The Dwayne McDuffie Fund
Dwayne McDuffie (1962-2011) was keenly aware at a very young age that heroic protagonists who looked even remotely like him were no where to be found in the comic books he loved to read. Ethnically diverse characters were not only woefully underrepresented, but grossly inauthentic. Profoundly inspired by seeing himself reflected in the media as a hero for the very first time via the Black Panther, young Dwayne grew up to become a pioneer of diversity in both the mainstream comic book and animation industries, encouraging and creating widely inclusive, cultural variety with contemporary, non-stereotypical characters to represent the hero in ALL of us.
Today, a Dwayne McDuffie gofundme campaign exists to continue his legacy. The funds raised here by his estate and handled by his widow, Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie, are to help establish The Dwayne McDuffie Foundation, which will be a non-profit organization to award academic scholarships for diverse students. The fund will also continue to keep Dwayne’s vision alive by managing and maintaining an archival website for research purposes, and applying on behalf of Dwayne’s fans for his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Diversity in entertainment is an on-going effort, more important now than ever. In his all-too-brief lifetime, Dwayne McDuffie had only just begun his meaningful work that is left for us to continue.
Thank you all in advance for your contributions and for sharing Dwayne’s vision.
A personal note from Mr. McDuffie's widow:
"Honestly, Dwayne was always expressing frustration that people were just not listening to him, that no one out there in the world was really getting what he was so tirelessly trying to say about and to all of humanity through his (outstanding!) creative work .
It has brought such wistful tears to my eyes since his death to be able to know now for a fact that yes, Dwayne, more people than you ever realized truly did and do understand on a visceral level, wholeheartedly agree with, and support the deeper meaning of your life's work--not just that you told a bunch of pretty good superhero stories. Your passion for inclusiveness, for the entirety of the human race being allowed access to a personal representation in the media--both on screen and behind the scenes--did not go unappreciated as you feared. Far from it! And all the people you did manage to reach during your lifetime have chosen to proudly continue the spirit of your work for you now that you are no longer here to do it yourself.
You rest, Sweetie--it's okay, we got this. We won't let you down. Promise."
-Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie
Despite being a ratings hit (eclipsed only by the mighty Pokemon) Static Shock wasn't able to get toy companies to license products due to a huge misconception (that still exists!) that minority superheroes don't sell toys, which ultimately killed the show.
Take a look at some of the few licensed merchandise from the show including a giveaway figure in Subway’s kids meal from Dwayne's personal collection, destined for the Smithsonian NMAAHC.
THANK YOU for your continued support of The Dwayne McDuffie Fund!
Among Dwayne's various projects that never came to be was a Wonder Girl mini. Read pitch below-
"Editor Paul Kupperberg was looking for pitches for John Byrne's new version of Wonder Girl. I came up with this. Nope. I still want to write a series with a female lead and for what it's worth, I think this would have worked."
Cassandra Sandsmark couldn’t believe her luck. As long as she could remember, the Amazonian Princess Diana, known the world over as Wonder Woman, had been the object of Cassie’s hero-worship. So when she finally met her idol in the flesh, she was ready. By the time their fantastic adventure had ended, Cassie Sandsmark had earned the powers and title of Wonder Girl, as well as an even greater prize, the approval and friendship of her idol.
Once before, Wonder Woman found a young woman with the courage to live up to the utopian ideals of Amazon culture. The first Wonder Girl, Donna Troy, grew to be a great hero in her own right, outgrowing the title in the process. Now, Diana has passed the torch once again. Okay, technically Cassie snatched the torch. Nevertheless, she stands ready to bear it. It’s time for her education to begin.
Cassie is just entering her freshman year at Gateway Northern, a huge public high school. Since her parents’ divorce, her mom can’t afford to keep her in private school any longer. On her museum curator’s salary, even with the child support payments, belts have to be tightened. Ebullient, smart and funny, Cassie was a natural leader in middle school and pretty close to the top of the social heap. But that was last year. Now she’s just another new girl, a freshman, as she puts it, "without a friend in the whole school." Cassie tends to exaggerate, slightly. She does have a few casual friends and two very good ones.
