The Milestone: Remembering Dwayne McDuffie’s Legacy and Influence
After years of working in a comic book industry managed by a majority of white editors and publishers, and dominated by white creators, Dwayne McDuffie decided to start his own company, Milestone Media. Along with his co-founders, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle, McDuffie created unique and memorable characters of color who remain cherished to this day.
February 20th marks the anniversary of McDuffie’s birth in 1962, and February 21st unfortunately marks the anniversary of his untimely passing in 2011. The proximity of those dates serves to illustrate an important fact; it’s impossible to look back on the life of Dwayne McDuffie without also considering his legacy.
Perhaps McDuffie’s most notable co-creation with the other Milestone founders was Static, a character who debuted in Static #1 in 1993, and would later star in his own animated TV series Static Shock on The WB from 2000-2004, becoming a generation’s favorite black superhero.
McDuffie and his colleagues also created a number of other superheroes and villains within Milestone, including Icon, a superhuman alien who works as a corporate lawyer by day; Hardware, a crimefighter with high tech gear at his disposal; Blood Syndicate, surviving members of a super-powered gang (think The Warriors with powers); and Xombi, a Korean-American scientist who gains the power of immortality.
Before launching Milestone Media, McDuffie was an assistant editor at Marvel, where he co-created the short-lived cult classic series Damage Control, about clean-up crews who repair the damage done by superhero fights. The comic will serve as the basis for an upcoming TV series on ABC.
But that’s not even close to all McDuffie is known for. He also lent his talent to a number of hit animated series, including writing and producing Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, and Justice League Unlimited.
Through it all, he was an advocate for diversity in comics and animation, and a champion for representation at a time when few others would take up the cause. He also inspired other black creators to pursue their dreams in the industry.
On Milestone’s former website, McDuffie explained his vision for characters of color as it related to Milestone’s misison:
If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren’t just that character. They represent that race or that sex, and they can’t be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people. You know, Superman isn’t all white people and neither is Lex Luthor. We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn’t do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that’s wider than the world we’ve seen before.”
McDuffie’s legacy lives on in the work of young black creators telling their own stories and creating their own characters, in the resurgence of interest in black superheroes, and in the annual award that bears his name, the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics. Though Dwayne McDuffie is gone, his vision and his influence continue to make the comic industry a better place.