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Missing Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie was the first creator to ever comment on my blog.

I’d found a couple of comics about Prince, the musician, in the back issues at the shop, and they were exactly the kind of comics I liked to talk about. Completely bizarre artifacts, based on a wild premise but pulled off with a style and awareness that made them as fun to read as they were to talk about.

And one of the most surprising things about them, even more than the fact that there were two comic books about Prince battling super-villains and referring to himself as Batman, was the fact McDuffie wrote them, way back in the early ’90s.So I wrote a few jokes about them, and after a couple of days, he showed up in the comments, copping to finding the article by Googling his own name and cracking a few jokes of his own. There wasn’t much to it, but in three sentences, McDuffie showed me that he got it. Here I was, making some jokes for my own amusement more than anyone else’s, and here’s Comic Book Creator Dwayne McDuffie showing up to not only laugh, but thank me for writing the article, if only because he didn’t know one of the stories had been adapted for a weird musical movie Prince made and released on VHS. He understood what I was trying to do, and that meant the world to me.

He was a hero of mine. He was a guy who worked hard, who set out to change the world of comics for the better while still telling great stories, and he succeeded. He wrote with skill, social conscience and a sense of humor, three things that you rarely find in one person, especially one as prolific as he was. He wasn’t afraid to call things out for being ridiculous, and more than that, he did it with honesty, even when he caught hell for it.


McDuffie’s response to two very similar black characters on skateboards as a Marvel editor in 1989: A sardonic pitch for a comic called Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers

And because of that, he was one of the creators that I always felt comfortable writing about, whether praise or criticism, because I felt like if I followed his example of professionalism, honesty and humor, he’d get it. He inspired me, as much through how he acted on a personal level as through his work.

I got to meet him once. I bumped into him in San Diego last year, almost literally; he was coming into the hotel as I was walking out. I stopped him and introduced myself, told him I was a fan and thanked him for being supportive of an article I’d written on racial politics in comics, because his acknowledgement made me feel like I’d done something good.

Again, it was brief. We probably didn’t talk for any longer than it took him to leave that comment five years earlier, and I could’ve filled up an hour just standing there telling him how much I’d loved Damage Control and Fantastic Four and how great the Brown Bomber was in Justice League. But we were on our way in opposite directions, so I kept to what matters: Thanking him for being an inspiration.

I feel lucky to have had the chance, even on a day when we’re all poorer for losing him.

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