Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On a week of Death, part 1 - Non-fictional

Comic fans deal with death almost every week.  Luckily, most of the time they're transitory, temporary, and reversible; so much so that it's almost a running joke.  We have several examples of that this week, and they will be addressed shortly.  But alas, there have been two all too real examples this week, both deserving moments of respect and remembrance.

Dwayne McDuffie died this week, apparently from complications after surgery for a heart issue.  This has been met with disbelief and depression across fandom.  Dwayne created Damage Control, a series of hilarious minis from Marvel about the company that fixes New York City so quickly after the endless superhero battles and alien invasions.  It was an organization so well received, it was used as part of a major plot-point in a couple of the last Marvel summer events. 

He was instrumental in the creation of Milestone Comics, which brought us some of the most memorable new superhero characters of the 80s and 90s.  There was rarely a DC panel at a convention that someone didn't ask when they were returning. After their canceling, he went on to create an animated series based on Static, one of the characters from the run, launching him to a whole new audience. More on that in a moment.

His run on Fantastic Four was brief but memorable, mainly for creating an all new team and relegating the original members to supporting cast, and still being staggeringly entertaining. I still maintain that his one-shot "My Dinner With Doom" was one of the best bit of character work with the characters in a very long time, and it alone was what made me excited for his FF run.

He is likely responsible for introducing more people to the Justice League of America than any single issue of the comic since the birth of the direct market, possibly any year's worth of issues.  He wrote for, script edited, and produced the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series for Cartoon Network, as well as a number of their dvd releases, including All-Star Superman, released the day after he passed.

His run on the JLA comic should have been triumphant, but ended up nasty, brutish and short.  Hobbled by a number of events and crossovers he was alternately asked to incorporate into his narrative or step aside as others did fill-in issues, while his stories were exemplary, he never got the chance to get up to speed. As a result of the tumult of the various crossovers and events, he was more than once asked (at the eleventh hour) to rewrite stories, replacing one character for another, including one exchange where a character's living status had changed 180 degrees between writing and publishing. When he gave his fans a look behind the curtain at what he had been dealing with (stark honesty and forthrightness was one of his strong suits), he was hastily fired from the book, adding a number of stories to the Library of the Unwritten.

At the same time, many fans' requests were answered when the Milestone characters were announced to be returning to the DCU.  The return was handled...oddly.  Characters began reappearing in random books, Dwayne wrote a (very good) story in JLA that served to explain how the world of the Milestone Universe and the DCU merged, And Static (now wearing a version of his animated series costume) appeared in and joined the Teen Titans.  But after a brief period of use, the majority of the characters dropped to the bottom of the cauldron, leaving only Static.  Were I prone to conspiracy theories, I would opine that DC made a deal for the entire run of characters solely so they could get access to Static, easily the most well known character of them all.  Static is getting his own title shortly, but so is Xombi, one of the later additions to the lineup, which seems to (happily) throw a wrench in that theory. 

Perhaps of his connection to Milestone, Dwayne was ever being accused of doing things for politically correct reasons, and sometimes less polite choices of words.  His changes to the FF and JLA roster, most of which were dictated by Editorial, were seen as "forcing minority characters" upon us.  He would often have his fun with said people - when he posted a sketch of all black/minority characters in a JLA thread, it started a (you should pardon the expression) firestorm of vitriol across the Internet as small-minded fans thought up new ways to insult him.

While I often heard Dwayne speak of his adventures with various people and publishers, I don't recall him ever complaining.  He carried on, persevered, and ultimately succeeded.

His passing is tragic, and all too soon.

The same day, we learned of the passing of Nicholas Courtney, best know for playing Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who.  Much like many actors from the original run of the series, he kept in touch with Who-fen via the convention circuit, as well as various reprises of the character with the folks at Big Finish, producers of radio-style audio plays based on Who and several other popular series.  The Brigadier got a few mentions on the new series, ultimately returning to the role on the DW spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, starring fellow Who-lumna Elisabeth Sladen.  Posts and related tales paint him as a kind and gentle man, with nary a harsh word against him. 

In my mind, The Brigadier will ever remain on assignment in Peru.

1 comment:

  1. Your tribute to Dwayne really moved me. Truly, he died all too soon. At least he had so many great stories to remember him by. He'll be missed, to say the very least.