The industry lost a giant this week when Dwayne McDuffie passed away due to complications following a surgical procedure. He was 49.
His impact on the medium of comics cannot be overstated. In addition to his work for Marvel and DC, he was also a cofounder of Milestone Media, which was the home of Static, Icon, Hardware and Blood Syndicate. Along with Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle, he created truly multicultural comics that actually reflected the diversity of the readership.
He was also one of the guiding hands behind the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series. The four seasons of those series helped shape how a generation of fans viewed the DCU.
For me personally McDuffie was an inspiration.
The first comic of McDuffie’s that I read was probably one of the Prince one-shots he did for Piranha Press. But that didn’t really impact me. It was his Milestone work that really impacted my life.
I was just finishing up my senior year in high school when Milestone Media launched their titles. The U of A was across the street from my high school and there as a comic shop on campus, so it was one of many places that I’d frequent when I didn’t feel like attending class.
It was at that shop that I picked up my first Milestone comic. And actually it was where I picked all of them up that summer. Hardware, Static, Icon and Blood Syndicate; I read and loved them all. They were quickly my favorite titles.
And after graduation I moved to Iowa, which made those Milestone comics all the more important in my life, because it was virtually the only time I ever saw anyone who wasn’t white.
I always scoured the credit boxes of those Milestone comics. It was because I genuinely enjoyed those comics and wanted to know exactly who was responsible for such enjoyment. It was how I knew I was a fan of JP Leon, Shawn Martinborough, J.H. Williiams III, Humberto Ramos and Chriscross. And of course Dwayne McDuffie.
From that point on I knew Dwayne McDuffie’s name meant quality. Once I got on the internet I looked him up and spent countless hours on his website, reading his essays, advice to writers and anecdotes about work with the various comic companies.
I was excited when I learned that he’d moved on to writing for animation and his involvement in the Justice League cartoon was one of the early signs to me that it was going to be a great show. And while sporadic airings prevented me from watching the show when it originally aired, I did managed to purchase the complete series recently.
McDuffie inspired me as a person because he showed me that, as a Black fan, someone cared about me enough to create characters that looked like me and were fully realized with nuance. Dwayne McDuffie was like my personally “Stan Lee” in that in the way many creators esteem Stan Lee, is how I regard McDuffie.
Milestone Media kept me reading comics at a time when I probably would have dropped out. While I wasn’t Hardware, I saw myself in Static and had close friends who were as troubled as any of those in Blood Syndicate or Icon. I really can’t convey how important those books were to me.
And Dwayne McDuffie’s is the reason why anyone cares that the Green Lantern in the summer tent pole movie isn’t Black.
But he also inspired me as a writer. He proved that you could be an outspoken Black man who loved comics and have a successful career doing what you loved. And while I haven’t had much success in terms of a career, he still served as something to strive for.
When I heard about his passing on Twitter, it certainly put a damper on the day. He was a role model and someone I always wanted to meet and tell him how much he inspired me and how much his work meant to me. I cherish my Milestone comics.
I won’t get the chance to tell him anything. And my loss of opportunity is nothing like the reality of the loss that his loved ones are facing right now, so my thoughts and heart goes out to them.
Rather than dwell on his passing, I’m choosing to use Dwayne McDuffie’s life as an inspiration and rededicate my life creating and writing. Based on what I’d read about the man, he’d want to serve as an inspiration. And I’d hate to disappoint him.