Reign of the Supermen #126: Icon

Source: Milestone Comics, esp. Icon #1-42 (1993-1997)
Type: AnalogNot two days ago, at the much too young age of 48, comics writer Dwayne McDuffie died from complications following surgery. I'm shocked and saddened and my thoughts go to his friends and family. The only thing I can do is pay tribute to the man and his legacy. And he's got a big one.

His pet project, the Milestone Comics imprint at DC, allowed him to take on the lack of diversity in superhero comics by creating a number of series headlined by black characters, comics that lasted for the better part of five years! Hardware, Static (which went to cartoon), Shadow Cabinet, Xombie, Blood Syndicate, and Dakota City's analog of Superman, Icon, showed there was a place and market for minority heroes. Or perhaps rather that it wasn't important what color your skin was or what your ethnic background was, you could be a hero, one that readers found engaging no matter what THEIR ethnicity was. Even confined to their own universe, they still managed to thrive and are still fondly remembered.

I suppose I should talk about Icon a bit, since he's today's Reign character. Icon fills the Superman niche in the Dakotaverse by being a strange visitor from another planet with powers not unlike those of the Man of Steel. Of course, the details differ. Icon crash landed on Earth in 1839 and took human (baby!) shape to blend in, copying the DNA of his adopted mother, a black slave. He stayed out of history's way, waiting for Earth's technology to catch up with his pod's so he could leave, but committing random acts of charity here and there. When the heroic age arrives, he is rumbled by a young woman and gets himself a costume and a higher profile. That young woman becomes his sidekick, Rocket, and that's the most crucial thing about Icon, you see. There's no reason to do a Superman analog book unless you want to tell a Superman story that cannot be told in the pages of Superman. Icon is the story of what would happen if Superman had a sidekick. Just as it mellowed Batman, so will it affect the hyper-conservative Icon. Which brings up something else McDuffie will be remembered for: The range of character he brought to the paneled page. There isn't a stereotypical black character in the Dakotaverse, because they're all different, just like flesh and blood people are.

I find it sad that despite Dakota City's characters having recently been integrated into the mainstream DC Universe, we haven't seen much of them at all. In an era where DC especially has been accused of "white-washing", with many minority heroes being killed and/or replaced by white ones, here they were also bringing a wealth of quality non-white heroes to its pages... and then, failing to use them. Dakota City might as well still be on another Earth. Maybe DC will do some kind of homage to the man and his creations, but it shouldn't be yet another mini-series or badly supported series like they had with the Archie heroes (and possibly now the THUNDER Agents), other properties brought in with Milestone Comics. I want more than that. I want Hardware on the Justice League. I want Static in the Titans again. I want Icon and Rocket to team up with Batman and Robin. I want to get to a point where I'm not thinking about them as Milestone characters, but as DC characters. As I do the Freedom Fighters, or Captain Atom and Blue Beetle, or the Marvel Family.

And I can't let you go before mentioning two other things Dwayne McDuffie was responsible for, in fact two of my very favorite comics-related things EVER:
1. Damage Control. This hilarious Marvel comic has been at the top of my list of books I wanted to see on a regular basis for, like, ever. I know I've mentioned it before in these pages. The two original mini-series back in the 80s were pure awesome, and it was great to see another one a couple years ago. Really, I don't know why Marvel didn't commission one after every cataclysmic crossover event.
2. The Justice League/Justice League Unlimited cartoons. For my money, the finest superhero cartoons ever made. McDuffie's role as a writer and script editor for the series was a huge one, bringing his particular talents - making large casts into distinctive characters - to the forefront. His work for animation was so good that it made his return to such comics as Justice League of America disappointing in comparison, which was probably not fair to him. He continued to work with the WB's animation team, his adaptation of All-Star Superman coming out on the day of his death (or today, in many markets).

Dwayne McDuffie. Now, THERE is an icon.


Unknown said...

All Star Superman is a fine mainstream animated project to go out on for McDuffie but I always loved the Static Shock cartoon and associated comicbook world.

I think DC is horrible at managing assimilated properties because they all have to bow down before the "mighty" Superman (he of the low sales numbers)- Marvel family is a perfect illustration of it- they've been given the shaft ever since DC got them.

Sadly, I think the same is the fate of Milestone. Better to watch and read the originals than watch them get the shambolic treatment at Dissonant Cognitive comics.


Anonymous said...

Justice League UNlimited was great, but I didn't like that Vixen was portrayed in the comic book as the cartoon' one. They have different personalities.

About Icon: the tendence to show black people as sterotypes is very visible in comics. And the worst is Luke Cage, the angry black man.



Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Orville Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine