new supporting cast?

McDaniel: Yeah, he will have a new supporting cast, but that doesn't mean that we've forgotten about the old. I think all of us on the book are very committed to maintaining the integrity of the character. And that means, in this relaunch, we are not eliminating any of his backstory. It's all in place. It's all important to his formation as a character. And while we are establishing new, we are going to see in Issue #1, there's an appearance by an established Milestone character, and there will be more as the series goes on.

It's kind of a tricky line to walk, because we want to be friendly to new readers, but at the same time, we don't want to disenfranchise the established readers. On this book, we want to have respect for both camps. And I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive. I think we're going to be able to satisfy both sets of readership.

Rozum: Yeah, the old cast will still be part of his life because now, moreso than in the '90s when he was introduced, people can stay in touch with cell phones and Facebook and texting and whatever. So he'll still be staying in touch with them. But he's going to have to try to make some new friends in high school. He doesn't have the comradery with the other Dakota superheroes, because they're not in New York City with him. So he's really trying to find his way. There will be some support for him as he goes, as the series develops, but as we start, he's cut off from what he had before.

Nrama: Will he run into any other DC characters?

Rozum: Not right away. There are a couple other characters in New York City, so there will be some overlap, probably, pretty quickly. But at first, we just want to introduce new readers to the character and what he can do, and the mood of the comic.

Nrama: Beyond the action, how else will Static be challenged?

McDaniel: He'll be challenged on just about every front. His civilian identity is Virgil. There was a family tragedy that forced this move from Dakota City to Harlem. And that's really at the core of what's driving this deeper, psychological mystery that's going on in the book.

Virgil has got this whole new home, a new high school, new friends and a new city. Will he remain true to who he is? Or will he try to put up a false front?

 

And on the superhero side, the nature of the villains is going to change, and it's going to escalate.

Nrama: Is there a certain structure you're hoping to have in the series?

McDaniel: There's no hard-and-fast rule to how we're approaching it, but we had talked about the possibility of doing short arcs and done-in-ones. I think that might be the extent of it. I don't think we want to do things that will spread out over six issues or more. It just takes too long to maintain a lot of heat.

There will be some subplots that brew and stir over a long time. But the main plots will tend to be accelerated in order to keep the book full of energy and always moving.

Nrama: What's the overall tone of the book?

McDaniel: It's an action book, it's a fun book, but it's smart and it's urban.

Rozum: And it's playful. There's a lot of energy to it.

McDaniel: All the visual choices are made in order to get that flavor in the book. So artwise, I wanted to keep things as kinetic as possible, with lots of nice perspectives. Nothing too crazy and over-the-top, but just a lot of motion. Even if they're standing still, I want there to be a sense of something moving.

I just want the book to be fun. That's what I want for Static. That he has fun discovering himself as a person, discovering his powers and how he's going to use them for good.

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