We’ve discussed Dwayne McDuffie’s life/career prior to Milestone. We discussed Milestone Media itself and Dwayne’s impact there. Now it’s time to get to the truly depressing part…the latter part of Dwayne’s life and his eventual death.

Link to The Dwayne McDuffie Foundation GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/uc5ed-the-dwayne-mcduffie-fund

Show notes below!

Animation:

In 1993, there was almost a Milestone team show created by Alan Burnett. Many of the Batman: Animated Series creators were big Milestone fans, so they were pushing to get something Milestone related into animation. Ultimately, that would lead to the Static tv show years later thanks to Alan Burnett and they brought Dwayne on board to write episodes after it began starting with episode 10 “Bent Out of Shape”.

Because of multiple factors such as a half-hour format and the audience being skewed younger, they had to tackle Static a bit differently from the comics. While the feel of the character is the same, the topics had to be more simplified. Obviously the cartoon isnt as violent. Certain ideas like politics wouldn’t be major points in the show. Themes may be similar, just told differently. First and foremost though, the show should be fun.

From there, he was given a chance to write Justice League after Paul Dini injured his hand. They liked what he did and gave him more chances to keep writing and the rest is history.

In between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, the idea for the animated Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths was pitched (though slightly different than what ended up coming out). This would explain what happened between the time jump and why the team decided to expand on the size of the Justice League. However, because they couldn’t afford to do a show and a movie at the time, they scrapped it at the time until Bruce Timm reached out to Dwayne McDuffie years later and asked if he wanted to try it again but out of the animated universe continuity.

Dwayne originally wanted Justice League Unlimited to be an anthology. His plan was to have someone from the original 7 to go out each episode with other heroes. This was dropped after a few episodes when the roster became so large and the groups being used were bigger than originally intended. While writing all of these “lesser heroes”, they were approached with the mindset of putting them on the same footing as the major heroes.

When adapting classic comic stories into animation (such as The Man Who Has Everything), they wanted to approach it slightly differently. They would always reach out to the creators for approval, but would also try to mix up the story so it was slightly different than the books and less boring for the fans. The idea was – you know these stories and how they play out. Let’s shake it up and keep it interesting.  One example was that Dwayne disliked Wonder Woman not getting her time to shine in the book, so they changed it in the animation so she was more equal in the outcome.

One of the things he looked at when adapting classic stories, such as All-Star Superman, was to find both a good story and a hook. In the case of All-Star Superman, they had so much to choose from so they had to pick out the core story and then piece together the parts around it the best they could while giving it their own unique flair too. In fact, the scene Dwayne regretted not having in the movie was saving Regan from committing suicide. He felt it defined Superman perfectly, but it just didn’t fit, so it had to be cut.

He would also receive much criticism for using John Stewart over Hal Jordan in particular. This was oddly misplaced rage. He didn’t create the character. It wasn’t his decision to use John over Hal in the shows. But as he wrote him, he thought the character was more interesting and felt he could tell great stories with him such as the relationships with Shayera and Vixen. However, because he would be criticized for this, he eventually came up with an idea on how to respond to these people (but probably never got to use it). He would say how big of a fan he was of “Hal Gordon” and just ramble on and on about “Hal Gordon”s greatness just to irritate the fans even more.

Comics Post Milestone:

Credit: Beyond! by Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins

Following Milestone closing shop in 1997, McDuffie would mostly focus on animation while dipping his toes in comics from time to time. While he wrote books like Fantastic Four (542-553 and a one-shot), Beyond!, Firestorm, Batman: Blink, Static Shock! Rebirth of the Cool and the two-issue series Milestone Forever showcasing the final look of the Dakotaverse. However, it was his run on Justice League of America that would create the biggest ripples in his post-Milestone comic career, and not for the better.

His Firing from Justice League

Not to be outdone with the Static #25 debacle, DC decided to let Dwayne McDuffie go in the middle of his Justice League run in 2009. On the DC message board, McDuffie took time to answer fans questions regarding his runs and he was incredibly open about the creative decisions on the book. McDuffie even had it confirmed to him by management that he was let go not because of sales or his quality of work – it was strictly talking about the clockwork behind the scenes.

Here’s some comments he posted on the message boards:

“Yes, Anansi is supposed to be me, and the story arc is about my not having control of the stories in my book. Ironically, both [the Anansi/Vixen] story and the parallel Red Tornado arc were supposed to be smaller B and C plots in a much larger arc (involving Luthor’s plan from my first arc, Starro, and Despero) that I wasn’t able to do because of other plans in the DCU.”

