Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dwayne McDuffie (1962-2011)

I had a number of early, odd, unmemorable exposures to the writing of Dwayne McDuffie. Thanks mostly to my brother's erratic buying habits, I read about an issue or two each of the first Damage Control mini-series, Double Dragon (nice art,) and Deathlok (ongoing series.) I still have my copy of Prince: Alter Ego, though. It wasn't until McDuffie co-founded Milestone Media that he began to show up on my radar. However, I was really turned off by that line's first issue polybagging gimmick and their coloring process (literally, not euphemistically,) so I didn't pick up many of their books until the company was on its last legs, mostly fished out of discount boxes. The universe still didn't click with me, but I enjoyed two of its McDuffie written titles, Icon and Hardware. The latter was my favorite by far, as it was everything the Steel series should have been, but wasn't... at least until Christopher Priest's run with McDuffie's co-conspirator, Denys Cowan. Point being, while I wouldn't say I was a fan exactly, I knew the man had done some damned good work, and I always meant to try more.

In 2000 or '01, I attended a Black Panther panel at the San Diego Comic Con, where I had something of a bad experience with a creator that left a foul taste in my mouth. Mr. McDuffie was also at the panel, in the crowd, but I recognized him when he asked a question of one of the panelists. For reasons I can't recall, I ended up chatting with McDuffie after the panel for a good piece, first in the room, and then out in the hall. We discussed his comic work (specifically the Milestone books,) as well as talking about favored super-heroes (many African-American.) I was amazed at how friendly and generous with his time McDuffie was, given that I was only a casual reader and a general nobody in the grand scheme of things. As I recall, this was around the time the Static Shock cartoon was getting started, so a guy like Dwayne McDuffie surely had more important places to be and people to see. You wouldn't know it from how he treated me, though, and after our conversation, I was a big fan of the man.

From there, I watched McDuffie make good as a shining star in animation, and he wrote some of the best Justice League stories in that medium. Editorially constraints kept him from making the same impact when he scripted the actual comics a few years later, but those issues were still surprisingly good, given the behind the scenes shenanigans. McDuffie joined the heap of writers abused and alienated by the modern DC, but he never quit his day job in animation, so no real harm done. What was a shame was how plans to integrate the Milestone characters into the DC Universe stalled out. As it happens, McDuffie had an excellent swan song, adapting All-Star Superman to film.

Dwayne McDuffie died Monday night at age 49 from complications related to a surgical procedure. He was a devastatingly intelligent, kind, and ambitious soul that shouldn't have had to fight so hard or long for the success and acclaim he finally received in his later (but tragically much too far from chronologically late) years. He was one of my favorite people in the industry, and he will be missed.

1 comment:

mathematicscore said...

This is a shame. Thanks for sharing your experiences!