It’s 3:36 pm
As the cheetah and I were enjoying a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream,we got a secret message from our street wise informant over at Warner Brothers Archives
It seems he was feeling a little bad about our little adventure Beyond Westworld and wanted to make amends. He knows we enjoy a good DC animated show or movie and said he was down for hooking us with one of the superhero shows ever done. Damn,our crafty contact knew exactly which show I was hoping to hear and he did not disappoint!
It’s no secret I like a good cartoon. I didn’t see my first cartoon until I was 10 years old and then I watched “Bugs Bunny” for the first time and that was it. What parent can’t relate to trying to get their kids out of bed during a school week and it turning into a ordeal yet come Saturday mornings,those same kids are up before the sun with a huge bowl of Cap’n Crunch watching the anvil falling yet again on that goofy Wile E. Coyote?
While I was never “that” kid,I did enjoy Saturday mornings but the afternoon cartoon shows were the best because they showed a lot older cartoons from the 60s. It was here that we discovered The Flintstones,The Jetsons but more importantly for us young fanboys,we got Space Ghost,Spider-Man and and various other superheroes shows of the time.
I never had anytime for cartoons when I was living San Jose,but after I got to Michigan,I came across a cartoon completely by accident. It was “Static Shock” and after watching a episode,I was caught by surprise by how ADULT this superhero show was. I became a fan and watched all the new episodes when I could and the reruns that were sure to follow.
The premise for the TV follows 14 year old Virgil Hawkins who lives with his sister Sarah,who attends college and his father,Robert,who runs a local community center.
Virgil,who is African-American,is best friends with Richie Foley. They live in Dakota City and attend Dakota High School.
While Virgil is a pretty happy go-lucky-guy,he does have his problems at school,the biggest one being a bully named Francis and his friends. But Virgil has a “protector” in Duke,who pushes off Francis. Duke mentions that he can’t always be there to help unless Virgil joins his “crew” ( gang). Virgil wants none of that and jokes his way out of giving a answer and goes home.
But Francis does catch Virgil alone and lays a beatdown on him until some of Duke’s crew show and once again scare off Francis but Virgil is beaten pretty badly.
When his family shows concern,Virgil explains he was “playing football”. That night Virgil gets a call to meet Duke at the docks,there is going to a huge gang fight to settle things once and for all. Richie warns Virgil not to go,that Virgil’s mom died in a gang drive by.
But Virgil does goes because he feels indebted to Duke….but when Duke hands him a gun,Virgil tosses it in the water and starts to head home as all the gangs have started fighting. The police show up in force and attempt to round up the fighting teens. But when a errant tear gas capsule hits a pallet of mysterious gas,it explodes and the gas spreads everywhere infecting anyone it touches. Virgil is dosed but manages to escape home. The next morning,he starts noticing that anything electrically powered he touches suddenly turns on,no big thing,but when they’re unplugged??
He shares his secret with Richie who encourages him to become a superhero.The two friends work on a costume (ahem,Marvel) to hide his identity. While this is going on,all of the other kids infected are starting to mutate as well,including Francis who suddenly bursts into flames.
With the origin story established,”Static Shock” starts to slowly forward as a 14 year old suddenly finds himself very much alone in using his powers for good. The “bang babies” as they now called,were pretty much all members of the various gangs fighting that night. Many of them use their powers to enrich themselves or strike back at enemies before they changed.
What is stunning about this show is the stories,these are not your parent’s cartoons and the themes covered in the first season of “Static Shock” are very adult in nature. The first time you hear about Virgil’s mom dying in a drive-by is a amazing one and isn’t glossed over.
In the second episiode,”Aftershock”,we find out who was behind the mysterious gas and the shocking lengths he’ll go to kill Static later on in the season. It’s really sort of unsettling to hear a bad guy actually saying he wants his nemesis “dead”,especially on a cartoon show like Static Shock but it WORKS and DC has to be given credit to allow creator Dwayne McDuffie (who passed away in 2011) and his team the go-ahead to write such daring scripts.
Topics covered in the first season of Static Shock include racism from a surprise source,parents neglecting their children,how too much pressure to please everyone can cause a lot of grief,what happens when fame passes you by and revenge is never a solution in solving a problem. Grief is also addressed in the season one finale,”Tantrum” when Virgil is having a hard time struggling with his mother’s death as the Hawkins family is planning a memorial for her. It’s handled with a great deal of truth and sensitivity.
I have written before that while Marvel may own the big screen,DC does own animation and the secret weapon is voice casting director Andrea Romano. Simply,if DC didn’t have this incredible talent finder,I really question if any of the live shows and movies for DC would have been made. Andrea was the one who found Kevin Conroy as Batman,got Mark Hamil to do the voice of the Joker in many of the Batman series and animated films. If you take a look at any of the DCEU animated shows or films,you’ll be so surprised at who is gladly doing these voices.
Static Shock is no different,besides the great stories,Andrea cast perfectly for the show and that cast included Phil LaMarr as Virgil/Static, Jason Marsden as Richie Foley,Kevin Michael Richardson as Robert Hawkins,the mighty CCH Pounder as the Mayor,Andrea would later cast her as Amanda Waller in the Justice League series and various other films. Other names of note who did voice work were Tia Texada,Danny Cooksey,Danica McKellar,Gary Anthony Sturgis,Neil Patrick Harris and Kadeem Hardison.
This Warner Brothers Archives release of “Static Shock” features all 13 season one episodes. There are a few extra features as well including character bios,Static’s crime fighting gear,a map of Dakota where all the action goes down and even a interactive game.
You can buy this title by going to the Warner Brothers Archives website.