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)
Not enough praise can be given to Mr. McDuffie’s work and the impact it has had on comics. And, I doubt there would be anyone that would not agree that he passed much too young.
Steven G. Willis
Ya know, I saw this news and I figured, sad news, but didn’t really know Mr McDuffies work and it kinda passed over me. Milestone came out after I’d pretty much given up on superheroes and apart from a couple of issues picked up in sale packs I didn’t think I was familiar with anything he’d done. But as I’ve been reading the obits I’ve come to realise how much he was part of the DC animated Universe that I’ve made my kids watch over the last 8 years. Then I’ve read of the grief he’s gotten and the fights he’s fought and everything else aside I know the world’s lost another good guy. Rest in peace Mr McDuffie. My condolences go out to his friends and family left behind.
I never heard of this guy, but after reading about his life on wikipedia he seems like a hell of a talent. Rest in Peace.
I was going to write an introduction to this blog entry, but my son said it in his words just fine (including a shout out to the f-bomb in a tribute. Yet no edit from Dad). He really did love McDuffie’s Milestone world, and was genuinely hit by Dwayne’s death last week. So who better to say goodbye to the man than someone who grew up on his work.
The golden age of everything is twelve, you see.
When I was twelve, the only comic book artists who had passed away were Joe Maneely, Russ Manning and Jack Cole. Later on, of course, we lost Wally Wood, and Don Newton, and Bill Finger….but these events were separated out by months and years as I grew up. Now, we’re losing lots of great creators each year…heck, that many even in the last few weeks, it seems…Clement Sauve, Mike Esposito, Jay P. Morgan (creator of Fission Chicken)…
All because the snowball of our industry keeps going and growing. When I was twelve, the industry was barely thirty-five years old, and all of its pioneers were middle aged men…now we’re third and fourth generation creators in a biz running back nearly 85 years.
Watching the Oscars last night, I got all choked up for the parade of lost stars, as I do every season…but I’ve realized the comics biz has that parade, now.
I guess that means we’re an institution. Or something. So it’s a good thing in a bizarre way.
Ty the Guy Finding the silver lining in the devastatingly awful.
Too true, that last bit.
Let’s not stop trying for another eighty-five(at minimum), then!
A fine tribute and some fine followup comments too.
First of the early comic book artists to die (that I know of, anyway), was the Sandman’s co-creator, Bert Christman, who — quoting Wikipedia here — was shot down and killed by the Japanese Army Air Force while flying in defense of the Burma Road. I wonder if Alex Toth might have had him in mind when he drew “Burma Sky”.