Robot 6

Fellow creators and fans remember Dwayne McDuffie

I’m still in shock over the sudden, tragic death of comics writer, Milestone Media co-founder and animation producer Dwayne McDuffie, as I’m sure many of his fans, friends and fellow creators are. I’ve rounded up some thoughts and memories from some of those folks, as well as a few items of note about memorials and some of his work.

  • If you’re attending the Emerald City Comicon March 4-6, they’ve announced a memorial panel remembering McDuffie that will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. in Room 4C1-2. Per writer Mark Waid, C2E2 is also planning to hold one.
  • Both Heidi MacDonald and Rich Johnston posted pages featuring the parakeet metaphor that McDuffie first introduced in Hardware #1 — a scene that, for me personally, sparked one of those lengthy late-night discussions about society, racism, politics and a whole lot of other things with my older brother. As Heidi points out, McDuffie revisited it in both X-O Manowar and at the end of the Milestone Forever two-parter, basically bookending the life of the Milestone Universe.
  • The Weekly Crisis, meanwhile, looks at a poignant page from McDuffie’s more recent Fantastic Four run.
  • The good folks at the Project: Rooftop site have declared “McDuffie Week” at their site, and have put out the call for redesigns of Static. Dean Trippe writes: “Dwayne’s work in the field of comics and animation was near-universally respected. His knowledge and understanding of the DCU heroes in particular, always meant a lot to me. He worked for Marvel, DC, founded Milestone along with Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle, achieved more respect and admiration as a screenwriter for Justice League Unlimited and other DC animated projects, faithfully bringing the light of our heroes to the non-comics-reading public. Dwayne has left us far too soon, with too many wonderful stories left untold.”

Comic Book Resources has a collection of reactions from various creators. Here are a few more that creators and bloggers have posted on their own sites; also, Tom Spurgeon has a Collective Memory post with more that he’ll keep updating. You can also follow the hashtag #DwayneMcDuffie on Twitter, where McDuffie was a trending topic earlier this week.

