S.D. Comic-Con News: The Dwayne McDuffie Tribute That Wasn’t

By Arturo R. García

The program for this year’s San Diego Comic-Con will include a group of tributes to famed comic-book and cartoon writer Dwayne McDuffie, who passed away earlier this year. But Matt Wayne’s tribute piece will not be included, and Wayne, a frequent collaborator of the Milestone Media co-founder, took to the internet to publish it instead.

Wayne posted his intended tribute piece on the forums of McDuffie’s website late last week, saying he wrote it after being approached by SDCC to do so, and McDuffie’s wife had “dubbed it ‘perfect.’” But, Wayne said he was asked to change it, an option he declined.

“I decided to just let it go.,” he wrote. “I’m worried that Dwayne is going to be the industry’s “proof” that we’re all post-racial and chummy, now that they can’t be embarrassed into hiring him anymore. And I don’t want to contribute to that absurd but inevitable narrative.”

SDCC marketing and public relations director David Glanzer confirmed that Wayne was asked to change his submission, not because of any specific content, but because it didn’t match the more celebratory tone of other tribute pieces written for the program.

Glanzer also said that in light of what happened with Wayne’s piece, the editorial process for the program will be “opened up” in the future.

Besides the tributes to McDuffie planned for the SDCC program, which is given to all attendees of the four-day convention, it has been announced that “The Black Panel,” scheduled for July 22 at 10 a.m. in Room 5AB, will celebrate the Milestone co-founder’s life, featuring his other partners in the company, Derrick Dingle, Denys Cowan, and Michael Davis.

A transcript of Wayne’s original tribute piece is under the cut.

I miss Dwayne every day. It’s still inconceivable that he isn’t around to appreciate the world with me.

When my son gets another baby tooth, or I see a new episode of Doctor Who, I still have the urge to call him. Given the chance, I’ll talk about my late friend for hours at a time. I find myself making lists of McDuffie facts—not wanting to forget any more than I already have. And one of the things I’ve thought about most while mourning him was his long struggle for recognition from the comics industry.

Dwayne loved comics, both the superhero and non-superhero varieties, long before he made them for a living, and he continued to love them till the end. Our last conversation was about the Masterpiece Comics collection I’d given him for his birthday, which includes a pastiche of his beloved Little Lulu.

That said, I don’t know that the comics business loved him back.

Here’s a trivia question for you: Aside from the titles he published himself, what was Dwayne’s first monthly comics writing assignment? Believe it or not, that was Justice League of America in 2007. “But what about Deathlok,” you ask? Sorry, that was co-written with the redoubtable Greg Wright. “Fantastic Four?” Nope, it wasn’t open-ended. Dwayne knew that was a finite assignment when he took it. “X-O Manowar?” “Firestorm?” Same deal.

The majors never appreciated Dwayne’s writing enough to grant him a steady job of it. Not until there had been a Static cartoon, and the Justice League cartoon. And Beyond! And Fantastic Four. And Milestone, of course. By the time he landed that regular monthly, Dwayne was already in the history books of two media.

Now, naming no names, think of how many not-so-good writers you’ve seen blunder from one long-term monthly comic assignment to another. (And sure, who qualifies as a hack is subjective. You and I might not be thinking of the same names.) Each of those writers got more of a shot than Dwayne did.

We all know how good he was. And again, what Dwayne made of such opportunity as he did get is now a matter of history. He always counted a great number of People Who Oughtta Know among his fans, including Comic-Con International, the ones who give out Inkpot Awards.

Still, there’s no question in my mind that, given the finite length of Dwayne’s career, he would have been better off both financially and creatively to have never worked in comics at all, and gone straight into animation instead.

But that’s not how love works, is it?

– Matt Wayne

  • http://www.marcuskwame.blogspot.com/ Marcus Kwame

    Wow. Perfect tribute for a hero of mine.

    The politics of the business are sickening. Dwayne McDuffie left an amazing legacy behind. That being said, it’s sad to think how much more he could have done if not for that glass ceiling.

  • Anonymous

    In love with Wayne’s tribute.  Reading it, it totally makes sense why Glazner wanted Wayne to change his submission: it was about the content and, bottom line,  how truthful it was.  Wayne celebrated McDuffie–like Wayne said, he just wasn’t celebrating the comic-book industry’s post-racial fantasy.  And I say kudos to him for doing so.