Aw man, Dwayne McDuffie has died. A veteran of Marvel, DC and the founder of the Milestone funnybooks, he’d been responsible for some of the best, most ethnically-diverse characters and story arcs of the past 15 years. I came on board as a DMD fan a little late, having given up on superhero comics through all of the 90’s. But it was his work on the seminal Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series that brought me back around to the tights-and-long-underwear crowd. And now I’ll never have the chance to thank him personally. Him, Jim Henson, the list of guys I’ll never have a chance to thank continues to grow. Damn.
So – what were these changes he brought to his industry? Skipping the sometimes didactic Milestone imprints, I’ll direct you to his work making the JLU an honest representation of America in at the dawn of the 21st Century. Although not-so noticeable to the untrained eye, his stamping of fixed racial backgrounds onto otherwise generic characters shined through to those in the know. Wonder Woman? A solid Greek feminist. Green Lantern? An African-American marine. Hawkgirl? Two words: Chica Halcon. By the end of the series’ 5-season run he’d made even the most obvious characters ring with small, subtle touches. (A few years a go I yelled at Copyranter for this, and that was picked up by Gawker – you can read it here.) The breakup between the Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, torqued beyond sustainability by her cultural heritage, was as well-written as anything on Lost, Buffy or Degrassi Jr. High. Does it break your heart that he died the same day his All-Star Superman movie was released to universal acclaim? It should.
So “Goodbye” and “I’ll miss you” to Dwayne McDuffie. To many of you, this name may not ring a bell, but he was HUGE in the hearts and minds of supernerds everywhere. Like Jim Henson and George Lucas before him, he created worlds, life, superhero life, of the strongest and most enduring variety.