Like my post on the passing of Doctor Who‘s Nicholas Courtney, this is a tribute to someone I never met. I’m not sure I’ve ever read any of his comics – I’ve not read anything from Milestone, and while he did a run on Justice League of America, that was after I stopped collecting the title (I’m sorry, but that Space Monkey thing was the last straw). Considering Dwayne McDuffie was a writer of comic books, and that I’m a collector of them, that fact might make this tribute a little thin.
But despite this McDuffie was still responsible for stoking my love of superheroes, because of his work on Justice League Unlimited, as writer, producer and story editor. That made him responsible for some of my all time favourite superhero moments in any medium. Sure, any show that not only teams up Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but every other character in the DC Comics pantheon (even the obscure ones – go Booster Gold!) should, by rights, be worth watching, but it’s not always that simple – heck, you’d expect a Saturday morning cartoon to be focused grouped to death – but thanks to the talent of all involved it turned out to be awesome. Justice League Unlimited realised that comics thrive on cool characters and spectacle, and it had both in spades.
McDuffie wrote some of my favourite episodes – ‘The Great Brain Robbery’ has one of my all-time favourite lines from anything (the Flash’s mind is swapped with Lex Luthor’s, and now he has to convince an army of supervillains that he’s Lex. He finds himself in a toilet, where he’s asked if he’s going to wash his hands: “No. ‘cos I’m evil!”), as well as a terrible attempt at monologuing.
(McDuffie wasn’t responsible for the worst booty call ever, that was Gail Simone, but I’m linking to it anyway.)
But it’s the episode ‘Divided We Fall’ that stands out for me. Lex has obtained superpowers and has taken out most of the League. Only the Flash remains, the youngest, goofiest, most immature member. He’s outmatched and facing a prophecy of his own death. What does he do? He runs.
Thing is, when you’ve got superspeed, running is always a good idea.
It’s an epic, punch-the-air, crowning moment of awesome, a coming of age story mixed with the triumph of good over evil. And science be damned, everyone knows that the laws of physics are mutable when interacting with the Universal Cool Force. It’s also the sort of moment that superheroes were made for,and I love it. Heck, I stand by the idea that Justice League Unlimited was better than the comics that inspired it, and a large part of that was down to McDuffie.
Dwayne McDuffie will be remembered, through the obvious respect his fellow comic professionals had for him, for his attempts to improve the representation of black and Asian characters in comics. But I’ll remember him for making me laugh, making me cheer, and for giving me a reason to love superheroes all over again.
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