Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rest In Peace, Dwayne McDuffie

Without Dwayne McDuffie, I wouldn't be here. Literally. I wouldn't have made Subsidized Sincerity. I wouldn't have cared about comics universes. I wouldn't have a couple of the interests I do because of what he wrote on Justice League Unlimited.

He's dead now.

See, the "comic" I read as a kid was Tintin. In French. And for the better part of 20 years, I thought that it was as far as it would go. But then, someone, and I forget who, introduced me to Justice League Unlimited. I remember Websnark (Jesus, a website that hasn't been updated in a year now. How old am I?) was talking about it. And I don't think I got it from there. I think I got it from a friend of mine.

Dwayne McDuffie was the head writer on the show. And when he didn't write the shows, he bought scripts from people that would also blow my mind, Gail Simone and Warren Ellis.

And somehow, by hook or by crook, I watched the second season of Justice League Unlimited. Along the way, I met the Question, which led me to love what I thought was the character, only to have the character's nature flipped on my head when I read his solo series and had my mind blown again. (This seems apropos: the picture to your right is drawn by the penciller on the Question, Denys Cowan.)

But before any of the Question, I had a lot of goddamn fun with the Justice League. I didn't know Green Arrow's backstory, or why he was so sly, but I could tell a conservative/liberal discussion underneath his arguments with Captain Atom. JLU was funny, serious, terrifying and genuinely suspenseful when they wanted to.

When I think of Green Lantern, I don't think of Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner or Kyle Ranyer. I think of John Stewart, black Army grunt. I think of John Stewart, the guy who loved an alien, who lied to him under order from her people, blackmailing her. I think of John Stewart, trainer of Supergirl, conscience and counsel of the JLU. I think of John Stewart, a Green Lantern that made mistakes but never excuses.

I'm never going to meet Dwayne McDuffie now. Beyond that, he had a bibliography that I was aware existed, but never really looked for. There were always interesting stories: The way he fought and bled out for Milestone Comics, now a horror story of the comics industry, bought and then buried by DC because they had no goddamn idea how to market characters that weren't white. The way that every time he tried to write the JLA, there was some inane crossover which killed any momentum he had going with the characters and yeah.

What's...also inspirational is that none of the garbage, the horrible, terrible garbage made him stop or let him give up. It's not like he hadn't done his fair share, he fucking founded a comic book company that wrote non-white superheroes and got screwed by a corporation too goddamn rigid and you know what?

It didn't stop him. He didn't leave comics a husk, burnt out and angry. He kept going, he kept creating and he kept writing. That's inspirational.

I'll console myself with this: I started getting serious about comics thanks to Dwayne McDuffie's writing and now that I'm serious about comics, I'm going to check out more of Dwayne McDuffie's writing.

He's dead, but if nothing else, he started something. In his honor, let's keep it going.

Rules are made to be broken, so no song. Here's four minutes of Mr. McDuffie talking about the challenges of writing in the comic book industry.

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