R.I.P. Dwayne McDuffie, the man who helped save superheroes from irrelevance

Dwayne McDuffie's work is a huge reason why many of us still care about superheroes, and comics generally. He reportedly died today, of unknown causes.

He co-founded Milestone Comics, which gave us a diverse group of superheroes and other heroes ā€” but also made superheroes fascinating and relevant, at a time in the early 1990s when most superhero comics were at their most idiotic and collector-focused. His comic Icon turned the traditional hero/sidekick relationship on its head, by giving us a sidekick (Rocket) who creates the main hero. He also helped to create Static, Hardware and a number of other memorable superhero characters.

Before starting Milestone, though, McDuffie had already come up with one of the most inventive spins on superhero universes ever ā€” Damage Control, for Marvel comics. For anybody who's ever wondered just who comes and cleans up the property damage after one of those massive superhero fights, Damage Control was a hilarious look at how things would have to happen in a "real" superhero universe.

After Milestone closed, McDuffie went to work in television, developing a Static Shock TV series based on one of Milestone's characters. He also worked on Ben 10: Alien Force, Teen Titans, and most notably Justice League Unlimited. His work on JLU helped to introduce the richness and coolness of the DC Universe to a whole new generation of kids. He also wrote the script for the All-Star Superman animated DVD, which just went on sale.

In recent years, McDuffie returned to comics, writing more Milestone tie-in comics. He also was the regular writer for Fantastic Four and Justice League, and wrote a great miniseries called Beyond, that was a kind of sequel to Secret Wars. I especially loved his Fantastic Four issues, in which Sue Storm gets taken hostage and turns the tables on her captors in an awesome fashion.

Anybody who loves superheroes, especially superhero comics, owes McDuffie a great debt. And if you've never read Damage Control or any of the core Milestone titles, it's well worth hunting down the back issues to see how cool and inventive comics can be. McDuffie will be sorely missed.