Day 15 of 28 Days of Black Super Heroes, today’s hero is the DC Comics’ character Icon.
Man, Icon was the black Superman I’d been waiting on since I first started reading comics. The creators of the Milestone Media characters really did something special when they founded their comics line back in the 90’s.
But first, I have an unfortunate, and very personal tragedy to reveal.
In preparation for this article I drove over to my mom’s place this past weekend to grab my Icon comics and spend some time re-reading and enjoying them.
Except when I got there, they were all gone.
I forgot that last summer I told my mother she could donate some of the comics to a library that her friend worked at.
I was too busy to go through and pick out anything so I told her to just grab a couple of boxes (I’ve got a about 8 hojillion comics still there) and take them over. She took two boxes, and one of them obviously had my beloved Icon comics in it! Curses!!!
Those kids are probably ripping my Icon comics to shreds even now. I can’t think about this anymore, y’all, I can’t take it…so on with the show!
Back in the 90’s some truly talented black creators already working in the comics field got together and worked out a deal with DC comics to publish some creator-owned work through DC.
These were very exciting times, and I got everything except Blood Syndicate. I was still in college and I had to draw the line somewhere. The three solo titles just seemed more interesting to me.
WHO IS ICON?
Icon is Augustus Freeman IV -an alien being who crash landed on Earth over 150 years ago during the time of slavery in the USA.
He landed in the deep south, and his lifepod, determined to help him adapt to his surroundings, adjusted his biology until he matched what was thought to be the dominant lifeform.
A slave woman found him, and the lifepod turned him into a young black child.
Which is all well and good, except Icon doesn’t really age as normal humans do, so he was forced to pretend to be his own son as the years went on. I assume you just move away, keep paying the bills on your estate, then wait 20 years and come back?
Well, Augustus survived to the present day, where he was working as a lawyer to pass the time.
See, he was still stranded on Earth, with no way to call for help and way outside of the normal starship lanes, so no one from his society (a star-spanning federation called The Cooperative) would think to look for him there.
Faced with this situation, Augustus had no choice but to simply wait for Earth’s technology level to reach a point where he could contact his home.
So that’s what he was doing, staying out of trouble and helping those he could as a lawyer, until he met the person who changed his life, his partner Rocket.
One night a group of young kids breaks into Augustus’ house, and in the act of stopping them, Augustus uses his powers.
Fortunately, only young Racquel Ervin witnessed this first hand. She was very young and idealistic, and she criticized Augustus for not doing more to help people. Because of her prodding Augustus agreed to become a superhero, and Racquel went right along with him as Rocket.
As an aside here, I love Rocket. Does anyone not love Rocket? How could you not? She’s awesome.
WHAT DOES HE DO
Well, this is one of the great things about Icon, say what you will, but he’s not underpowered. He really is the black Superman.
Icon is strong, fast, invulnerable (to a point), he’s got super-senses, he can heal extremely quickly when he’s injured, plus he can produce some kind of energy blasts. Energy blasts are always good to have, trust me.
A lot of times you see these black characters and they’re somewhat underpowered or otherwise one-trick ponies. Icon was not only powerful, but he had that air of dignity, like he was a hero worthy of respect, and I really enjoyed reading it (although not as much as I enjoyed Static).
Still, the creators didn’t make Icon all-powerful. I think they did a good job of making him “almost” Superman, but not really Superman.
As powerful as he was, he couldn’t just shrug off anything. We saw pretty early on that while you could fire a cannonball at him without causing much harm, shearing and cutting forces could hurt him, as he was almost eviscerated one time before he started wearing body armor.
Also, during the incredible World’s Collide event where the Milestone heroes met the Superman family of heroes, Icon was forced to fight Superman.
After taking a punch from Superman, Icon remarked that he rarely had to face someone who was his physical superior. So the two are very close, but I suspect in terms of pure strength, Superman gets the nod. I’d guess DC isn’t going to let some other hero be top dog, whether it’s Captain Marvel (Shazam), Wonder Woman or Icon.
