The Dwayne McDuffie tribute Comic-Con International wouldn’t print

Earlier this year, comic and television creator Dwayne McDuffie passed away just after celebrating his 49th birthday. It was a tough loss for the industry and something I was very sad to hear personally. I went so far as to write a Newsarama column titled, Appreciate Creators Now. Unfortunately, a week before San Diego Comic-Con, some disappointing news has reached my ears. McDuffie’s good friend and frequent professional collaborator Matt Wayne has informed the community that his tribute to the late creator, set to run in the official Comic-Con program, will NOT run. Why? Read on.

Wayne posted on McDuffie’s website forums last Friday, “I’ve debated airing this in public for two months now. Comic-Con International is printing tributes to Dwayne in the San Diego Comic-Con program this year, and they approached me to write one. What I came back with was my sincere feelings, and something that I feel the industry needs to understand about itself: Dwayne should have been running the comics business, and instead he was barely tolerated.”

I assumed there would be a major tribute to the late writer at SDCC but I didn’t expect any of it to be censored. Wayne continues, “I ran my tribute past Dwayne’s wife before I sent it, and she dubbed it ‘perfect.’ But the people at Comic-Con asked me to change it, and I decided to just let it go. I’m worried that Dwayne is going to be the industry’s ‘proof’ that we’re all post-racial and chummy, now that they can’t be embarrassed into hiring him anymore, and I don’t want to contribute to that absurd but inevitable narrative.”

The following is Wayne’s unedited tribute to McDuffie:

I miss Dwayne every day. It’s still inconceivable that he isn’t around to appreciate the world with me.

When my son gets another baby tooth, or I see a new episode of Doctor Who, I still have the urge to call him. Given the chance, I’ll talk about my late friend for hours at a time. I find myself making lists of McDuffie facts—not wanting to forget any more than I already have. And one of the things I’ve thought about most while mourning him was his long struggle for recognition from the comics industry.

Dwayne loved comics, both the superhero and non-superhero varieties, long before he made them for a living, and he continued to love them till the end. Our last conversation was about the Masterpiece Comics collection I’d given him for his birthday, which includes a pastiche of his beloved Little Lulu.

That said, I don’t know that the comics business loved him back.

Here’s a trivia question for you: Aside from the titles he published himself, what was Dwayne’s first monthly comics writing assignment? Believe it or not, that was Justice League of America in 2007. “But what about Deathlok,” you ask? Sorry, that was co-written with the redoubtable Greg Wright. “Fantastic Four?” Nope, it wasn’t open-ended. Dwayne knew that was a finite assignment when he took it. “X-O Manowar?” “Firestorm?” Same deal.

The majors never appreciated Dwayne’s writing enough to grant him a steady job of it. Not until there had been a Static cartoon, and the Justice League cartoon. And Beyond! And Fantastic Four. And Milestone, of course. By the time he landed that regular monthly, Dwayne was already in the history books of two media.

Now, naming no names, think of how many not-so-good writers you’ve seen blunder from one long-term monthly comic assignment to another. (And sure, who qualifies as a hack is subjective. You and I might not be thinking of the same names.) Each of those writers got more of a shot than Dwayne did.

We all know how good he was. And again, what Dwayne made of such opportunity as he did get is now a matter of history. He always counted a great number of People Who Oughtta Know among his fans, including Comic-Con International, the ones who give out Inkpot Awards.

Still, there’s no question in my mind that, given the finite length of Dwayne’s career, he would have been better off both financially and creatively to have never worked in comics at all, and gone straight into animation instead.

But that’s not how love works, is it?

Matt Wayne

It upsets me that they chose to withhold that heartfelt, and truthful, piece of writing and I wanted to help spread it around by sharing it here.

13 Responses to “The Dwayne McDuffie tribute Comic-Con International wouldn’t print”

  1. STRYDENT says:

    I can’t believe I missed this.
    As for the fact that this tribute was denied,It doesn’t surprise me.
    Just as people passed over this article here, most people these days seem to shrink at the thought of actually discussing inequality or even worse RACIALLY FOCUSED inequality, ESPECIALLY in comics. It doesn’t seem to matter that for the better part of the last 70 years the realm of mainstream comics has been dominated by white, male artists and writers with little to no room for minorities and women, with very few exceptions, until recently.
    Despite what soooo many people like to say, people of all types create all kinds of things and comics are definitely one of those things.
    I know you know this. It’s just that sooo many seem not to be able process that info these days.
    The fact remains, talent is talent…plain and simple.
    Mr. McDuffie was a shining example of that.
    He made the characters we all loved feel like full on REAL people.
    He added a sense of “Seeing in from the outside” when dealing with superheroes, complete with in jokes and nods to their histories presented many times as simple exchanges between friends or enemies.
    There was a lot of LOVE in his work too.
    Not just the basic fanboy love we always see these days but the kind of love that stems from a life-long investment in how all these characters lives work and how they fit in, in the grand scheme of things.
    Justice League Unlimited was a great example of how his writing style translated from comics to screen.
    I sincerely hope that more people, younger comic fans, learn more and more about him and properly hold his name up there with the greats.
    He deserves it.

