To mark what would have been the 50th birthday of Dwayne McDuffie, who passed away a year ago Tuesday, actor-director Stefan Dezil is circulating the trailer for Static Shock: Blackout, a 12-minute short based on the late writer’s best-known creation. Shot on RED for $5,000, the short centers on Daisy Watkins, a New York City reporter who travels to Dakota City to discover the identity of the teenage vigilante.
Static Shock: Blackout, which stars Dezil as Virgil Hawkins and Nadine Malouf as Daisy Watkins, will debut online in mid-March.
Creators | Eugene Son, a friend of late comics creator Dwayne McDuffie, announced plans to transform the writer’s website from “one that promoted his work to one that reflects his immense legacy.” The site’s blog will remain active, with plans to post old columns and scripts written by McDuffie, as well as tributes and stories from McDuffie’s friends. Earlier this week Son posted a 2002 essay he said was one of McDuffie’s most-read works, “Six Degrees of St. Elsewhere (aka The Grand Unification Theory).” [DwayneMcDuffie.com]
Publishing | Wizard has hired Kevin Kelly as managing editor of its “website, social media and digital content endeavors.” Kelly has previously worked for several entertainment websites, including io9, Moviefone, Cinematical and Joystiq, and was most recently senior features editor for G4tv.com. [press release]
Manga | Playback hosts a “Manga Moveable Feast” on Ken Akamatsu’s Love Hina, which returns to print from Kodansha Comics next week. [Playback:stl]
Publishing | DC Comics associate editor Janelle Asselin has left the company, reportedly for a job with Disney. She clarifies on Twitter that, contrary to a report, she wasn’t escorted from the building on Tuesday but, rather, left “at my leisure.” Asselin had been with DC since 2008, working primarily on Batman books like Batman and Robin, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Red Robin, Birds of Prey and the relaunched Batman, Batwoman, Detective Comics and Savage Hawkman. [Bleeding Cool]
Publishing | Longtime editor Betsy Mitchell is taking early retirement from her post as editor-in-chief of Del Rey, where she helped create Del Rey Manga. Tricia Pasternak, a former Del Rey Manga editor herself, has been promoted to editorial director. Del Rey was established as a science fiction prose imprint; the manga line was created in 2004 and was mostly shut down in 2010, when Kodansha began publishing its manga directly in the U.S. However, Del Rey still publishes a handful of manga and graphic novels, including xxxHolic, King of RPGs, and Deltora Quest. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | In a twist that sounds like something out of a comic (or even an ad from an old comic), a witness in the Michael George trial testified he saw someone wearing an obviously fake beard outside George’s Clinton Township, Michigan, comics shop a few minutes before George’s first wife Barbara was murdered inside the store in 1990. [The Tribune Democrat]
This year’s Comic-Con International souvenir book will include tributes to comics and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie, who passed away in February. One creator whose contribution won’t be included, however, is Matt Wayne. The former Milestone editor and Justice League Unlimited story editor shared on the Dwayne McDuffie forums last week that he was approached to write a tribute, which the editors of the book asked him to change after seeing his final submission.
“I ran my tribute past Dwayne’s wife before I sent it, and she dubbed it ‘perfect,’” he wrote in his forum post. “But the people at Comic-Con asked me to change it, and I decided to just let it go. I’m worried that Dwayne is going to be the industry’s ‘proof’ that we’re all post-racial and chummy, now that they can’t be embarrassed into hiring him anymore, and I don’t want to contribute to that absurd but inevitable narrative.”
You can read Wayne’s entire tribute over on the forums.
David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations for CCI, said that the book’s editors asked for the piece to be “celebratory” in nature, in keeping with other pieces in the book.
“As you know we held Dwayne McDuffie in high regard as he was a past recipient of our Inkpot award. Most recently we held a tribute panel for him at WonderCon. The changes requested were never meant to slight him or his family, and we really are truly sorry for the anguish this has caused,” Glanzer told Robot 6. “In the future we will try to prevent a similar situation as this from occurring by having a larger circle of people weigh in on any potential changes or edits to In Memoriam pieces.
“Again we offer our heart felt apology to Matt Wayne and the family and friends of Dwayne McDuffie.”
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is Robert Stanley Martin.
Robert writes for his blog Pol Culture, and is a contributing writer to The Hooded Utilitarian. He is a past contributor to The Comics Journal, and his essays on R. Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated and Eddie Campbell’s Alec: The Years Have Pants are featured in the soon-to-be-released The Comics Journal #301.
To see what Robert and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click on through …
Artist J.H. Williams III shares what I believe is a variant cover for the upcoming Static Shock Special DC is putting out as a homage to Dwayne McDuffie. At least, the solicitation for the title lists Derec Donovan as the cover artist.
