Tagged: Dwayne McDuffie

MICHAEL DAVIS: The Great Pretenders

For over a decade I’ve been hosting The Black Panel at various venues around the country. The panel has its roots in the Milestone Media panels I once hosted at different comic book conventions in the nineties. I created The Black Panel as a forum to discuss African American pop culture from the inside with the aim of helping more people get inside.

The Black Panel is, I’m proud to say, a mainstay at the San Diego Comic Con International. A reviewer recently called it a “Comic Con institution.”

High praise indeed and I was felling pretty good about the panel after yet another standing room only presentation this past year. However, after a recent conversation with Denys Cowan, I’m asking myself some pretty serious questions. Full discloser: Denys is not only one of the greatest and most original artists to ever work in comics, he’s also my best friend. He also worships Satan and has a $ 10,000.00 a day crack habit.

No, no he doesn’t, but Denys never reads my columns so I can pretty much write what I want, like this, Denys beat up a 10 year-old girl who made the mistake of calling him “Michael Davis” at Comic Con last year.

Again, I joke, I kid! She was 7.

Denys and I were talking about the future of the panel. We got on the subject of who appears on the panel. Denys made a remark that made me think, has the panel featured some guests who could care less about the comic medium but have used the panel simply to promote their current projects?

In other word, pretenders.

Here’s a link to the Black Panel’s Alumni. To this list you can add Peter David, Derrick Dingle and Keith Knight and Phil Lamar. You will notice quite a few entertainment superstars on the list. To be fair to me, my mission statement for the panel is black entertainment, which includes but is not limited to comics and animation.

I stared thinking maybe I have had some pretenders on the panel.

I’m nothing if not honest with myself and if I’m wrong I’ll say so. Just today I posted results from a Gallup Poll on my Facebook page that clearly showed that some of my opinions about the Tea Party were wrong.

I took a long look at the guests I’ve had over the years and lo and behold there may be one that the pretender labels fits. No. I’m not going to name him or her. If it’s a black woman, I might get bitch slapped. If it’s a rapper, I might get shot. By all means if you guys want to play “Who’s the pretender,” have at it.

My name is Bennett, I ain’t in it.

The perhaps they are perhaps they are not pretender for my panel is not the focus of this article. Pretenders in the comics industry are.

I’ve met quite a few over the years and usually it’s someone or some company with an high profile and some bucks who thinks that a comic book project from them is just what the world is looking for. More often than not little if any respect has been paid to the way the comic book industry operates and even less respect to the history.

I was approached some years back from a major music mogul to help him create a comic book line that would feature some of his label’s artists. I told him as a promotional item I thought it would work, as a retail item not so much. He did not want to hear that.

Frankly, what mega rich music producer wants to hear that the music business and the comic book business cannot be approached the same way? I mean, the music industry. That’s a real business not like comics, which is more like a hobby until Hollywood decides to take pity and make a movie out of one of those silly characters.

The mogul decided to get a family member to run the line. I was proving to be too much trouble with my depressing and unimportant comments on silly subjects like distribution, marketing, talent and retailers. His choice from the family had been reading comics all his life. That makes him the perfect choice to create and produce a comic book line.

A year, maybe two later I saw an ad somewhere announcing the line. From what I understand the books never saw the inside of a comic book store.

The ad sucked as well.

On a few occasions I’ve had agents of big name Hollywood action stars send me an idea from or about said star. Most of the time the idea features the actor as some sort of hero in the comic. All of the time the idea sucks. When you tell an agent of a big star that their client has little or no juice in the comics industry they feel pity towards you because of your obvious mental illness.

As far as those who think they can make a quick buck in comics, surprisingly that does not bother me. This is America. Where would we be without those who were just in it for the quick buck? Those who get into the business and have the sense to appreciate the expertise of comics I welcome.

What does bother me are those who get into the business and have no respect, not only for what has come before but make no effort to know, learn or enhance the craft. That bugs the shit out of me.

Anyone else?