  2. Ian says:

    You know, taken in aggregate, I've disliked more of McDuffie's work (his animated output) than I'd liked (Static, Firestorm); that said, I feel his voice has been a vital one in this past two decades, and hearing that it was not always appreciated is equal parts unsurprising (I recall reading stories about the particular brand of executive meddling he had to deal with as the writer of the Justice League book) and yet deeply distressing.

  3. nilskidoo says:

    And he created Damage Control with Ernie Colon!
    McDuffie's story actually played a big part in my no longer doing reviews or interviews or playing journalist. The industry is just too flawed.

  4. dayraven says:

    guy's on the money, SDCC is an abomination these days. it's a pop culture vehicle, not a comic book convention. it's where our beloved medium goes for a thorough rogering out behind the dumpster by some studio assholes before returning to it's position in the burlesque limelight to strut for crooning fanboys. it doesn't surprise me that they don't want a truthful eulogy to an industry great. they want that walton mountain long goodnight so we can all feel ok when they hand jon favreau the keys to the last creative human endeavor. hollywood can have comic con, dwayne's work lives for true fans to see/read regardless of their efforts to diminish it's weight or prowess. what they haven't realized yet, and hopefully never will, is that even in the raping, they're planting the seeds of strife and tribulation that lead to great storycraft. if the comic industry at large didn't struggle, it wouldn't have the heart and spirit we cherish so.

  5. PKP says:

    My 7 yr old daughter and I are just discovering the JLU animated series. I'm heartbroken that a talent like Dwayne McDuffie's is gone, but grateful his brilliant storytelling survives. That's appalling that SDCC would try to censor his friend's tribute to him.

  6. --Lee says:

    Like Amber, I can't understand what is so upsetting about the piece. Dwayne McDuffie was clearly one of the best writers in the industry and he equally clearly didn't get the respect he deserved, in part because of his race.

    Whatever the reason, though, I'm selfishly bummed that there aren't more McDuffie comics that I haven't read to go back and pick up. The industry cheated all of us.

  7. Adam Lipkin says:

    If I'd ever cared about CCI, that pretty much ended the second I read Matt's post last night. Unbelievable.

  8. Raf says:

    I Used to work in the Trade show industry. I know the types of people who Run Shows like SDCC. They aren't comic or entertainment industry people. They're Sales(wo)men and their egos are enough to fill up many many stadiums.

    They most likely wanted to censor it for fear of pissing off the major exhibitors. They chose to censor out of ignorance and fear. Which makes it even worse. They let business get in the way of honoring a great talent.

    and it's disgusting

  9. brian tudor says:

    That stinks! Dwayne McDuffie was always a fresh voice in comics. Matt Wayne is right about the "good old boy" network in the comic book industry. I find it very very sad Dwayne struggled for "big" book success when clowns like Judd Winick continue to be handed title after title where nothing changes but the artist.

    The folks at Comic-Con should feel ashamed for trying to censor a very real, very authentic piece about one of comic book history's most underutilized and underrated creators.

  10. Guy Tetro says:

    I met McDuffie way back when he was starting up Milestone comics and he was doing a signing for the launch of the company at a comic book store I was the Assistant Manager of. He was a really nice and down to earth guy and his books were alive. Many years later, I grew to love his work even more, especially his work on Justice League Unlimited which made me love heroes I had no interest in before. I also noticed that the episodes he wrote were my favorite ones….needless to say, the comic industry lost an amazing talent. The guy knew what makes a super hero tick. I think his struggles in the industry made his work that much better…it pushed him to a level of brilliance you rarely see in a industry filled with crappy gimmicks, relaunches, re-imaged, holographic multi-covered comics. McDuffie only needed his imagination and his stories came to life and made you want to read them because they were just that good. Is it wrong for his tribute to be censored by Comic-Con? Sure it is. But understand, Comic-Con is a con about what is wrong with the comic industry….the greed. Its a convention of gimmicks and special collectors covers. A con of expense and an industry of corporate suits who want to squeeze what is left from the medium into relaunches and killing off loved characters to sell a few issues….it represents everything that is wrong with the industry, so of course they don't want to expose the hardships McDuffie suffered at their expense…all they are concerned with is selling those new number ones….

  11. Alan Kistler says:

    Dwayne and I talked about some of what was mentioned here just a week before he died. It hurts me greatly that many people don't realize or dismiss how far we have to go. He spoke of the "rule of three" in media of how many minority characters a show or book was allowed to have before it became a "black show" or a "minority team" as far as producers and editors were concerned. Looking at some of the products out there, it really seems to apply and that's frightening. I wish more people listened to him. It's terrible that folks continue to find ways to not listen even after he's gone.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Dwayne McDuffie was a visionary and one of the most talented artists i have ever seen. That fact that SDCC is censoring this shows that they have no respect and should be ashame of themselves.

  13. Amber Love says:

    The sheer fact that Dwayne's widow was 100% in favor of the piece shows that something is wrong in their desire to want it censored. I had read it and didn't see anything that could be censored. Maybe that's just me.