Just a heads up-this is Ty’s son, Kellam, writing this post. Dad normally does some skilful, personal obits when an important contributor to the comics community passes away. But, in this case, he and I talked about the fondness I have for Dwayne McDuffie’s work–I literally grew up reading it, and it hit me hard when I read about his death. So, Dad agreed to turn the keyboard over to me for a quick jaunt.
My first exposure to Dwayne’s work was with the Milestone Universe. I fucking loved those comics-they felt familiar enough to DC and Marvel concepts for them to click, but they also felt really edgy and realistic for the time. Spidey was busy fighting symbiotes and moaning about his lack of face time with his incredibly hot model/actress wife, while Virgil Ovid Hawkins (aka Static, or Static Shock, for people who are lame, and think the cartoon was eponymously titled) was dealing with his friend getting gay-bashed, his love interest battling eating disorders (and dating Virgil’s drug dealing best friend), all while attending a crappy public school, and having to use his smarts and super powers to take down an array of super-powered gang bangers.
And it was genuine. Honestly, some of it sounds hokey in retrospective (and believe me, not all the Milestone titles were gems), but I dug the hell out of it-I’m probably the only 23 year old with a complete run of Static, Icon, Hardware, Shadow Cabinet, Heroes, and a handful of their other titles. McDuffie had a real talent for taking familiar concepts, and giving them more life and three-dimensionality than you’d ask for. It made his work relatable.
He carried this into other media, like the excellent Justice League/JLU cartoon series. In one of my favourite episodes of the series, which he co-wrote with Bruce Timm, we get a stirring epilogue to Batman Beyond; The new Batman, Terry McGinnis, finds out that through a fairly elaborate plot device, he really is the son of Batman. Again, this should be agonizing, but wound up being one of the most meaningful episodes in the series, as well as one of the most skilfully executed –it deftly weaves together some really heartfelt moments against a backdrop of every piece of animated Batman lore possible.
I didn’t read much of Dwayne’s subsequent return to comics, but the Milestone Forever two-parter brought a smile to my face by the end of it, and what I read of his JLA run was engaging . I also plan on viewing his animated adaptation of All-Star Superman soon-the comic was sheer brilliance, but I have a sneaking suspicion the cartoon will be a damn entertaining way to spend an hour and a half.
Thanks for the years of love and entertainment, Dwayne, we’ll miss you.
(Kellam Templeton-Smith writes occasionally over at his food blog, Grim Gastronomicon, and is an up-and-coming inker)