Homages Aren’t Tributes [McDuffie & DC Comics]

March 16th, 2011 by | Tags: ,

Yesterday, I posted about the upcoming Static Shock Special and Tommy Lee Edwards’s statement that DC wasn’t donating any of the proceeds to Dwayne McDuffie’s estate or a charity. Around the same time I posted, I asked a friend to hit up DC for a statement. I got that statement today, and, boiled down, Static Shock Special is going to be a comic that contains an homage to McDuffie’s career, but is not, in fact, a tribute book. Here’s the solicit:

A special one-shot paying homage to Dwayne McDuffie and the world of Milestone Media, with tribute material from Milestone co-founder Denys Cowan and other Milestone alumni.
One-shot • No ads • On sale JUNE 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

My reaction to Edwards’s tweet was resignation and anger. Industry rule #4080: “record company people are shady.” It applies to comics, too. Comics have a history of screwing over their creators, whether via exploitative contracts, outright lies and theft, or something as minor as the way characters are prized over creators. DC making a for-profit book off the back of a man’s death? As far as sins go, it’s minor in comparison to what comics have already done. So it would be unsurprising. Disappointing? Sure. Infuriating? No doubt. But unsurprising all the same.

Now, the official word is that this isn’t a tribute book. It’s a book that contains an homage, and proceeds are not being donated to McDuffie’s family, estate, or any charity. Those are two different things, and I can understand the difference, but that rings hollow, doesn’t it? DC actively and purposefully screwed with McDuffie’s last comics work, and eventually fired him over it, and I feel like the least they could do is do an actual tribute book to the man and his work. It’s small solace, but it would be something. Donate the proceeds to schools in Detroit or something.

Instead, we get an homage. Milestone profits from it, to be sure, but I don’t know, man. I’m not sure how to feel about it. Static Shock 2 was supposed to be solicited in this latest round–does the special replace that? Is it just Static Shock with eight pages of added homage? There’s precedent, too. They made one for Julie Schwartz back in ’04, and I can’t find mention of the profits from that going to charity or anything. And that’s fine–they celebrated his life through the comics he helped create. DC doesn’t have to do anything.

It kinda says a lot that I could see DC dicking over McDuffie one last time, doesn’t it? Egregious editorial interference on his JLA run, scrubbing plans for a Static ongoing a year or so ago, pulling perfectly legal quotes from Milestone Forever, and hiring Rian Hughes to black up Milestone Forever with some graffiti and buildings, now this book is urban, homey, YEAH!, and all of the rest of it beat any faith in DC Comics as an entity out of me, I think. So when faced with something awful, something that someone with no heart would do, my first thought was, “I shoulda known.” How sad is that?

But homages aren’t tributes, and I guess a bit of semantics makes everything better. Milestone Media Partners still gets paid off the issue, and I assume some of that goes to McDuffie’s estate. The readers and some of his friends get one last chance to appreciate the man and his work. And sure, DC didn’t have to make an homage or a tribute. DC doesn’t have to do anything.

But I still feel grossed out. Maybe that’s unfair of me, since they didn’t do anything wrong, really. It probably is unfair, but it is what it is.

If you go to a comic shop today or tomorrow or whenever, do me a favor and pick up Xombi 1, by John Rozum and Frazer Irving. It’s the real return of Milestone, the kinda comic we should’ve gotten back when DC was sandbagging McDuffie with Ed Benes and tie-ins to comics no one likes. It’s good. That’s about as good of a testament to the man and his legacy that I can imagine. He was better than most, and he surrounded himself with equally talented people.

edit: DC sent CBR an official statement

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

10 comments to “Homages Aren’t Tributes [McDuffie & DC Comics]”

  1. Similar Posts:
    DC Comics: Meanspirited, spiteful, and childish.

    How sad is it that you nailed this a year ago, and nothing’s changed? The man died and they’re still exploiting him.

  2. The weird thing is, they’ve DONE charity comics before, and fairly recently, at that. All the profits from Superman/Batman #26, for example, went to the Sam Loeb College Fund.

