I want you to keep this two-page story by Matt Wayne, John Paul Leon, Noelle Giddings, and Dave Sharpe from Static Shock Special in mind this month. I want you to think of this every time someone — anyone, myself included — invokes Dwayne McDuffie’s name.
I want you to think about what they have to gain when they say the man’s name.
I don’t know a lot about Robert Washington III. I do know, though, that he helped bring one of my most important characters to life: Static. Washington (and Dwayne McDuffie and John Paul Leon) created a book that hit me right where I needed it, right when I needed it. I wish I knew more about him.
Sad news.Comics writer Robert Washington (Milestone comics’ Static) passed away today after suffering a heart attack yesterday. He was 47.
Twitter’s reporting that he died today, 47 years old.
It really, really bums me out that two out of the three guys who first put Static to paper are dead now. McDuffie died last year, and he was just 49.
Dwayne McDuffie co-wrote Static #1. You can find his work in the sublime Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons. Robert Washington III co-wrote Static #1. You can find his work in the recent Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool reprint, or the first year or so of Static. John Paul Leon penciled Static #1. He drew one of the best comics I’ve ever read in collaboration with Brett Lewis, The Winter Men.
There’s a Louis CK bit that I like a lot. It’s about how he hates “the n-word.” He goes on to say, “Not ‘nigger,’ by the way. I mean ‘the n-word,’ literally.” It’s a great bit because it’s funny, first of all, but it’s funny because it’s all about taking responsibility for the stupid things you want to say. A wise man once said “They wanna live in the house but don’t want no grass to grow.” People want to get the impact of having a curse word in their text, but they don’t want to take responsibility for the coarseness. They want all of the benefits and none of the downsides. And that’s weak.
Basically, know your outlet and your audience. I can’t curse on ComicsAlliance. Any expletives I might care to use would be turned into —- or f*** or ****** or whatever. I care a lot about how my writing flows and looks, and that looks stupid in text. ASCII’d out or asterisked to death curses in comics drive me crazy. Especially when they spell out the cusses in ascii characters like @$$ because… dude, who are you kidding? It’s having your cake and eating it, too. You’re a writer… figure out some way around it.
There are a couple of exceptions, of course. I’ve always liked the Milestone squiggle, because they used it for… I don’t know, high cuss words? The really bad ones? It can be seen here in Dwayne McDuffie, Ivan Velez Jr., and Trevor von Eeden’s Blood Syndicate #1:
The squiggles and boxes feel more like bleeps than trying to have it both ways. Maybe it’s because the squiggle is art, rather than text standing in for other text, and I read that differently.
I started reading 2000 AD recently. There’s a strip in there called Grey Area that did something cool. Here’s a page from the chapter in prog 1767, pictures and words by Karl Richardson and Dan Abnett, that shows what I mean:
And I mean, I hate fake cuss words. Legion of Superheroes comics look stupid. Or silly. Maybe both. But this right here made me laugh. I like “grawlix” as a swear, because it’s both clever and explained in the story.
Grawlix is a bit of obscure comics terminology. It was coined by Mort Walker (the Beetle Bailey guy) in the ’60s, and he used it to refer to the faked up cusses you’d see in comics. Abnett here is using grawlix as a safe curse for men and women in uniform. When they step out of line and use real curses, they’re told to “Grawlix that.” It becomes about decorum in the text, which is much, much more interesting than being polite outside of the text.
Here’s another page, this time from prog 1770. Art by Lee Carter this time:
Anyway, cuss, don’t, or be clever about it. That’s all.
STATIC SHOCK SPECIAL #1
Written by FELICIA D. HENDERSON
Art by DENYS COWAN, PRENTIS ROLLINS and others
Cover by DEREC DONOVAN
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.
(from icon: a hero’s welcome. words by dwayne mcduffie, pencils by doc bright, inks by mike gustovich, colors by rachelle menashe, james sherman, and noelle giddings, letters by steve dutro. i love how the big splash page that would’ve been a “to be continued” page happens two pages before the actual “to be continued” page.)
I’ve got no revelations, no grand statements, no explorations of personal racial trauma, no words to be wasted on pointless plot twists, and no praise for meeting a low bar. Not even any rap references. Just this:
Black creators have been in comics forever, involved in successes and failures, the heights of unfettered creativity and the lows of mercenary corporate comics, racist issues and uplifting issues, and everything else in between. People like to say that “black history is American history.” Turns out that’s true of comics, too.
created: What a weird week, man. RIP Dwayne McDuffie. I’m kinda pissed that my BHM11 post about him ended up being sort of a eulogy. It is what it is, though, and I’m thankful for what he gave me. Look for a longer piece on CA tomorrow, I think.
-I reviewed Summer Wars, Funimation’s new anime disc. Summer Wars is pretty okay–great visuals, aight story. Shoulda been more John Blaze than that.
-Marvel comics, black history, get at me. Part 2 hits on Friday.
mj gone, our nigga dead
consumed: I went to a Marvel vs Capcom 3 tournament on Saturday on a whim. I ended up placing fifth, but the first cat I fought was exactly the type of player I’m not down with at all. All types of move spamming, and then when the clock got low, he tried to run away. I had to call this dude out before he manned up and fought me. C’mon, son. What part of the game is that? Oh yeah, the unfun part.
