Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dwayne McDuffie, Justice League Writer/Producer Dies Unexpectedly

I was just informed that Dwayne McDuffie, the premiere writer for the animated series Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, has unexpectedly passed away following complications after surgery. It must have been something very routine, for he was scheduled the day after to appear for a book signing.

I cannot tell you how much this man meant to me. I would have an awful day - or just one full of challenges - and sit down, put a DVD in of the Justice League and find myself in moments enraptured in a classic, well-written good vs. evil story. The writer more often than not? Dwayne McDuffie.

Dwayne knew personalities too, and he was known for bringing real personalities from the Black community to life in the superhero genre. He pointed out that when you only have ONE black superhero in a group, that person is somehow representative for the whole community - and that not only limits the stories you tell, it gives a false picture of the community. He wanted to bring more diverse characters to life and put them up on stage for us all to see.

He did it so well, he won awards, esp. for 'Static Shock' [formerly the character of Black Lightning, for you old-schoolers][ EDIT: Mea Culpa. They have similar powers and I thought SS was a revised/updated form of Black Lightning. Not true. There have been nods to BL though, in one episode, SS tries on a costume similar to BL's... Sorry to misinform.]

But it was the Justice League, with John Stewart as the Green Lantern and a romance with Hawkgirl that made him a fan-favorite. [Sure, citation needed, but you know its true.] He grabbed our iconic characters and did NOT deconstruct them but DID show their weaknesses - and you knew them BETTER than before.

His portrayal of Superman as a good man who's getting too close to the edge of taking control 'for the good of the world' and of Batman as a lonely man who chooses to shut off his emotions to wage war? It was never seen on TV before. Or Wonder Woman who begins as a princess wanting to help and ends up an Amazon warrior who never quits? Wow. I can watch his portrayals 7 days a week and not get bored.

My biggest praise for Dwayne was the last Justice League movie he wrote: Crisis on Two Earths.

Dwayne knew how to write heroes. He knew how to skirt the edge but not cross it. He knew how to surprise you without cheating. He knew what made a great villain. He knew his community and he loved his people, and he made us older, cynical, worn-out geeks all sit down and become children again.

I will miss him. I never met the man, but I will miss him dearly.

May God comfort all his children in the McDuffie family for their loss today.


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