Acclaimed comic book and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie died today from complications due to a surgical procedure performed Monday night. He was 49 years old.
I was floored when I heard the news. I am a big fan of Dwayne McDuffie’s work, although I admit to being somewhat late to the party. I first became aware of him because of his spectacular work producing the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series. Both of these series did a great job of distilling the best elements of DC Comics nearly eighty year continuity and presenting them in a format easy for the casual viewer to understand. Since then I have sought out his work and have rarely been disappointed by it.
I believe the reason Dwayne McDuffie was so good at this was because he gave a lot of thought to what makes comic books work and what makes them fail. His article on “the menace of shared universes” changed the way I thought about comic book continuity. He reminded me of something that should be obvious: the story being told is always more important than something that happen ten years ago in another book.
Dwayne McDuffie was also an important minority voice in an industry which is still dominated by a bunch of white guys. As the co-founder of Milestone Media he created a comic book imprint where minority characters could step into the spotlight for a change. The character of Static proved popular enough to spawn the animated series Static Shock on the WB.
Not to mention he sent Marvel Comics hilarious proposal called Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers when he felt they were being a bit stereotypical in their portrayal of black superheroes. Considering that he was an editor working for Marvel Comics at the time, that took some balls.
Rest in peace Dwayne McDuffie. You will be missed.