For my Blacks in Comics posts, I have been sticking to the characters in the comics. Today, however, I want to talk a little about one of the all time great creators in comics, Dwayne McDuffie. McDuffie has had as much of an impact on the comic book industry over the past 25 years as anyone has.
Dwayne McDuffie was born on February 20, 1962 in Detroit, Michigan. He started working in the comic book industry in the late 1980s as an editor for Marvel Comics. He helped develop the first trading card line for Marvel, and helped script stories. His first major work at Marvel was Damage Control, about the people who clean up after the heroes and villains battle.
McDuffie became a freelancer in 1990. He wrote for many different companies in the industry, including Marvel, DC, Archie Comics, and Harvey Comics. He noticed the lack of “color” in comics, and decided to start his own company with three partners. This company became Milestone Media, Inc. Milestone started to publish comics in 1993, and were distributed thru a deal with DC Comics. Icon, Static, Rocket, and Hardware are just a few of the characters that were created by McDuffie for Milestone. These characters often delved into social issues that other comics didn’t deal with at that time, and really struck home for many people. I know it did for me. There just weren’t many black characters in comics at that time. And, as a young adult, it was refreshing to be able to read about characters that looked like me, and that tackled social issues I was dealing with personally, or seeing in my life. McDuffie introduced his Milestone characters to the DC Comic universe when he wrote Justice League of America and Milestone Forever.
Where McDuffie has, to me, really left his mark and uplifted the comic book industry, is his work on cartoons. The first cartoon he worked on ws Static Shock for the Kids WB. That was the first cartoon were the main character was black, and had powers. Static Shock was one of the best cartoons on at that time, and once again tackled social issues that often went unaddressed in this media format. And it was done in a way that kids could relate to. My kids and I looked forward to watching Static Shock every week. McDuffie also worked on Justice League and it’s spinoff, Justice League Unlimited. In these cartoons, he added diversity to the Justice League, leading it away from being the good old boy club it had always kind of always been. I mean, I know kids who grew up thinking that the real Green Lantern of Earth is John Stewart, not Hal Jordan or Guy Gardner, or Kyle Rayner. This also set the face of the DC animated universe for years to come. Everything after these two series were measured against them. They became the gold standard for DC animation. McDuffie also worked on Ben 10, Teen Titans, and What’s New, Scooby Doo. McDuffie wrote several of the DC direct to DVD movies, including Justice League:Crisis on Two Earths and Justice League:Doom.
Unfortunately, we lost this great talent all too soon. Dwayne McDuffie passed away on February 21, 2011 from complications following emergency heart surgery. The comic book industry lost one of its most influential and creative minds on that day. He defiantly left his mark on the industry that he loved. You can learn more about this icon of the industry here,, here, here, and here.