We’ve lost another one today.  The comics world has lost one of its gifted storytellers; a young man who infused his writing with life and fun that was rare in the grim-‘n’-gritty writers of his generation, and a black man who found unique perspectives on the hidebound, traditional heroes.  He died much too soon. 

Dwayne McDuffie, DC Comics and Animation Writer Dead

I first came across Dwayne McDuffie in the late ’80s in a Marvel comic book series entitled DAMAGE CONTROL.  It’s premise was simple.  When Superheroes and Villains fight, they leave a lot of collateral damage.  Damage Control was a contracting company that cleaned up and repaired the messes left behind by the heroes.  It was a workplace comedy with superheroes — and occasionally villains — popping in.  It was light; it was fun; it didn’t take itself too seriously.  There were other humorous super-hero books out at that time, (JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL and SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK to name a couple) but not many.  I thought at the time the humor didn’t always work, but nevertheless I recognized that Dwayne McDuffie was a name I wanted to watch out for.

Marvel published a couple of DAMAGE CONTROL limited series over the next few years.  Then, in 1993 he teamed up with several other black creators to found a new comic book company called Milestone Media.  There were a number of small independent comics companies that sprang up briefly during the early ’90s, but Milestone was unique for a couple of reasons.   For one thing, it’s founders were all black and the company was dedicated to showcasing minority creators and characters.  For another, the titles were all creator-owned; a rarity in the comic book world.  Perhaps most importantly, they worked a deal with DC Comics so that they were published by DC yet independent; allowing them a stability a lot of the other start-up companies lacked. 

Although Milestone stopped publishing after a couple years, the Milestone Universe lived on in other ways.  The character of STATIC, which McDuffie co-created for one of the Milestone books found new life in the animated series STATIC SHOCK.  And eventually, DC negotiatied with the Milestone creators to fold their characters into the DC Universe itself.

McDuffie became invovled with animation, writing for STATIC SHOCK and also for the animated JUSTICE LEAGUE and for BEN-10: ALIEN FORCE.  He wrote the sceenplays for a couple of the Direct-to-DVD animated features that DC has produced in the past few years.

Being a black comics geek gave him a special awareness of the often-overlooked black characters of the DC and Marvel Universes and he was often able to bring out unexpected characters and make them memorable and appealing.  And he had a sense of characterization and an ear for dialogue that brought all his characters, whatever the race to vivid life.

He was definitely one of the good ones.  Comicdom is poorer for his loss.