During the spectacular virtual DC Fandome event last month, a surprise panel was held. The panel turned out to focused on the relaunch of the publishing company, Milestone Media. Started in 1993 the company created a comic book universe that sought to tackle the underrepresentation of minorities within the pages of comic books while telling solid written and quality looking stories. Milestone Media struck a publishing deal with DC Comics, while Milestone retained editorial control, copyright of their properties, and had the final say on merchandising and licensing deals for any work that fell under the Milestone Media umbrella.
Once Milestone was launched, the “Dakotaverse” was created, named after the city, Dakota, where most of the action in the Milestone Comics universe took place. One resident of Dakota was Raquel Ervin, a teenager from the Paris Island section of Dakota. Born and raised in one of the poorest areas of Dakota, Raquel had dreams of becoming a writer, like her favorite author, Toni Morrison. A late-night “encounter” with a rich conservative lawyer (who happened to be an alien from outer space), Augustus Freeman IV, forever changed her life, giving us the superheroine Rocket. The pair teamed up in a series titled Icon, which was written by the late great Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by M.D Bright, inked by Mike Gustovich, and lettered by Steve Dutro.
Without spoiling too much of the story (because you really need to check out the series), Raquel convinces Augustus to use his abilities to help the group who he has physically modeled himself after, African Americans. She explains, “that’s when I told him how just seeing him opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me, how I thought he could help lots of people if only they could see what he can do.”
From there Raquel (codenamed Rocket) and Icon go on a series of adventures, tackling issues which don’t seem so far out of reach in today’s environment (police violence, systematic racism, teen pregnancy, income inequality) in the Icon comic book series. One of the people that makes the series shine is Raquel herself. Raquel/ Rocket is a solidly written character, and went on to represent a demographic (black female teens) who were at the time, not widely represented in the pages of comic books. Her storyline of being a teen mother was one that has yet to be matched in terms of importance and relevance even to this day at DC Comics. She was the heart of the Icon series, a great superheroine, and a multifaceted individual whose personal story is on par of importance with many of DC Comic’s heavy hitters. When the Dakotaverse was merged with the DC Comics universe post Final Crisis in 2009, she went on to appear in the Justice League of America comic book series. She’s also become a regular supporting character in the Young Justice and Young Justice: Outsiders animated series’, and also appeared in the Young Justice: Legacy video game.
With all of that background information, let’s get into why Raquel should be on your radar.
She’s One of The Few Black Female Teenage Superheroes at The Big Two
I know that a lot of readers will jump down my throat with this one, but please hear me out. Though DC Comics and Marvel Comics do include black teenage girl heroes amongst their rosters, they are supremely in the minority. To say that the numbers of this group balance equally out with say, hetero white males who proliferate the books of both Marvel and DC Comics, would be laughable to say the least. Though we have solid examples such as Moon Girl/ Luenlla Lafayette, Power Girl/ Tanya Spears, Riri Williams/ Ironheart, Naomi, Natasha Irons/ Steel & Starlight, Bumblebee/ Karen Beecher-Duncan, Naomi McDuffie/ Naomi, and other heroines which haven’t been listed, they are still in the minority. One of the things that speaks to fans and readers of the Milestone Media universe was having representation like this in the pages of the comic books that we all love to read and enjoy. As an uncle of niece who loves reading stories like these, it would be nice to be able to toss another character yet her way who might to speak to her experience of being a black teenage girl.
Her Abilities are Awesome
Rocket gains her abilities from a device called an inertia winder/ inertia belt which is provided by her partner, Icon. Created from a piece of Icon’s space pod, the device allows her to store and absorb kinetic energy which is tossed her way. Once she receives the energy, Raquel is able to utilize it to create a host of abilities including flight, force field creation, kinetic energy punches, super human throwing, kinetic energy blasts, and inertialess fields. Whether its utilizing the superhuman throwing to go toe to toe with some of the heavy hitters of the Dakotaverse, or taking down overzealous and racist members of the police force with kinetic energy blasts, Rocket’s abilities are awesome to watch.
She’s Checked Batman
In a world where Batman seems to breathe deified air for a large contingent of fans, its often fun to find those times where the Caped Crusader has been “checked”. Don’t get me wrong. The Dark Knight is deserving of all of his bad-assery, but it often gets a bit tiresome to see everyone just stand in awe of this dude, heroes and villains. Has someone ever said to Batman, “Yo, maybe calm down the brooding, obsessive vibe you’ve got going on?” In a way, Rocket has. After the Dakotaverse was merged with the larger DC Universe at the end of Final Crisis, Rocket first appeared in the DC Comics in the pages of Justice League (Vol 2.) #30. When members of the Shadow Cabinet are attacked by member of the Justice League who think that Rocket and the Shadow Cabinet have kidnapped Dr. Light II, the groups fight just like in most superhero crossovers. Fighting happens, both sides realize they shouldn’t be fighting, and they eventually team up. The best moment from this battle is when Batman attempts to hit Rocket with a batarang and Rocket easily deflects it.
She proceeds to lay into Batman saying, “I’ll kick your &^% so hard that by the time you wake up, that cape’ll be back in style.” That’s Rocket. Never one to back down, even in the face of the one the members of DC Comic’s Trinity.
Robert Jeffrey II is an Atlanta based freelance writer who has worked for such clients as DC Comics, the Centers for Disease Control, and Nitto Tires. He is the co-writer of Radio Free Amerika, the writer of RET: CON, the creator/ writer of the Glyph Comics Award winning/ nominated Route 3: Vol 1, and the creator/writer of Mine To Avenge: The Book of Layla. He’s contributed to the Dark Universe: The Bright Empire and The Scribes of Nyota prose anthologies. He is a graduate of the 2017 DC Comics New Talent Writers Workshop. You can reach him at www.robertkjeffrey.com