Comic book and cartoon writer, editor, publisher, producer
When Dwayne McDuffie was in high school, he wrote a film as a class project. Hearing his classmates laugh appreciatively as they watched his Super-8 film was all the encouragement McDuffie needed to launch him on a career path that led first to film school, then to becoming one of the most prolific and inventive writers in the comic book industry. Along with penning fresh and absorbing storylines for familiar comic characters from Spiderman to the Fantastic Four, McDuffie created his own highly original superheroes who would soon become classics in their own right.
Painfully aware of the absence of black faces and African-American stories in the world of U.S. comics, McDuffie joined forces in the early 1990s with a comic artist and a business expert to publish a more diverse line of comic books. Milestone Media, the company they formed, introduced a generation of children of color to a wide variety of superheroes who looked like them. After several years of publishing comics, McDuffie and Milestone both expanded their creative energies into television, creating shows that, like their heroes, smashed stereotypes and demolished prejudice with jaunty humor and a passion for justice.
Enjoyed Entertaining People
Dwayne Glenn McDuffie was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 20, 1962, the son of Edna Earle Hawkins Gardner and Leroy McDuffie. He attended the Roeper School, a school for gifted children in the nearby Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. It was while he was attending high school at Roeper that McDuffie wrote a film for a class assignment and learned the satisfaction of entertaining an audience. After graduating from high school during the late 1970s, he earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Michigan in 1983, then moved to New York to attend New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Though he did not graduate from the program, he learned many elements of visual storytelling and script production that would make him a skilled comic book writer.
While attending NYU in 1985 and 1986, McDuffie worked as a resident advisor for other students. In 1987, he was hired as copy editor for Investment Dealers Digest, a New York-based financial journal. After a short time there, he took a job as a special projects editor for Marvel Comics. Founded in 1939, Marvel was first known as Timely Publications, then Atlas, before taking its present name. As Marvel Comics, the company launched such popular comics as Spiderman, Daredevil, and The Fantastic Four. McDuffie began writing for Marvel, and soon found that comic writing was not so different from writing for films, since his stories were not narrated as in a novel, but "acted" by the drawn characters on the page. He loved the drama, the magic, and the endless possibilities of the comic universe, where superpowers were commonplace, and the characters had long, complex, and interconnected histories.
McDuffie had worked for Marvel for two years when he came up with an innovative idea for his own comic series. Comic fans are often exacting critics, and they demand that writers remain consistent to reality, as it exists within the comic universe. Keeping this in mind, McDuffie became intrigued with the question of who cleaned up the mess when superheroes battled supervillains, leaving skyscrapers in ruins and city streets full of rubble. Perhaps inspired by generations of African Americans who had worked behind the scenes cleaning other people's messes, he invented a comic corporation called Damage Control. Part construction company, part engineering firm, and part insurance brokerage, Damage Control specializes in repairing the destruction caused when superpowers collide. The first Damage Control story appeared in a 1989 anthology comic titled, Marvel Comics Presents. The concept was immediately popular with readers and soon Damage Control had top billing in its own comic mini-series. Marvel published three different Damage Control mini series before ending the title in 1991. However, Damage Control executives still turn up occasionally as bit players in other Marvel stories.
Founded Milestone Media
In 1990, McDuffie left Marvel to work independently as a freelance comic writer. While working on stories for a variety of publishers, including Marvel, Valiant, and Harvey, he was hatching another bold idea. In 1992 he united with two comic artists, Denys Cowan and Michael Davis, and an expert in business, Derek T. Dingle, to found Milestone Media, a publishing company devoted to promoting diversity in comics. The owners of Milestone made a publishing agreement with comic giant DC Comics, gaining DC's wide distribution while keeping creative control and copyright ownership of all Milestone titles.
While still at Marvel, McDuffie had introduced several African-American characters into the Marvel universe, including Deathlok, the only black superhero at the time who had his own comic title. As editor in chief of Milestone, he created many memorable black superheroes, among them Static and Icon. Icon comics highlight the adventures of an extra-terrestrial who takes on the form of a black slave after his spacecraft crashes on earth. Surviving through many human generations, Icon becomes a superhero whose secret identity is Augustus Freeman IV, a conservative lawyer. Static is the superhero alter ego of Virgil Hawkins, a geeky high school student who, after being exposed to toxic chemicals, realizes he can control and throw static electricity.
Static comics proved so popular with readers that the WB network approached McDuffie and Milestone about creating an animated series based on Static's adventures. The resulting program, Static Shock, which debuted in 2000, aired 52 episodes and was one of WB's top Saturday morning cartoons for two seasons. After its initial run, the program was syndicated on the Cartoon Network, where it again gained high ratings. Static Shock was nominated for Emmy awards, Writer's Guild Awards, and Eisner Awards, and won McDuffie the prestigious Humanitas Award for an episode titled "Jimmy," condemning violence and the use of guns.
