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Remembering Dwayne McDuffie, Creator of Static Shock and Founding Member of Milestone Media

By Shawn DePasquale

Remembering Dwayne McDuffie, Creator of Static Shock and Founding Member of Milestone Media

Milestone Media, which will be making a comeback in 2018, was founded in 1993 by a veritable super group of African-American writers and artists. Denys Cowan and Derek T. Dingle were childhood friends who met Michael Davis and Dwayne McDuffie later in life. The four would sit around in the late '80s and lament that minorities were underrepresented in the comics industry. Milestone was their attempt to address that racial disparity. McDuffie, the creator of Static Shock who passed away unexpectedly in 2011,  was the imprint's editor-in-chief.  

“Dwayne’s a genius,” Cowan once said of his co-founder and friend. 

Prior to his time at Milestone Media, the Detroit native worked as an editor for Marvel comics in the late ‘80s. His one of his most notable contribution at the time was the short-lived fan favorite series Damage Control, which he co-created with artist Ernie Colon. But eventually, he left his editorial gig to pursue life as a fulltime writer and continue to advocate for diversity in comics. McDuffie initially jumped at the idea of joining Milestone because he wanted to tell stories about characters he could relate to with complete creative control.

“For me, the issue was definitely creative control of the character,” he told Wizard back in 1993. “I didn’t want to get into a situation where I created something that was very close to me, gave it to the Big Two, and have some editor come along in a year and a half and tell me, ‘No, that’s not what this character is about. You’re wrong -- don’t do it that way.’”

The creator held strongly to the belief that, because they were so few and far between, when minority characters did show up in comics they unfairly became representations of their whole race or sex. “You know, Superman isn't all white people and neither is Lex Luthor,” McDuffie explained in Les Daniels’ 1995 book, DC Comics: Sixty Years Of The World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. “We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn't do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that's wider than the world we've seen before.”

Static, perhaps his best known creation, debuted in 1993 as one of Milestone’s flagship titles, and would later become the star of his own animated TV series, Static Shock, which enjoyed a four season run and opened the door for a career of writing and producing animation. McDuffie had a hand in Ben 10: Alien Force, Justice League Unlimited, and several DC animated films.

The resurgence of Milestone and a sweeping interest in black superheros would most likely please McDuffie were he still alive today. He was a champion for diversity in comics and animation and inspired many young black creators to tell their own stories. His advocacy for diversification is honored today by the annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics ensuring that even though he is gone, his vision for a multicultural comic book landscape will live on.

IMAGES: Warner Brothers, Marvel, Youtube/The Dwayne McDuffie Fund

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