[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’m here to talk about a man who was not only important and powerful in the comic book world, but in the real world as well. I’m here to talk about Dwayne McDuffie, a guy who I feel was a Martin Luther King Jr. figure in the comic and media industry, as he opened the door not only for blacks, but all races in comics and media.
Dwayne was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan where he attended The Roeper School and went on to the University of Michigan graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English, then earning a master’s degree in physics. Afterwards, he moved to New York to attend film school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He would soon write for stand-up comedians and late-night shows, and while working for a business magazine, a friend got him an assistant editor position at Marvel Comics. It was here where Dwayne began his legacy with the comic series “Damage Control”, which focused on a team of people who cleaned up after superhero / villain battles. Not long after earning a editor job at Marvel, he submitted a spoof proposal for a comic entitled “Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers” in response to Marvel’s treatment of its black characters, namely killing them off and being part of gangs most of the time. This is where I really begin to love Dwayne’s mindset, as this sounds like something I might’ve done as well.
Around the early 90’s, Dwayne wanted to express a multicultural sensibility that he felt was missing in comic books. So he and three partners founded the infamous Milestone Media, which would later become known as the industry’s most successful minority-owned-and operated comic company. It was also around this time when McDuffie came up with the awesome Static superhero and explained how he felt about the comic industry, which led to one of the most powerful quotes I’ve heard in a long time:
“If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren’t just that character. They represent that race or that sex, and they can’t be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people. You know, Superman isn’t all white people and neither is Lex Luthor. We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn’t do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that’s wider than the world we’ve seen before.”
In the late 90’s going into 2000, he got the chance to turn Static into what I feel was one of the greatest animated shows of all time, the Static Shock series that aired on Kids WB. The show dealt with Static fighting super powered bad guys while also coping with teen issues such as school violence, drugs, and even more touchy subjects like racism and homelessness. He also had to deal with the feelings of his mother dying while he was young. McDuffie and co-writer Alan Burnett were awarded the Humanitas Prize in Children’s Animation for the episode “Jimmy” that dealt with gun violence at school. To this day, it’s a real shame that Warner Bros has yet to release the entire series on DVD. But since McDuffie has passed, they’ll most likely try to release it, though it would be sad if it took his death for them to finally do so.
Soon after the Static Shock series, he worked on shows such as Teen Titans, What’s New Scooby-Doo, and the Justice League TV series on Cartoon Network. A few years later, he was called in from Cartoon Network to help revamp the new Ben 10: Alien Force and Ultimate Alien shows, which was a pleasant surprise for me since I was already a fan of his work and was beginning to enjoy Ben 10. He would later make his film writing debut with the made-for-video film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. Not long before his death, he had just wrote the All-Star Superman made-for-video film and attended the premier screening for it while also promoting it. He had also wrote in his blog about how they finally made a Static action figure after all these years, and how he was planning to attend a function on February 23rd and give out autographs while celebrating film director and comic writer Reggie Hudlin’s new web site.
It’s sad to say he never made it, as he died the day after his 49th birthday on February 21st following complications from a surgery. I’ll never forget how hurt and thrown aback I was when I just happened to see his death the day it happened on the Recent Deaths page on Wikipedia. I literally held my hand over my mouth in horror when I saw his name on that list, knowing we lost a great person and talent that day, and that he left a hole in the world that can never be filled. We his fans will never forget what he’s done and will forever hold him in our hearts. Thanks to people like Dwayne McDuffie, comics and entertainment have changed for the better for all of us, and will continue to give life to new writers of the industry that will follow in his huge footsteps.