Remembering Dwayne McDuffie

Tue, February 22nd, 2011 at 5:59pm PST | Updated: February 23rd, 2011 at 10:49am

Comic Books
CBR News Team, Editor
31

Photo courtesy of Kevin Parry Photography

As reported earlier today by CBR News, comic writer, animation producer and respected industry veteran Dwayne McDuffie passed away due to complications following a surgical procedure he underwent Monday evening.

The Detroit native began his career as an editor for Marvel comics in the late '80s, but left the editorial ranks to pursue writing full-time. McDuffie was a longtime advocate for diversity in comics and this led to his co-founding Milestone Media, a character and diversity-driven superhero line of comics, along with Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle. McDuffie's more recent work saw him splitting time between comics and animation, where he wrote or produced such series as "Justice League Unlimited" and "Ben 10," as well as a number of DC's recent direct-to-DVD animated films including the just-released "All-Star Superman."

CBR reached out to a number of McDuffie's friends and colleagues who have kindly allowed us to share their thoughts about McDuffie and his passing.

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Tom Brevoort:

Dwayne was, without fail, the smartest guy in the room, no matter what room it happened to be. And I'm talking about textbook smarts here -- he was extremely well-read, and had the background and education of a scientist. But his real love was in telling stories, not making scientific discoveries, so he moved into comics and animation. And because he felt strongly about the ability of comics to connect with people from all walks of life, and their power to inspire, he co-founded Milestone Media, dedicated to creating a more balanced multi-cultural approach to the question of a super hero universe.

He'll probably be best known to most as the guy who headed up a few spectacular seasons of "Justice League Unlimited," or the person who created Static Shock. But I'll remember him mostly as the guy who spent a morning experimenting to see whether Silly Putty could pick up images from various types of comic book printing. (Flexographic printing, as it turns out, was immune from Silly Putty Transfer.)

He also wrote "Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers", one of the best and most accurate satires on the state of race in comics.

Joe Casey (writer, Man of Action, "Ben 10"):

It's hard to process the suddenness of Dwayne's passing.  I'm still reeling from the news even as I type this.  Dwayne was not only an important, ground-breaking creator in comics and in animation, he was one of the current day-to-day caretakers of "Ben 10."  For the work he put into the show, all of us at Man Of Action owe him a tremendous thanks.  On a personal note, Dwayne was a refreshingly straight shooter and we all know that's a quality in short supply in this business.  He spoke his mind, no matter what the consequences and I always respected that.  I'll miss him and my heart goes out to his family and fans.

Paul Dini:

To work with Dwayne McDuffie was to be instantly at home with a kindred soul.  You spoke the same language, you read the same comics, you tossed around ridiculous characters like B'wana Beast and the Ultra-Humanite with the same ease as two musicians riffing on a beloved childhood song.  And like a musician, Dwayne fine tuned his stories until they sang.  Dwayne made it easy because he was so good.  Good writer, good friend.  I'll miss his talent, his understated yet devastating sense of humor, his grace in times of disappointment, and always the man himself.

Felicia Henderson (writer, "Static," "Fringe"):

I remember the day that I sat across the table from Dan DiDio in a hotel lobby in Burbank.  He wanted to talk to me about something he was really excited about -- Static Shock.  It was time for him to have his own book, again.  I was over the moon.  I loved Static!  My inner dialogue: "Say yes, Felicia.  This will give you an opportunity to meet Dwayne McDuffie.  Say yes, right now."

Dwayne McDuffie was a god to me and I would’ve done anything to get a chance to pick his brain about the character I loved so much. A series of telephone conversations and emails began with the gentle giant, Dwayne McDuffie.  Finally, Dan arranged for us to meet in person.  It would be a "quick hello."  We met for coffee and two and a half hours later I still wasn’t ready for this amazing lesson in writing comic books to end.

Here was a man that was completely fearless.  He said what he meant and it wasn’t always pretty. I still can’t believe that moment with Dan led to the opportunity to develop a relationship with Dwayne -- a mentor who has taken time to teach me, update me, inform me, and chew the fat with me, for the last two years. I remember telling him, "You know you scare people, don’t you?"  He seemed shocked.

"Do I scare you?" he asked.

"Hell yes," was my reply.

"Why?"

