The passing of heroes

I’m sitting in a coffeehouse across the street from my apartment, glad that I took the day off sick from work. Glad not just because I needed some recovery time to fight off a cold, but because I’ve just lost a battle to hold back the tears. Yeah. Sobbing in public is one thing. Sobbing at work, not cool.

One of my personal heroes has just died, and I feel adrift, trying to makes sense of this profound loss.

I first became aware of Dwayne McDuffie with the launch of Milestone Comics in 1993. Even having grown up in a very white-bread small town, I knew that comics of the time weren’t representative of the rest of the world. Count off the truly cool black comic book characters around in the early 90’s. You can do it on one hand. And Asian or Hispanic characters that were more than a stereotype? Yeah, good luck. So I picked up those first few Milestone books and quickly fell in love with Hardware, Static, and the Blood Syndicate. They injected a degree of passion, of reality, that comics had been sorely lacking.

It’s a multi-cultural world. If not for McDuffie and Milestone, I doubt the comic book world would reflect that as well today as it does. Even now, it needs work. But McDuffie fought against the stereotypes, fought to bring reality and humanity and different viewpoints to a medium that desperately needed it.

I met him, briefly, at a panel at San Diego Comic Con about Milestone Media. It was the highlight of the convention for me. To put that in context, I also met Ray Harryhausen and saw the advance preview of footage for the series Firefly. So yeah, it was a big deal for me.

Cobalt City would not exist without him. Gato Loco would not exist without him. My re-envisioning of Thor for Cobalt City Timeslip in “The War at Home” would never exist without him. The publishing company I started last year? Yeah, you get the picture. Dwayne, for everything you did, from Damage Control, through Static, on into the absolutely brilliant Justice League Unlimited animated series, I owe you a profound debt of gratitude. You filled my world with heroes, in turn, becoming one of MY heroes.

For those unfamiliar with his work, I heartily encourage you to seek out the original Static comic books. They are absolutely brilliant.

I’ll see you in comic book Valhalla, Dwayne McDuffie. Godspeed.

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