First among equals is Cassie’s best friend since kindergarten, Darnice "Niecy" Lawson. As Cassie likes to characterize the relationship as, "we ate sand together." The two share all of their most intimate secrets including, all knowledge of "who likes who," full access to each other’s diary, and slightly less importantly, Cassie’s secret identity. This makes Niecy a crucial ally in Cassie’s crime-fighting career. Cassie’s mom, who also knows her secret, all but forbids her to go out as Wonder Girl. Alleged trips to Niecy’s house often provide convenient (if increasingly implausible) cover for Cassie’s absences. Niecy also aids in Cassie’s never-ending attempts to make a tiara that "looks like Wonder Woman’s." So far, their attempts have been fairly pitiful. Their best-looking effort wouldn’t stay on her head, which was no big deal, considering. The star was a blue decal, because they couldn’t find a red one (and the Tiara was painted with yellow latex, because the store wouldn’t sell gold spray paint to minors). Several store-bought Tiaras fail to pass muster because they "look like dumb princess hats." The struggle continues.
New to Cassie’s social circle is Tia Lopez. Unlike Cassie and Darnice, Tia knows a lot of the freshman class, having gone to middle school with them. In the course of the mini-series, Cassie helps Tia stay out of a gang that wants to induct her. In return, Tia introduces Cassie to a boy who is the first of many crush-objects to come. Darnice refers to the three friends as "The Heroic Trio." Cassie doesn’t get the joke, because she thinks Hong Kong action movies "bite," and refuses to watch. Tia doesn’t get the joke either, because she doesn’t know that Cassie is Wonder Girl.
As if the new social and academic challenges of high school weren’t enough, Cassie has decided that it’s past time she began intensive training with her new powers. Brazenly interrupting Wonder Woman in the middle of a battle with a half-dozen super-powered assailants, Wonder Girl asks her hero to start training her, "so I can be, like, your sidekick." A bemused Wonder Woman has a better idea. After the two of them mop up the bad guys and save the day, Wonder Woman calls in a marker from Donna Troy. The original Wonder Girl reluctantly agrees to tutor Cassie in the fine points of super-heroing. It isn’t long before Donna is won over by Cassie’s spirit and warmth. At the end of the series, Donna gives Cassie her old lasso as a way of passing the torch.
Wonder Girl’s first solo adventure is the result of mistaken identity. An old enemy of Donna’s from back when she was Wonder Girl (I could make up somebody new and implant the continuity, or better yet, we could find some old Teen Titan villain with a grudge against Donna and use him –or her) sees Cassie aiding Wonder Woman. Our Villain never made the connection between Wonder Girl and any of Donna’s later personas. He thinks that Wonder Girl simply dropped out of sight, and now she’s come back. Very slight alterations in his master plan will allow him to get revenge on Wonder Girl, and take over the Pacific coast underworld in one stroke. Wonder Girl’s single-handedly going to stop him, rescue her dad (the assistant DA), save the city and try to get home before her mom finds out.
Hey, three out of four ain’t bad.
Wonder Girl is intended to be lighthearted super-heroic adventure about the discovery of power, potential and responsibility. Wonder Girl’s major themes are; adapting to change; the potential of youth; the responsibility of the individual to society vs. her responsibility to herself; and youth coming of age. I'm sure we'll discover more as we go along. I see this series as being in the tradition of Lee-Ditko Spider-Man, but updated for contemporary tastes. Perhaps, with its similar approach to supporting casts and civilian life, it would be more accurate to compare this book to Impulse or STATIC.
I hope for this mini-series to be a romp through spectacular set-piece battles set within a very human story filled with wonder, humor and a touch of high-school madness. When it's all over, we will have renewed respect for Wonder Girl’s heroism, greater knowledge of her character (in both senses of the word) and her status quo will be set, leaving her in an ideal position for sequels or spin-offs.
Last Saturday was Batman Day and while Dwayne wrote Batman in both comics and animation, he had a few Batman comic pitches that never saw fruition. This particular one is an Elsworlds story about an African American Batman.
With rumors of Michael B. Jordan playing Superman, there are discussions regarding changing a character's ethnicity affects his origin. Dwayne injected ingenious twists with African-American Bruce Wayne. Incidentally, his version of Two-Face was going to be half white/half black which was plan for Billy Dee Williams when he was playing Harvey Dent in the Burton Batman films.
