Only the good die young — and the untimely death of 49-year-old comic book and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie is as much proof as we'll ever need. Cats don't come much cooler than McDuffie: He's calm. He's smooth. He's brooding. But he's actually stoked. He started at Marvel, where his vintage 1980s “Pro file” claimed that deep down, I'm every bit as terrifying as I look, and entrepreneured his way through the industry, growing Milestone Media from scratch and dreaming up characters like Static, Icon and Xombie.
McDuffie died from “emergency heart surgery” complications on Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times. But despite his apparent health problems, he was out and about L.A. in the days that would lead up to his death (which took place at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank), promoting his two newest projects:
On February 18, according to Newsarama, he sat on a Q&A panel for “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” — a fantastical who's who of villains and sidekicks and savers of the modern world. (By the way: Newsarama notes that McDuffie dropped the bomb that “he's written two more projects for DC Animation, neither of which he can mention.”)
An interview with the “Crisis on Two Earths” writer:
And, just the night before, on February 17, Duffie attended the premiere of “All-Star Superman” (which he also wrote), according to Comic Book Resources. @Dwayne McDuffie Tweeted an announcement just before the event, which took place at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills:
A CBR reporter spoke to McDuffie at the event:
“It's absolutely, absolutely one of my favorite Superman stories ever, and when I heard that Warner Animation was considering doing it, I kind of went into Alan Burnett's office and begged,” recalled McDuffie. Begging paid off, and the writer soon began the arduous task of adapting Morrison and Quitely's sprawling narrative.
“Anytime you adapt a book to a film, you're going to have to lose things,” said McDuffie. “What was most important to me was that the film recreate the same feeling in viewers that the book gave me as a reader.”
Obits are flying off the handle today, from gushing tributes in the darkest corners of the fanboy blogosphere to a shout-out in Entertainment Weekly. The Times spends some extra time McDuffie's more mainstream legacy, especially in terms of the ground he broke for minorities in the biz:
When he was a child in Detroit, McDuffie recalled in a 1996 interview with the Detroit Free Press, “there were only two comic strips that had black leading characters. When we got together to form our company, there were still only two — 20 years later. We felt there should be more diversity.”
In addition to celebrating diversity, the Free Press reported that McDuffie also wanted to subtly teach important lessons and values, as well as having his characters confront the kind of problems faced by his readers.
But he always kept it real: “If you're talking about the world, you're going to be talking about violence,” he told the Detroit Free Press (McDuffie was born and raised in Michigan).
What could have crippled a man so full of life in the two short days between his “Justice League” premiere and his death in Burbank? We're waiting for a call back from his publicist; stay tuned for updates. And for his full resume, hit up IMDB.