The comics world has been mourning the loss of writer and producer Dwayne McDuffie since his passing last month, and I recently stumbled across a website cataloging a series of interviews with McDuffie that address the issues he faced as a black writer working at Marvel and DC, and the discomfort, pigeon-holing and criticism he often encountered.
I've posted two of my favorites below, and listening to him talk here really illustrates the problem with attempting to portray racial diversity in your characters -- which is itself a positive goal, to be sure -- when that kind of racial diversity or awareness isn't reflected in the people writing them. (I'd also go so far as to say that the superhero genre runs into the same problems with female characters as well.)
Yet another reason why the comics industry needed Dwayne McDuffie, and why he will be sorely missed. Check out two of the best videos below.
McDuffie on getting criticized and pigeonholed for using black characters:
"If I write a story where Daredevil, who doesn't have powers, gets the drop on Thor who has unbelievable powers, people go 'Oh that's so cool, Daredevil was so clever!' If I have the Black Panther do the same thing, that's impossible! ...When black characters do much less relative to where their positions are it makes the readership uncomfortable because they're not used to seeing it."
Dwayne McDuffie explains the origins of classic Luke Cage line "Sweet Christmas," and how it came from earlier creators not getting the joke:
"[Harlem detective fiction novelist] Chester Himes was screwing with people, and he made up this cartoon Harlem where he could write... dark comedy. The language was his little joke. He was making up a ridiculous patois. Some of people involved in the early Luke Cage didn't get the joke... They thought, 'Oh, this is the real deal. I'm gonna go and get this language.' It's kinda like what I might do if I were gonna write a story about a Chinese family. I'd read a bunch of Amy Tan. But if Amy Tan was screwing with me, I wouldn't know."
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