I am a huge nerd. A massive comic book nerd. At least I was back in my younger days. So it would be remiss of me to focus this blog on Black History Month for the month of February without mentioning someone who was even more passionate about comics than me.
I’m talking about Dwayne McDuffie.
Dwayne McDuffie is a comic book writer and a creator who worked on the animated series of Static Shock (which her created directly), Justice League Unlimited, and Ben 10. McDuffie was also integral in the creation of the minority owned and created comic book company Milestone Comics.
He has also won three Eisner Awards for his work in comics.
His breakthrough into comics came when he interviewed for an assistant editor position at Marvel Comics. At Marvel, he helped create the company’s first super hero trading cards. Also while at Marvel, McDuffie wrote a mini series called Damage Control, a series that takes place in the aftermath of superhero/supervillain battles.
McDuffie became a freelancer in 1990, and wrote for Marvel, DC Comics, Archie Comics and wrote Monster in My Pocket for Harvey Comics. In the early 90s, McDuffie along with three partners, founded Milestone Comics, with a desire to showcase not only multicultural characters, but multicultural creators as well. McDuffie explained the reason behind the company.
If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren’t just that character. They represent that race or that sex, and they can’t be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people. You know, Superman isn’t all white people and neither is Lex Luthor. We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn’t do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that’s wider than the world we’ve seen before.
Thanks to a distribution deal with DC Comics, Milestone was able to get it’s product to the local comic shops. McDuffie helped create or co-create many of the characters, including Static Shock, Hardware, Icon, Xombi, and the multi-ethnic superhero group the Blood Syndicate.
He left comics to begin writing and producing which included Static Shock, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, Scooby Doo, and wrote the scripts for many episodes of Ben 10.
In 2007 he returned to comics, where he wrote Firestorm until its cancellation, Fantastic Four, and wrote every issue of Justice League of America vol. 2 from 13 to 34. He also wrote Milestone Forever which was an event that put the Milestone characters into the DC Universe.
In 2011 McDuffie died due to complications during emergency heart surgery.
McDuffie’s legacy lives on and helped open the door to many black creators who wanted to get into comics. And that legacy is continuing as Milestone Comics looks ready to launch once more.
On a personal note, McDuffie’s work in comics also opened my own eyes to minority characters. Ones that were not treated as a stereotype, and helped me in creating what I hope are believable characters in my own Heroic League Project. From Free Spirit to Emerald to the Bowhuntress to the Owl.