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Remembering Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie is one of the most important figures in the history of the comic book industry. Perhaps that’s hyperbole, but I don’t think so. I know that his work has left an indelible mark on me, and the world is a lesser place without him in it.

I didn’t know Dwayne McDuffie personally. I only met him once. Briefly. It was in San Diego in 2009. The fellas (Jerry Ma, Jeff Yang, Parry Shen) and I were at Comic-Con to promote Secret Identities. Dwayne was on a panel moderated by Jeff, and the five of us were able to chat for a bit afterwards.

Dwayne reuniting with lettering extraordinaire Janice Chiang, who he worked with on Hardware.

I don’t quite remember what we said to one another, but it probably involved me showering him with praise for the television and comics work that meant so much to me. I’m pretty sure I mentioned how messed up it was that DC Comics had fired him from Justice League of America a couple months prior. He told the four of us how important the work we were doing with Secret Identities was. Earlier that year, we sent a galley of our book to Dwayne with the hopes that he’d appreciate it.

You see, the legacy of Milestone Media was a big influence on the creation of SIUniverse Media. Just as McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek Dingle set out to create a universe of superhero characters that reflected their realities, the four of us did so as well in our quest to find superhero images that looked like us.

Fortunately, Dwayne liked the book, so much so that he sent us the following message (which we used as a “blurb” on the book’s back cover):

Criminally overdue, but well worth the wait. Secret Identities is a treasure trove of an anthology. These stories are as rousing, uplifting, tragic, and funny as our deepest secret fantasies.

It’s been nearly five years since I first read that, and it still hasn’t quite sunken in that Dwayne McDuffie was effusively praising my work. That’s just crazy. Here is someone who revolutionized the comic industry with Milestone, and went on to have one of the most illustrious careers in animation and television. His work on Justice League Unlimited, Ben 10: Alien Force, and several of the animated DCU films (including All-Star Superman, which is — with apologies to Zack Snyder — probably the best Superman movie of the 21st century) is unparalleled.

We lost Dwayne two and a half years ago to complications resulting from emergency heart surgery, and the world was robbed of his talent. More than that, and by all accounts, Dwayne was one of the nicest people on the planet whose passion for and friendship will be missed by all he touched, whether in person or on the page or through the screen.

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