February is “Comics Should Remember Dwayne McDuffie’s Values” Month

ImageToday would have been the fifty-first birthday of Dwayne McDuffie, a colleague and friend I admired a great deal. Tomorrow will be two years since his death. Dwayne was among other things the creator of Static, a superhero I consider to be the best since Spider-Man. (Though I’ve been known to boast that Blue Devil, by Gary Cohn, Paris Cullins and me, deserves that honor, Dwayne knew what I really thought.)

Dwayne was also a man who knew his own mind, sure of what he stood for and what he’d stand up for. That he found a way to turn out terrific superhero adventure stories that appealed to young people at a time when the comic book superhero had largely become the province of much older fans (though he wrote for that older audience too) was something I considered a small miracle.

Dwayne’s work at DC and Marvel, his co-founding of Milestone Media, and his successes at Cartoon Network are well-known. What I want to do here is take a moment to remember his kindness.

One year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Dwayne and I were talking and walking past the tables of small, independent comics creators, stopping now and then to see what new and unknown work was bubbling up from new and unknown artists and writers.

Like anyone, when I see a comic that looks worth reading, I’ll grab the book, reach for my wallet and ask how much it costs; but when someone knows my name and my work, they’ll sometimes tell me just to take it, no charge, perhaps describing it as a fair exchange for the reading pleasure I’ve provided them. Knowing that the marginal cost of a comic book is surely not the cover price, and that the profit from one sale was not going to make or break their weekend, what I normally did was accept the gift with thanks and move on.

On this occasion, luckily for me, it was Dwayne who found something that intrigued him first, and when he reached for his wallet, he got the same offer I was used to, and likely deserved it more. But he responded in a way I never had. “No, man,” he said, “you worked hard on this. How much is it?” He made them take the money, and he made them feel good about making comics. And since I don’t believe he counted mindreading among his many talents, he missed my acute but thankfully internal embarrassment.

Needless to say, I don’t take free comics from young creators anymore. They’ve worked hard on those books.

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3 responses to “February is “Comics Should Remember Dwayne McDuffie’s Values” Month

  1. I think Teenage Ninja Negro Thrashers is an amazing testament to the man & his devotion. There are very few who can make their point in such a humorous/truthful way. Neveryoumind the world of comics – the world ITSELF needs more real men like Mr McDuffie.

  2. Dwayne McDuffie had a profound affect on my development from a young person to an adult. The first book of his I ever got was DAMAGE CONTROL, and even though it was from Marvel, it showed me that comics were not just superheroes…they could be ANYTHING.

    The next time I read a book by Dwayne McDuffie, it was DEATHLOK, which was mature and exciting, but also thought provoking. It also forced me to question the need for violence by the very nature of the character of Michael Collins, a pacifist trapped in the body of a war machine, and his constant struggle to surpress the machines violent instincts.

    The third time I encountered his work was the Milestone line. I was a white kid from a small town in Northern Canada, and my world view was extremely limited; not just by my town, but by the media of the time. Media, even escapist fantasy, is how we expand our world view to encompass experiences that he cannot have. Dwayne McDuffie showed me a wider world, and prepared me to go out into it. He expanded by world view.

    Dwayne McDuffie was a great and intelligent entertainer, and it does not surprise me that he was also a great man.

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