  • Writer Peter David: “I will never forget sitting in his office as we worked out storylines. There was more than just his physical presence (he was well over six feet tall). He seemed to radiate confidence in his abilities, which was entirely warranted, and he was determined to roll with whatever curves Cartoon Network might throw his way and turn them into the best stories possible. He had boundless enthusiasm not only for his work, but for the sheer creative process. To say he will be missed is to understate it. I offer condolences not only to his family, but to the entirety of fandom for losing one of the great ones.”
  • Wruter Warren Ellis: “We talked – and occasionally argued – for years, at my message board. I had huge respect for both him and his work. Later, he was good enough to hire me to write a JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED cartoon for him. I had a terrific time doing that: turned out he was great to work with, too. if you had to pick out ten people in this poxy business whom you’d stand in front of when the shit started flying, Dwayne would be on most people’s lists.”
  • Artist J.H. Williams III: “He was always one of the best creators this industry had the luxury of claiming. His work is memorable not just for his forward thinking in terms of ethnic characters, but also for the coolness that always seem to come along for the ride with his stories. I had the fortunate but very brief time to have worked with him while Milestone was on the rise for DC Comics. It was Milestone that really seemed to be willing to give me some of my first shots at being a professional artist. My gratitude for that can never be forgotten, and neither will Dwayne’s offerings.”
  • Artist Colleen Doran: “Dwayne was incredibly cool to me at Milestone. Nothing about the demise of the series was Milestone’s fault in any way. I was not only treated with respect and kindness at every turn, but the publisher paid me a very fair kill fee. I really liked the people at Milestone, and Dwayne sent me a wonderful letter about my work on the project, which I treasure.”
  • Writer J.M. DeMatteis: “I didn’t know Dwayne well, but I had tremendous respect for him—both as a writer and a man. Dwayne was close friends with my old buddy Stan Berkowitz—they worked together on Justice League Unlimited, among other projects—and the three of us would sometimes go out for lunch or dinner when I visited Los Angeles. The last time I actually saw Dwayne was in April of 2010 (we shared an extraordinary Persian meal and Dwayne graciously, generously, picked up the check), but we worked together last summer, when I wrote a Ben 10 script for him. Dwayne was, as always, fiercely intelligent, profoundly creative, and a genuine pleasure to collaborate with.”
  • Writer/artist Gene Yang: “Dwayne McDuffie’s writing first caught my eye when I was in high school. He was the writer behind Damage Control, a Marvel Comics mini-series about a business firm that cleaned up cities after big superhero fights. I’ve followed his career off and on ever since. When he started Milestone Media with a group of his friends, I bought all the books he wrote. I admired his guts, I admired his business sense, and most of all I admired his stories. My son and I are currently watching Justice League episodes that he wrote and edited. At Comic-Con a couple of years ago, I was asked to participate on a panel discussion with him. I pestered the moderator to seat me next to him, just so I could shake his hand.”
  • Marvel.com’s Ben Morse: “But then, if you look at the professional career of Dwayne McDuffie, you’ll see a guy who has always done things that appeal and matter to him and achieved success along the way not necessarily because he always made the decisions would necessarily make the most money, but because he was so talented you couldn’t stop him. Read any interview with Dwayne about the creation of Milestone and you’ll have little doubt it was an endeavor he embarked upon because in his mind it needed to be done and there was creative potential there, not because it was going to make him rich.”
  • Blogger Chris Sims: “He was a hero of mine. He was a guy who worked hard, who set out to change the world of comics for the better while still telling great stories, and he succeeded. He wrote with skill, social conscience and a sense of humor, three things that you rarely find in one person, especially one as prolific as he was. He wasn’t afraid to call things out for being ridiculous, and more than that, he did it with honesty, even when he caught hell for it. And because of that, he was one of the creators that I always felt comfortable writing about, whether praise or criticism, because I felt like if I followed his example of professionalism, honesty and humor, he’d get it. He inspired me, as much through how he acted on a personal level as through his work.”
  • Writer/blogger Kevin Church: “A lot of comics creators (and readers) use the most benign platitudes when it comes to race and gender in superhero books. They say that it doesn’t matter if the latest incarnation of a legacy character is black or white or asian, that it’s not important to the story if Black Manta is a woman this go-round or whatever. Because, you know, people are people, you know? Dwayne McDuffie was hard-headed and impassioned enough to say “Yes, it does.” He brought the experience he had as a black kid growing up in Detroit in the 70s and 80s to every project he got his hands on by choosing directly not to emulate what he’d seen in the comic books he read, but by creating what he wished he had read.”
  • Blogger J. Caleb Mozzocco: I didn’t know Dwayne McDuffie the person at all, but I’ve long known Dwayne McDuffie the comics writer (and, to a lesser extent, the animation writer), and I spent a lot of time with that Dwayne McDuffie. Relating the death of a real person with a real family and real friends always seems a bit selfish to me, but then, I think the fact that the passing of someone you don’t really know can still affect you in some small way can be a compelling indicator of just how important that particular person is to the world. Certainly in the case of McDuffie, he was very important in our part of the world. It saddens me to think I’m never going to read another new McDuffie-written comic book, although I’m somewhat heartened by the fact that there are still chunks of his decades-long bibliography I’ve yet to experience personally.
  • Blogger Tom Foss: “McDuffie was one of the best. He was the mastermind behind Milestone Comics, an incredibly underrated imprint that has given us quite a lot of interesting characters and poignant stories. He was a key component of the awesomeness of the DCAU shows, and I think he understands the core DC characters better than most.”
  • Blogger Johnny Bacardi: “Back in 1993, when my then-11-year-old son wanted me to start getting him comics to read on my weekly Wednesday run, some of the titles he liked were DC’s teen heroes- Robin, Impulse, Superboy. One other that caught his eye was the series above, Static. Now, since I was as much a comics geek back then as I ever was, I read not only the titles I bought, but the titles I bought for him (he liked X-Men, Spawn, Gen13, and other hot books back then too- I didn’t read them often) as well, and I enjoyed Static. McDuffie only scripted the first four issues, along with the mysterious Robert L. Washington III, but was instrumental in creating the character with artist J.P. Leon, the first place I saw his soon-to-be excellent work as well.”
  • Blogger John Hogan: McDuffie’s work on Icon and the rest of the Milestone Media characters in the early ’90s was incredibly pivotal to me. The debate that went on in the pages of Icon (the philosophies of Martin Luther King vs. those of Malcolm X, for example) was so incredibly well done that I would eagerly await each new issue. McDuffie was one of the comics creators who pushed the envelope and brought comics into a new age, pushing superheroes further than before.

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