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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Tribute To Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie attends the West Coast premiere of
“All-Star Superman” at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles Feb. 17. (Warner Bros.)
From The Detroit News:
Last week comic Dwayne McDuffie passed away of complications from emergency heart surgery. He was only 49 years old.

The first McDuffie comic I
bought back in 1989.
Dwayne will be remembered by many for his work at Marvel and DC comics on titles such as Damage Control, Justice League of America, Fantastic Four. He’ll also be remembered for his s writing and producing most of the episodes of the animated series Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Ben 10: Alien Force and direct-to-video movies such as Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and All Star Superman. He was a brilliant comic book and Television writer with a vivid imagination, tremendous creativity and a great attention to detail.

But what I’ll remember him most for is his work as one of the founders of Milestone Media and his efforts to create positive images of Minority comic book characters.

A small sampling of the Milestone Comics in my collection.

I used to buy Milestone comics every Thursday back when I was attending college. McDuffie’s work at Milestone was a huge inspiration to me back then. His work at Milestone Comics made me believe that it was possible for African-American superheroes to be intelligent, complex and multi-dimensional. For the first time at the comic shops and at the newsstands I not only saw heroes of color on a regular basis, but a diverse array of viewpoints within the African-American community. Hardware was the angry man in the corporate machine, Icon was the disconnected alien who was forced to reconcile his place in a world he didn’t understand, Rocket the girl from around the way, The Blood Syndicate was a gang that fought to protect its own turf from predators of the outside world, and Static was the kid from the neighborhood. Milestone comics showed me that superheroes came in more than one shade of brown and that there was more than one black experience.

Back in 1994 after I graduated college, I was so enthusiastic about Milestone Media Comics that I actually sent them a resume and cover letter in hopes of getting a writing job. Unfortunately, I got no response. And much to my chagrin, a year after my college graduation, the comic book industry imploded. Milestone went belly up in 1995 or 96 along with my dreams of being a comic book writer.

But Even though Milestone went out of business, those comics McDuffie wrote had a huge influence on me years later. They were one of the driving forces that made me want to become a serious novelist. The Icon series heavily influenced my writing of Isis back in 1999. Reading about the Agustus Freeman IV, the brotha from another planet inspired me to use Egyptian mythology to make a commentary on race and culture in my tale of a lost woman who discovers her heritage and history as an Egyptian goddess.

I’ll also remember McDuffie for creating Static, one of my favorite superheroes. Static was a character who was a lot like me growing up in the South Bronx as a kid. A comic fan. A good kid who dealt with bullies, peer pressure and racial identity along with his super powers. It was a story that was rarely told in comics. I was eager to buy every issue when it hit the stands back in the day.

And even though I was 27 I always made time to watch Static Shock when it came on Saturday mornings back in 2000. I even taped every episode for four seasons straight. For an African-American comic fan like myself, Static Shock was a ground breaking series; The Cosby Show of Superhero programs. Not only was the show the first to feature an African-Anerican superhero in the lead, it won its slot for each of the four years it was on, and won awards for its tight writing of episodes like “Jimmy”.

Dwayne McDuffie’s work in comics and Television shaped the way a generation saw DC Comics Superheroes in the media with Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.  Static Shock  proved an African-American character could anchor and carry an animated program and hold an audence nationwide. He will be missed. I only wish I could have met him face-to-face and told him how his work influenced me as a writer and my mission to create positive stories about the African-American experience.

This Saturday I'll run down a list of what I believe are some of Dwayne's best work in comics and Television.

1 comment:

  1. Don't you wish people like Dwayne McDuffie could live forever. But they do leave an indelible mark on society and thus, on the rest of us. such people serve as a beacon of hope and guidance for all humanity Perhaps God felt that their bright, bright star needed only to shine for a while. The angels will surely enjoy his talents.

    McDuffie would be pleased to know that he is a beacon for you, because I expect you to shine very brightly now and in years to come. Carry on, my friend!