“(regarding the Injustice League) I’d originally intended for that story to run 8 issues, but it had to be cut short for Suicide Run, so I made up a new secret Luthor plot that tied into the dangling Per Degaton plot from Brad’s run, but it turned out that Geoff already had plans to wrap that up, so I’ve come up with a third Luthor plot, but I’m not sure when I’ll get back to it, as I’m fairly tightly plotted for the next couple of years. I will get to it though, promise.”

“Actually, my intention was to keep Red Tornado in the computer for quite a while (both to keep him off stage for a bit, and to set up another storyline I had notions of exploring), but DC needed him back in his body immediately for a mini-series. So, I planned the Amazo rematch as a B-plot in another story, unfortunately, that story had to be dropped because of something else that was planned in another title. So I pushed up the Vixen arc to take that place, but as I was writing it, I found out certain things about Final Crisis that forced me to cut the Vixen Arc short.”

“Final Crisis and other events left me without access to any of the characters that I want on the team. I couldn’t just have everyone disappear mid-arc, so I had it happen on camera. Losing the big guns was a problem for me, so I decided to make it a problem for Black Canary. Fortunately, it also let me pull the trigger on the Hal Jordan League, which I’ve been either writing around, or spinning my wheels to synch up with, since my first issue on the book.”

More quotes can be found in the source notes – specifically the Wayback Machine link to CBR.

McDuffie took it like a champ, partially because his plate was still full with plenty of animation work going on at the time. As someone who frequented message boards around this time, I feel this was about the point DC was being heavily criticized for editorial influence behind the scenes.

Charlotte Fullerton McDuffie

Through their friend Eugene Son, Charlotte and Dwayne were set up on a first date. Charlotte knew nothing about Dwayne prior to meeting him. She planned on a short hour long date, and wasn’t sure what to expect. Instead, it turned out to be 5 hours long She states:

“I wasn’t familiar with Milestone or Dwayne’s work with Justice League. [I thought] “Okay, he’s just this nice guy?” We went out to lunch on a Tuesday. I thought, ‘Okay, I can have lunch with anybody for an hour.’,” she told me. “The joke is I was expecting him to be one of these superhero fanboys who doesn’t have any other topic of conversation. Like, ‘And then in Aquaman #547….’ ‘Uh-huh.’ I thought I would be looking at my watch or that we would have nothing to talk about. ‘So, that Matt and Eugene sure are nice guys, aren’t they?’ ‘Yup. They sure are.’ But we hit it off like you wouldn’t believe. I still don’t believe it. I thought Eugene and Matt had fed him lines about what to say”.

“‘Who is this guy? How do we know each other so well? We were hitting it off right out of the gate. Our first date lasted five hours. The restaurant was dimming the lighting and the staff was going off shift, changing it for dinner. By the time we left, we joked, we should have had our second date. Richard Feynman, my favorite physicist, came up in conversation. Dwayne did the gesture with his water glass that Feynman famously did with in conjunction with the Challenger disaster and the o-ring failure. The fact that he did it and I recognized it, I was like, ‘Okay, this is just crazy.’

Dwayne and Charlotte married in 2009, and moved into a new house together shortly afterwards.

His Death and Legacy:

On February 21, 2011, the day after he turned 49, Dwayne McDuffie died from complications during emergency heart surgery. He is survived by his wife and fellow writer Charlotte Fullerton and mother Edna McDuffie Gardner.

To say that his death left a hole in the industry is a gross reduction on his legacy and friendships with the people within it. He created not only characters that gave the under represented some representation, but also a universe for some of these characters that both felt real and genuine to them as well. Doors were opened for creators that were previously shut and the industry changed, though not to the full extent it needs to, to represent more than just straight white males. So much of that can come back to Dwayne McDuffie.

Here are some of the things his friends said about him after his passing:

“I have a Ph.D. and [Dwayne McDuffie] is literally the smartest guy I ever met,”  – Michael Davis

“He is literally the best writer I have ever worked with. What Dwayne and I did together was unique and special and wasn’t equaled by anyone else. I always joked it was Lennon and McCartney, because it really was.” – Denys Cowan

“He was 6 foot 7, built like a house, and a lot of times mistaken for an ex-football player–but his demeanor was just the opposite, he was a very gentle person.” – Kevin Rubio.

Credit: NPR

“Dwayne spoke up, at a cost to his career, but that’s what men of courage do. That’s what men of integrity do. And that’s what Dwayne was.” – Reggie Hudlin.

