Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dwayne McDuffie, 1962-2011

From CBR:

CBR News has learned that comic writer, animation producer and respected industry veteran Dwayne McDuffie passed away. The cause of death and specific details are unknown at this time.

A native of Detroit, McDuffie officially joined the comics industry as part of Marvel Comics editorial in the late '80s. While working on special projects for the publisher, he quickly made his name as a writer creating series such as "Damage Control" and helping to redefine the Deathlok character to fan and critical acclaim. He soon left the staff to become a full time freelance writer, becoming a voice in the industry for diversity, particularly fighting against stereotypical portrayals of people of color on the comic book page.

In 1993, McDuffie co-founded Milestone Media along with creators Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle. The company's mission statement involved expanding the role of minorities in comics both on the page and off, and they launched (through DC Comics) a line of superheroes that included "Static," "Icon" and Xombi" – all of which McDuffie had a hand in creating.

Over the years, the writer contributed to scores of notable comic book launches and series, always with a keen eye on character, regardless of race. In 2000, his character, Static, made the leap totelevision in the Saturday morning cartoon "Static Shock." In 2003, an episode of the show dealing with gun violence earned the writer the Humanitas Prize.

In recent years, McDuffie pursued dual tracks in animation and comics writing. He served as story editor for the popular "Justice League Unlimited" animated series and wrote a number of DC's recent direct-to-DVD animated films. McDuffie had notable runs on comic series "Fantastic Four" and "Justice League of America," often incorporating Black characters into the core of the fabled franchises.

McDuffie's latest work was the script for the "All Star Superman" animated adaptation, which went on sale today in stores across America. CBR ran a lengthy interview with McDuffie about that project last week and caught up with him, looking in good health and acting jovial, last week at the Paley Center's Los Angeles premier for the film. McDuffie's last known public statement was a post to his Facebook page Sunday at 12:17 PM Pacific. He was scheduled to sign at Golden Apple Comics tomorrow evening as part of Reggie Hudlin's Reggie's World launch party.

The writer is survived by his wife, though at this point no further details are available on what exactly happened to McDuffie. The staff of Comic Book Resources offers our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

# # #

Updates to the originals story are available here.

Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool also posted a rather touching tribute to the man.  It's worth reading.  Chances are, if you have kids, they (and by proxy you) have probably watched more than a few McDuffie cartoons.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Eric Powell's poignant and heartfelt reflections on the state of modern creator-owned comics (UPDATED)

Well, so to speak.

The collective sphincter of the creator-owned comic book artists has been stretched to the size of Nebraska, thanks to the Galactus-sized member of the superhero monopoly.

It goes downhill from there.  While The Creators Front for Diversity in Comics did valiantly try to bleep out the swear words, it's kind of like trying to blur out the boobs in "Human Centipede."  Eric Powell paints a gruesome picture of the miserable life of a creator-owned artist trying to make his way in an industry dominated by what amounts to two giant corporations trying to squeeze every red cent out of their intellectual properties.  And, being Eric Powell, he does so in a way reminiscent of his life as a historical consultant on the set of "Deliverance."  But he does also make a hell of a point.

This one's probaly not safe for kids.  Or Republicans.

UPDATE --  Annnd... the video's been taken down.  Aparently it raised a few too many eyebrows.  Here's Powell's explanation from his Facebook page:

The video I released last week in an attempt to draw attention to the lopsided tendencies of our industry has clearly become a divisive force instead of the unifying positive one I intended it to be. For that reason I've taken it down.
I work in satire and humor. Apparently those aspects of the video were lost on some people. If anyone misconstrued the meaning, my exact quote at the end of the video was, "We have to make original creator owned content just as vital to sustaining this industry as the Marvel and DC super hero books." And that's exactly what I meant and feel. At no point did I say or even allude that no one should buy Super Hero comics. I believe diversification is the only way to keep this industry vital and strong. Our country just went through a major "TOO BIG TO FAIL" scenario. Marvel and DC control 70% of the market and there are plenty of reasons that the corporations that own them could find to stop producing comics and use those super hero properties in more profitable ventures. I still believe that to be a legitimate fear. I need no more confirmation of my beliefs than that Shelton Drum, one of the best retailers in the business and the person who runs Heroes Con, agrees with me that we need diversification.
The video came from noble aspirations and the most genuine part of my heart. I love the art form of comics. And my wishes were only to make this industry stronger and create a better atmosphere for it's creators. For that I have no apologies.
"Be the Change you want to see in the world." -Gandhi
"But I tried, didn't I? Goddamnit, at least I did that." -R.P. McMurphy
Eric Powell


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bat-Jong Il!

Is there nothing The Onion can't improve upon?  Full disclosure; Batman is my favorite comic book character.  And Kim Jong Il is my favorite crazy despot.  A combination of the two would be glorious.  Glorious!