According to stories like this, there was quite the kerfuffle at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con about the decline in the number of female artists and writers on the new DC reboot.

Raising questions about this is guaranteed to get one labeled a bitch (or worse). Kudos to Batgirl for being the bitch. It’s a thankless job, but somebody has to do it. However, I’m disturbed by DC’s response. They claim they were looking for the “best available” talent. Apparently, the best indicator of talent is a penis.

Look, I understand that DC (and Marvel, and Dark Horse, and IDW and so on and so on) want to hire writers and artists with built-in fan followings. It’s a competitive market, and anything that helps to sell the product is desirable. I also understand that these publishers want to hire people who have demonstrated an ability to meet deadlines reliably, and the easiest way to do that is to employ people you’ve already employed.


The entertainment media require a steady influx of new talent. Some, like music and movies, demand youth, and too much experience can be considered a drawback. Other branches of publishing, such as books and magazines, all have systems in place to not only keep successful writers, artists and photographers, but also to develop new ones.

Mainstream comics, not so much.

I got my break at Marvel because I hung out at the office a lot. This was back in the mid-1980s, before heinous security measures engulfed New York office buildings. I had interviewed Denny O’Neil for High Times magazine, and exploited our acquaintance (and subsequent friendship) so that I could hang out, use the photocopiers, and make free long-distance calls. Because of this, I was a familiar face, and when Larry Hama wanted to expand the kind of comics he was publishing, he took a chance on me, and we developed Dakota North with Tony Salmons.

No one has since taken a chance on me. Dwayne McDuffie once told me this was all the evidence he needed that comics is a sexist business. As things stand now, most people who enter the field of mainstream comics are former fans. The business won’t attract more women until it creates more comics that girls like. And it probably won’t create more comics that girls like until there are more people who used to be girls making comics. It’s a vicious circle.

The easiest way to break this chain is to make it less profitable. The first step in that direction, at least at DC, seems to be the failure of the Green Lantern movie to make a boatload of money. Geoff Johns, fanboy in chief, seems to be getting the blame. I admit that I kind of liked it, but that’s because I’ve been reading the comics for 50 years … and, also, Ryan Reynolds in a skintight suit. Most people who buy movie tickets don’t have my knowledge of the backstory, and so didn’t have the patience to sit through it.

Bringing in new perspectives isn’t easy. The old ways are easy. Unfortunately, the old ways inevitably produce the old results. Since this is comics, it doesn’t have the same impact as, say, firefighting, but the results of this laziness are the same – ostracizing newcomers and alienating the general public.

Comic book editors, look beyond your slush piles! Seek out new talent at places other than portfolio reviews at comic conventions! There’s a whole world of talent out there.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

Grant Morrison Examines ‘All-Star Superman’ Page-to-Screen Transition

All Star SupermanRenowned comics writer Grant Morrison has found a lot to like in the transfer from page-to-screen of his Eisner Award-winning All-Star Superman, the critically-acclaimed, hot-selling new entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies available now from Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Home Video.

In All-Star Superman, the Man of Steel rescues an ill-fated mission to the Sun (sabotaged by Lex Luthor) and, in the process, is oversaturated by radiation – which accelerates his cell degeneration. Sensing even he will be unable to cheat death, Superman ventures into new realms – finally revealing his secret to Lois, confronting Lex Luthor’s perspective of humanity, and attempting to ensure Earth’s safety before his own impending end with one final, selfless act.

All-Star Superman is now available from Warner Home Video as a Blu-Ray™ Combo Pack and 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, as well as single disc DVD. The film will is also available On Demand and for Download.

Morrison had a few moments to chat from his home in Scotland last week about the all-new film based on his landmark comics series, and the late Dwayne McDuffie’s impressive job in re-imagining Morrison’s words into animated glory.

Question: Did you have, and did you want, creative input into the script?

