By Arturo R. García
Please forgive this indulgence in advance. As an unabashed fan of Dwayne McDuffie’s … well, as you might imagine, the news of his passing Tuesday has been tough to really wrap my head around.
I guess you could say I was part of the second wave of McDuffie fandom. I wasn’t a regular comic-book reader during his run on Damage Control for Marvel Comics, or during the formation of Milestone Media. But, as I suspect was the case for many of us, the success of the Static Shock animated series led me to learn more about the Milestone era.
But it was McDuffie’s run writing the Justice League of America title for DC Comics that was the impetus for my first meeting with him, while covering the San Diego Comic-Con in 2009. McDuffie had been fired from the title after writing about his challenges in balancing his own story ideas with DC’s plans to include the JLA in numerous intra-company events. As a regular JLA reader at that time, DC’s reasoning pissed me off to no end – especially considering both the writer who preceded McDuffie, Brad Meltzer, and the one who succeeded him, James D. Robinson, were seemingly allowed greater leeway with their stories.
So I went to a panel McDuffie took part in, asked a couple of questions, then approached him afterwards to try to set up an interview. I figured I’d be lucky to get 15 minutes the next day. Instead, he invited me to join him at his autograph signing and interview him there. And spent the next hour calmly, thoughtfully, talking about the battles he faced bringing Static to television; about combating the long-ingrained preferences (if not prejudices) of many comic-book readers; and a host of other topics.
He didn’t have to do any of this, of course; at the time we didn’t carry the cache in comic-book circles as the regular news and review sites. And McDuffie also didn’t have to follow through on my request for an interview on the podcast I was co-hosting on the side. But he did that, too, talking about another Justice League project, the Crisis on Two Earths animated film, and about his work on a comic about Prince, and about Doctor Who, which he was also a fan of.
And, see, that’s the thing: as much as he’s known for bringing a host of POC characters to the forefront – and, if you watch the video in the previous post, criticized for it – the fact of the matter is that McDuffie was a fan’s fan, and that always came across in his work. He didn’t just elevate Static, or John Stewart and Vixen. He boosted characters like Gravity; The Question; Hawkgirl; The Hood; Doctor Light; The Flash; Ben 10; and, just this past week, Superman, as the writer for the animated adaptation of the All-Star Superman maxi-series.
After watching All-Star earlier this week, I had been looking forward to seeing McDuffie at SDCC again this year, and asking him about his thought process behind picking which scenes from the story to bring to the screen, and perhaps to compare his own take on the character with Grant Morrison’s. As a lifelong Batman fan, I have to give credit to McDuffie for being the first creator to make Supes seem authentically cool:
But that’s not in the cards now. All I can do at this point is write out one more round of thanks: for his graciousness, for his inclusiveness, for his creativity, and for giving a generation’s worth of fans a whole new group of heroes.
Top image courtesy of Comic Book Resources
John Stewart/Hawkgirl image courtesy of Black Superhero Blog