Many non-comic historians or aficionados may not be aware of this alien life form. Moreover, kids in the community may not have known he existed. However, given this is Black History Month, there is probably no comic hero more noteworthy of being profiled in February than him.
Milestone Comics were made as a direct result of the lack of diversity in comics in the early ’90s so that should tell you the focus was there to make a difference. Most of the characters weren’t white and all told a story around minority archetypes. Icon was the ‘Superman’ of Dakota City and definitely its preeminent hero.
Scroll down the backstory for the full breakdown but imagine Harriet Tubman escorting a group of enslaved men and women scratching for freedom and *BOOM* … one of those slaves turns out to be a superhero. Yeah, well that happened. And what a story he could tell.
Name: Arnus Prime (aka. Augustus Freeman IV)
Creators: Dwayne McDuffie (writer), M.D. Bright (artist), Milestone / Later part of DC (comic)
1st Appearance: Icon #1 (1993)
Backstory: He left his planet Terminus when his spaceship malfunctioned. The escape pod was damaged and he crash-landed on Earth in 1839, in the deep South, on a cotton plantation.
Following his DNA reassembling and mutating into a human, he lived as a slave in bondage and was eventually freed on the Underground Railroad. Augustus lived four generations to become a self-made billionaire and lawyer in Dakota City, each time taking on the name Augustus Freeman (Sr., Jr., III, and IV).
His influence and money was used on philanthropy and helping people who are impoverished and disenfranchised. He never used his powers until he met Raquel Irvin, a girl who tried to rob him once, and later convinced him to be the ‘Icon’ her people needed. Raquel (seen above) would later use Icon’s Terminian powers to become ‘Rocket.’
Powers: Let’s put it this way, his strength and powers have been considered “less than Krytonian” but the man could beat up Superman. (He has in canon.) Anything superhuman (i.e., strength, speed, reflexes, senses, flight). Also, accelerated healing, energy projection, decelerated aging, and force fields.
Medium: Icon has only been in comics (so far). Milestone Comics was only around for four years, but it had a mission–to bring more minority heroes to the multiverse landscape. Like with any “B-league” of any sport, they suffered from lack of marketing, share of voice, and market share. Eventually, they closed its printing press.
At New York Comic-Con in 2017, a long-awaited announcement hit fans everywhere. DC Publisher Jim Lee and Milestone Founder Denys Cowan are bringing every character back in M-World (see in featured image). Hopefully, that resurrection–along with DC finally getting its crap together–will determine the debut of some truly consequential characters like Icon.
Impact: Regretfully, after a four-year stint in the limelight on bookshelves only, there hasn’t been much of a chance to make an impact. However, for Icon to be on a 10-year hiatus and DC Comics realizing he needed to be brought back to public awareness says people acknowledge the potential Augustus Freeman can make. Maybe, one day, he will get a more mainstream opportunity at complete nerd awareness. Launch in the community first, put true marketing dollars behind, and watch what happens.
Culture: A comic was created out of necessity. A man was envisioned out of desire. An idea was brought to life out of a statement. In the dystopia of the 1830s, there has never needed to be a hero more than then. And that’s where Icon landed, literally. Living for four generations, he took the scars of a people with him as a memory to remind who he was here to save. And as a billionaire lawyer, that’s what he did with his power of voice and intellect.
It took someone in the community where he served to let him there were still people that were forgotten, downtrodden, and heartbroken. That was the day Augustus Freeman determined to become Icon. He already knew what it meant to be judged by his skin color–a color he never chose rather it was in his DNA. His surname reflected who he was–a free man. He lived through the Harlem Renaissance. He fought in WWII. He insisted on being a hero, but in private.
The man lived from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King to see the birth of civil rights to its culmination. He knows what it means to fight the ills of a society from the inside out and outside in. In short, there could be no bigger impact and generation superhero of a culture than Augustus Freeman in the black community. More than Harlem. More than Wakanda. Anywhere.
DC Comics? Warner Bros? Milestone? Your move.