Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrecting Dwayne McDuffie

Hazel Dickens, the old-timey bluegrass singer seen in the union-ophilic film Matewan among other places, passed away on Friday, having lived just long enough to see the beginning of the end for unions in Wisconsin.  Just as we can respect the Clash without sharing their socialist sentiments, we can admire the folk and bluegrass traditions without being foolish enough to let aesthetics determine our moral or political judgments.  

But the passing of a far nerdier pop culture figure, with a better understanding of heroism, is on my mind (and I do not refer to a member of the Pipettes or the Raveonettes, though I saw performances by both last week and there were nerds present, as well as Danes and possibly some nerds who were also Danes). 

A popular writer from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series -- and historic creator of the more-ethnically-diverse Milestone  Comics -- Dwayne McDuffie, died of surgery complications in February, ironically just a couple years after introducing the idea that each elemental in the DC Universe, such as the character Firestorm, contains a portion of the "Life Equation" (which can fend off darkness and evil such as that of the old villain Darkseid, who figures into the final episodes of Smallville next month).


But I think anyone in this modern-media era who has ever worried that blogging might get them in trouble with the boss has reason to sympathize with McDuffie, who was removed from writing the Justice League comic book because he publicly blogged about how annoying it was to have to write the series with higher-ups continually telling him to add or remove characters from the team roster, altering his intended plotlines.  

DC saw it as disloyal grousing, but I think he saw it as just a writer talking about the challenges of his creative process and circumstances.  (If Frank Oz blogged that he only got to speak for a few minutes in a new Star Wars movie, I don't think it would necessarily mean he was staunchly anti-Lucas.)

It all went down right around the time DC (presumably executive editor Dan Didio, who I also mentioned in yesterday's entry) couldn't decide whether to kill Justice League members Hawkman and Hawkgirl, assume they were already dead, have them get reincarnated, or show them as merely injured but getting better.  After finally deciding that they were fine, they were then (temporarily) killed by zombies (and later temporarily killed by an anti-zombie entity).  They remain confusing, in any case.  That ain't gonna change.  

In fact, I'll bet I'm not the only person who sees pictures of Hawkman looking fierce and warrior-like and feels sorry for him, as though he's angry at how messed up his fictional continuity is.  All his rage will seem shallow and impotent to me until the unlikely day when all that gets cleaned up.  Without more writers like McDuffie who enjoy clarifying, simplifying, and systematizing things, that day remains as distant as the Resurrection.

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