Archive for Dwayne McDuffie

Friday Night Fights: For Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie died this week. And I’m still not over it. He wasn’t my favorite writer, but he was up in the top ranks. He’d worked on comics I liked, and he’d founded an incredibly cool comic company. His work turned me into a comics reader again, after years away from the hobby. He had his head on straight, and I respected him enormously. So naturally, I decided to see if I could find something he wrote for Friday Night Fights.

I was all set to scan a really cool fight from one of the first few issues of Icon — Rocket awesomely knocking around lots of thuggish, bullying cops. But I found something I liked better. It’s not as over-the-top violent, but it’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever gotten to read in a comic.

So this is from November 1993’s Icon #7 by Dwayne McDuffie, M.D. Bright, and Mike Gustovich. The backstory: Icon is an extremely long-lived alien who was stranded on Earth in the 1830s. His escape pod was found by a slave, and the pod automatically rewrote his DNA to match whoever opened the pod, to improve his chances of survival. So after 150 years as a black man, Augustus Freeman has become a very wealthy businessman with a very conservative outlook. Raquel Ervin is a teenager from the bad side of Paris Island who has discovered that Freeman has superpowers — she persuades him to become a superhero, and he gives her an alien-tech belt that allows her to become his sidekick, Rocket.

Anyway, Raquel discovers that she’s pregnant and goes to Freeman asking for a loan so she can get an abortion. She’s angry about it and gives him a lot of guff, expecting that he’ll disapprove of her decision. But he reveals that a few decades ago, when he was married, his human wife got pregnant. It seemed likely that a baby with human and alien DNA wouldn’t be viable and would certainly endanger the mother’s life, so they made the then-risky and illegal decision to abort the baby. At that point, Icon says:

And Raquel responds in a way that surprises the reader, Icon, and probably Raquel herself:

And there we go. Two different characters with radically different backgrounds and personalities, neither one conforming to easy stereotypes. That’s what I loved about McDuffie’s writing — his characters would be interesting with or without powers and colorful spandex. And what he wrote always had power.

I hope there are more writers out there emulating what he was able to do. Comics need good writers and good characters.

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RIP Dwayne McDuffie

Well, here’s some deeply depressing news.

Comic writer Dwayne McDuffie has died much, much too young of unspecified causes.

McDuffie’s work is what got me reading comics again while I was in grad school. I had a friend in the dorms who was reading Milestone Media’s comics — which McDuffie helped found back in the early ’90s — and I got hooked hard on the “Blood Syndicate” series.

He wrote all the first few issues of all of Milestone’s initial releases, including “Blood Syndicate,” “Static,” “Icon,” and “Hardware.” He also wrote comics ranging from “Fantastic Four” and “Justice League of America” to “Deathlok,” “Damage Control,” “X-O Manowar,” “Legends of the Dark Knight,” and “Beyond!”

In addition to comics, he was also a writer and producer for animated cartoons. He developed his Milestone character Static into a TV star in “Static Shock.” He also wrote tons of great stuff on “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited.” He worked on the “Ben 10” cartoons and wrote the script for the animated adaptation of “All Star Superman.”

Obviously, you don’t go and found a company like Milestone — dedicated to furthering a multicultural and multiracial approach to comics — without caring a lot about racial relations in America — and that both helped and hindered him. He got lots of positive press and was very well respected by people who cared about diversity in comics. But it made him a target for other people who liked to see comics as a “Whites Only” zone.

The last of his work that I got to read was his run on “Justice League” a few years back. It started off great and got derailed by editorial mandates from on high. I think DC didn’t treat him right — gave him the title just so they could get their hands on Static and a few other Milestone characters, then ran him off when they had what they wanted.

I never knew him personally, but I loved his work. He’s got my thanks forever, because he got me back reading comics again.

Raise your mugs high, people. To Dwayne McDuffie.

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Wedding Jitters


Justice League of America: Wedding Special

I bought this expecting another fairly lightweight story — lots of stuff from Green Arrow’s bachelor party and Black Canary’s bachelorette party. And there is some of that, and it’s nice and amusing. But there’s a real serious side to this issue, too. Firestorm almost gets killed by Lex Luthor, the Joker, Cheetah, and Killer Frost, who are organizing a new Injustice League, which includes just about every supervillain on the planet and meets in an HQ that looks just like the Legion of Doom’s hideout in the old “Super Friends” cartoon. And the villains are already moving against the Justice League.

This is the first issue written by Dwayne McDuffie, and if you know Dwayne McDuffie, you’re already dancing around the room singing hallelujah. He founded Milestone Media and helped create most of their characters, including Static, Icon, and the Blood Syndicate. He wrote episodes of “Static Shock,” “Justice League,” and “Teen Titans.” He knows comics and is one holy heck of a writer. If anyone can return the Justice League to greatness, it’s him.

The story is first-rate and includes lots of the little details that can make character-driven comics so much fun. The dialogue and characterization are great, and they’re doing a great job of ratcheting up the pressure about the Injustice League.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Can’t wait for the next regular “Justice League” comic.

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