Growing up, my favorite superhero cartoon was Static Shock. Part of Kids’ WB which ran in the early 2000s, Static Shock was the absolute best cartoon to watch on Saturday mornings. Following the life of Virgil Hawkins, a high school student in Dakota City, the cartoon depicted Virgil’s transformation into the superhero Static, after being exposed accidentally to quantum vapor in a chemical explosion known as the Big Bang. Several people in Dakota gained superhuman powers from the accident and Virgil gained electromagnetic powers. I can’t attest to the popularity of the show but I can tell you how much impact it had on me.
If you’ve seen Static Shock, you can see the show’s obvious appeal to an 8 year old, from the action-packed fight scenes, to an unorthodox super power. Static was different from all the other super heroes I watched as a child. When you ask someone the question, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” you’re bound to hear one of these same old answers: 1. Super strength 2. Flying 3. Invisibility
How about being able to levitate on any metal trash lid in the city? Resourceful! Or what if you could zap someone to a crisp with electricity from your hands? Ouch! Or what if you could tap into police radio waves or phone lines? Badass.
Static could do all of these things. But the reason why I still love Static is because his story is different from the traditional heroes you see today. In many ways, Static Shock felt more connected to real life as opposed to other superheroes. One of the ways I saw this was through Virgil’s personality and background. He’s a high school student who is really passionate about comic books and interested in math and sciences. Although he was bullied, Static and his best friend Gear stuck to what they liked. I loved that about him. I also remember laughing at his wittiness and joking manner on the show. Most importantly, Virgil also always maintained a positive outlook even when facing adversity. He was a normal kid with a bright attitude and I was drawn to that.
On a larger scale, Static Shock is so important because it revealed serious social issues (though I wasn’t fully aware when I was 8). For example, the consequences of gang violence are presented multiple times throughout the show. Virgil’s mother was killed as a result of a stray bullet and even the chemical explosion that causes Virgil’s superhuman powers was a result of a Dakota gang fight. Although a cartoon, Static Shock introduced these important issues to children at a young age. The show was honest by saying, “Hey, look! This is what’s actually going on in the world”.
In an interview with CBR news, Reginald Hudlin recently said that Static’s story is something that he and writer/producer Denys Cowan had to go through themselves. They wanted to show the “world that young people are living in today and the diminishment of opportunities, the vilification of being young, of being of color, certainly of being a young Black male”. Virgil was given an opportunity when he gain superhuman powers and he chose to use it in a positive way by becoming Static. He serves as a good role model for any young individual who is trying to decide how to use their talents and skills in a positive way. That’s not to say Static’s journey was easy. He often failed and had setbacks as a superhero. But even then; the show reveals that the path to success isn’t a walk in the park. That’s why I think the Static Shock is so well made and resonates with so many people.
There have been talks that a new Static Shock live-action web series is the works. DC is planning to expand their universe by adding Static among its recent heroes. I’m excited by this news and I only hope that this new show can have a positive impact like the Static Shock cartoon had on me.