Dwayne McDuffie Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
In some ways, this is the best of times and the worst of times for those who are interested in bringing comics to a broader audience. As the hubbub died down over Milo Manara’s Spider-Woman cover, another story went viral, about a comic shop where an employee allegedly made a crude joke about a “rape room” and then fired a trainee who complained about it. While debate continues to rage over what exactly happened there (the store owner denies it), Bloomberg did a big story on how the number of women comics readers is growing and becoming an ever more important sector of the industry.
With this in mind, I want to call out three things that happened this week.
The first is Gene Luen Yang’s speech at the National Book Festival. First of all, it’s impressive that a comics creator is given such a prominent platform at an event that isn’t actually focused on comics. What Yang had to say was even more impressive. He spoke about the African-American creator Dwayne McDuffie, whose love of comics first caught fire when he encountered the Black Panther, a black character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Black Panther wasn’t perfect, but, Yang said,
All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”
“We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree. But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say. This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.
After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same. [...] We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s OK to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s OK if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human. Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.”
– Gene Luen Yang, in his speech about diversity, delivered over the weekend at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
Retailing | Books-A-Million had a good second quarter, and CEO Terry Finley gives at least part of the credit to graphic novels: “We also saw strong growth in the graphic novel category, with continued success with titles related to AMC’s The Walking Dead series and a renewed interest in several manga series [that] drove sales increases.” And to boost that, the retail chain, which operates more than 250 stores nationwide, is planning Marvel promotions throughout September. [ICv2]
Conventions | Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Dan Farr is trying to measure how much money attendees are spending. In terms of hotel beds, at least, the convention seems to be dwarfed by trade shows, but with people coming to Salt Lake City from 48 states for the recent spinoff event FanXperience, that may be changing. Still, even in San Diego, attendees spend only about $600 per person; if Salt Lake attendees are similarly thrifty, the convention may not be a significant player in the Salt Lake City convention scene. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.
This time around Carla lovingly tackles the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, with a shout-out to Rocket Raccoon co-creator Bill Mantlo, while Tim remembers Dwayne McDuffie, who would have celebrated a birthday last week. Plus there’s frozen bromance, rockin’ gods, Daredevil #36 and more. So let’s get to it …
Writer/artist Jimmie Robinson has been creating and publishing his stories through Image Comics for almost 20 years. Let that just soak in for a moment. Wednesday marks the resumption of Five Weapons, his now-ongoing series set in a high school for assassins, which launched as a five-issue miniseries, but it performed so well that Jim Valentino’s Image imprint Shadowline offered to make it a monthly.
In addition to discussing the transition from miniseries to ongoing with this week’s Issue 6, Robinson agreed to discuss the recent Image Expo and his larger industry realization that the loss of Dwayne McDuffie left a hole that has yet to be filled. He also addresses his intentions to return to the Bomb Queen universe as well as whether he would ever write for Marvel (in particular Rocket Racer) or DC (think Chase).
As part of the Five Weapons coverage, Robinson shared several upcoming covers, plus one in-process page from Five Weapons #7. Be sure to answer the question that Robinson poses at the end of this interview in the comments section.
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