Milestones in History Uses Superheroes to Educate, Entertain Fans on Black History

The comic book anthology from Milestone Media and DC Comics features stories on Mae Jemison, the Queen of Sheba and Prince.
Stephanie Holland | The Root

As states across the country continue their attacks on Black History with racist and ridiculous anti-CRT laws, one of the biggest publishers in comic books is using its heroes to illustrate that Black history is World history.

Milestone Media and DC Comics are set to release the one-shot anthology Milestones in History. The 96-page book features eight stories chronicling the influence of Black people from the dawn of man in “Born in Africa – Mother of the World” through a celebration of Prince in “Controversy.” Icon, Rocket, Hardware and Static are the Milestone heroes featured in stories about the Queen of Sheba, World War I pilot Eugene Bullard, groundbreaking pilot Bessie Coleman and NASA astronaut Mae Jemison. Milestone partners Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan spoke with The Root about the book’s creation and importance.

As libraries and schools continue to remove books and lessons on Black history, Hudlin asserts that now is the perfect time for Milestones in History. In fact, he feels their approach will be even better than what schools are capable of, because they don’t have an angry mob of parents criticizing and censoring everything they write.

“These kinds of Black history comics had a huge impact on our childhoods. When Denys and I talked about relaunching Milestone, doing something like this was a high agenda item for us,” Hudlin said. “And thank goodness, because now we have a situation where 30-plus states are using CRT as an excuse to basically ban all Black history. We’re in a position via what we do in the media business, to supplement what’s being taken out of schools, and in some ways, doing it better. Because schools, God bless them, sometimes they just drain all the excitement out and we’re like, ‘No, let’s put the excitement back in. And let’s not half-step and worry about offending people. Let’s just tell the whole truth.”

For Cowan, the new book represents a return to the classic comics that got him interested in the genre in the first place.

“When we were growing up, it was like three comic book companies. There was Marvel, DC and Golden Legacy. And Golden Legacy were the ones that did the story of Benjamin Banneker, the story of Frederick Douglass, and they were all done in comic book form by professional artists,” Cowan said. “If you weren’t reading about Spider-Man, you were picking up one of those and that got you into Black history, learning about all that stuff at a very young age. I looked at it because it was comics. Anything comics I was in. And you know what, all these years later, I bet a lot of people still feel that way. So that was another reason why we did this.”

The first story in the book is “Born in Africa – Mother of the World,” which follows Raquel Ervin/Rocket as she explains the history of “‘Lucy,’ the collection of Australopithecus Afarensis fossil bones discovered in Ethiopia,” per a press release from DC Comics. From there, we get tales on author Alexandre Dumas’ family, military commander Hannibal and dancer Katharine Dunham. The intro has a line that says these won’t be the same old stories, and that’s definitely true.

“Give Reggie credit for the scope,” Cowan said. “Because when we first started talking about this, I wasn’t thinking about the dawn of man. But Reggie took it way back to the dawn of man and the birthplace of civilization, of human beings and then brought it up to Prince, which might be the cap of civilization.”

Hudlin and Cowan aren’t looking at Milestones in History as a project they necessarily want immediate success from. Obviously, they want the book to do well, but they also want it to leave a legacy that impacts readers long after they’ve enjoyed it.

“When someone reads this, this is some Johnny Appleseed stuff. You’re planting so many different ideas,” Hudlin said. “Each individual story, plus the idea that all these stories are collected. So we’re saying this is all your heritage, this is all your culture. And that’s going to change someone’s worldview. And that’s going to play itself out in a lot of interesting ways for the rest of their lives.”

Milestones in History is available Tuesday, June 21.