Working on Static Shock, McDuffie found that he enjoyed writing for television. He worked on other programs, bringing his originality and sense of fun to the classic cartoon shows, Justice League, Teen Titans, and What's New, Scooby-Doo? McDuffie's solid writing and his respect for both viewers and subject matter have drawn strong praise from both critics and fans. As Ayize Jama-Everett says on the Code Z Web site, "You can't watch a Dwayne McDuffie cartoon and think you're watching fluff. There isn't a character that he's involved with that doesn't have some compelling motivation. These aren't animated figures you're watching, they're people struggling with feelings and emotions."
In 1997 Milestone Media dropped its comic publishing division to devote itself to its television productions. In 2006, the company signed a contract with the Black Entertainment Television to form a BET animation department. The new department is slated to debut the network's first animated series in 2007, an adult action-adventure cartoon titled Hannibal the Conqueror.
At a Glance …
Born Dwayne Glenn McDuffie on February 20, 1962, in Detroit, MI; married Patricia Younger, 1990; children: Angel, Avshalom. Education: University of Michigan, BA, 1983; attended New York University, Tisch School of the Arts.
Career: Marvel Comics, special projects editor, 1987-90; Harvey Comics, consultant, 1990; Milestone Media Inc, editor-in-chief, 1991-97; Static Shock, writer, story editor, 2000; Justice League, producer, 2001, editor, 2001, writer, 2002-06, story editor 2003-04; Teen Titans, writer, 2003; What's New, Scooby-Doo? writer, 2002.
Selected awards: Humanitas Prize, 2003; 11 Parents' Choice Awards.
McDuffie continues to be one of the most prolific writers in the world of comics and animation. In 2006, he returned to Marvel to work on a special edition comic of the classic Fantastic Four, and in 2007 he began writing for the DC comic Firestorm. Meanwhile, he continues to work on animated television programs, including an update of a Cartoon Network classic Ben 10, about a youth who discovers an alien device that allows him to become ten different superheroes, as well as a fresh take on the Justice League. One of the most important skills McDuffie brings to his work is his ability to add depth and complexity to bring a fresh approach to familiar characters and stories. Just the way a writer of more "serious" literature does, he offers both readers and viewers the opportunity to find their own experience in the lives of his characters, while at the same time providing escape, fun, and fantasy.
Damage Control, Marvel Comics.
Deathlok, Marvel Comics.
Double Dragon, Marvel Comics.
Fantastic Four Special, Marvel Comics.
Giant Man, Marvel Comics.
Hellraiser, Marvel Comics.
Iron Man, Marvel Comics.
Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Comics.
Blood Syndicate, Milestone Comics.
Hardware, Milestone Comics.
Icon, Milestone Comics.
Milestone Ultimate, Milestone Comics.
Shadow Cabinet, Milestone Comics.
Static, Milestone Comics.
Static Shock, Milestone Comics.
Worlds Collide, Milestone Comics.
Firestorm, DC Comics.
Fantastic Four, DC Comics.
Television, writer, editor, producer
Static Shock, 2000.
Justice League, 2001-.
Teen Titans, 2003.
What's New, Scooby-Doo? 2002.
Black Enterprise, November 1994, pp. 81-6.
Booklist, March 15, 2005, pp. 1302-4.
New York Times, October 8, 1989, p. 46.
Television Week, August 14, 2006, p. 9.
"Breaking In: Dwayne McDuffie on a Life in Comics and Animation," Code Z,www.codezonline.com/featurearticle/ (June 29, 2007).
"Damage Control," Don Markstein's Toonpedia,www.toonopedia.com/dcontrol.htm (June 29, 2007).
"Dwayne Glenn McDuffie," Biography Resource Center,http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC (June 29, 2007).
Dwayne McDuffie,www.dwaynemcduffie.com (June 29, 2007).
"Dwayne McDuffie," Internet Movie Database,www.imdb.com/name/nm0568336/ (June 29, 2007).
"Dwayne McDuffie on the Balance of Justice and Injustice," Comic Book Resources,www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=10988 (June 29, 2007).
"Getting The FF Off Their Mcduffs," Wizard Entertainment,www.wizarduniverse.com/magazine/wizard/003231572.cfm (June 29, 2007).
"Pro File: Dwayne McDuffie," Mac.com,http://web.mac.com/dmcduffie/iWeb/Site/Marvel%20Pro%20File_files/Image37.png (June 29, 2007).
"Wordballoon: Dwayne McDuffie, Justified," Digg,http://digg.com/podcasts/wordballoon_the_comic_creators_interview_show/152206 (June 29, 2007).
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