This past Monday, the comic book, animation and entertainment worlds lost one of its legends with the passing of writer/producer Dwayne McDuffie. A true trailblazer, he helped redefine the image of African Americans through his multicultural characters and brands, which inspired a new generation of comic book writers, animators, illustrators and fans. Also, an entrepreneur, McDuffie—along with Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Black Enterprise’s own Derek T. Dingle—founded Milestone Media, Inc., the nation’s largest Black-owned comic book company.
Despite his passing, McDuffie will live on in the hearts of his family and friends, but also through his impactful work. In continued memory of the fallen artist, BlackEnterprise.com pulled together a collection of some of McDuffie’s most popular characters to illustrate why he’ll always be our superhero.
When Blood Syndicate #1 launched in February 1993, it was considered the most controversial of Milestone’s core titles, depicting a group of outcast street gang members who gained super powers when they were sprayed with radioactive gas during a police action. Tough and gritty, its members learned the importance of brotherhood by being forced to work together. Co-creator McDuffie wrote the first issue, giving these gang members depth, humanity and plenty of attitude.
Worlds Collide was a major event in the comic book history: a multi-part crossover between Milestone’s core characters—Icon, Hardware, Blood Syndicate and Static—and the Superman universe of characters. The best-selling crossover was an example of the value of the unique distribution, marketing and publishing agreement between Milestone Media and DC. Milestone’s Editor-In-Chief McDuffie was key in driving the creative process of this massive undertaking.
Hardware # 1 was the first title from Milestone and was written and illustrated by Milestone co-founders McDuffie and Cowan, respectively. The character was Curtis Metcalfe, a brilliant African American inventor who developed the high-tech “Hardware Shell” to fight crime in the urban hub of Dakota. Milestone’s partners and staff always suspected that Hardware was McDuffie’s alter ego.
Icon #1 was also co-created and written by McDuffie and illustrated by M.D. Bright. Icon, the hero of Dakota, was groundbreaking on a number of levels: Icon’s alter ego was Augustus Freeman IV, a conservative Republican, and his sidekick, Rocket, would eventually become the first teenage mother to fight crime. The two challenged each other to use their intellect and powers to empower themselves while improving their community.
When Milestone launched the first four titles—Hardware, Blood Syndicate, Icon and Static—all were polybagged with Skybox International trading cards of each character. McDuffie and Cowan helped oversee the production of the trading cards that was launched during the spring of 1993. It would become the first set of trading cards from a comic book line produced and owned by African Americans.
Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool is a trade paperback that includes the origin of Static, a geeky teenager Virgil Hawkins who gains electro-magnetic powers and must manage his life at school and home while he fights crime. McDuffie co-created and wrote the Static comic book and later became writer and story editor for the Static Shock animated series that premiered on the WB Kids network and ran four seasons.
The marketing poster promoting the date of the revolution in comic books: 2-23-93. McDuffie wrote a 400-plus page bible that gave every detail of the Milestone characters and the city of Dakota. As Editor-In-Chief, he would oversee the production of more than 300 comics.
A copy of Static #1 platinum edition. Although nerdy Virgil Hawkins could transform into the a wisecracking crusader in a city infested with superhuman crime, he discovered that playing hero was not a game. This collector’s edition is still highly sought by comic book fans, young and old.
Another collector’s item is the Icon & Rocket trading card. It was polybagged with the first issue of Icon. The conservative crime fighter quickly drew fans, ranging from entertainment legend Quincy Jones to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Pencils of Blood Syndicate by Cowan that appeared on the April 1993 edition of DC’s Coming Comics. The headline boldly proclaimed: MILESTONE – Breaking New Ground.