Grant Morrison: Once I knew someone else was going to do it, I kind of wanted to let it happen and not interfere. I’m always excited to see how others translate things from page to screen. I didn’t even know Dwayne (McDuffie) was involved at first, but I’m so glad he did it. I was happy to see what the story might look like from someone else’s perspective and he did a fantastic job.


McDuffie Memento Mori

Dwayne McDuffie Milestone Funeral

We’ve found more things to point to in the wake of the passing of Dwayne McDuffie. First, we have the artwork above by James Mason on Dwayne’s passing. And Michael Davis, Dwayne’s co-founder of Milestone Media, presents what may be the last photo of the Milestone creative founders from the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. From left to right: Denys Cowan, Dwayne McDuffie, Michael Davis.

Michael also writes about Dwayne:

‘Motherfucker’ was part of the way I used to describe Dwayne. The full description was, Dwayne McDuffie is the smartest motherfucker I’ve ever met.

I’m a smart guy, I’ve been to Ivy League schools and I have a PhD. Dwayne could destroy me without breaking a sweat on any subject.

ANY subject.

How in the world can we go on?

I mean it.

A world without that smartass motherfucker is a world I do not want to think about.  Denys Cowan told me that there is now a giant, GIANT hole in the industry not to mention the hole in our hearts, which we both mentioned because as badass as we act, we are really pussies.

How do we go on?

My best guess is we go on by honoring Dwayne for what he was, a fantastic writer a great friend and one badass motherfucker.

Review: ‘All-Star Superman’

All-Star SupermanDC Comics’ All-Star imprint was intended to bring their top talents together with their top characters to produce stories that followed the core concepts of the iconic heroes and villains so the comics would appeal to mainstream audiences. The two titles that made it out, featuring Batman and Superman utterly failed on that account and their irregular publishing schedules meant the audience the books were aimed at couldn’t get into the needed buying rhythm.

[[[All-Star Superman]]] by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely thrilled the core audience with their retro-futuristic take on the characters and settings, winning acclaim and awards. Now, the 12 issue storyline has been neatly compressed into a 76 minute animated feature, out this week from Warner Home Video. Obviously, every bit and piece, every favorite moment, couldn’t possibly be included in Dwayne McDuffie’s script, but he does a fine job boiling the story down to its essence. In short, Lex Luthor has manipulated events from afar, forcing Superman to save a spacecraft that left him over-saturated with solar energy which has increased his amazing array of powers but is also slowly killing him.


Dwayne McDuffie by Glen Muramaki & Andrew Pepoy

Dwayne McDuffie tributes

Dwayne McDuffie by Glen Muramaki & Andrew Pepoy
From all corners of the comics internet, the only word to describe the reaction to Dwayne McDuffie’s death has been shock… although dammit is running a very close second. His passing has become a trending topic on Twitter, which only partially shows how far his influence really was.

Andrew Pepoy sent the image above, which he inked over Glen Muramaki’s pencils. Dwayne liked it a lot and used it on his blog and Facebook page, it’s nice to see the original at a decent size.

From Peter David:

I will never forget sitting in his office as we worked out storylines. There was more than just his physical presence (he was well over six feet tall). He seemed to radiate confidence in his abilities, which was entirely warranted, and he was determined to roll with whatever curves Cartoon Network might throw his way and turn them into the best stories possible. He had boundless enthusiasm not only for his work, but for the sheer creative process. To say he will be missed is to understate it. I offer condolences not only to his family, but to the entirety of fandom for losing one of the great ones.

Geoffrey Thorne:

he was a great man. he was good friend to me. he was the only person in my life i’d refer to as a mentor. i can’t fucking believe it. i really am not a person right now.


Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie: 1962-2011

Dwayne McDuffieNoted comics and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie died Monday evening, reportedly from complications due to a surgical procedure.

Dwayne joined the comics industry in the 80s working for Marvel Comics editorial and special projects. He quickly made his name as a writer creating series such as Damage Control, helping to redefine Deathlok for the nineties, and having She-Hulk break razors while trying to shave her legs– a throwaway gag which became notorious. He soon left the staff job to become a full-time freelance writer.