I took a deep breath. "Because I think you’re genius, I know you have championed me, and I don’t want to disappoint you."

"Then don’t," was his answer.  And that is what I will miss most.  Brutal honesty from a friend who had my back; who told me the truth; who gave me his blessings; and the opportunity to write a superhero who looks like my nieces and nephews.

May God rest your soul, dear gentle giant.

Jamal Igle (artist, "Supergirl," "Kobalt"):

I met Dwayne at the first convention I ever went to. It was in NYC back in 1992. I had seen some promo material for Static in Comic Shop News and put together a three page sample based on the ad. I had figured out that Static's powers were electromagnetic. Now I'm not a little guy, but Dwayne was a towering presence to me, so he intimidated me at first. When I showed him the pages he looked at me, keep in mind the book was still months away from hitting the stands, and said, "You figured all of this out from an ad?"

I said, "Well it seemed to make sense." He pulled his glasses down a little and said, "Nice job."

When I finally walked into the old Milestone office on 23rd Street, I was 21, full of piss and so sure I was the next big thing.  Dwayne took me seriously from day one but let me know that I still had a long way to go. Dwayne was always willing to help me improve my work. Every time I saw Dwayne, for years, we would catch up a little, trade jokes and stories. I remember Dwayne always being encouraging and always being bluntly honest with me when I needed it. He was a mentor, a friend and an inspiration to me. I'll miss him very much. I rarely cry, but when I heard the news from a friend, I cried. I cried for my loss, I cried for Dwayne's family and those who knew him best and I cried for the voice we will never have creatively anymore.

Joe Kelly (writer, Man of Action, "Ben 10"):

I was lucky enough to get to meet Dwayne a few years ago just before he officially came on to "Ben 10." At the time, I was teaching a class on writing for animation and asked Dwayne and his wife Charlotte if they would come in and speak to the students. It was an enlightening class for everyone -- especially for me -- to hear two extremely talented people share their experience was a real treat. Dwayne was a veteran of times both good and bad in the comics and animation industries, and his advice to the students was invaluable. He was a realist, but encouraged them all to pursue their passion and believe in their talent.

Afterward, we grabbed some coffee and swapped stories, and what struck me most about Dwayne was that for all he'd worked on, been through, fought for, won and lost -- he was above all, a storyteller who was grateful to work in a medium that he truly loved. We should all be so lucky.

John Paul Leon (artist) (Added 7:45 PM PST):

I'm still stunned. Dwayne was such a smart and open-minded collaborator. He turned me on to Duke Ellington. He reintroduced me to Woody Allen. In particular, "Manhattan," which I remember him telling me he went to see countless times when it came out to trascribe the dialogue.

As one of the four heads of Milestone, he was instrumental in getting me my first monthly penciling gig in comics. I worked for Milestone for two years and it was my first experience going behind the curtain and seeing how stories and universes actually come together. Dwayne was editor-in-chief then, making decisions at every point in the process. In my own work, I eventually began seeing choices where previously there were none. To say I learned a lot in those years would be a gross understatement. Dwayne's example was without question a key factor in helping me grow as an artist and a professional.

Later on, we only saw each other once or twice a year at conventions, but he was one of those guys who you knew was out there and who's opinion mattered to you.

Don McGregor (writer, "Zorro") (Added 10:30 AM PST, Feb 23)

Dwayne McDuffie stood tall, as a man, as a talent, as a friend.

In a medium that has its share of scoundrels, he was honest, kind, compassionate, intelligent and amazingly talented.

I had tears in my eyes when I read that he was no longer in the world. He had brought me to tears with his vivid story-telling and kind words for the Afterword in the Marvel Masterworks Black Panther book. Years after the books were history, he helped vindicate for me some of those lonely stands about what could or could not be done in comics during the 70s. The stories we tell do have impact and can affect the individual spirit and future.

He asked me to write a book for Milestone, and I talked to him about doing a story that dealt with Aids, a mother playing the race card, and murder, and he never flinched. I had to back out because of other commitments and told him it was only because I didn't want to screw him on a deadline.

I went out to California for Robert Culp's Memorial (I am losing way too many people I treasure) and we were talking about old Warner Brothers "Private Eye" series (I have no idea how Dwayne knew so much about those shows) and how we wished they were on DVD. And somewhere in the midst of that conversation we finally had a chance to work together on "Ben 10."