    Still, David’s right; it’s not something they do on a regular basis, unfortunately. Although in Julie’s case, it almost makes sense for some of the profits to go to the company he molded for 42 years. Hopefully the rest went to his family.

  3. This is…a weird thing, really, and I don’t know how to feel about it.

    Honestly, when I saw the book in the solicits, I just thought, “Well that’s cool of DC to publish something to honor McDuffie; I look forward to seeing what fan/creators like Henderson and colleagues like Cowan do with it.” I didn’t even think about money and who was getting paid until I saw your initial post (and the tweet that it responded to).

    I don’t want to play devil’s advocate or sound like I’m defending a corporate entity I know nothing about, but I don’t really think DC is trying to exploit McDuffie’s death at all here. Despite the fact that McDuffie was a realtive giant in our corner of the universe and for a certain generation of comics readers and creators (and hopefully future generations), it’s not like a, I don’t know, a Michael Jackson comic coming out three months after he died or a Princess Di commerative plate or 9/11 gold coin sort of thing, where a company would be seeking to profit off the notoriety of the death. (Does that even make sense? Like, this seems so unlikely to make a ton of cash that it doesn’t feel like it could even possibly be exploitive).

    I can’t think of anything comparable, really, to get a sense of a spectrum for a book like this, and where it would fall. The Superman/Batman issue mentioned above and the DC Comics Presents/Julie Schwartz things were very different from each other, and very different from this.

    Perhaps, given their recent history with the man, DC would have been a little better off doing nothing at all, but, on the other hand, maybe this is intended to help make up for it a bit. But I guess it will depend on the execution… The DC Comics Presents thing, for example, seemed to honor Schartz, regardless of where the presumably small profits went…

    The best thing DC can do to honor McDuffie is to keep as much of the best Milestone material in print as they can, and try their damnedest to do right by characters like Static when they use him and, more importantly, strive to make the kinds of comics McDuffie wanted to read and McDuffie wanted to write.

  4. Industry rule #4080: “record company people are shady.”

    Shouldn’t that be Rule #1?

  5. @caleb:
    I think what makes it come off as exploitative, to me at least, is that DC wasn’t interested in “celebrating” Milestone or McDuffie’s work before the man died.

    Of course, I my just be a cynical bastard…

  6. @caleb: Yeah, you’re pretty much exactly right.

    @clay: Listen to Tribe.

  7. @caleb: Maybe they’re not trying to exploit McDuffie’s death, maybe they don’t think they are, but that’s what they’re doing. Or at least there’s SOMETHING morally suspect about doing a tribute to a recently-deceased creator where the proceeds are entirely self-serving.

  8. I immediately also thought it was somewhat in bad taste for DC to be doing a tribute book. (Using the word “Homage” is for when you’re ripping someone else’s work; but supposedly in a nice way. Heh, I guess “Homage” does apply here!)

    If the book really does contain material from friends and colleges from Milestone – then maybe it can be at least respectful in action if not spirit. But if it’s just a regular story thrown together with reprints – then it definitely does seem exploitive. I’d suggest trying to be optimistic about it – hope for the best. Save disappointment for later if needed.

    As for donating the profits to McDuffie’s charities – I think publishing the issue without any ads means it’s not being published for profit. Why they couldn’t have kept the ads and then donate some of the profits… Seriously, some editor probably pushed this book through and simply didn’t think of doing that. The guy died – and DC reacted. Again – hope for the best that at least the content of the issue will honor the man.

  9. Is the term “cocksucking motherfuckers” homophobic? I only ask because that was my first thought and I wouldn’t like to think people got the impression I was hating on a crowd that don’t deserve it.

    If you think about it, we probably should be surprised by this because it takes advantage of a real tragedy, while before we just got pissed when DC cancelled Young Justice or something. There’s a big difference between cancelling a book and robbing someone’s grave.

  10. donate $200 to the charity of your choice as a tribute to Dwayne McDuffie and skip a month of comics.

    I don’t depend on DC to do anything other than to produce comics.