Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
These days, it’s not uncommon for a celebrity on the PR circuit to drop some hidden comic book connection — usually a piece of childhood fandom meant to earn fanboy cred — but Key & Peele star Keagan Michael Key recently announced a different kind of connection: a familial one.
Appearing on the podcast You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes, the comedian, whose award-winning Comedy Central show just ended its run, revealed that he shares a father with the late legendary comic writer Dwayne McDuffie. Though Key has spoken often in interviews about his family background, it appears the Detroit native has just recently learned about his connection to the Static Shock co-creator, who died in 2011.
The shortlist has been announced for the inaugural Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids’ Comics, named in honor of the influential comics and animation writer who passed away in 2011. The first Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity was bestowed in March.
The 10 finalists for the kids’ comics award were selected by three judges: Kids Read Comics co-founders Edith Donnell and Dan Merritt, and ROBOT 6 contributor Brigid Alverson, who also edits the School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids blog.The winner of the inaugural award will be announced at the Kids Read Comics festival, held June 20-21 at the Ann Arbor District Library in Michigan. The finalists are:
The finalists have been announced for the inaugural Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity, named in honor of the influential comics and animation writer who passed away in 2011. The winner will be announced Feb. 28 at Long Beach Comic Expo.
“I am so proud that my husband’s personal mission to include a more diverse array of voices — both in content and creators — is able to continue now through this award in his name, by encouraging others who share his vision of comics, characters and the industry itself better mirroring society,” Charlotte McDuffie said in a statement.
The finalists are:
Long Beach Comic Con organizers have announced the Dwayne McDuffie Award, named in honor of the influential comics and animation writer who passed away in 2011. Details will be revealed Sept. 27 at the convention.
“Dwayne’s influence on comics is incredible, and we look forward to helping preserve his legacy through this award,” convention co-founder Martha Donato said in a statement.
Donato will be joined for the official announcement by fellow co-founder Phil Lawrence, and Neo Edmund, Joan Hilty, Joseph Illidge, Heidi MacDonald, Glen Murakami, Eugene Son, William J. Watkins, Len Wein, Charlotte Fullerton McDuffie and Matt Wayne.
Co-founder of the pioneering Milestone Media, McDuffie’s comics work ranged from Marvel’s Damage Control and Fantastic Four to Milestone’s Static and Icon to DC’s Justice League of America and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight.
His animation credits include Static Shock, Justice League, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, All-Star Superman and Justice League: Doom.
[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.