Static Shock: The Complete First Season
While I liked Icon better (because of the lead female character), the Milestone comic Static, launched in 1993, was more fun. The title character, a teen with electrical powers, was a modern take on Spider-Man. Virgil Hawkins was a kid given amazing abilities, struggling with how to use them well while juggling family and school responsibilities. The first issues were written by Robert L. Washington III and Dwayne McDuffie and penciled by John Paul Leon.
I never watched the cartoon series when it launched in 2000, though, so getting a chance to do so was a treat. (I was too busy being an adult and hadn’t yet come back around to appreciating cartoons when it aired.) Warner Archive has released 13 episodes on DVD as Static Shock: The Complete First Season.
It’s particularly significant to have it available again, since Static (voiced by Phil LaMarr) was the first African-American teenage superhero to have his own cartoon. Virgil hung out with tech developer Richie (Jason Marsden); had a crush on Frieda (Danica McKellar); and teased his sister Sharon (Michele Morgan).
The animation style is flat and movement sometimes sparse, but it’s fun seeing the wise-cracking lead, full of energy and optimism. It’s also cool seeing the show’s well-realized urban environment. The city setting has its own distinctive feel and is a key part of the cartoon. Plus, I appreciated how Virgil and Richie figured out new uses for his powers by learning science.
It was also good to see Static having a present and involved father (although his mother was deceased), voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. In addition to traditional bad guys, the show portrayed Virgil struggling with bullying, gangs, and racism. One of his antagonists, Hotstreak, was the kid who used to hassle him at school, now with fire powers, which ramped up that conflict.
There are a few extras on this set, carried over from a previous 2004 single-disc release of six episodes. (That release, titled The New Kid, is the same as the first disc in this two-disc set.) They’re the kind of thing you put together when you don’t have participation from any of the show creators and next-to-no budget. They are:
- Map of Dakota (2 1/2 minutes) consists of cartoon clips accompanied by voiceover narration describing key locations
- Static’s Gadgets (4 minutes) describes his costume; his “Static Saucer”, the flying piece of foil he rides; and his Shock Box walkie-talkies
- Front Page Bios (3 minutes) is text on screen summing up key cast members
- Static Shock: Bad Guy Beatdown is an option-choosing on-screen game where you make choices to defeat villains.
Second Season Coming
Warner has already announced that they will be releasing a Second Season set later this month, which should consist of 11 episodes. (There were four seasons in all, a total of 52 episodes.) It’s described as
super-charged with new, more dangerous metahuman menaces, an array of special guest stars, and more of its unique mix of high adventure and social drama. The stakes go high as Static gets drafted into “The Big Leagues” when the dynamic duo — Batman and Robin — travel to Dakota in search of The Joker (Mark Hamill). “Uncle J” to the meta-humans, The Joker is wreaking his own special brand of “hilarious” havoc on the citizens of Dakota, giving Static (Phil LaMarr) the opportunity of a lifetime to team up with his favorite superhero — the Dark Knight. Other superstar surprises this season include stints in Dakota from none other than hoop hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal (Steel), who just happens to be tight with Static’s Pops, and The Backstreet Boys’ A.J. McLean, who lends some music career advice to Rubberband Man. Things take a turn to the serious in the special episode entitled “Jimmy,” looking at the issue of gun violence in school.
(The studio provided a review copy.)