Animation, comics, and games have suffered two heavy losses. Dwayne McDuffie, co-founder of Milestone comics and creator of such characters as Static Shock, passed away. Not long after, Gerald Lawson, creator of the first cartridge-based video game system, also passed away. I was fortunate enough to meet both of these men and found they were kind and had a good sense of humor. And maybe that was necessary. Aside from each being pioneers in their field, they shared something else in common: they were both African-American.
On Monday, Dwayne McDuffie’s memorial at the TV Academy focused not just on the man, but on his vision: creating diverse characters that people of all races and ethnicities could relate to. When he was a kid, he wanted to see more people like him in the comics he read. As an adult, he made it so kids of any background could see themselves, too, whether in his comics, animated series, or, had he lived, one day in features. As few can say, he was successful in his life’s mission. He even got to see kids from different races dress up as Static Shock.
Gerald Lawson also lived to see the success of his efforts. Video game systems have blossomed since his early contribution in the 70s, and he was a guest of honor at the re-launch of the IGDA Diversity SIG at GDC in March. His story, as well as the vision of the SIG to increase diversity in the game industry, is the subject of my article in the April IGDA Perspectives newsletter, on page 24.
For anyone who knows me, I am passionate about diversity, and this passion comes from an entirely selfish perspective — not as a woman, but as a creator and consumer. Some people see that big word, diversity, and think, “Oh, that’s for them” — women, people of color — but it’s not. As McDuffie and Lawson’s stories demonstrate, diversity benefits all of us.