Felix Vasquez Jr.’s F-Bombs: R.I.P. Dwayne McDuffie


Dear Dwayne McDuffie,

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.

Author: Felix Vasquez Jr.

Felix Vasquez Jr. is a born and raised Bronxite from the Big Apple who has written for almost twenty years. He's written for websites like Film Threat, Superman Homepage, and is currently running his own indie movie review website now going on almost ten years. He is a major Superman fan and film geek, and lives on a steady appetite of classic rock, Steve McQueen, Horror movies, Grindhouse fare and gorgeous women.
  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

    Amen Borther! AMEN!!!
    For those who don’t know of him, McDuffie has been in the comics business for 20+ years and has written for both Marvel and DC, most recently achieving a long time dream of his by writing “Fantastic Four” during the aftermath of “Civil War” and bringing Storm and Black Panther in to replace Reed and Sue Richards. He also recently helped relaunch “Justice League of America,” bringing in character he helped make relevant on TV like Vixen, and Hawkgirl, and made people not only care about but like the John Stewart GL.
    During the 90’s McDuffie created Milestone Comics, a DC imprint with a universe of culturally diverse heroes, including Static. Milestone Comics went under during the collapse of the industry that nearly destroyed Marvel as well. But a few years later Static was reborn for television in “Static Shock,” which went on to earn McDuffie two Emmys, and as Felix stated was one of the best animated shows in decades and I firmly hold it up there with “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League,” and others. He continued to write for animation where he worked on “Justice League” and it’s follow up “Justice League Unlimited.” He also wrote for “Teen Titans,” and “Ben 10.” As “JLU” wound down DC began working on their animated films and McDuffie was a major part of that. “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” was based on a script written by McDuffie for the tv show and then tweaked by him for the movie, and his latest and last effort was adapting Grant Morrison’s much loved “All*Star Superman,” which was released Tuesday February, 22 and I will be reviewing this weekend. Morrison has stated he was very happy with McDuffie’s work on the piece, and so his last contribution to us is bitter sweet.

    For an aspiring comicbook writer this is very sad news as we are losing a very prolific writer and personality. For an aspiring comic writer of color it is doubly sad to lose one of the few prominent writers of color and a game changer in that community since there are so few. He was truly an inspiration to me and others who shared a dream. R.I.P. Dwayne McDuffie you will be missed.

  • Ulik

    So well said by Mr. Vasquez and Dedpool. This is so weird and untimely. Somebody else has to take the reins before they start again with the stereotyping and other BS that has gone on. McDuffie’s writing is phenomenal and he gives ever character equal importance regardless of race. He very well could have been on his way to live action writing involvement if he hadn’t already, beyond my knowledge. A Static Shock live action movie would rock So extremely hard and without Mcduffie behind that, I don’t know if I’d ever want to see it happen without him. Damn!

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

      I want to see one BECAUSE he’s gone. I mean I wanted one anyway but now even more so. BrandonT. Jackson As Virgil Hawkins!! And i’m gonna have a heavy heart watching “All*Star Superman.”

      • Ulik

        I know, I’m just afraid that they wouldn’t do it justice and give it the utmost respect that it would deserve.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

      I want to see one BECAUSE he’s gone. I mean I wanted one anyway but now even more so. BrandonT. Jackson As Virgil Hawkins!! And i’m gonna have a heavy heart watching “All*Star Superman.”

  • Anonymous

    This is ridiculous! How does this happen to a man who co-created the Milestone Universe. I will miss the fact that he gave pushes to several underrated characters who weren’t white and made us care again. Now what do we do? No Priest and now no McDuffie! Is there any one in the wings of color willing to take on the task of making Marvel and DC relevant among minorities of all colors? RIP McDuffie.

  • Db_68_1

    extremely eloquently written. i literally could not have said any of that better.