This led to Dwayne’s co-founding of Milestone Media in 1992, with creators Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and businessman Derek T. Dingle, which expanded the role of minorities in comics both on the page and off, launching a line of comics in 1993 that included Hardware, Blood Syndicate, Static, Icon, Kobalt, Xombi, and the Shadow Cabinet, all of which McDuffie had a hand in creating or co-creating.

Dwayne moved to animation when Static was turned into Static Shock for KidsWB, which led to becoming story editor for the Justice League Unlimited, Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien animated series and writing a number of DC’s recent direct-to-DVD animated projects– his latest work was the script for the All-Star Superman animated adaptation, which went on sale today.

He wrote damn fine comics, most recently on Justice League of America, Fantastic Four, and Firestorm. He was a giant in just about every aspect you care to mention, including size.

Dwayne was a major talent and will be greatly missed.

UPDATES: Apparently Dwayne’s death was due to a heart issue. More details as we get them.

And Heidi found this great interview with Dwayne, to show you a bit of what he was like:

UPDATE 6:40 EST: AP now has the first obit.

Andrea Romano Discusses Casting ‘All-Star Superman’

Andrea Romano Discusses Casting ‘All-Star Superman’

To vocally craft the characters within the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, the production brain trust of DC Entertainment, Warner Premiere, Warner Home Video and Warner Bros. Animation is smart enough to employ the best in the business – on both sides of the microphone.

While winners of Oscars, Emmys and Tonys alike provide the voices behind some of the world’s best known comic book characters, it is the super hero of voice directors that guides these unique talents – Andrea Romano.

Arguably the top animation voiceover director in the business today, Romano has been instrumental in orchestrating the vocal tones behind the first 10 DCU animated films, including the highly anticipated February 22 release of All-Star Superman.

The eight-time Emmy® Award winner (not to mention 30+ Emmy nominations) has a voiceover casting/direction resume that spans more than a quarter century, covering the genre gamut from action (Batman: The Animated Series) and humor (Animaniacs) to contemporary (The Boondocks) and timeless (Smurfs). She will appear at both the sold-out New York and Los Angeles premieres of All-Star Superman next week, and will undoubtedly be greeted with a wild, lengthy cheer – an ovation she regularly receives at Cons around the globe.

For All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison’s beloved, Eisner Award-winning vision of Superman’s heroic final days on Earth, Romano has rounded up an intriguing lineup of stars to fill the comic book character roles. James Denton (Desperate Housewives) has donned the cape as Superman, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) is Lois Lane, and Anthony LaPaglia (Without A Trace) voices Lex Luthor to form the core cast. They are joined by seven-time Emmy® Award winner Ed Asner (Up) as Perry White, Golden Globe® winner Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) as Ma Kent, Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) as Jimmy Olsen and Linda Cardellini (ER) as Nasty.   Also amongst the voice cast is Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy), Catherine Cavadini (The Powerpuff Girls), Finola Hughes (General Hospital), Alexis Denisof (Angel), Obba Babatunde (That Thing You Do!), Michael Gough (Batman) and John DiMaggio (Futurama).

Romano paused between her many current projects – including a few upcoming DC Universe Animated Original Movies – to discuss the cast and recording of All-Star Superman. Listen up …

QUESTION: Are there certain writers’ scripts you find easier to direct or get an instant feel?

ANDREA ROMANO: There are several writers I’ve worked with over the years whose words I can recognize without even seeing a title page, like Stan Berkowitz, Alan Burnett, Bob Goodman and especially Dwayne McDuffie. And because I’ve worked with them for so long over so many different projects, and once they know I’m on a project, it’s almost as though they write for me – because they know exactly what information I need to know to give to the actors. So I love working with all those guys. Dwayne works so hard on being true to the source material, and yet translating it into something that can be acted. He’s really good at making that transition of honoring the material, but bringing the words off the page to make it actable and dramatically interesting.