As I recall, these powers weren’t really native to his alien race, but were a by-product of the process his lifepod used to transform him into a human.
Man, I wish I still had those comics! Ok, ok, I’ll move on. Some stuff I remember from the comics was that within the first few issues Icon and Rocket took on the Blood Syndicate -and essentially lost.
During the adventure, Icon realizes that one member of the Syndicate is actually some sort of space policeman from his society who is also just kicking it on Earth.
The duo met up with a parody of Luke Cage, who would eventually become Icon’s replacement when he finally went home. This guy was killed by a psycopathic former entertainer, some kind of dark matter creature who showed up on Earth looking for Icon.
I still remember one of the greatest splash pages ever: when Rocket had desperately tried and failed to stop the creature and was about to die, but then at the last minute Icon re-materializes back on Earth, looking like someone not to be f&*cked with, either.
As mentioned above, the World’s Collide event was where all the Milestone heroes met up with the Superman family of heroes (including Superboy and Steel).
There was a giant rift in reality forming between the two universes (DC and Milestone), and as the heroes gradually became aware of each other and got the obligatory fighting out of the way, they worked together to put a stop to the bad guy, who was actually called Rift.
This was another extremely exciting event. Icon had been called the black Superman the whole time anyway, and then guess what? The creators actually gave us what we wanted – a fight between Icon and Superman! Imagine that.
That wasn’t the only fun to be had, either. Superboy and Static met up as well, and the two butted heads pretty badly (both of them had attitude problems back then -hey they were young punk teenagers). It was left up to Rocket to keep the boys in line.
In fact, Rocket’s early costume had a circle opening in her top to reveal her cleavage. After Superboy kept staring at it, she made a note to herself to change her costume and fill in that area. She actually did later.
I think anyone who read that crossover remembers that flat out best line ever:
“Get your force-field off my super-villain!” – screamed out as Rocket, Superboy and Static all tried to use their respective force-fields to trap the bad guy.
The Blood Syndicate got into a fight with Superman just because they didn’t believe he was Superman (these were really the only Blood Syndicate issues I bought).
Finally, to round off World’s Collide, although it’s not an Icon/Rocket character, Hardware had to face off against Steel over an ethical dilemma.
Both men are scientific geniuses, but Hardware proved the more savvy tactician and he took Steel out -completely destroying his armor. However, Steel won the moral victory against Hardware using only words, and the two decided to do things Steel’s way instead.
Man did I feel sad when such a fun crossover ended!
CANCELLED! OH, NO!
It didn’t take long after that before we all got the news that the Milestone heroes we being cancelled. What a shame, but just the fact that it had happened was a pretty incredible accomplishment.
After a while the only thing you saw of these characters was the Static Shock! cartoons (which I didn’t care for that much).
As the years went on I kind of forgot about the characters, since even the Static Shock!’s went off after awhile.
But then there was great news. We all found out that the Milestone heroes were to be “folded into” the regular DC Universe. This would mean that Icon and Static, etc. would be right there alongside Superman and Batman and Green Lantern all the time! Very cool.
The way they accomplished this was told over a couple of Milestone one-shots I believe. Where we saw the future of Hardware and Static (I missed the Icon one -if there was one).
Anyway, after the World’s Collide and especially after the death of in Final Crisis, there was some kind of awful imbalance threatening both the mainstream DC Universe and the Milestone Universe.
A man called Dharma was able to save both by combining them into one, and as far as I know everyone thinks that’s the way it’s always been except for Icon, Superman and Dharma.
Now there are regular appearances by these characters in the DC Universe, with the JLA crossover probably being the biggest one so far:
THE WRAP UP
So I have a lot of love for this character and indeed most of the Milestone stuff. Now I have to go and re-buy all those Icon issues, and while I’m at it I might just pick up those Blood Syndicate’s too!
I’ll leave you guys with a look at the pencil art I drew up for Icon. See you tomorrow!