I cannot believe I will not hear his voice again. When I thought I was facing heart surgery a couple years back Dwayne was one of the few people I talked with about it, and not to let people get away with re-writing comics history. I trusted him, implicitly.

Just last week he wrote me that I should put something up on "Ben 10" when I was ready. The show seemed a long way off. I thought we had all the time in the world.

I wanted to write something about that, but also about him, and what the times we had together meant to me.

We didn't have all the time in the world. You think you do, and one of the good ones is gone, and you don't.

I will write further about him. soon.

I miss him already.

Steve Niles (writer, "DC Showcase: The Spectre" on "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" DVD):

I didn't know Dwayne McDuffie personally, but like so many in comics, he touched my life. He was a true creative in every sense. He had an unstoppable imagination and we are all lucky he took the time to get some of it on paper for all of us to enjoy. He left us too soon. I'm going to watch "All-Star Superman" tonight and celebrate his life.

Jimmy Palmiotti (writer, "Jonah Hex," inker, "Static"):

I met Dwayne when I started working with the Milestone crew years ago, and he was the guy I would go to if I had any questions, or needed help with just about anything. Dwayne was the guy who knew everything that was going on and I admired that. Over the years we have seen each other on and off and always had a great talk about business, our personal lives and such. The last few times I picked his brain when I started to write in animation and he was a huge help.

The first thing that comes to mind is just how much of a nice guy he always was, and how pleasant he was to everyone. The second thing that sticks with me is he always stuck to his word and always let you know exactly how he felt. The guy was special, in so many ways, and talented at so many things. This news is heartbreaking to me, and the scope of our loss here is just beginning to be understood. Rest in Peace, brother... Our thoughts are with you always.

Andrew Pepoy (inker, "Blood Syndicate") (Added 10:30 AM PST, Feb 23)

Like so many have said, Dwayne was a great guy. I worked with him at Milestone, inking Blood Syndicate and other comics, where, without going into details, he showed me what an upstanding guy he could be. Always admired him. We stayed in touch on and off over the years. I was always happy to run into him at a con and, not long ago, have dinner with him. He was one of the really good guys of this business. I’ll miss him.

Duncan Rouleau (writer/artist, Man of Action, "Ben 10"):

I am so deeply saddened by the news of Dwayne McDuffie's passing.

I was a fan of his writing long before I knew the man. His work has been on my monthly reading list for years, but it was only after working with him on "Ben 10" that I got to meet the funny, acerbic, and gentle guy that I was proud to call friend.  I know that I speak for myself as well as the other guys at Man of Action when saying our hearts go out to his equally wonderful and talented wife Charlotte.

Nothing can prepare you for such sudden and shocking news, and as I think of all the projects that I know Dwayne was working on and all that will be lost with this terrible day, I know that I will feel this sadness for a long time.

Goodbye, Dwayne. It was a genuine honor to know you.

Kevin Rubio (writer, "Abyss", "Tag & Bink") (Added 10:30 AM PST, Feb 23)

I've been up most of the night trying to put into words my feelings on Dwayne McDuffie and his tragic sudden passing on Monday February 21. And while viewing "All-Star Superman in his memory, I found the perfect words from the man himself. Leave it to Dwayne (or perhaps Grant Morrison) to bail me out even now.

"I like you Kent. You're humble, modest, comically uncoordinated - human. In short everything he's not".

These are the words of Lex Luthor to Clark Kent, who of course is also Superman. And if writers instill a little bit of themselves in everything they write, then no matter Dwayne's many creations and contributions to the entertainment world, for me Dwayne was always Superman.

Imposing in stature, but gentle in nature; respectful to you, regardless of your station in life; a superior intellect with a truly gifted wit and fascination for life. He was an honest individual, who would tell things to you straight, a loving husband, brother, and son.

And if we go by the outpouring of affection from the world-wide-web community; then like the Superman of All-Star Superman, those who met him were changed by their encounter with him.

He may not have been able to lift 1000x the weight of the moon, but he most definitely lifted spirits with every interaction. He made you feel important, valid. He made you feel super -- made you want to be super.

