Comic-book characters like Static, Icon and Hardware once broke open new opportunities for minorities to gain representation in mainstream super-hero titles. Now the company that published their exploits hopes to bring new creators — and advertising opportunities — into the mix.
WarnerMedia will through its DC comics unit launch the Milestone Initiative, a bid to identify new writers and artists with diverse background in the comic book industry. The effort is a nod to Milestone Media, the now iconic line of comics that was devised by a group of Black creators in the early 1990s and published with DC. Ally Financial, a digitally-focused financial-services company, will support the program with advertising and sponsorships.
“Super hero and comic culture is massive and has a broad reach, so I think we are going to get a really big universe of people that will really be into this,” says Andrea Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing and public relations officer, in an interview.
U.S. based creatives can apply for a development program that includes a one-week in-person training seminar in DC’s offices in Burbank. CA, followed by an eight-week virtual training course through the Kubert School, a training academy for comics hopefuls. The goal is to recruit writers, illustrators, and creatives from underrepresented communities to contribute to DC comic book content, and expand the types of stories used for DC’s stable of characters, which include Batman, Superman and Plastic Man.
More advertisers are looking to broaden the types of consumers they reach. In recent months, several top media-buying agencies have unveiled new programs aimed at identifying media outlets owned by executives from minority backgrounds. Some of the efforts have come about under pressure in the wake of a national reckoning on race and culture after the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of police in Minneapolis.
Milestone’s characters have yet to attain the profile of Wonder Woman or Flash, but they still command respect among comics aficionados. Milestone was co-founded in 1993 by artist Denys Cowan, writers Dwayne McDuffie and Michael T. Davis and Black Enterprise executive Derek T. Dingle in a bid to address not only the lack of superheroes of color in comics, but also a paucity of storytellers of color creating the content. The company’s creations, which also include Hardware and the Blood Syndicate, continue to resonate.
Milestone Media joined with DC again in February, and relaunches of comics featuring Static and Rocket, among other characters, have surfaced in recent months.
Ally expects to surface in some of the content that creators who take part in the program devise. “We can authentically show up in that and there is a heavy focus around all kinds of content that will come out of this, things where we definitely plan on there being a part for us,” says Brimmer.
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