You've got Batman, Superman, Spiderman, The X-Men. Do kids really need another superhero? Denys Cowan thinks so. He's jolting The WB Saturday morning lineup with Static Shock, the comic book hero he co-created in 1992. It's got at least one thing going for it: Static Shock! airs after proven powerhouse Pokémon. But Cowan (the show's director) assured Broadcasting & Cable's Susanne Ault that his hero's strength goes far beyond that of mere mortal scheduling.
Who is Static Shock?
Static is Virgil Hawkins, a 14-year-old high school student who's exceptionally bright. But his smartness can get him into trouble. He's best described as a Chris Rock kind of guy at 14. As for super powers, he has the powers of electricity.
He can reverse polarity, so he can stick to walls like Spiderman. He can shoot (electricity) into the air and make signs appear like, "Bad guys-this exit," for the cops to find some guys that he's taken care of. He uses this to fight crime-makes the decision to do good, not use [his powers] for his own personal gain.
There are a number of TV superheroes out there. What does Static bring to the table?
He's better than all the other ones that are out there! First of all, Static is the first African-American teenage superhero on Saturday morning TV. I don't know if he's the first on TV, because we'd have to go back pretty far and we'd always find somebody.
Why has it taken this long to see one?
Because the world has changed. The old icons, Batman and Superman-Warner Bros. notwithstanding-were the norm for a long time. But there are more minorities who have a greater say-so in what happens.
Will Static deal with issues that are important to the African-American community?
Static will deal with issues that are important to the African-American community, but also important to the world community, to kids universally. It's not an exclusive, black-only thing.
The things that Static deals with are problems that kids run into every day. Static grows up in single-parent household, which is one thing a lot of kids deal with, which is more the norm now, unfortunately. We wanted to show a realistic portrayal of what is happening today.
So you're careful to avoid stereotypes?
We don't have stereotypes-I'm not even going to say that 'might' offend-because usually they do. But we're not a stereotypical show. Static is not from the ghetto. He doesn't speak slang. He's a lot more reflective of the kids that I knew and grew up with. He's a stand-up guy. Of course, we believe parents should be the first role models. But if you're going to turn on the TV, we believe Static is a really great thing to watch.
Did last year's push for more diversity on TV have anything to do with the WB green-lighting your show for this season?
No, I don't think it did. I think that the network realized that Static would be a good property for them to do. It fits in right with what the WB is doing now.
Had you been pitching the show's concept for awhile?
Static wasn't pitched all over town, it was something the WB was aware of. Our supervising producer, Alan Burnett (producer of WB's returning , Batman Beyond) is the one who knew Static as a (comic book) character made by the company Milestone Media that I started.
What we did was specialize in multicultural superheroes, the theory being that there were none, really, that showed a really different point of view. So we wanted to change that, and one of the characters we created was Static.
Would it be fair to say that it's more critical to show diversity in kids programming than in adult fare, given that children are so impressionable?
I'll tell you this, when minority kids see themselves represented on TV, it gives them an incredible sense of validation.