My first real exposure to Dwayne McDuffie was the Static Shock cartoon. I was aware of Static before the cartoon (due to the 90’s Milestone Comics, but I didn’t read a Milestone book until recently). Mr. McDuffie gave the audience an engaging narrative in addition to a different type of African American lead, a positive one. Virgil Hawkins was an honor roll student from a good family and not a gang banger, drug dealer, champion athlete, aspiring rapper (otherwise stereotypical black roles).
With the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, Mr. McDuffie provided complex and rich stories that made the audience yearn for a world where Wally West, Bruce Wayne, and Clark Kent existed. His iteration of Clark Kent stands out in my mind because his Clark was damaged, burdened with such hurt and pain, yet soldiers on doing what he feels is right.
Later Man Of Action would put their Ben 10 series in his skillfully hands and he took that lump of clay and molded into a magnificent structure. He added so much depth and layers to the characters, put the characters through crucibles which caused to grow, and he also played with the concept of redemption along with good and evil. Now that he’s no longer here, the future of this fictional universe and its cherished characters are uncertain. Hopefully the staff will soldier on and make Dwayne McDuffie proud.
His films, Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths and All Star Superman, were treats for fans of excellent animation, DC fanboys, and lovers of an enthralling stories. I loved how he portrayed the Crime Syndicate as posthuman mafia with Ultraman ruling like some untouchable don as well as his nihilistic iteration of Owlman. He wowed with the way he was able to capture everything that made Kal El fantastic in Grant Morrison’s original story.
A few months ago, a friend of mine gave me the Icon trade (Icon was one of the flagship titles of Milestone comics). This book stood out because it dealt with issues that the Big Two (Marvel and DC) backed away from, such as teen pregnancy, inner city poverty and racism.
Dwayne McDuffie’s passing has impacted his fans and colleagues alike:
“I can’t wrap my mind around the notion that he’s not here anymore, to be honest.”
– Warren Ellis
“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.”
– Paul Dini