Milestone Media looks to bring more diverse voices into comics

When a slew of young, aspiring comic book writers and artists of color packed a conference room at DC Entertainment’s Burbank offices to chat with Milestone Media executives Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan, some common and generational concerns were raised.

How much should we get paid? General. How can we stay true to our authentic selves? generational. How can we work for a company but protect our intellectual property? Both general and intergenerational. The same questions would be asked by anyone starting out in a creative career, but getting answers from two of the people behind the industry’s best-known and most successful black comics company is likely to be invaluable to this group.

Participants in the Milestone initiative, a program designed to introduce more people of color to the comic book business, recently attended several seminars at a summit during their orientation. The young developers were in the middle of a 10-week program offered by Milestone Media and sponsored by DC and Ally, a financial services company that also prides itself on its community involvement.

Announced during DC FanDome 2021, the initiative offers 24 writers and artists both in-person mentoring from working comics professionals and virtual education through the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. The initiative ends next week and participants will be working with comics veterans brought together to invent new, original stories for the Milestone universe.

“Creating content that incorporates diverse stories and characters is an important mission for DC,” said Nancy Spears, DC’s vice president of sales and marketing. “With the Milestone initiative, we are making a concerted effort to focus on building a pipeline of talent who will contribute to these stories and characters from their unique perspective.”

Hudlin and Cowan understand that color creators are still a large minority in the industry. When it was pointed out that there were many, the notion was “challenged”.

“A lot? Let’s think about it,” says Cowan. He and Hudlin then cite some tact, but their point is clear. The Milestone Initiative will help, but even among people of color who work, the pool of talent is in theirs Goals and beliefs so diverse that there must be a home for the many.

Denys Cowan stands in front of a Milestone poster.

Co-founder and CEO of Milestone Media and artist Denys Cowan.

(By DC Entertainment)

“Not everyone has the same agenda,” says Cowan. “Everyone supports Milestone, but not everyone will work with us for whatever reason. They are more interested in, or want to be, more mainstream comics [do other things]. My idea is to create a space for all of that. You don’t have to be satisfied with what we do specifically, but if you’re a writer or artist of color, comics will give you a chance. We want to uplift everyone.”

Hudlin believes that what Milestone Comics offers can also be something that participants in the initiative can understand as people of color.

“Right now, the audience that buys comics is a very small group of fans,” says Hudlin. “There’s diversity — whenever I go into a comic book store, I see people of color — but there are more people who don’t buy the books than who buy them. But they’ll turn around and watch the movies and TV shows, so how do we get more of these people into stores? That’s the kind of success we’re having with Milestone.”

“We’re trying to immunize our kids and make them feel strong by giving them their own mythology.”

— Reginald Hudlin

It’s one of the reasons a financial services company that prides itself on being a community ally is investing in the program

“For us, stories that represent diverse communities are so important to culture,” said Erica Hughes, Ally’s director of multicultural marketing. “One of the things we talked to Milestone about was how to make sure we’re moving the culture forward.” The company supports its community-first ideals with programs like the initiative and Moguls in the Making. Not only do they fund the event, but they also offer attendees their financial expertise for their future success.

“Some of our new cohorts are going to have a financial windfall,” says Hughes. “We have curated a curriculum that will help them learn about investing, saving and budgeting based on their answers [in an earlier survey].”

Because the attendees were new to the industry and DC, they were not “cleared” to speak on behalf of the program. They’re not done yet either, but their enthusiasm was palpable. Cowan and Hudlin would “love” it if all participants worked for Milestone, but understand that’s not realistic. So what’s the plan after the program when the Milestone Initiative offers creative, professional, and financial guidance?

“Some may be asked to develop the motif for our media purchases and campaign activations. Others can develop custom comics for advertising partners. And more can be called upon to mentor future talent that we identify to drive storytelling at DC,” says Spears.

“The Milestone Heroes of the Dakotaverse are part of the DC Multiverse. This gives us a great opportunity to look for ways to tell stories where these heroes meet, maybe even written or drawn by some of the talented people who are here.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-06-10/milestone-media-looks-to-bring-creators-of-color-into-comics Milestone Media looks to bring more diverse voices into comics

Sarah Ridley

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