DC’s newest teen hero, Naomi, had her last name revealed in the latest issue of her series. The character, created by Brian Michael Bendis, was revealed to be Naomi McDuffie, an homage to comic creator Dwayne McDuffie.
To those in the know, the sudden passing of Über creator Dwayne McDuffie in February of 2011 was an incalculable loss that would reverberate through the years.
McDuffie, probably best known as the creator of the Saturday morning animated Static Shock, was single handedly responsible for bringing more representation to comics, particularly DC Comics, then anyone in recent memory.
He was one of the founders of Milestone Media that was initially an imprint of DC where he and Denys Cowan in particular brought forth the Dakota Universe as it was colloquially known (its main setting was the fictional city of Dakota), which introduced Black characters like Icon, Static, Hardware, and others that quickly became pivotal characters in the DC Universe.
Black Enterprise‘s Derek Dingle noted in an article after his death that it had been nearly 18 years to the day that they had founded Milestone.
Dingle wrote, “When we started Milestone, Dwayne would often share his reason with our staff and the press for pushing for such diversity and the importance of creating a line of comics that would break stereotypes and not treat any race as being monolithic.
“If you do a Black character or a female character or an Asian character then they just aren’t that character. They represent that race, or that sex, and they can’t be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people. Superman isn’t all White people and neither is Lex Luthor. We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn’t do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that’s wider than the world we’ve seen before.
Behind the scenes McDuffie was the driving force and writer for both Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, two of DC’s most popular animated series and that prominently featured a wide swath of DC characters, particularly Black characters, who normally wouldn’t share the spotlight with the big three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) like Mr. Terrific, Vixen, and the Jon Stewart version of Green Lantern (all African-American).
For a whole generation of viewers it is this version of Green Lantern that they know.
Naomi’s superhero career is just getting started, but her journey of discovery is now complete. In Naomi #6, the final issue of the character’s first series, she is brought to her home planet — a parallel Earth — and learns how to control her powers. She also comes face to face with Zumbado, the villain who is responsible for the death of her parents, and defeats him.
At the same time, just as the book comes to a close and we finally understand where she came from and where she is going from here, we also learn something we didn’t know before. For all this time, the character has simply been known as Naomi. Now the creative team has finally revealed her full name — Naomi McDuffie.
It’s no cool new codename, or some exciting birth name, but it is important to know where she comes from before we find out where she is going next. What’s more important, though, is how that simple name pays tribute to one of the most important comic book creators in the last 20 years, Dwayne McDuffie.
One of the founders of Milestone Media in the 1990s, McDuffie holds a special place in the industry due to his dedication to diversity and inclusion. He was a co-creator of the black superhero Static and worked on the popular animated series Static Shock. After a comics career that also saw him write Justice League of America, Fantastic Four and other titles, McDuffie died suddenly in 2011 at the age of 49.
The industry has since honored McDuffie by creating the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics, which was first awarded in 2015. Naomi co-creator David F. Walker was a recipient of the award for his work on Shaft for Dynamite Entertainment. Given both Bendis and Walker’s dedication to diversity in comics, it makes sense the two would want to honor McDuffie in this way. Bendis even confirmed the reference on social media.
Many of McDuffie’s arguments regarding how representation leads to actualization have been echoed by everyone from Star Trek: Discovery‘s Sonequa Martin-Green to the recent controversy over casting Halle Bailey as The Little Mermaid in the upcoming Disney live-action version.
It’s heartwarming to see McDuffie’s legacy continue and remembered as the legendary icon he was.
Rest in Power, good sir.
You can visit the Milestone Media website here.