February: Denys Cowan

Denys Cowan is a bit young to be a comic book legend, but for a lot of readers, it's hard to find another way to describe the man. He started working in comics as a teenager, working under Rick Buckler and Neal Adams. His first great comics work was "The Question." Written by Denny O'Neill, the series had a very different perspective on crime, corruption and city life than most comics. It was a much more nuanced and complicated notion of how cities function and what one man could do when confromnted with these concerns, particularly one who was enmeshed in the city. In that sense it was very much an assault on how comics have typically portrayed these issues and how to solve them.

Cowan went onto draw the "Blind Justice" story arc of Batman written by Sam Hamm (who scripted the 1989 Batman movie) and draw "Deathlok" at Marvel, which is how he met Dwayne McDuffie. Cowan was one of the founders of Milestone Media. While there he designed a number of characters, drew the zero issue of "Xombi" and is best known for the long run of "Hardware" that he drew. He went worked in animation for many years, producing shows like "Static Shock" and "Boondocks," working as an executive at BET where he oversaw the "Black Panther" and a series of animated shorts including the acclaimed and controversial "Read a Book" PSA.

In recent years he's drawn a lot more comics like the miniseries "Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of our Fathers," "Fight for Tomorrow," "Batman Confidential," various short comics, and the short-lived series "Dominique Leveau: Voodoo Child," which had a few problems but was a fascinating series with a lot of great texture and didn't feel like any other comic out there.

It was announced last month that Cowan and fellow Milestone co-founder Derek Dingle would be teaming up with Reginald Hudlin to form Milestone Media, or Milestone 2.0 as they've referred to it in various interviews. The two have spoken about a live action Static Shock project that's in development.

Another thing that I hope they look into and focus on is reprinting and making available the original Milestone books. Quality reprints of "Static Shock" and "Hardware," especially, would be much appreciated. There's a number of other quality books and story lines that I would love to see available both in digital forms and in quality trade paperback collections.

But as much as people want to see more stories of "Static" and many other characters, as much as they'll reinvent some of the old comics they did, which I think offer a lot of material, and have a lot of relevance to today, I do hope that they'll also make as much a push on new projects and new ideas. After all this was very much a company that came about because of how the creators were treated within the comics industry.

It doesn't take much imagination of insider knowledge to read "Hardware," which was written by McDuffie and drawn by Cowan, as an attack on how Marvel treated them. Image Comics may have talked about how they were treated horribly by Marvel and struck out on their own, but the creators at Milestone took what happened and turned it into art. McDuffie and Cowan and others tackled contemporary events and issues and made drama out of them. I hope that Milestone 2.0 will not shy away from this legacy at all. While other companies have run away from such things, I hope that they embrace it.

Denys Cowan has been a masterful artist and designer and storyteller for decades. How many pages of comics he's drawn has changed from year to year depending on what he's working on, but he's always been one of the great storytellers of his generation and I think that sense of storytelling, even more than his art (which I LOVE) is what has drawn so many people to his work and what has made so many writers excited about collaborating with him.

I'm excited about a live action "Static Shock," I want a beautiful series of books collecting the McDuffie-Cowan run of "Hardware," I want a masterful art book showcasing the work of Cowan in various fields. But what I want more than anything, is another new comic drawn by Denys Cowan. That has ALWAYS been worth the wait. And I have no doubt that it will continue to be so for years to come - and for a whole new generation of readers.

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