Equality Among Capes - Dwayne McDuffie (1962 - 2011)

Equality Among Capes - Dwayne McDuffie (1962 - 2011)

Equality Among Capes - Dwayne McDuffie (1962 - 2011)

This is an opinion piece I wrote for the newspaper I work for here in Ann Arbor, Mich. It's called The Washtenaw Voice, and I am a staff writer and reporter. This is just a little something I wrote for the late, great Dwayne McDuffie. It's kind of old news, but what can you do with a bi-weekly news cycle? Enjoy

Equality among capes -- Dwayne McDuffie (1962 - 2011)


Staff Writer

I vividly remember the first time I read Batman issue #306, released Dec. 1978 by Detective Comics (DC).

The title was Night of Siege, and the main villain was an African-American man called The Black Spider, an ex-junkie whose white girlfriend overdosed on heroin. Black Spider cleans up and decides that evil must be punished, so he starts knocking off big-time drug dealers in Gotham City, using his rage as a force of negativity.

You don’t need to be a social scientist to see the obvious racial stereotype, and I understand that much of our entertainment, fanciful or frightening, is a dark mirror of our own reality.

And even though it’s just comics, where the lines between good and evil are drawn thick in jet-black ink, the real-world problems of race and gender prejudice still found their way onto the colorful pages of a superhero strip.

Yet Dwayne McDuffie saw through all that crap.

The native Detroiter and University of Michigan alum knew that singling out minority characters, men and women who didn’t even exist, was still wrong.

Last month, on Feb. 21, McDuffie passed away due to complications during surgery. He was 49 years old.

I’d like to think that although he didn’t die violently or protest in the streets while he was alive, McDuffie will go down in history alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez. It’s a bold statement, but it needs to be said.

When McDuffie happened to land an editor position at Marvel, which was his first job in the comic industry no less, the writer became increasingly frustrated that all the minority characters were being pushed aside as fist-fodder for the heroes and the villains alike.

Instead of shutting up and taking it, McDuffie stood up from his desk and said enough was enough. He left Marvel and started Milestone Media, a comic book production company that specialized in mainstream minority supermen and women.

Now Static, one of McDuffie’s Milestone creations, is one of The Justice League’s more popular characters.

I thank the cosmos for bringing someone like him into our nerd universe and I weep for his family and the fans, like myself, who share their loss.

Because of McDuffie, when my kids read a comic book from the mid-1990’s, they won’t see a racist bastardization, they will see proud defenders of truth, of all races, genders and creeds.

Who knows, they could even be more popular than Batman.
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