Kim Jong Il Ends Nuclear Program For Lead In Next 'Batman'

Here are a few stills of the oil paintings (from Bleeding Cool):

The Portugal Effect

In 2000, faced with enormous drug abuse and addiction rates, Portugal decided as a nation to decriminalize drug use of all kinds.  Minor possession and use of drugs were no longer a criminal offense.  Police focused on cracking down on dealers instead of users.

As the sweeping reforms went into effect nine years ago, some in Portugal prepared themselves for the worst. They worried that the country would become a junkie nirvana, that many neighborhoods would soon resemble Casal Ventoso, and that tourists would come to Portugal for one reason only: to get high. “We promise sun, beaches, and any drug you like,” complained one fearful politician at the time.

So almost ten years later, how's that working out for Portugal?

Well... drug use is down, the number of addicts in treatment is way up, and drug seizures are up by almost 500%.  Not too shabby.  Maybe California was on to something.  Read the full story here.  (Via Kottke.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Apocolypse WOW!

I'm by no means an Armageddon enthusiast.  But I'll be the first to admit the potential for dual suns in 2012 is pretty badass.

Earth could be getting a second sun, at least temporarily.
Dr. Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland, outlined the scenario to news.com.au. Betelgeuse, one of the night sky's brightest stars, is losing mass, indicating it is collapsing. It could run out of fuel and go super-nova at any time.

Probably even cooler in real life.
 So let's have a rundown of crazy/creepy/cool phenomena leading up to the End of the World:

The Mayan calendar, the solstice eclipse, droves of dead animals, Zodiac repositioning, global warming, super quakes, CERN's particle collider, snuggies, super flu, the Lethal Weapon relaunch, Sarah Palin running for president in 2012, high tides and mudslides.

As far as apocalypses apocali (thanks Richard) go, I feel like this one's shaping up nicely.

Any other signs of the End Times I've missed?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

White Lightnin'!

So I'm a bit behind the times on this issue.  Further proof, I suppose, that I should be reading Penny Arcade on a regular basis (and watching the weekly videos).

Because white actors need more roles!  Ugh.
 Anywho, on to the issue in question;  Thor.  As you probably know, there's a film version of the longtime Marvel comic book that will soon be hitting the big screens (directed by Kenneth Branagh!).  As a longtime Thor fan, I've been decently excited about the upcoming film (although I am a little wary of the costumes), and so a link to an article about a movement to boycott the Thor movie caught my eye.  Full disclosure; at first I thought the controversy was religious, due to the teaser at Bleeding Cool.  I guessed that Christian groups were mad about a movie glorifying a false idol.  Turns out they were just mad about one of the supporting characters being played by a black guy.  Even better.

Boycott Thor's outrage stems from the fact that Heimdall, the all-seeing Norse guardian of the Rainbow Bridge and Asgardian watchman extraordinaire, is being played by African-American actor Idris Elba.  Since the Nordic myths are pretty white-centric, site runner Kyle Rogers sees the portrayal of a traditionally white mythological figure by a black actor as an outrage, as well as further proof of a sinister Leftist agenda in the mainstream.

Personally, I agree with the Penny Arcade guys, as well as Terry Bartley and Cody Walker.  In a very strict, very narrow sense, Rogers could maybe have a point.  If the upcoming Thor movie was supposed to be some kind of accurate retelling of an ancient myth (the concept itself being something of an oxymoron), then yeah, maybe it would make sense to cast a Nordic fella as Heimdall.

But it's not.  It's a movie based on comic books.  Taking place in the modern world.  So what if Heimdall's black?  The movie stars a giant wrestler who runs around with giant bird wings on his helmet.  That's not exactly historically accurate.  And that's the point.  Thor's a Marvel movie loosely based on a Marvel comic book, which in turn is loosely based on Nordic myth.  Nothing's set in stone here, nor should it be. 

And after spending a while on the Boycott Thor page, it's pretty evident that Rogers is using the issue to push his racist ideals.  The sooner this guy's fifteen minutes expire, the better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rooftop gardens

Huffpost ran a really interesting little piece about Ben Flanner, a New York resident working on establishing urban gardens on rooftops around the city.  Motives behind the rooftop gardens, aside from being a great use of space, include growing organic crops locally and selling them to residents and restaurants, reducing carbon footprints by having a local source of vegetation instead of relying on vegetation being trucked in, and keeping the agricultural tradition alive in places you'd least expect.  Here's a link to Flanner's site, it's got all kinds of cool stuff.  And here's a quick little video showcasing some of Flanner's work in preparation for the 2011 growing year.

This is such a cool fusion of urban and rural life.  I'm seriously tempted to hit up my landlord and see if they'll let me start looking in to planting a garden on top of the apartments.

Locally, the new Lightcatcher Museum features a green roof.  Although it's more an experiment in ecology than in agriculture, according to a post on the Herald's Politics Blog.  Still, it's pretty damn cool.

Picture from the Bellingham Herald's politics blog.

Picture from the Bellingham Herald's politics blog.

Picture from the Bellingham Herald's politics blog.