Ever since hearing about your death, I can’t help but think what a huge loss the comic book and pop culture world has suffered. No really, I think it’s no understatement that the news of your death is leaving a giant hole in the comic book world, and since the announcement of your death my mind has shifted from “Oh that’s pretty sad… wait… man that sucks… wait… wow, that’s shitty… oh god… we’re fucked.” Because let’s face it when was the last time we had someone like Dwayne McDuffie say “Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if minorities weren’t cliches and stereotypes?” And yes, wouldn’t it be amazing if our minority heroes weren’t secondary sidekicks or poorly promoted rehashes of the same old formula we’ve seen day in and day out? When was the last time anyone in comic books got the attention Superman did? Hell, DC and Marvel took lengths to remedy the situations turning their superheroes in anime clones in the late nineties with the anime boom. And yes, Lois Lane looked awfully J.Lo-ish during the run of “All Star Superman,” but at the end of the day, they were still just Caucasian characters. No offense to Caucasian readers, but man, you have no idea how good you have it. You have all the major icons.
You have the amazing superheroes, and the minorities among us have very little. Sure there’s a rich tapestry of minority superheroes out there but when was the last time you heard anyone speak of Zorro and or Hardware in the same tone as Spider-Man or Iron Man? I mean let’s tally up shall we? You have Iron Man, Thor, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and what do we have? Very little, my friends. Very little. But as I grew up and became a comic book collector and reader I generally accepted that all of my superheroes were white and basically blondes with middle class families while the black and Hispanic superheroes were generally just second stringers generally laughed at and reduced to dumb cliches. And in a sense it made me kind of annoyed to be Hispanic. But that was wrong. Especially when you consider most of the superhero origins could be easily fixed to a minority sub-set. I mean wouldn’t it be more believable if Matt Murdock were a young Hispanic man? Wouldn’t Spider-Man be more suitable as an Asian American or Pakistani? Oh who knows?
I’m just thinking out loud, for all I know I’m stereotyping. You can never tell with the PC Police these days. The simple fact remains, though, that we don’t have the best superheroes, and the recent attempts to piggyback on popular superheroes is not my favorite trend. I like the Black Panther, I don’t think he had to become Daredevil. And I mean African American Nick Fury is fine, but I like Nick Fury as a grizzled Caucasian male, I just do. And while I appreciated Donald Glover’s approach to play a new Spider-Man for a new age, I would have rather he not destroy the dynamic and create his own superhero film. But then we go back to… what studio would want to do that? Will Smith had “Hancock” and that was made because he’s Will Smith.
Dwayne McDuffie thought outside the box, he thought why couldn’t we have our own superheroes with our own universe and lo and behold Milestone was born. And it was not generally accepted, in spite of being praised as a–pardon the pun–milestone because DC just had better promotion than Milestone did. Let’s face it. But at least we had “Static Shock.” Or as the comics defined him: “Static.” I mean it with the utmost sincerity when I say that “Static Shock” was one of the most entertaining animated series of the past twenty years. I watched the whole run and had a blast with it.
And it’s not an understatement to say that the show pretty much was the only really good animated show based around a minority superhero. Sure, in its final season it jumped the shark, but I was happy it did. That meant it was on for too long. And how many shows about a black superhero are on for too long? That was because of McDuffie. And, while I think we have McDuffie to thank for that, I was more than happy to see Static Shock embraced among the fold of the DC Animated Universe not only hosting his own guest spot fighting alongside the Justice League, but also being included in a two part episode for the McDuffie fueled “Justice League Unlimited” where Static played a major role and was initiated in to the fold.
And with the Bruce Timm DCAU, Static Shock took the dirt nap as well and is still waiting for the another creator to re-define him like Superman and Batman have constantly been re-defined since Timm retired his own universe. The character is there, ripe for taking. There are dozens of superheroes out there looking for their own trails in to iconic status. I for one would love to re-invent Daredevil as a Puerto Rican, and I would kill to write a mini-series for Spyke from “X-Men: Evolution.” But alas, pipe dreams. Pipe dreams and tall wishes. In spite of that, much good came out of McDuffie’s work and morbid as it may sound people will learn from his untimely death.
From the ashes of the label we got Dwayne McDuffie who fueled some of the best animation of all time and inspired legions of youths not only of the African American persuasion but of the Hispanic persuasion. Currently, I’m writing a novel setting down on two Hispanic heroes I want to desperately get published and I expect a hard time for it. But McDuffie will always be that inspiration within me to keep it going and keep on second guessing myself. Hey… instead of making this character Irish… why not Chinese? Instead of making the villain Italian… why not Native American? Why not a different race? Variety is the spice of life, and McDuffie strived in giving people like me someone to look up to beyond the blue eyes, blond hair, and upper class sector and for that I’ll always be thankful for Dwayne McDuffie.
Thank you sir, thank you for challenging the conventions of the superhero. Rest in peace. We’ll take it from here.