While doing my background research on All Star Superman, I found out that the writer, Dwayne McDuffie, passed away yesterday. I watched the film and I tried really hard to like it, but it failed on a wide variety of levels. The last thing I want to do is be disrespectful to someone the day after he died, especially someone who I have a lot of respect for. So instead of writing the review of All Star Superman, I’ve decided instead to write a review of one of McDuffie’s greatest pieces of work, the Static Shock episode “Gear”.
McDuffie was perhaps best known for co-creating the character Static, who was eventually turned into the popular star of the animated show Static Shock. It was one of my favorite shows as a kid, in no small part because it actually dealt with issues of minority that most kids’ shows at the time tried to ignore. One of my favorite episodes has always been the second episode in season three, “Gear”, in which Static’s Confidante Richie realizes he has powers of his own and becomes a full Secondary Hero, Gear. This episode was written by McDuffie himself and so I have chosen it to be the subject of my review for today.
After being exposed to an experimental mutagen, Virgil Hawkins finds himself imbued with electromagnetic powers. Inspired by his love of comics and his best friend, Richie, Virgil becomes a superhero named “Static”. He defends Dakota City from various others affected by the mutagen, known as “Bang Babies”. Along the way, he is helped by his friend Richie, who helps by creating devices that take advantage of Static’s powers, such as “Zap Caps” which explode when charged by Static.
When Static returns from helping Batman in Gotham City, he finds that Richie has been spending more and more time on his inventions. His latest achievement is a remote controlled scouting robot named Backpack (because it can disguise itself as a backpack). Richie admits that he’s been having so many ideas lately that sometimes it feels like his brain is on fire. After seeing a few more of Richie’s new inventions, including second generation Zap Caps that can be used to wrap-up Bang Babies in metal bands, Static heads out to stop the Meta-Breed from breaking Ebon out of prison. He is outnumbered and out-powered by the gang and Ebon manages to escape, although not before noticing Static’s relationship with Richie.
After seeing Richie solve an extremely complex math problem in one glance, Virgil decides that Richie is a late-bloomer Bang Baby too, with super intelligence. Richie is bummed that his power isn’t cooler, but when Virgil is kidnapped by Ebon (who believes he is Static because he hangs out with Richie), Richie grabs his new gear and sets out to rescue Virgil from the Metabreed. After successfully breaking Static out, Richie decides to use his new inventions (which include Backpack, the Zap Caps, and jet-powered roller blades) to become a new superhero and Static’s partner: Gear!
I’ve always loved origin stories and that is part of the reason why this episode has always been my favorite. We get to see Richie, the perennial useless sidekick, step out of the shadow and claim the destiny he always wished he had. The build up to this episode is also done really nicely. Richie had been making inventions and using his smarts to help Static throughout the first two seasons, becoming progressively more involved in Static’s crime fighting. In addition, the previous episode allows Static to play Batman’s sidekick, giving him some insight on how he should treat Richie after he becomes Gear.