Earlier this year, comic and television creator Dwayne McDuffie passed away just after celebrating his 49th birthday. It was a tough loss for the industry and something I was very sad to hear personally. I went so far as to write a Newsarama column titled, Appreciate Creators Now. Unfortunately, a week before San Diego Comic-Con, some disappointing news has reached my ears. McDuffie's good friend and frequent professional collaborator Matt Wayne has informed the community that his tribute to the late creator, set to run in the official Comic-Con program, will NOT run. Why? Read on.
Wayne posted on McDuffie's website forums last Friday, "I've debated airing this in public for two months now. Comic-Con International is printing tributes to Dwayne in the San Diego Comic-Con program this year, and they approached me to write one. What I came back with was my sincere feelings, and something that I feel the industry needs to understand about itself: Dwayne should have been running the comics business, and instead he was barely tolerated."
I assumed there would be a major tribute to the late writer at SDCC but I didn't expect any of it to be censored. Wayne continues, "I ran my tribute past Dwayne's wife before I sent it, and she dubbed it 'perfect.' But the people at Comic-Con asked me to change it, and I decided to just let it go. I'm worried that Dwayne is going to be the industry's 'proof' that we're all post-racial and chummy, now that they can't be embarrassed into hiring him anymore, and I don't want to contribute to that absurd but inevitable narrative."
The following is Wayne's unedited tribute to McDuffie:
I miss Dwayne every day. It’s still inconceivable that he isn’t around to appreciate the world with me.
When my son gets another baby tooth, or I see a new episode of Doctor Who, I still have the urge to call him. Given the chance, I’ll talk about my late friend for hours at a time. I find myself making lists of McDuffie facts—not wanting to forget any more than I already have. And one of the things I’ve thought about most while mourning him was his long struggle for recognition from the comics industry.
Dwayne loved comics, both the superhero and non-superhero varieties, long before he made them for a living, and he continued to love them till the end. Our last conversation was about the Masterpiece Comics collection I’d given him for his birthday, which includes a pastiche of his beloved Little Lulu.
That said, I don’t know that the comics business loved him back.
Here’s a trivia question for you: Aside from the titles he published himself, what was Dwayne’s first monthly comics writing assignment? Believe it or not, that was Justice League of America in 2007. “But what about Deathlok,” you ask? Sorry, that was co-written with the redoubtable Greg Wright. “Fantastic Four?” Nope, it wasn’t open-ended. Dwayne knew that was a finite assignment when he took it. “X-O Manowar?” “Firestorm?” Same deal.
The majors never appreciated Dwayne’s writing enough to grant him a steady job of it. Not until there had been a Static cartoon, and the Justice League cartoon. And Beyond! And Fantastic Four. And Milestone, of course. By the time he landed that regular monthly, Dwayne was already in the history books of two media.
Now, naming no names, think of how many not-so-good writers you’ve seen blunder from one long-term monthly comic assignment to another. (And sure, who qualifies as a hack is subjective. You and I might not be thinking of the same names.) Each of those writers got more of a shot than Dwayne did.
We all know how good he was. And again, what Dwayne made of such opportunity as he did get is now a matter of history. He always counted a great number of People Who Oughtta Know among his fans, including Comic-Con International, the ones who give out Inkpot Awards.
Still, there’s no question in my mind that, given the finite length of Dwayne’s career, he would have been better off both financially and creatively to have never worked in comics at all, and gone straight into animation instead.
But that’s not how love works, is it?
It upsets me that they chose to withhold that heartfelt, and truthful, piece of writing and I wanted to help spread it around by sharing it here.