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Black Superhero Month: Dwayne McDuffie

February 22, 2011

I have been talking a lot this month about afros, jive, Black This and Black That. And you have probably been either getting the joke or wondering what the hell I’ve been saying, because what I’ve been working towards is the big shift in how the comics industry treats black characters. Tokenism ended — it was no longer an editorial requirement to have At Least One Black Guy on the team, Unless You Had an Hispanic. Slowly, gradually, black characters could just be who they were.

One of the men who made that happen was Dwayne McDuffie. And today he died.

Dwayne was a quiet writer who scored big with the creation of the Milestone Universe, a DC imprint based on African-American characters. Short-lived, it gave us Static, which became a cartoon series called Static Shock and recently saw the characters Dwayne led become part of the DC universe proper. And not one of them has a name starting with “Black.”

But don’t think he focused entirely on black characters. He wrote everybody, and everything, and he did it the way I wish I could have: smart, clean, no gimmicks. But as he was accepting offers to write The Fantastic Four or script an animated movie, he was offering up a sensibility that jumped over concepts of “pan-racial” and just made sense.

I write a lot about people in costumes, people with superpowers. Dwayne McDuffie had no cape, no powers … but he was a real superhero.

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