Well, my second post on this blog which has Superman in the name and already I’m talking about a non-Superman show. Such is life! (And in fairness to me, Superman did appear in one episode).
The show in question is Static Shock, the 2000s DCAU show starring teenager Virgil Hawkins and his superhero identity of the electricity-wielding Static. Static got his superpowers from an event called the “Big Bang” in which mutagenic chemicals were sprayed over an area in the midst of a gang feud. Unfortunately, many of the other “Bang Babies”, as they’re called, are not as heroic as Static and become his opponents in most episodes. Virgil is also accompanied by his best friend Ritchie Foley, his father Robert Hawkins, his sister Sharon Hawkins, and various other side characters. Ritchie eventually becomes a techno-powered superhero named Gear who fights alongside Static.
The show Static Shock occupies a somewhat unusual place in the DC Animated Universe, in part due to being based on a relatively little-known DC property and also because its characters didn’t make many appearances in other DCAU shows. (Though it’s probably not in quite as unusual a place as The Zeta Project, but that’s a subject for another day. Especially since The Zeta Project isn’t on the DC Universe streaming service, so it might be a while before I watch it.)
But the fact that it doesn’t have much of a connection to the rest of the DCAU isn’t an indicator of its quality at all. Personally, I love this show. It’s has a lot of heart, and it’s just plain fun too. The characters are entertaining and lovable, and have well-realized relationships with one another. It always gives me such a positive vibe when I watch it, and has plenty of interesting plots.
It also has the distinction of covering some surprisingly heavy topics, such as gang activity, racism, homelessness, and gun violence. Perhaps it may come across as a bit moralistic to some, but personally, I really appreciate it and it adds to this show’s vibe of wanting to make a positive social difference. Perhaps that’s actually what sets this show apart from the rest of the DCAU in a special way – sure, all the shows have some good messages, but for Static Shock, addressing social issues and wanting to share messages regarding them them is deeply woven into its DNA.
That said, I will say that compared to other DCAU shows, this one feels a bit more “kiddy”. With a lot of DCAU shows, it feels like they kept an adult audience in mind despite them ostensibly being “kids’ shows”. I can’t say that’s the case for this one. It sort of ties into the point of this show being more socially-oriented – its inclusion of some intense subject matter is not for the sake of being “mature”, but rather to morally educate young people on the matters presented. So in this case, I think the fact that the show is more obviously geared to a younger audience works out well for it, so it’s not a detriment to me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it might be for someone else.
Also, while I love the characters in this show and their interactions, there are a number of things that I think could be better developed. For example, while I like the character of Ritchie and his dynamic with Static, sometimes I feel he revolves around Virgil a little bit too much. His interests and personality are rather similar to Virgil’s and he just doesn’t seem to have that much of a life outside of him (though in fairness, this is at least somewhat justified in-universe by depicting Ritchie as having a strained relationship with his father). Also, the show focuses so much on Virgil and Ritchie’s dynamic that Virgil’s female friends, Frieda and Daisy, are almost completely sidelined and wasted as characters.
Still, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a lot of charm to Virgil and Ritchie’s “super best buds” relationship. Even though they have arguments sometimes, they almost seem to embody a sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy of an ideal friendship.
The recurring villains are another part of the show that’s a bit of wasted potential in some ways. They seem cool enough (Ebon, the rest of the Meta-Breed, Hotstreak, etc.), and I do like them, but they just don’t do enough or succeed enough to really be intimidating or extremely interesting.
Overall, Static Shock certainly isn’t perfect and does have missed potential here and there, but it’s a show with a lot of charm, heart, and lovable characters. I highly recommend giving it a chance. I could go on for a while about other interesting facets of the show, such as the celebrity guests, design changes, the pros and cons of Ritchie becoming a superhero, and more, but seeing as this post is just supposed to be a brief overview, I think I’ll leave it at that.