Cartoon Superhero Gets Serious


Gun violence in schools isn’t your typical Saturday-morning cartoon series topic, but as it turns out, “Static Shock,” the WB animated action series about a 14-year-old with “electromagnetic” powers, isn’t your typical Saturday-morning cartoon series.

This younger-skewing version of the Milestone/DC Comics property stars an African American superhero, and combines cartoon action with substantial teen-centric stories about such issues as racism and homelessness.

In this week’s show, airing Saturday at 7:30 a.m., superhero action takes a back seat to a very carefully written drama about what happens when a new kid at school, Jimmy, a misfit loner, is relentlessly bullied.

The worst-case scenario--a shooting--has already happened when the show opens. Virgil Hawkins, the teen whose secret alter ego is the supercharged Static, is working through his emotions about it with a school psychologist.


Virgil is coping with feelings of anger, grief (his best friend happened to be in the line of fire when the tormented boy confronted the bullies) and guilt (why didn’t Virgil do more to stop the bullying and why didn’t he tell an adult when Jimmy talked about his father’s gun?).

Flashbacks show how the situation escalated out of control, and care has been taken not to glamorize or justify the shooting. The emotional and physical consequences are given realistic weight throughout.

The episode--written by Alan Burnett (story) and Dwayne McDuffie (teleplay)--ends with Static giving viewers some sobering statistics on gun deaths and reinforcing the show’s messages about the hazards and hurtfulness of bullying and the need for young people to tell adults when they hear peers making threats about using guns to solve a problem.



“Static Shock” can be seen Saturday at 7:30 a.m. on the WB. The network has rated it TV-Y7-FV (may be unsuitable for children younger than 7, with an advisory for fantasy violence).