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.
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.”
This past weekend at the New York Comic Con, DC co-publisher Dan Didio said that the Milestone character Xombi will return in February. John Rozum, who wrote the original Xombi series back in the 1990s, posted on his blog that he will write the series.
“Xombi came straight from my DNA and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to return to the story of David Kim,” he wrote on his blog. “This is an absolute dream come true for me.”
He also notes that he’s written one issue so far, and an art team has not been chosen yet.
Xombi, the story of a medical researcher whose supernatural wounds were cured by nanomachines that render him immortal, ran for 22 issues. Like the other Milestone characters, Xombi is now part of the DC universe, having been introduced into it last year in Brave & the Bold #26. Rozum’s post includes a great introduction to the character if you’ve never read the book.
Legal | On Thursday 20th Century Fox filed six lawsuits against several dozen people the studio claims sold DVDs containing unfinished versions of X-Men Origins: Wolverine before the movie’s May 1, 2009, theatrical release.
In December, the FBI arrested Gilberto Sanchez, a New York man suspected of uploading an unfinished edit of the film to a file-sharing website. Sanchez claims he purchased the bootleg for $5 from a street vendor. [Media Decoder]
Legal | The Department of Justice has delivered another blow to Google’s controversial plan to make millions of out-of-print books available online. In a statement issued Thursday night, the DOJ said that despite “good faith” efforts, the revised agreement still suffers from class certification, copyright and antitrust issues. A hearing on the proposed agreement is scheduled for Feb. 18. [Publishers Weekly, Epicenter]
According to this post over at DC’s The Source blog, original Milestone Comics editor-in-chief Dwayne McDuffie is teaming with several artists who worked on the original Milestone Comics line back in the 1990s to wrap up the stories that were being told in those books before the line was canceled. It also sounds like it’ll somehow transition the characters from their separate Milestone-verse to the DCU proper, where we’ve already seen them show up in the pages Justice League and Teen Titans.
McDuffie will team with John Paul Leon, Mark Bright, Chris Cross and Denys Cowan to wrap up the stories from Hardware, Icon, Shadow Cabinet, Blood Syndicate and Static. I figured we were well past ever seeing these characters again in their original environment, so this is welcome news, even if it is “a bittersweet tale that chronicles the literal end of a universe.”
After announcing last summer that the Milestone heroes would be merged fully into the DC Universe, the publisher seems to have pulled back on its big plans for the properties.
The Shadow Cabinet appeared near the end of writer Dwayne McDuffie’s abbreviated run on Justice League of America, and Hardware and Static have been featured in The Brave and the Bold and Teen Titans. But beyond that?
“At this particular time, we have Static in the Teen Titans, and we’re looking at a storyline that might be built around Static later in the run,” DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio said in an interview posted yesterday. “But right now, no other plans.”
The news doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Milestone fans, or McDuffie himself.
“Plans for a Static monthly were scrapped by DC last spring,” McDuffie, co-founder of Milestone Media, wrote yesterday on his forum. “Based on their actions, they never really wanted to publish the Milestone stuff, they wasted my time. We could have done a little deal for them to use Static without me having to spend so much money on lawyers.”
Milestone was founded in 1993 by McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle in an attempt to increase minority representation in comics. Through DC Comics, the company published such titles as Hardware, Blood Syndicate, Icon and, perhaps the most successful, Static (which in 2000 spawned the animated series Static Shock). Milestone closed its comic division in 1997.
Blogger Rich Watson, who summarized the recent roller-coaster relationship between McDuffie and DC, questions what this latest turn says about the publisher’s “level of commitment to its black audience.”
“DC is content to have its black superheroes appear in team books and the occasional mini-series, but an ongoing series is — what? Beneath them?” Watson wrote. “And Static, a character that has proved itself not just in comics, but on television as well, can’t get a series either?”
Publishing | Yen Press has confirmed the release dates for volumes 6-8 of Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&!, the popular comedy series previously published by ADV Manga: Vol. 6, September; Vol. 7, December; Vol. 8, April 2010. Yen Press announced at New York Comic Con that it had acquired the license to the offbeat manga. [Yen Press, Anime News Network]
Creators | Laura Hudson talks to Grant Morrison about Final Crisis, “Batman R.I.P,” event comics, and the high expectations of fandom: “A lot of artists are naturally wary of fan pressure and the excessive criticism that come with a higher profile, so they put their all into a project, knowing that if they do less than the best they’re capable of, 50 jeering bastards on the Internet will turn up to personally insult them.” [Comic Foundry, reposted from the Spring 2009 issue]
Creators | Wind up Alan Moore and watch him go (Part 27): “Much as I love the medium, I despise the industry. I’ve always despised it to a certain degree but after this last few years and all this nonsense with the films, I believe it to be a completely poisonous place that isn’t really going anywhere. I did once feel I was part of a movement that wanted to change comics into something was valuable to culture, but I don’t really feel that kinship in the way I used to.” [The Guardian]
Publishing | Chris Ryall, editor-in-chief and publisher of IDW Publishing, discusses moving the company away from the horror niche, signing author Joe Hill, and his new series with Ben Templesmith Groom Lake. [The Cult]
Creators | Our own Chris Mautner posts the full interview he conducted with writer Ed Brubaker before the release of Incognito #1. [Panels and Pixels]