Friday Night Fights: For Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie died this week. And I’m still not over it. He wasn’t my favorite writer, but he was up in the top ranks. He’d worked on comics I liked, and he’d founded an incredibly cool comic company. His work turned me into a comics reader again, after years away from the hobby. He had his head on straight, and I respected him enormously. So naturally, I decided to see if I could find something he wrote for Friday Night Fights.

I was all set to scan a really cool fight from one of the first few issues of Icon — Rocket awesomely knocking around lots of thuggish, bullying cops. But I found something I liked better. It’s not as over-the-top violent, but it’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever gotten to read in a comic.

So this is from November 1993’s Icon #7 by Dwayne McDuffie, M.D. Bright, and Mike Gustovich. The backstory: Icon is an extremely long-lived alien who was stranded on Earth in the 1830s. His escape pod was found by a slave, and the pod automatically rewrote his DNA to match whoever opened the pod, to improve his chances of survival. So after 150 years as a black man, Augustus Freeman has become a very wealthy businessman with a very conservative outlook. Raquel Ervin is a teenager from the bad side of Paris Island who has discovered that Freeman has superpowers — she persuades him to become a superhero, and he gives her an alien-tech belt that allows her to become his sidekick, Rocket.

Anyway, Raquel discovers that she’s pregnant and goes to Freeman asking for a loan so she can get an abortion. She’s angry about it and gives him a lot of guff, expecting that he’ll disapprove of her decision. But he reveals that a few decades ago, when he was married, his human wife got pregnant. It seemed likely that a baby with human and alien DNA wouldn’t be viable and would certainly endanger the mother’s life, so they made the then-risky and illegal decision to abort the baby. At that point, Icon says:

And Raquel responds in a way that surprises the reader, Icon, and probably Raquel herself:

And there we go. Two different characters with radically different backgrounds and personalities, neither one conforming to easy stereotypes. That’s what I loved about McDuffie’s writing — his characters would be interesting with or without powers and colorful spandex. And what he wrote always had power.

I hope there are more writers out there emulating what he was able to do. Comics need good writers and good characters.


  1. Andy Said,

    February 25, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

    Terrific choice; makes me sorry I never read it. Your observations match exactly what I was thinking as I read it. Reminds me of the old M.A.N.T.I.S. TV show – not a great program, but it similarly portrayed African Americans against “type.”

  2. scottslemmons Said,

    February 25, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

    The first several issues of the series are available in trade paperback…

  3. Friday Night Fights: “Fight Life” Rnd 11 | Said,

    February 25, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

    […] Rocket (Hero Sandwich) […]