Alright, I’ll tell it to you guys straight. I wanted to talk about race and injustices and blah blah in comics, cartoons, anime, etc., but then I thought about Static Shock and I realized I love Static Shock. More importantly, I was a huge fan of Virgil Hawkins being a superhero, this super cool superhero….who happened to be of the darker persuasion.
Note: I was in a rush today so this was not properly edited at all!
Now, I say “happened to be of the darker persuasion” because while it was true that Static Shock as an animated series, (and Static in the comics as well) dealt with things like race and inequality, it also did something that many series rarely do, which is handle those topics well.
I am all about addressing social issues through fiction. In fact, I think things like fiction and comedy allows us to fully explore aspects of our society and how we interact with one another without necessarily offending people.
It’s a lot more passable to talk about the war between half-elves and knights than insert race here vs insert race here.
But, there is a problem when that becomes such a strong focus of a story that it ends up being all that story is. Good writing and a good character is more than just a strong premise. There has to be substance behind it as well.
Virgil Hawkins was a character that had traits to him, which weren’t necessarily about him being black, just a kid, a kid in a kinda rough neighborhood. Even his inception as a superhero is compelling because it blends a somewhat realistic situation with a very unrealistic outcome.
If you don’t know anything about this series, Virgil Hawkins is a high schooler who is pretty smart. Virgil is a nerd, but not necessarily because of his size and stature, but more so because of his temperament. He’s quick-witted and he is smart, but that wit gets him into trouble.
I’m not entirely sure how it happens in the comics, but in the animated series Virgil Hawkins ends up in a situation where he is tasked to join a gang and I will let Wikipedia explain it for me:
Virgil Hawkins is a fourteen-year-old who lives with his older sister Sharon, and his widowed father Robert in Dakota City. He attends high school with his best friend Richie Foley, and has a crush on a girl named Frieda. He also has a dispute with a bully named Francis, nicknamed “F-Stop.” A gang leader named Wade recently helped Virgil, hoping to recruit him, but Virgil is hesitant, as he knows his mother died in an exchange of gunfire between gangs. Wade eventually leads Virgil to a restricted area for a fight against F-Stop’s crew, but it was interrupted by police helicopters. During the dispute with the police, chemical containers explode, releasing a gas that causes mutations among the people in the vicinity (This event was later known as “The Big Bang“). As a result, Virgil obtains the ability to create, generate, absorb, and control electricity and magnetism—he takes up the alter-ego of “Static”. The gas also gives others in the area their own powers, and several of them become supervillains. The mutated people become meta-humans known as “Bang Babies”, and their mutations apparently spread to other people around them.
I liked Static Shock, while the superhero was African-American, it never felt as if the show was being pandered to me or any of my friends. We didn’t talk about race when we talked about Static, but we talked about things like not having parents around, gun violence, who would win in a fight between Cyborg and Static (Static…obviously) and it was fun.
I think that was the thing I really enjoyed the most about Static Shock, both the series and the superhero, it was fun to watch and it was an enjoyable experience. The heavy episodes were heavy and they hit hard. The series refused to shy away from some pretty important topics, which felt great, but the series was also not afraid to show that Virgil was not a down and out kid, he had friends, he had a life, and he was a real person who wanted to do better and tried his best.
No matter what a hero looks like or how they act or even where they are from, the type of character they are will always shine through.
This isn’t a review of Static or Static Shock, but it is just me simply saying I really liked this series, what it represented and how it showed that you can make a superhero, you can send a message and you can do it in a way that is both meaningful and entertaining.
Now, seriously where are my Blu-Ray disc releases of this cartoon? DC needs to stop playing with my emotions!
Also, a new version of Static will be in Young Justice Season 3, so he isn’t gone for good.
Let’s just hope Young Justice Season 3 will be good.