At any rate, it’s a wonderful piece of art that Williams says was inspired by funk music.
“I wanted to try some different things in attitude,” Williams wrote on his blog. “The Milestone characters always had this unusual quality to them, which I think made them pretty cool. And some of them seemed to have this Funk aspect to them. Now when I say Funk, I’m referring to Funk Music. So I decided to see if I could bring that more forward in attitude for this cover. The result is pretty effective. It still has this iconic quality that the genre should have, but now it feels like Funk meets Superheroes to me. Resulting in something different than what I usually do.”
You can see the steps in his creative process, from rough sketch to the final version, over on his blog. The comic comes out in June.
Publishing | Kodansha Ltd., Japan’s largest publisher, will close its 48-year-old Kodansha International subsidiary by the end of April. The division is a separate company from the New York-based Kodansha USA, which Kodansha Ltd. established in 2008. Kodansha International specialized in English-language translations of Japanese books and original English-language books on Japanese topics, and published the occasional few manga-related title. At the February press conference at which incoming Kodansha Ltd. President Yoshinobu Noma announced the publisher’s 46.7 percent stake in Vertical Inc., he revealed the company would increase its focus on digital publishing and overseas markets. [The Japan Times, Anime News Network]
Publishing | Video game developer Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind World of Warcraft and Starcraft, is rumored to be ending its licensing agreements with troubled U.S. manga publisher Tokyopop. Although the report comes on the heels of Tokyopop’s latest round of layoffs — Troy Lewter edited many of the current Blizzard titles — the two events are apparently unrelated. [Lore Hound, via Joystiq]
Tom’s already written a great tribute to Dwayne McDuffie, but I need to write something too. And I don’t use the word “need” lightly there.
Typically, when I hear about the death of someone in the comics industry, I feel sad for that person’s family and friends, perhaps think a little about my own connection to the person’s work, and that’s about it. I don’t know that I’ve ever written a personal memorial about anyone. Dwayne McDuffie is different. I met him once, but didn’t know him outside of his work. Still, I’m feeling his death like I don’t feel comics industry deaths and this column’s going to be a bit selfish as I get this out.
Like Tom, my connection with McDuffie began with Milestone. I grew up in the South where…I guess the polite way of saying it is that racial diversity was prevalent, but that doesn’t do justice to the situation. It makes it sound almost utopian, which is ridiculous. Anyone who’s spent much time in the South (or really just seen a lot of movies set there) knows how complicated and heart-breakingly frustrating it can be. But one thing that I’ll always be thankful for is that I got to know a lot of people outside of my own race. Enough so that I took it for granted.
After college I moved north to look for work and landed in a suburb that was much less diverse than where I’d grown up. Like before, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about this. I didn’t “miss” being around people unlike myself anymore than I actively enjoyed being surrounded by folks just like me, racially and culturally speaking. The issue just wasn’t on my radar.
What was on my radar was getting back into comics. I’d gone to school in a small town with no comic shop and was thrilled to live in a metropolitan area with many different places to buy comics. I dived right in and it was only a couple of years later that Dwayne McDuffie and Friends launched Milestone.
Dwayne McDuffie was a great writer of superhero stories, consistently producing solid, entertaining tales about characters familiar and unfamiliar, across a variety of media. He was also a vocal advocate for diversity in the superhero genre, both in terms of characters and creative personnel.
My first real exposure to Mr. McDuffie’s work was through Static, the 1993 series he co-created with fellow Milestone founders Derek T. Dingel, Denys Cowan, and Michael Davis. The Milestone panel at the ‘93 Chicago Comic-Con was handing out copies of Static’s first issue — a shiny-silver-logo variant, naturally — and I was hooked instantly. In any age Static would have stood out as an energetic and thoughtful teen-superhero serial. In the summer of 1993, though, with the speculators’ market at full swing and superhero comics chasing one fad after another, Static’s reliance on fundamentals was especially refreshing.
To some extent I think that’s what helped make Mr. McDuffie’s work so effective. He understood that the best superhero stories bring the epic and fantastic down to personal levels, but he was careful to slight neither the epic nor the personal. His work spotlighted relationships as much as spectacle. When Earth was invaded by Hawkgirl’s home planet of Thanagar (in “Starcrossed,” a 3-episode arc of “Justice League”), it tested both Hawkgirl’s loyalties and her relationship with Green Lantern. McDuffie’s tenure on Fantastic Four started by repairing the damage to the Richards’ marriage wrought by the events of Civil War. The Beyond! miniseries (a sort-of sequel to Secret Wars) was all about relationships, since it stranded a handful of superheroes on a distant planet.