“There are a lot of people who are conscious of race in the comic book industry, and Dwayne definitely was. He and I talked about it–like, why does a black character have to have [the word] Black in their name? The main theme I see as a through line in Dwayne’s work is heart and mind. He was able to universalize the personal.” – Phil LaMarr

“I think his greatest contribution in a lot of ways, was, he showed a bunch of liberal New Yorkers that they really weren’t doing enough to bring diversity to comics. It was amazing for an assistant editor, when you think about it, because an assistant editor’s supposed to be someone who’ll Xerox and say, ‘Yes, sir.’ But Dwayne basically said, ‘Look, what we’re doing — there’s a large group of fans out there who are not seeing themselves.’” – Bob Harras

There are more quotes in articles linked in the show notes and on vgu.tv

Other quotes about McDuffie:

Credit: Black Kudos

“[Dwayne’s] idea of a crazy weekend was he would go to a bookstore and buy three or four new books, a bunch of magazines, a box of cookies and a gallon of milk, and go home,” – Matt Wayne

“It’s really fairly rare, even in an industry as tightly knit as ours, and I think as fraternal as ours, to find someone that everybody really likes.” – Mark Waid 

“He used to say that he was Superman and I was Batman. He said that’s why I’m always stressed out because I have a million different contingency plans. If this happens, I’ll do this. If this happens, I’ll do this. He said, he’s Superman. He has the ego the size of a planet. [laughs] And that he can walk into any situation and assume his natural intellectual superiority which carries him through. He said it with a smile but I think he also meant it. A lot of self-confidence and rightfully so.” – Charlotte McDuffie

Credit: Black Kudos

“He was a mentor, and had a real hands on approach with all the talent and clear direction of each title. He was somewhat fatherly and used to joke about studying up on childcare to help with editing us. His ideas were strong, and he had the final say on things… and even when he didn’t disagree, he was able to listen to arguments and new ideas and would implement them if it felt right. He was the best editor I ever had, which saddens me greatly, since he spoiled me for everyone else. Let’s say that sometimes you don’t know how good you have it until it’s long gone.” – Ivan Velez Jr.

“He knew that there were a lot of amazing African-American, Hispanic, gay, lesbian, women, Asian [creators] that were really talented. He always wanted to be giving people their chance and thought that all you had to do was fish around a little bit and you would pull out amazing talent.” – Eugene Son

“Dwayne is one of the only intellectuals I’ve ever met that I can win an argument with.  Most people, certainly most intellectuals, have a serious ego problem that prohibits their saying the words, “Ok, you’re right.”  But, if you present a reasonable argument and empirical evidence, you can win an argument with Dwayne. That taught me a lot: Dwayne taught me it was okay to be wrong.  Being wrong doesn’t make you a failure or a loser. It costs Dwayne nothing, absolutely nothing, to say, “Ok, you’re right,” and that amazed me.” – Christopher Priest

Awards and Nominations:

Mandatory Credit: Photo by BEI/BEI/Shutterstock (421582aj) Dwayne McDuffie and Alan Burnett THE HUMANITAS PRIZE AWARDS LUNCHEON, HILTON UNIVERSAL HOTEL, NEW YORK, AMERICA – 10 JUL 2003 July 10, 2003 – Universal City, CA Dwayne McDuffie and Alan Burnett. The HUMANITAS Prize Awards Luncheon at the Hilton Universal Hotel. Photo®Eric Charbonneau/BEImages

Dwayne has been a recipient of many awards throughout (and after) his life. Some include:

  • Writers Guild of America, West Animation Writers Caucus’ (AWC) 14th Annual Animation Writing Award (posthumously)
  • In 2003, McDuffie would receive the Humanitas Award for an episode on gun violence within Static Shock (“Jimmy”). The award is given to tv and film writers who promote human dignity, meaning, and freedom.
  • 11 Parent’s Choice Awards for comics he wrote throughout his career
  • 6 Best Editor Awards
  • In 1996, won the Golden Apple Award through the Roeper School for “use of popular art to promote and enhance human dignity”
  • Nominated for Writers Guild Award for his Justice League episode “Starcrossed”
  • In 1995, 3 Eisner Awards for his comics (Best writer for Icon, Best Editor for Worlds Collide, Xombi, and Shadow Cabinet, and Best Continuing Series for Icon)
  • Nominated for daytime Emmy awards for Static Shock
  • In 2008, Wizard Magazine readers voted him as “Favorite Breakdown Talent” in their Fan Awards.
  • Won the Comic Con Internation’s Inkpot Award in 2009.

