Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Late, Great Dwayne McDuffie

Comic book writer Dwayne McDuffe, who founded Milestone Media and with aritst John Paul Leon co-created Static, passed 21 February 2011, at the age of 49. The cause was complications from emergency heart surgery.

Dwayne McDuffie was born in Detroit, Michigan on 20 February, 1962. He attended the Roeper School, a school for gifted children there. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1983 and attended film school at the Tisch School for the Arts at New York University. Mr. McDuffie wrote under a pen name for stand up comedians and late night comedy shows, and also co-hosted  a radio comedy show. He began his career in comic books in 1987 as a special projects editor at Marvel Comics. His first major work for the company was Damage Control, a mini-series about a company which cleans up the destruction left in the wake of superhero and supervillian battles. At Marvel he also worked on Spicer-Man, Iron Man, and Deathlok. In 1990 he left Marvel to become a freelance writer. He wrote various titles for DC, Marvel, Archie, and even Harvey Comics.

It was in 1992 that Dwayne McDuffie co-founded Milestone Media with Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle. The company was entirely owned by African Americans and was intended to give minorities a greater presence in comic books. While published by DC Comics, Milestone was a separate company who retained the copyrights on its characters. Dwayne McDuffie had a hand in creating many of Milestone's major characters: Static, Icon, and Hardware, among others. The Milestone line of comic books would last only until 1997 due to poor sales.

In 20002 Dwayne McDuffie would enter the field of television animation as the Milestone comic book Static was developed into the animated series Static Shock. He served as the series' story editor and wrote several of its episodes. He would go onto write scripts for What's New Scooby Doo, Teen Titans, Justice League, and Ben 10.  He served as a producer on Justice League and Ben 10. He also wrote the animated feature All-Star Superman. Mr. McDuffie later returned to comic books, writing Firestorm and Justice League at DC Comics and Fantastic Four at Marvel.

There can be no doubt that Dwayne McDuffie had a huge impact on the comic book industry. If minorities are now more visible in comic books than they were before the Nineties, it is largely because of him. While Milestone's comic book line ultimately failed financially, it was a success not only artistically, but in forcing the major companies of DC and Marvel to realise the need for more minority characters. Beyond giving minorities a greater presence in comic books, Mr. McDuffie was also, quite simply, one of the best comic book writers of the late 20th Century. He had an understanding of the importance of such legends as Batman and Superman, but at the same time was able to bring realism and originality. It was because of his understanding of the most important characters of the medium that he was able to create significant characters himself. Static's title may have only lasted a few years, but he remains one of the best remembered characters of the Nineties.

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