On this week’s #MECCAconWeekly, I’m more than honored to present to you an interview I held with with our living legend, Denys Cowan. Cowan is co-founder of the historic Milestone Media, known for comics such as Static Shock, Hardwire, Icon, and many more. His creative team broke barriers. Had it not been for Milestone, there wouldn’t be the books YOU all are working on in mainstream. Milestone gave opportunities to the comic book industry that never happened before:: They gave DC Comics the BIGGIE approach:: “kick in the door, wavin’ da 4-4”, … So to speak, lol.
Cowan, however, is known for FAR more than Milestone Media. He is half of the reason the Black Panther animated series existed. His work on many Batman Series, BET, The Question, Shaft, and many other projects give me VALID reason to do everything BUT turn this into yet another Milestone Comics interview. It took a bit of a minute for us to complete this one, lol. It was all worth it in the end. Some of you know.it.all folks may know everything that has been written on here, and that’s fine.
….. I’m here for you, too.
BOOKS/ SERIES you’ve created and/or worked on::
Powerman & Iron Fist, Black Panther (2 mini series), V, The Question, Deathlok, Doctor Zero, Detective Comics (598-600), Green Arrow, Co-Founded the Original Milestone Media, designed the Dakota Universe, Hardware, Steel, Fight for Tomorrow (Vertigo), Batman: Confidential, Black Panther/ Captain America (mini), Voodoo Child, Django Unchained, Convergence: Detective Comics 1-2, Batman & Robin 1-2, Static Shock!, Producer/Director Boondocks/Producer, SVP BET Animation
Convergence: Batman & Robin… what makes this version different or in some cases, better than the previous B&R series?::
I’m not so sure what makes it different, however it was part of a big crossover event, so there’s that fact. It’s always great to work with Klaus Janson.
What exactly was the origin of Milestone Media? Whose idea was it first, and how did it spring into action? Milestone 2.0, what are the MAJOR differences between it and Milestone Media? What direction and/or focus are you all gearing towards?::
I had an idea to start a company that created and published black super heroes/heroes of color, it came about at Sand Diego Comic Con, 1989-90? I called Michael Davis that morning and met him in the lobby of the hotel we were at. We took a walk while i pitched him the idea, then i called Dwayne (McDuffie). We then contacted Jim Owsley and Derek Dingle. Everybody signed on and we got to work, there was a lot to do. It dealt with few exceptions, The Dakota Universe which was published by DC Comics.
Milestone 2.0 – Derek Dingle, Reggie Hudlin and myself are the principles. We love those characters, and there are plans involving them. However, our focus goes beyond the Dakota Universe.
How was the now infamous character, Static Shock, created? I already know, but many others get facts confused::
I’m not sure i would call Static… “infamous”, lol. At any rate, that’s been a well documented story. I will say that each of the four of us, including Jim Owsley, had a role in creating all of the initial characters. Without the unique chemistry that existed with our group,none of it would have happened.
The Question- Will there be more issues, and if so, will you be the artist?::
I had my run on the Question with Denny O’Neil back in the eighties to early nineties, and that’s our version of the character. I had the chance to do one final issue of the question. The original run was 36 issues, not including the annuals, and we did issue # 37 for DC in 2010. Greg Rucka wrote it and Bill Sienkiewicz inked it. That was a fun project, but no plans to revisit the character.
What was the experience TRULY like at Continuity Studios, being surrounded by many of the industry’s greats at such a young age?::
I was 15 years old… or something like that, lol. It was an incredible time. Since it was Neal Adam’s and Dic Giordano’s studio, every artist it seemed would pass through on a daily basis! Wally Wood,Gray Morrow, Russ Heath, Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, Larry Hama… All of them had space there. Marshall Rogers, as well. Really to many to mention. I spent my formative years there, i was raised by wolves or something, lol. I was a very fortunate kid, surrounded by a lot of very kind people. I know i drove Neal and everyone crazy…
From what many constantly tell me, Bad Boy Studios was an…. EXPERIENCE, lol. Half of the people I’ve interviewed or are on my list of future interviews were a part of it. That says enough in itself. It seemed to be a MECCA for up and coming artists. I’ve heard many stories, some inspiring, some completely crazy, lol. Do you think the comic book industry needs to revisit that format again? Why or why not?::
Bad Boy Studios was an incredible situation that happened with a genius at the head of it and a very particular group of young hungry artists… It was a different time, and you can’t replicate it. i’m sure there’s some version of it happening in comics now. Technology changed everything.
Hardware, Static Shock, and Blood Syndicate were prominent characters from Milestone, and broke MANY barriers all across the board. How important is it to you to carry out the tradition, but more importantly, focus on the growth, of diversity in comics? By diversity, I’m talking BY our OWN people?::
Thanks for the nice words about Milestone. When we founded the company, it was with a sense of purpose. We were on a mission to introduce our multicultural heroes to the widest audience possible. I’m not sure how many barriers Milestone broke down- at the end of the day, i do think we presented a very different point of view that a lot of readers responded to. Our books worked on many levels, and i think people got different things from them… That was the genius of Dwayne McDuffie and our writers making the books work like that. I think its important for our people to continue to push for diversity in comics. I think it’s important for artist of color to be advocates for each other first, as well as to support and be advocates for the other underepresented groups in comics, Women, LGBT, and so on. Only by supporting each other is any real change going to happen.