He saw people as he saw the characters he created; not as "ethnic" superheroes, just heroes one and all. I am better for knowing him, and sad knowing that I will not see his like again...

"He's not dead. He's just fixing the sun." ~ Lois Lane

Steven T. Seagle (writer, Man of Action, "Ben 10"):

It is very sad news for all of us in the Man of Action group to hear of the death of Dwayne. While I previously only knew of Dwayne through his work, his arrival as story editor on our "Ben 10" series a few years back created opportunities for me to get to know him as a person.

At the recent premiere party for "Ben 10: Ultimate Alien" -- which was in no small part his invention -- I had a lengthy and enlightening conversation with Dwayne. I really enjoyed his company and we agreed to continue our talk in the future. I had planned to take him to lunch when the current leg of my touring play was over. Unfortunately I've just received the news of his death as I'm sitting in the airport waiting for my flight back home. Another reminder of the importance of acting in the moment.

My sincere condolences to Dwayne's wife Charlotte who has written for us on "Generator Rex."

Jim Shooter:

Dwayne was a brilliant and wonderful man.  He started at Marvel right around the time I left.  I met him then, and was impressed, but didn't get to know him well.

When Milestone was starting, though collectively, the founders had lots of experience in many facets of the business, comics publishing was still, in some ways, new territory -- and, believe me, it's tough going if you don't know where the land mines are buried.  I was just starting up Defiant, my second company.  One of the Milestone guys, I forget who, called and asked for a little info and advice.  JayJay Jackson, genius Renaissance woman, and I went to their place a couple of times to share whatever bits and snippets of knowledge we could -- JayJay with technical/production/printing mysteries and me with business/editorial ones.  A few times, Dwayne and others came to our place to chat.

Several times, after Dwayne visited the Defiant offices, I had to help him get a cab.  Though he was always well-dressed and clean-cut, cabs would pass him by, simply because he was black.  So, he'd step back while I hailed a cab, then I'd hold the door while he got in.  Then, I'd warn the driver that I was writing down his numbers and if he pulled anything, we'd have him arrested.  So, Dwayne got home.

Was Dwayne's quest for human rights, so beautifully conducted over the course of his outstanding career, justified?  Desperately needed, I'd say.

What a noble soul.

Chris Sotomayor (colorist, "Daken: Dark Wolverine"):

I'm just shocked beyond belief.

Dwayne, along with Denys Cowan and Michael Davis, were so important to me very early on. I was lucky enough to be a part of Milestone in some small way and being around those guys at that time was so amazing.  I was so impressed with all of them, but Dwayne's views really stuck with me.  He wasn't afraid to call out something that he thought wasn't fair, and fight for it.  He was also very easy-going and generous with his time and never spoke down to anyone (not just in his writing).

After all the conversations we've had about storytelling, comics, and wanting to work on different Milestone projects together, I never got to thank him for his influence on my formative years as I was breaking in.

Thanks Dwayne.

Mark Waid:

I'm devastated. I thought the world of Dwayne and never did enough to remind him of that. Back in the early '90s, long after I'd been an editor and had established myself in the industry, I still sent him a long, gushy fan letter one day about how great his work was, and I regret not doing that at least once a year every year since. God, he was a good writer and, more importantly, a good person. Last time I saw him was at Free Comic Book Day at 4 Color Fantasies in Rancho Cucamonga. We made another of our long-standing pledges to "get dinner soon," and of course we never did because we always assumed there'd be more time later. Let that be your takeaway from today, as it is mine: if there's someone you admire or respect, someone whose laugh you'd miss if it were suddenly gone, someone who inspires you, pick up the phone right now and let them know. Don't wait. Time is the enemy of all living things. Use yours well, as Dwayne did his.

Greg Weisman (producer, "Young Justice"):

I'm stunned by the news of Dwayne's passing.  He was a very nice guy and an extremely talented writer.  I was a fan.

Fans and professionals in the Los Angeles area are encouraged to visit Golden Apple Comics tomorrow night (2/23) at 8pm for a Tribute to Dwayne McDuffie. For more information visit GoldenAppleComics.com.

If you're a professional who would like to share some of your memories of Dwayne McDuffie and his work, please email jonah@comicbookresources.com

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TAGS:  dwayne mcduffie, milestone, static shock

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