-I talked some about McDuffie on Twitter. Gonna throw those up here because I think I said a few things worth reading:
-Also, seriously, if you’re gonna write about McDuffie this week–Milestone was its own company, not an imprint of DC Comics. Get it right.
-The importance of DC not owning Milestone is this: You need to own your own work. That’s how you make money and leave a legacy that’s yours.
-DC published Milestone. They didn’t own them. McDuffie & Co shopped Milestone around to several publishers, and DC eventually bit.
-The copyright, the honor, and the legacy belong to McDuffie, Davis, Dingle, and Cowan. Milestone was theirs, and they did it for us.
-And Milestone and McDuffie’s career weren’t just about black characters, either. Blood Syndicate had TWO kinds of hispanics on the team.
-You don’t even see that these days. That’s in addition to every other type in Milestone comics. They weren’t black comics. They were comics.
-Yes, it was revolutionary. No, it hasn’t been beaten. They set the bar high, but in the exact right space.
-I definitely felt some kind of way when Batwoman was getting press for being out and a superhero because, HEY! Milestone was there FIRST.
-(a correction because I was wrong on one point:) Milestone was 1993, Alpha Flight [and Northstar coming out] was 1992. Credit where credit’s due, though, despite Byrne being his typical douchebag self. [why did I diss Byrne there? Not sure– a) he’s subhuman b) his big plan for Northstar to get AIDS and die was stupid c) I was just talking yang d) all of the above]
-I want to do another series of art posts. Pretty Girls is nice, but now it’s like, been there, done that. I’ve got an idea, too. Might call it “Nice With the Pen,” and it’ll be a multi-creator round-up, rather than focused, and I’m not sure how much commentary I want to throw in it. Not a lot, I don’t think, because good art stands on its own. Just a round-up of stuff I saw that week that I liked, whether old or new. Maybe “7 Days, 4 Colors.” Who knows. There’s probably an album title I can jack.
-I liked this review of Daughters of the Dragon that Jonathan Rosselli wrote. Not because he says nice things about me (compliments are tricks!), but because he has some real good reasons for digging that book.
-Sean Witzke runs this piece. Nobody beats the Witz, and here he’s talking about a Moebius book I’ve never read. Time to hit the library, right? This is good stuff.
-Is there a worse nickname than “the Witz?” I apologize.
-If you write about comics online without even so much as mentioning the people who created the book you’re talking about… you suck, doggie. Stop writing. Retire. Nobody likes you. Grow up. There’s nothing about Batman that’s intrinsically awesome. Somebody made stories that made you like him. At least pretend like you care.
-Creators up, characters down.
-Quick hits: Mass Effect 2 is nice, I need to get back to Persona 3 Portable, Patapon 2 is fun, Justin Cronin’s The Passage is pretty good thus far (I’m not to the vampires yet), and… that’s all I got. Oh, no–I’ve been reading Rei Hiroe’s Black Lagoon. The anime grated, the manga doesn’t, and I can’t figure out why, but whatever whatever. Volume 6 is out of print, though, which is trouble.
-How awful is Kanye’s “All of the Lights” video? Cripes, remember when Hype could make you wish you were in a rap video? What happened to that toy?
-Remember these? That Kanye no-step and lean is still the only dance I do.
-Lauryn Hill, man.
i slapped my girl, she called the feds
David:Power Man & Iron Fist 2 Esther:Action Comics 898 and possibly Detective Comics #874 Gavin:(maybe) Metalocalypse Dethklok 3, Justice League Generation Lost 20, Incorruptible 15, Avengers 10, Captain America 615, Deadpool Team-Up 884, Deadpool 33, Incredible Hulks 623, Iron Man 2.0 1, Namor The First Mutant 7, Power Man And Iron Fist 2, Punisher In The Blood 4, Secret Avengers 10
CBR is saying that Dwayne McDuffie has died. I’m pretty bummed out. He’d said a couple of nice things about my writing over the past year, which, I dunno, felt like getting a compliment from a father or something. I’ll have more thoughts later, I’m sure, but ugh.
Just by a happenstance of birth, I was the perfect age for Dwayne McDuffie’s work to have an effect on my, what, mental growth? Racial consciousness? Whatever smarty art type of word you want to use. Spike Lee’s Malcolm X was a watershed moment for me. Less watershed, but still important, was the formation of Milestone Media, courtesy of McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T Dingle.
In hindsight, the Milestone books I was really checking for as a kid (Static, Blood Syndicate) weren’t McDuffie joints. He was working on Icon and Hardware, which I tend to think of being more adult oriented rather than teen. I didn’t read all the way through those until I was grown. Despite that, the fact that Milestone existed was big for me. It showed that there coule be actual black people in comics. The company was full of people who looked, acted, and talked like people I knew. This is a big deal, believe it or not.
Years later, McDuffie helped shepherd Static Shock to beating Pokemon in ratings on TV. After that, he helped make me a believer in the JLA by way of the cartoon. Still later came a sequel to Secret Wars called Beyond! and his all-too-brief run on Fantastic Four: The New Fantastic Four and The Beginning of the End. He did all of this while maintaining a career making successful cartoons.
McDuffie did the job, and he kept doing the job. He’s built up a body of work that most people in his field should be jealous of and that fans should be thankful for. I’m thankful for the fact that he’s cognizant of his power as a creator, and simply tries to create worlds that reflect the ones we live in now. That was a big help as a kid, and his career has been an inspiration as an adult.
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