The Dynamic Dwayne McDuffie
It’s been six years since the whole comic book world lost one of its most inspiring figures. This was a man who brought so much joy to people all over the world with his creations and more importantly, who gave minorities a voice in otherwise whitewashed fictional worlds. I’m talking about none other than Dwayne McDuffie, whose co-founding of Milestone Media cemented the idea that there is indeed a world beyond what the Big 3 publishers had to offer back then (yes, I’m including you on the list, early Image Comics).
You shouldn’t make the mistake, however, to think that what makes McDuffie such a hallmark creator in comics and animation is solely because he represented African Americans. Furthermore, don’t you even dare to think that Milestone is just “that imprint that makes black superheroes.” You’d be dead wrong: Dwayne’s efforts were so much more than that. Simply put, he’s one of the creators who pushed long and hard enough to make fictional universes as diverse as possible. In other words, he made them worldly; it’s not just exclusive for the black community.
As such, I would even go as far as saying that Milestone Media did more for making comics more mature and realistic than any other publisher, studio, or imprint at the time. Yeah, you can always have violence and these so-called antiheroes and slap an R-13 rating on it, but it doesn’t mean it’s mature. Conversely, McDuffie and co. did stories that were better suited for younger audiences but dealt with issues that are far more serious than what any target audience rating could give. And I’d take that over any steroidal hell spawn any day.
Limiting Dwayne’s significance to comic books, though, sorely undersells the man, considering he’s one of the driving forces in some of the greatest animated shows in the last decade or so. His work on the Justice League cartoons (both the original and Unlimited incarnations) stands as one of the most entertaining and beautiful renditions of these properties to date. Hell, that animated program is even light years away from what Marvel and DC are publishing right now, and don’t even get me started with the latter’s attempt at creating a shared superhero universe.
Looking at his animation projects, the man’s efforts in the field showed that you can talk about serious issues without taking yourself seriously. Case in point: Static Shock. The animated series, which has since become a cult classic and based on Milestone’s very own superhero, is one aimed at younger audiences but whose themes are able to show real-world problems gripping society. So much so, that the man even won a humanitarian award for one of its episodes.So, what marks a great writer and artist? It’s when you can create themes that are applicable to anyone and simultaneously put it into practice without leaving anyone behind, no matter how small they are, and that’s perhaps Dwayne McDuffie’s legacy: he brought the real world to our beloved franchises and characters, all the while making them more fantastic.