BATMAN: TALE OF THE BLACK BAT
"Another Elseworlds story, this one approved by Archie Goodwin. We never got around to doing it, and Archie (in my opinion, the best writer in mainstream comics, ever. He was merely a terrific editor) passed away. The story, set in the future, tells of the historic adventures of the great African-American super-hero Batman. By the time I unearthed the pitch, nobody liked it anymore. I did get an offer to maybe do it as a 19-page back-up. But I think it merits more room that that. Dead forever? Maybe not. I'll probably try again sometime."
Proposal for an "Elseworlds"
First Draft lost circa 1991
Second Draft, 1-21-95
Legend of the Black Bat...
About thirty years from now, in the large, tree-filled backyard of a pleasant, suburban home, two eight-year-old black kids are hard at play. Paper masks, carefully cut out and colored, hide their faces. Old, blue bath towels, Velcroed to their shoulders, serve as makeshift capes. Around their waists are toy, plastic utility belts, complete with Batarangs. In fact, it's a clumsily-thrown Batarang that begins our story.
Grandpa is pretty upset when the toy crashes into his half-finished chess game, scattering pieces all over the table. "What the hell," he asks as he begins to pick up the pieces, "are you kids doing?"
This doesn't go over very well. The kids explain, Batman isn't just a character from an entertainment disk. Batman was real, he lived in the late twentieth century. They learned about him in school. One of the boys illustrates, showing Grandpa a very familiar-looking hologram of Batman.
Grandpa chuckles, shaking his head as he indicates the disk. "I'm not arguing about that, boy. I know Batman was real. But he didn't look like this."
"Batman was black."
As Grandpa methodically sets up the chess board, the kids settle in and listen to his revisionist history of Batman.
The story Grandpa tells is familiar in the particulars but the context has changed radically. Young Bruce Wayne, heir to the Wayne family fortune (made through their chain of funeral homes –many relatively wealthy black families made their money by providing expensive services to their community in a Jim Crow society), is forced to grow up quickly when his parents are gunned before his eyes. With single-minded determination, the boy spends the next twenty years forging himself, mind and body, into a perfect instrument of justice. Upon reaching maturity, he fashions himself a costume that gives him the appearance of a giant bat, then sets out on his ongoing mission of justice, striking fear into the hearts of evildoers, even as they strike fear into the hearts of their innocent prey.
Unfortunately, the first summer he appears is also the summer that long-simmering racial tensions in Gotham city boil over into a race riot.
The mayor is displeased that a "black guy in a bat suit" is beating people up at the same time as civil unrest threatens to tear his city apart.
Commissioner Gordon has wildly ambivalent feelings about "the Batman." The evolution of these two men's relationship, from mutual racism and hatred to guarded respect, is at the core of this story.
Grandpa tells the story of a dark knight indeed, detached, unlikable, driven and disinclined to explain his actions. The results of his crusade are always justice for the innocent but the adventure that Grandpa tells is his most important one, the adventure where, on Gotham's darkest night, Batman finds peace for himself by catching his parent's killer, a twisted version of Two-Face, black on one side, white on the other, both sides driven insane by questions of racial identity .
Back in the future, the kids are awed by the story Grandpa told them, a story that resonates with a sense of heroism, and racial pride. As Grandpa completes resetting the chess board, his grandchildren ask him, "Is it really true? Was Batman black?" A thoughtful Grandpa fingers the toy Batarang. "It doesn't matter if it's true, boy." Grandpa throws the Batarang. It flies sixty feet, loops around a tree and returns to Grandpa's casually outstretched hand. "What matters is it could be." He hands the toy back to the flabbergasted children, muttering, "The weight's off on this thing."
The kids press the point, "Grandpa Bruce, were you the Batman?" Grandpa has turned back to the board, he swivels his head around. "A good story needs a moral, how about this: You can be anything you want to be. Never let anybody ever tell you different. Now go play."
Grandpa turns his attention back to the chessboard. He speaks to his opponent, who we haven't got a clear look at before now. It's a strapping, handsome black man with an incongruous S-curl on his forehead. Grandpa is impatient to get back to the game, "What are you waiting on, Clark? It's your move..."