Sunday, February 12, 2012

52 Week 7 - Dwayne McDuffie: A Gentle Giant

In a league of his own
His Official Website

It’s hard to describe in words how much I admired Dwayne McDuffie and how devastated I was when he died. There’s never a good time for anyone to die, and for him to be snatched away so soon, it really hurt. I was heartened however, to see the outpouring of heartfelt tributes to him after his untimely passing away. It became clear that he was a special person indeed. The tragic thing is that the industry he most wanted to be a part of is the one that rejected him, and iit’s a testament to his force of will that he managed to make his own path and find his own success.

Sometimes, there are some people who you never know how much they meant to you, until they’re gone. Some people you take for granted that they will always be around. And then, when all of a sudden, they’re gone, you begin to wish that maybe you’d appreciated them more when they were around. What makes it doubly painful for me is that Dwayne McDuffie was one of the few people on this list who I interacted with quite extensively. It had always been my dream to see him in person and telling how much I appreciated the fact that he wrote strong characters of color who were allowed to be fully human. 

Of course, all this interaction was entirely virtual, but that does nothing to lessen its importance. He was always so open and accessible, that I felt like I knew him both professionally and personally. He was a regular participant on his official website’s forum and he never hesitated to answer questions or comment. I asked him questions about a wide variety of subjects; the writing process; how to break into publishing and he gave out spoilers quite liberally for the projects he was working on. It truly felt like a community, and I spent almost my entire high school years being actively involved. Things slowed down after I began University, but I would still lurk and post every once in a while.

I should probably rewind, and give some background information on the man. For anyone who’s a fan of comics (or graphic novels, if you prefer), you’re probably intimately familiar with his work helping found Milestone comics, which showcased Heroes of Color and his creation of the character Static would be his most enduring legacy from that era. However, Milestone also brought such awesome characters as DeathLok and Hardware, and as a a youngster, there was something exhilarating about seeing heroes who looked like me, and dealt with some of the same issues.

If you’re a fan of animated shows, then, you know him well from his work as a writer, and then story editor of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited (incidentally, the JL/JLU series remains my favourite animated show to date. He also was a producer and story editor for Ben 10, and Ben 10: Alien Force. He also wrote the stories for a multitude of Animated Movies including All-Star Superman, and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. His contributions to this genre have been among the most celebrated, and it’s only unfortunate that he never got as much respect for his work writing comics. Even though he received numerous awards during his life, it’s undeniable that he was much more appreciated in death than he was in life.

What I loved most about him was his honesty and forthrightness. He was never afraid to shoot straight. That coupled with his essentially gentle nature made me feel like I really knew him. He seemed like the kind of guy you could shoot the breeze with endlessly. He always had the funniest stories and for someone who was so important in his field, he was almost ridiculously approachable. I only wish he were around to see what he inspired in others, but I’m sure he’s up in heaven shining down upon us.

Greatest quote: “In animation, I was given a chance.”

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