“Milestone was the shared vision that we would provide the world with images that had been excluded from the mainstream for decades. Dwayne was the key to making that dream a reality to our company and comic book fans, as well as those who sought tales of adventure. [...] Dwayne realized the importance of creating such images because they represented heroes and opportunities. He also saw comic books and animation as a way of dealing with such issues as racism, sexism, gang violence, gun control and conflict resolution without sacrificing entertainment value.”
– Milestone Media co-founder Derek T. Dingle, on his friend and business partner Dwayne McDuffie, who passed away Monday at age 49
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.”
Awards | Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword has been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as part of the prestigious Nebula Awards. “When the nice lady from the Nebula committee called me, she said this is ‘essentially the Nebula Award for young adult books’,” Deutsch writes. Although graphic novels are specifically mentioned in the Andre Norton Award guidelines, this appears to be the first time one has been nominated. The award was established in 2005 in honor of prolific science fiction and fantasy author Andre Norton, who passed away that year. The winners will be announced May 21 in Washington, D.C., during the Nebula Awards banquet. [SFFWA]
Passings | We’ll collect reactions later today to the sudden death of respected comics and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie — Comic Book Resources has remembrances from more than a dozen industry figures — but I wanted to go ahead and point to a handful of links: The Associated press obituary; a few words from Christopher Irving, accompanied by a beautiful portrait of McDuffie photographed by Seth Kushner on Feb. 13; the origin of Static; and a look at Spider-Man anti-drug PSA comics written by McDuffie. There’s also McDuffie’s message board, where he interacted candidly with fans on a regular basis. Two threads are devoted to the news of his death and memories of the creator they often referred to as “the Maestro.” The site’s administrator has posted a message last night on the main page: “Dwayne’s family and friends would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of condolences. They are much appreciated in this difficult time.” [Dwayne McDuffie]
Warner Bros’ animated adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman is so reverent and faithful toward the source material that the film, to a certain extent, feels like a pale copy of its inspiration.
That’s not necessarily a damning criticism. Bruce Timm and company took the right approach in attempting to get as close a conversion from page to screen as possible (to do otherwise would have pleased no one). But the comic itself is so rich in detail and episodic in nature that even a trim, streamlined version like this that still manages to hit a number of the right high points feels a bit flabby in comparison. Saying “the book is better” is a rather easy cheat for a critic — the book is almost always better, but I suspect that fans of the comic won’t be able to watch this without running a compare/contrast checklist in their head and find the film coming up a wee bit short. The good news is that those coming fresh to the material probably won’t notice anything wrong at all.
James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace, Happy Feet) have been cast as the voices of Superman, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor in the upcoming All-Star Superman original animated movie. Warner Bros. announced the direct-to-DVD project in San Diego this past summer.
Bruce Timm is executive producing, and Sam Liu, who directed Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, will direct this one as well. Dwayne McDuffie, who wrote Crisis on Two Earths, Justice League Unlimited and many other animated programs (not to mention comics) wrote the script.
The DVD will be released next spring.
A quick round-up of Comic-Con updates, additional announcements and interesting links:
• Warner Bros. Animation officially announced a DC Universe Original Movie based on All-Star Superman, the award-winning series by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. The direct-to-DVD animated feature, set for release in spring 2011, is written by Dwayne McDuffie, who calls the series “one of the greatest stories in comic book history.”
• ICv2.com has additional details about one of the more interesting announcements from the convention, Fantagraphics’ partnership with Disney to publish the complete Mickey Mouse comic strips by Floyd Gottfredson. The collections will be released beginning in May at a rate of two volumes a year. They will retail for $29.99.
• Tom Spurgeon rounds up the selections from the Thursday panel “The Best and Worst of Manga 2010.”
• I enjoyed Todd VanDerWerff’s coverage of Comic-Con for The A.V. Club, including his visit to Artists’ Alley, and this broader post in which he questions whether the convention is “worth serious news coverage.”
• In the midst of Comic-Con, the Los Angeles Times rolled out a look at digital comics and their potential impact on the industry. “Comic book stores have a very close relationship with their customers,” says author and critic Douglas Wolk. “But the old-school collectors are aging, and it may be that the print comic goes away eventually. There is an entire generation of readers who is not interested in physical copies.”
• Grant Morrison chats briefly with IGN.com about his newly announced series Batman Inc.
• Is it just me, or are the round-ups of convention “winners and losers” pretty much meaningless? I’m sure Snakes on a Plane was declared a “winner” of whichever Comic-Con it was promoted — 2006, maybe? — and we all know how that played out.