Dwayne McDuffie: 1962-2011

News Seb Patrick 23 Feb 2011 - 11:25

We mourn the passing of Dwayne McDuffie, the writer of such comics as Justice League Of America and Fantastic Four…

The comics industry is today reeling from the shock news of the tragic death of writer, Dwayne McDuffie, at the age of 49.

McDuffie, who passed away on Monday, February 21st , following complications from a surgical procedure, was best known as the creator of the Milestone line of comics, as well as for stints on Justice League Of America (for DC) and Fantastic Four (for Marvel), and in animation as the writer of a number of DC animated TV series and straight-to-DVD films.

Initially a comedy writer for radio and television, McDuffie broke into comics at Marvel in the 1980s, creating the witty and highly lauded Damage Control series, a high-concept miniseries about a construction company specialising in the aftermath of superhero/supervillain conflicts.

After working on various titles for Marvel, he branched out and worked for a variety of companies, before, in 1992, co-creating the Milestone Comics imprint at DC, an attempt by a group of African-American artists and writers to address the under-representation of ethnic minorities in mainstream comics.

By this point, McDuffie already had a reputation for being an outspoken voice against stereotypical portrayals of people of colour in comics, and this led to him becoming a hugely respected and influential figure. He had previously achieved notoriety for a spoof pitch he sent to Marvel in the late 80s called Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers, a parodic comment on the fact that “25% of all African-American super-heroes appearing in the Marvel Universe possessed skateboard-based super powers”.

The Milestone character, Static, created by McDuffie, was the imprint’s biggest success story, spinning off into the Static Shock animated series in 2000, and it was in animation that McDuffie would enjoy much of his later success.

Having worked on the Justice League and Teen Titans TV cartoons, he became one of the lead writers of DC’s new generation of straight-to-DVD animated features, ironically, at the same time as his work for DC on the flagship Justice League Of America title was cut short following his (typically) honest and forthright online criticism of the book’s editorial process.

That he should pass away on the day that his latest and highest-profile animated venture, an adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, was released to critical acclaim is a particularly tragic irony.

In an industry known for all manner of conflicts and personality clashes, McDuffie was rare in being a universally liked and respected figure, and the comics community has reacted to his untimely passing with a mixture of shock and affection, many relaying fond stories about their experiences of him. He is survived by his wife.

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