Your covers for David Walker’s Shaft Comics were very much like collectors items. I completely LOVED that series and was devastated by the (unfortunately VERY predictable) outcome, due to the social politics of this industry. Do you all have any work together coming up or the near future?::
Thanks for the kind words about the covers. It’s easy work when you get a chance to work with artist like Bill and writers like the talented Mr David Walker. It’s tough for any series to really catch on, due to a whole host of circumstances.
I have read many times how you were type cast to be that one trick pony, “I draw all the black folks” artist. Does it still bother you?::
That’s interesting, I’ve drawn all types of books and stories and i’m not sure if that’s the case. You never know what editors or publishers are thinking. That being said, i never saw my name being associated with nor attached to, “Black Folks” in comics as being a problem at all. Quite the opposite in fact. For me, it was always my favorite work to do. They may have seen it as .. typecasting or whatever. If i’m to be remembered for anything i’ve done in comics, I’m good with that. I love my people.
Transgendered characters were very much present in Milestone, including second Death Wish and Masquerade. Did you all get any negative feedback?::
Dwayne McDuffie, Addie Blaustein, and Matt Wayne were way ahead of the curve with what they did. I thought they were incredibly brave. If there was any negative feedback, I don’t remember it. If there was, i’m sure Dwayne was cracking up about it. People wrote us all kind of things in those days, lol!
Being a huge conisseur of ALL things Detroit, I’m a huge fan of Deathlok. Was it complicated to illustrate so many details on a cyborg?::
No it wasn’t complicated at all. I had a great time doing Deathlok . It was one of the books i read as a young kid, and i was a huge fan. That was also the first time Dwayne McDuffie and I worked together.
What was your first project in the comic book community that excited you to be a part of?::
Probably my first assignment! A Hulk pin-up in the Hulk B/W magazine. I honestly can’t pick one. I’ve been lucky to be involved with so many exciting projects.
MOON KNIGHT was a very close call to BATMAN, yet more…. Black. When creating on that series, did it get you into studying Kemetic/Egyptian mythology more?::
When i did the few fill in issue and covers on Moon Knight i was usually fighting a deadline, lol. Those things weren’t a part of the stories and subject matters at that time.
Do you find yourself using different styles of art form when it comes to certain titles? What do you love to execute the most?::
I usually draw to what I feel the story calls for. The style i’ll use is always in service of the story . i dont have a particular favorite, although there are many things i wish i could do better.
Do you feel that “diversity in comics” is a problem that the Indie community needs to focus on?::
I think “Diversity in comics” is an opportunity to take advantage of. If the media and the publishing/entertainment industries are talking about it, … step up to the plate.
When it comes to Dwayne McDuffie, he was and still basically is a Demi god. When he passed, I know the city of Detroit paid a LOT of homage to him, from the galleries to the libraries. How important is it to you to honor him for days to come? Do you think that he is happy with the direction of Milestone 2.0?::
We can all honor Dwayne as creators of color, by doing our very best work, taking care of each other, and supporting our vibrant creative community. Dwayne, Derek Dingle and I were always close to Reggie. He was one of the first people we talked to about Milestone when we were putting it together in 1990. He’s always been with us in a very real way. Milestone 2.0 is a natural progression in a way.
If you were to have a sit down conversation with director Ava DuVernay, what advice would you give her on her POSSIBLE role as director of the upcoming BLACK PANTHER film?::
She’e a very skilled director, I’m sure she wouldn’t need any advise from me, lol.
Do you think that sexism exists in comic book industry? (I will ask this every week, America, so deal with it, lol)::
Out of all of your projects you’ve worked on or owned, which was the most difficult and why?::
They all have their challenges, with some more than others. I think my first assignment was the most difficult, my first 4 page backup story or possibly my first 8 page story. That was really hard!
A friend of mine informed me that you did a very rough and rugged Black Panther series based on apartheid, which was very respected by the industry. I’m googling as I type this, lol. PLEASE TELL ME MORE!::
It was a mini series that took the Black Panther to South Africa, which at that time had its people suffering under the racism and weight of apathied .We thought that it would be an interesting stroy to put the Black Panther in the middle off all that. It took Marvel a few years to finally publish it, lol. Perhaps it was too controversial at the time for them.
I’ve always admired you because you have a no f___ks given attitude when it comes to expressing your opinion and passion. Has that hindered your selection of projects, or does controversy attract a fatter wallet?::
If that’s the perception of my attitude,it may have hindered people from hiring me. I’ve never tried to be controversial. There are other people who can do that so much better than i can. I do think that it’s important to stand up for what you belive in. However, let the chips fall where they may.
Where can we find you online? Links, Handles, Hashtags, Bribes::
denyscowan.tumblr.com; @denyscowan on twitter; Milestone.Media
Any last thoughts, screams, rants, praises, etc?::
Thanks for the chance to ramble on far too long!! lol.
MECCAcon Weekly is a weekly series of features, interviews, and highlights, all focused around comics and art, mainly centered around the AFRIKAAN diaspora community. We focus on the upliftment and advancement of arts thru various mediums. #MECCAconWeekly can also be found on our sister site, DARK MATTERS.
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