The Dwayne McDuffie Legacy Award for Diversity in Comics:

The first Dwayne McDuffie Legacy Award for Diversity in Comics was presented in 2014 at Long Beach Comic Expo. It had been in the works for several years and was originally thought up by writer/actor Neo Edmund. Every year at the Long Beach Comic Expo in February, an award is given to one of the 5 finalists chosen by a selection of comic and animation professionals after an initial submission period. The award is meant to honor not only Dwayne McDuffie in name, but what he stood for – diversity and inclusion in comics.

Former winners:

2015 – M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder

2016 – Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (Marvel Entertainment)

2017 – Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels 

2018 – Leon: Protector of the Playground by Jamar Nicholas (Kids Love Comics)

2019 – Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir and Christina Stewart (Oni Press)

Credit: M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder

Earlier this year, Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie gave the following quote regarding the 2020 award:

“Given our initial Covid delay this Spring and now the current timing, we’ve done a lot of soul-searching about launching a ‘pop culture’ contest amidst such serious civil unrest– whether it would seem frivolous at best, opportunistic at worst. We decided that Dwayne would have been resoundingly, unquestionably on the side of having this inclusive award in his name not only be continued uninterrupted despite all the events so far in 2020, but that it be announced right now, during this impressive worldwide demand for long-overdue change. We as a society, as human beings, as beings who are all human, desperately need more diverse voices and content in our collective media. We have always needed this. If not now, when? Dwayne used to say, ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’ Representation matters. ‘Don’t start none, won’t be none.’ (‘None’ here meaning REPRESENTATION IN THE MEDIA!) I’m calling on all diverse creators to submit their work. Please. The world needs your voices. ‘From invisible to inevitable.’”

The judges for 2020:

Colleen Doran

Jamal Igle

Joe Illidge

Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Rubio

Geoffrey Thorne

Will J. Watkins

Matt Wayne

Marv Wolfman

On January 21st, the nominees were announced as well. They are:

They Called Us Enemy – Written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott. Illustrated by Harmony Becker

Excellence – Written by Brandon Thomas. Illustrated by Khary Randolph

From Truth with Truth – Written and Illustrated by Lawrence Lindell

Angola Janga: Kingdom of Runaway Slaves – Written and Illustrated by Marcelo D’Salete

Iyanu: Child of Wonder – Written by Roye Okupe. Illustrated by Godwin Akpan.

The Dwayne McDuffie Foundation

In an effort to continue his legacy, Dwayne’s wife Charlotte founded and handles the Dwayne McDuffie Foundation. This came almost immediately following his death when family, friends, companies, and fans all wanted to make charitable donations in his name.  

To her, here is whom the Dwayne McDuffie Foundation is meant to help :

“I’m sure there’s some a little miniature Dwayne McDuffie wannabe that’s driving his or her parents crazy right now. A kid like Dwayne was, someone that would benefit greatly from the rigorous academics of a private school like that but couldn’t necessarily afford it. I think things like that would be a perfect avenue for a Dwayne McDuffie Foundation.”

It is a non-profit organization to help afford kids of diverse backgrounds by awarding them scholarships.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/uc5ed-the-dwayne-mcduffie-fund

Random Trivia:

