I’m putting aside the regular comics spotlight column this week to talk about the comics and animated creations of the late Dwayne McDuffie who unexpectedly passed away last week at the far-too-young age of forty-nine.
I was in shock when I first heard the news that such a strong, vital voice had been silenced. Sadness set in as I realized that not only had I lost a writer whose work I admired but this loss would touch my children as well. McDuffie was the writer who adapted Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, which was just released on DVD last week. He was the producer of Ben10 Alien Force, Ben10: Ultimate Alien, and Justice League Unlimited on Cartoon Network. My younger two children love the Ben10 shows and it was JLU that introduced them to many DC comics heroes.
In an industry adverse to change, McDuffie never quit pushing to have heroes that reflected all the different peoples of America. He co-founded Milestone Comics and created Static, who had his own television show beginning in 2000 and ran for four season. McDuffie wrote a number of the Static Shock episodes for television.
McDuffie is the reason that millions of children are looking at the trailer for the new Green Lantern movie and asking, “wait, I thought Green Lantern was John Stewart?”
I knew him a little bit, though not well, as a poster on Gail Simone’s comics forum. He was unfailingly gracious, friendly, and funny. His friends paid tribute to him last week at a memorial held at Golden Apple Comics.
Beyond that, he was one of the writers who never forgot the “hero” part of “superhero.” In this day of deconstructing heroes, when Watchmen is sometimes held as the gold standard of superhero stories, McDuffie’s stories were about hope and compassion, not about loss and despair. His people were human and flawed but still heroes.
There is one scene from the finale of JLU that has been passed around by comic readers in the last week as emblematic of McDuffie’s storytelling. It seems especially poignant in the reality of his untimely death.
And he never stopped pushing for the big two superhero companies to include more minorities in their comics. Milestone Comics was part of that—an entire universe where African-American superheroes were the norm, not the exception. Milestone currently has a publishing relationship with DC Comics and the characters are now part of DC’s story universe.
If you haven’t read any of McDuffie’s comics and want to start, there’s no better place than his first mini-series for Marvel Comics, Damage Control, about a construction company in the Marvel universe that specializes in repairing damage created by fights between superheroes and supervillains. There is also the Static volume linked above and Icon, a Milestone character he co-created and wrote for four years. McDuffie called it “his best work.”
While I wish that he had survived to write many more books and animated shows, I am very grateful for the work he has left with us.