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Denys Cowan: Legendary Artist and Co-Founder of Milestone Media

Updated: Jun 25, 2020


Denys Cowan is one of the most celebrated artists in the comic book industry. After graduating from the High School of Art & Design, his first published work was for DC Comics on WEIRD WAR TALES #93. His career really took of when he joined Dennis O'Neil on THE QUESTION. The book was a critical success.

From there he went on to work on books for both Marvel and DC, such as BLACK PANTHER, DEATHLOK, DETECTIVE COMICS, GREEN ARROW, STEEL, and many more.

In 1993, along with Dwayne McDuffie, Derek Dingle, and Michael Davis he co-founded Milestone Media. It was here that he helped create a brand new universe full of a diverse and interesting characters. STATIC and HARDWARE were just a couple of the major books put out by Milestone.

Years later he would go on to be a creative force behind the STATIC SHOCK animated series. The show became a hit and lasted four seasons. With Milestone gearing up for a major relaunch I took the opportunity to talk a little with the legend himself about his current work and things to come.

Comic Lounge: When did you first decide you wanted to draw comic books professionally?

Denys Cowan: Ever since I can remember, like when I was eight or nine. My best friend at the time, Derek Dingle, while we were in 3rd grade introduced me to comics for the first time. It was the "New Gods" and "Forever People" from DC Comics, drawn by Jack Kirby. I saw those and it was the first time I saw that somebody actually drew these, and that people were attached to these concepts. When I found that out I was like, "That's what I wanna be".

Comic Lounge: Who were your biggest influences?

Cowan: In comics, I like the same people that almost everyone else likes. I was a big Neal Adams fan, big

Garcia-Lopez fan. I was a huge John Buscema fan. I love Howard Chaykin's work. There's so many. Joe Kubert was a big influence on me. A lot of the older guys.. Also, Italian and French artists such as Moebius and Battaglia. People like that.

Comic Lounge: One of my favorite books that you've worked on is "The Question". What did you like best about working on the character?

Cowan: My memories of working on "The Question", is different than other people viewing it. For me, it was a grind at the time, we had a monthly deadline and I didn't have time to really into anything philosophical with the Question. It was really just getting it out and making sure it was as good as possible. The most fun I had with "The Question", looking back on it now over the years, is probably the martial arts sequences. I look at it now and didn't realize how much I did then. To show Vic Sage or Lady Shiva or are both doing there thing in the comics, now I look at it like "Gee I had a lot of fun there". So that was one of the big aspects, being able to choreograph, that was a lot of fun.

Comic Lounge: You were one of the founders of Milestone Media, which I'm a huge fan of as well. What was it like back then, when you guys first decided to create this new universe of characters?

Cowan: It was thrilling because we we're doing something that had not really been done. I mean Image did it, but they had their own little universe. When we did it was because we felt we had to create a universe for our characters to live in. What we didn't know, was that not many people were doing that. I can say that. It wasn't a time of universe building. You had a lot of different comic book companies, like Dark Horse was doing one and Malibu did one but they weren't like what we did. I remember feeling like we were doing something special, but we were doing something we needed to do, in order to do something that people would connect to.

It was a thrilling time and we didn't know how 'White Hot' it would get, with Milestone, in terms of popularity and the impact it would have. It was just trying to get these things done and try and get the universe done. We were trying to get a package together to present to different publishers, like DC, and try and get them to sign on to this radical idea.

If I knew then, what I know now, I don't know if I would have done it. I always felt like the odds were so against us. But we managed to pull it off

Comic Lounge: I think what you guys did was amazing. You brought diversity into comics that was unlike anything before it, without being stereotypical. It was unlike anything any of the other publishers, at the time, were doing. Two of my favorite books were STATIC and HARDWARE, how did you guys come up with those specific characters?

Cowan: All of us were in the room at the same time, myself, Christopher Priest, Dwayne McDuffie, Derek Dingle and Michael Davis So we all pitched in and came up with stuff. It's hard to say who did exactly what. Some people might say that came up with the whole thing. That's not what happened. We all contributed. In a way, Static and Hardware came out of different parts of needs of personalities. We needed a character that was, not light hearted but light in spirit and fun. Like the Spider-Man kind of character. So we had to create someone like that so that's how Static came about.