  • A week prior to the All-Star Superman animated film premier (in which he scripted), Dwayne was contacted by the people for Samuel L Jackson to start writing movies and work with Sony
    • Speaking on the All-Star Superman film, it released the day after he died.
    • Additional note – All-Star Superman was one of, if not the most, favorite Superman story of Dwaynes’.
  • On the You Made It Weird podcast, actor/comedian Keegan-Michael Key (MadTV, Parks and Recreation, Key & Peele) discussed his family history. As an adopted child, he looked into his biological father’s family and learned he had two half-brothers, both of whom had died. One of those was Dwayne McDuffie.
  • Dwayne notes one problem with writing characters of colors or female characters (the wonder woman problem). – if he writes a white character, he has to know who that character is. Not all white characters are like that character. (his example is if he writes Lex, not all white people are bad guys). Meanwhile, writing black characters ends up carrying extra weight for the whole race because there’s so few of them. So if one character is in a street gang, that must mean ALL black characters must be in street gangs. So that’s partly what Milestone tried to accomplish – by expanding past that.
  • Dwayne once met Halle Berry, though not in the way he thought he would. Dwayne was a big Star Trek fan and was able to go to the premiere of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country based on a friend saying he could get in. However, that wasn’t the case. So he snuck in. Halle Berry (who was still making a name for herself at the time) walked in with a friend and sat a few rows ahead. They took notice of Dwayne, which isn’t something he wanted as he would be kicked out if anyone asked for a pass. He figured out why they kept looking…they thought he was Michael Dorn. No matter what Dwayne said to convince her otherwise, it made her upset because she KNEW…that he was Michael Dorn. She even had a crush on Michael Dorn at one point and now that he was a complete jerk because of Dwayne not doing him justice, that was no longer the case. This was made worse when Michael Dorn DID show up in the film during the trial scene as Halle stood up and yelled at Dwayne about being in the movie which he responded by saying “SIT DOWN” only to cause her to storm out.
    • Dwayne met Michael Dorn years later while working on Justice League Unlimited (Dorn was Kalibak) and told him this story. He thought it was hilarious, though did say “I’ve killed men for less than that!” in his best klingon voice).
  • People often joked about Green Lantern John Stewart having the same name as Jon Stewart (comedian, Daily Show host). In an episode of Justice League Unlimited, John is shown staring at some space debris floating by the watchtower. Dwayne originally wrote in “There it is folks. Your moment of zen” in the script as a nods to the Daily Show host. It was cut as apparently he was the only one who felt the joke could be used since everyone already knew it anyways.
Credit: Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie, Chriscross, Jordi Tarragona, Luis Guerrero, Steve Wands, Marquis Draper, Andrew Marino, and Brian Cunningham
  • Dwayne’s wife Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie and former Milestone artist ChrisCross  wrote a story called “Reverse the Polarity” in the Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular issue that was released this year. In it, she wrote a team-up story featuring the Green Lantern John Stewart and Hawkgirl – a nod and tribute to her husband and his work on Justice League (Unlimited).
  • During Christopher Priest’s run on Steel (issues 34 – 52), he wrote John Henry as if he was Dwayne McDuffie:
    • “Denys and I were Tuckerizing him somewhat in STEEL. If you want to know Dwayne, read STEEL #34-45 or so.  At least, that’s my interpretation of him. I swear Denys was drawing him.  I called Denys and said, “Hey— are you drawing Dwayne?!” Denys, ‘No.  Don’t be ridiculous.’  Then I’m sure he got off the phone and proceeded to draw Dwayne.”

Tell people to please read the blog on the Wayback Machine written by Eugene Son for various McDuffie randomness such as his second birthday on January 1st and heckling a black woman for criticizing him dating a white woman.

Credit: mase0ne

SOURCES:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwayne_McDuffie

http://web-old.archive.org/web/20140203190812/http://dwaynemcduffie.com.lamphost.net/

https://www.marvel.com/articles/comics/dwayne-mcduffie-s-legacy-in-comics

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/03/race-sci-fi-and-comics-a-talk-with-dwayne-mcduffie/37063/

http://www.comiczoneradio.com/dwayne-mcduffle.html

https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-wife-of-legendary-comics-writer-dwayne-mcduffie-wan-1789270102

https://www.cbr.com/friends-describe-dwayne-mcduffies-legacy/

https://www.cbr.com/all-star-interview-dwayne-mcduffie/

https://www.blogtalkradio.com/wordballoon/2011/02/22/dwayne-mcduffie-rip

https://dcanimated.com//WF/staticshock/backstage/interviews/mcduffiewf.php

https://www.cbr.com/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-138/

https://web.archive.org/web/20170724020806/http://www.cbr.com/254216-2/

https://www.cbr.com/dwayne-mcduffie-fired-from-justice-league/

https://www.cbr.com/eccc-memories-of-dwayne-mcduffie/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwayne_McDuffie_Award_for_Diversity_in_Comics#:~:text=The%20Dwayne%20McDuffie%20Award%20for,and%20producing%20comics%20and%20animation.

https://www.cbr.com/magruders-m-f-k-wins-first-dwayne-mcduffie-award-for-diversity/

https://www.previewsworld.com/Article/244569-Nominations-for-the-2020-Dwayne-McDuffie-Award-for-Diversity-in-Comics-are-Open#:~:text=The%20DWAYNE%20McDUFFIE%20AWARD%20for%20DIVERSITY%20in%20COMICS’%20Selection%20Committee,their%20own%20lives%20and%20work.

https://www.hannibaltabu.com/ht-dwayne-mcduffie.html

https://www.gofundme.com/f/uc5ed-the-dwayne-mcduffie-fund

Follow the podcast on Twitter: @HypertimePod or send us an email at hypertime2podcast@gmail.com

Follow Josh on Twitter: @jmille99

Follow Allan on Twitter: @TheAllanMuir

Intro and Outro Music: “RetroFuture Clean” by Kevin MacLeod

RetroFuture Clean Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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