Thursday, February 24, 2011


Icon's Biggest Fan

The day writer and editor Dwayne McDuffie, who passed away Tuesday, learned that a certain controversial black man loved his work and one creation in particular:  A surprising phone call led to Derek Dingle, one of McDuffie's Milestone colleagues, going to Washington, DC. Upon Dingle's return, he and McDuffie had the following exchange:

"[Clarence] Thomas is a really big fan of yours, you know."

"I know."

"I was in his chambers. It's just like you'd think: dusty law books from floor to ceiling, clerks working industriously on serious legal matters." "Uh, huh."

"He also has a complete set of Icon there. He showed me the leather binder he keeps them in."


"Some of them were out, though. He has his clerks indexing them."


"He has them go through and pull out quotes of things Icon says that he agrees with. They mark them with Post-it notes. That way when he wants to use them in his speeches…"

"I beg your pardon?"

"He quotes Icon in papers and speeches. Rather, since you write those lines, he quotes you."
The entire post is truly great. McDuffie openly shares the discomfort felt of himself as someone, "politically to the left of… well, everybody, actually," whose work was held in high admiration by the leading black conservative in the country.

The shock was so great that it actually induced writer's block for several weeks!

Despite McDuffie's palpable angst, the full anecdote shows two things -- one about Thomas and one about McDuffie. I know from personal experience that Thomas will regularly open his office to younger black professionals to get a sense of who they are and where they're going. But, more significantly, the story says something about the relationship between a true artist and his work. McDuffie admits to being a real liberal, who can't stand Republicans -- black or white.

However, he managed to put that aside to create a black conservative comic book character that wasn't a caricature. He managed to tap into a universal truth when he was giving voice to Augustus "Icon" Freeman. A legitimate artist has to project the truth of the world in which his creation exists -- even if it's a reality foreign to that of the artist and the character has a philosophy with which his creator vehemently disagrees.

McDuffie may have been a black Democrat, but he was able to give voice to a black conservative reality recognized as authentic by a true black conservative. Now, that's high praise.

(Thanks to Matt Hunte and Ta-Nehisi Coates for the heads-up on McDuffie's Thomas post.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook