Since the days he first made his name at Marvel Comics with the super-battle clean up crew comic Damage Control, Dwayne McDuffie has developed a reputation for finding the fresh angle and unique approach to whatever he works on.
As is now well known, in 1992 McDuffie parlayed his growing clout in the comic world to co-found Milestone Comics, where he helped develop a comic universe focused on an even portrayal of minorities featuring characters such as Icon, Hardware and Static among many others. Those characters were recently folded into the main DC Universe in the comics, though only Static has received much attention. It was Static then that really caught the eyes of Hollywood too.
The Kids WB hired McDuffie to write and edit a show based on the teenaged superhero, “Static Shock.” Making its debut in 2000, its original run would last until May, 2004. Since then the series can still be seen in repeats, first on Cartoon Network, and now on Disney XD.
From there he parlayed the Static experience to work on a number of other WB shows, the most prominent of them “Justice League.” After the shutdown of that series, McDuffie has rebounded nicely. He has teamed up with fellow Warners vet Glen Murakami, where they now work on the series “Ben 10: Alien Force.”
“Ben 10’ is more than a full time job,” quips McDuffie. “I have to sneak in these direct-to-videos on the side. So I’m a little to busy, but it’s worth it. This is really fun stuff.”
As fans of Ben Tennyson know, the series kicked off its second season earlier in September with the return of the primary villain from the original “Ben 10” series, Vilgax.
“I definitely thought there was a story there,” McDuffie recalls. “Vilgax was the most popular villain from the original series. We didn’t want to bring him back in the beginning. We were trying to establish our own identity and not make it feel exactly like the old show. Now that everyone knows what ‘Alien Force’ is, compared to the original series, we thought it was time to bring him back.”
According to McDuffie, this latest season will include a number of other elements from the original “Ben 10.” That doesn’t mean there won’t be some new character developments.
“Ben’s not a kid anymore, like in the original series,” says McDuffie. “What has happened is he’s gotten full of himself due to his enormous success fighting off the High Breed’s intergalactic invasion. He’s like any 15 year-old kid who’s done something enormously well, he thinks he can do everything well. Ben’s going to have to figure out that’s not the case.
“He’s mature quite a bit over the last two seasons. This season we wanted to point out that he’s still a kid. He’s not a grown-up who’s got everything under control. Quite frankly, there are a lot of grown-ups who can’t handle success very well.”
McDuffie also has plans for Ben’s two main colleagues, his cousin Gwen Tennyson and her beau, Kevin Levin. It kicked off with an experiment gone horribly wrong for Kevin, turning him into an amalgam of materials fused to his body. It brings back horrible memories for the series’ bad boy, harkening back to the original series.
“That’s a real problem for Kevin,” says McDuffie. “That’s something that’s going to be going on indefinitely. That’s a major change for Kevin and for his relationship with Gwen. It’s something they are all going to have to deal with. The relationship will definitely be challenged.”
Another character fans should expect to see more of is Ben and Gwen’s grandfather, Max.
“He came back to Earth at the end of last season,” admits McDuffie. “He finished what he had to do on the other dimension. That he rode in riding a Null Void Guardian shows just his level of control over there.
“Now Max is still pretty much a constant though. You’re going to see him in the background a lot, organizing a new force of Plumbers. There wasn’t an active Plumber base when ‘Alien Force’ started. Max is now setting that up (again). Otherwise, Max is still Max.”
Another character who will apparently be making appearances is a personal favorite of McDuffie, Doc Paradox, who is voiced by no less than “NCIS’” Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, David McCallum.
“It’s fair to say that Doc Paradox is returning and David McCallum is still in the role,” quips McDuffie. “Yes, he did start out as an homage to Doctor Who because we are all fans over here, particularly the original show. We were fans more for the kind of stories they used to tell and want to continue doing those kind of stories. So it seemed appropriate to have a character that was sort of a wink and a nod to that.
“David is also wonderful to work with, and he’s brought a charm to that character we just can’t write. We can get away with stuff that we just can’t get away with if it was another actor. He’s wonderful at it. Yes, there are others returning, and they are all surprises. Prepare to be surprised.”
While he was at it, McDuffie had more than his share of praise for the key cast, including Yuri Lowenthal (Ben), Greg Cipes (Kevin) and Ashley Johnson (Gwen).
“Everybody’s great!” McDuffie exclaims. “This is one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with. All of them are able to find things in their characters that we didn’t know were there. We are constantly writing to catch up where the cast is taking them. You can feel the relationship between the characters in their voices. They are all very natural and real. I give a lot of credit to Andrea Romano, who is just a straight up genius.”
As for his partner-in-crime Murakami?
“He always comes up with surprises!” McDuffie exclaims. “Always! Visually, the show continues to grow. You are going to see stuff on the show that you’ve never seen before, or any kind of animated series. I’m constantly stunned by it.
“For instance, I can type up a line like ‘the bad guy unleashes a ball of energy that will literally destroy the world.’ That’s pretty easy to type. Every single time, Glen and his crew come up with something that is so far beyond anything I could expect. Man! They make me look really smart.”
McDuffie is also finding the franchise’s continued expansion interesting in its own right.
“This is the second season of ‘Alien Force.’ It is the second ‘Ben 10’ series. There is a live action movie coming later that’s called ‘Alien Swarm.’ That’s a separate project. The guys on ‘Alien Swarm’ talk to us from time to time, especially early on. Glen is working pretty closely with them. ‘Alien Swarm’ looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. I actually went to film school with Alex Winter (Swarm director—ED). We took Sight and Sound at NYU. He’s a fun guy.”
Of course, that isn’t all McDuffie’s been busy with. The reason he’d been a hard man to pin down recently was just announced last week. He’s the writer on the DCAU direct-to-DVD film, “Crisis On Two Earths.” Contractual obligations currently are forcing him to not talk too much about the movie until the release of “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies” release (September 29th). As it turns out, he does have his share to say on the extra content of that DVD.
“There’s a long tradition of Crisis stories at DC, usually involving parallel Earths,” McDuffie says on the “Public Enemies” DVD. “Usually you’d see the heroes of Earth-1, our Justice League, meet the heroes of Earth-2, the characters that are now the Justice Society.
“As time went on, there were dozens of parallel Earths. Then in 1985, DC did ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths.’ A DC fan, whenever they see a Crisis title, they know it’s going to be a big story. I think we certain have come through on that aspect.”
As it turns out, the movie is based on a script that McDuffie submitted to a never-completed season of “Justice League,” entitled “Worlds Collide.”
“A couple of times, we tried to do stories with The Crime Syndicate,” McDuffie says. “They are a parallel Earth version of the Justice League. We start with the Justice League going to a parallel Earth to try to help the people their free themselves from corruption. It’s a story. It’s the biggest Justice League story that we’ve ever tried to do.”
What’s also interesting is McDuffie’s old “Justice League” partner, James Tucker, did his own spin on the Crime Syndicate angle recently. Tucker now is the executive producer of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” In its first season, he did the two-parter “Deep Cover for Batman/Game Over for Owlman.” When it came to his former colleague, McDuffie didn’t mind adding his own thoughts.
“The story is ‘Mirror Mirror’ from ‘Star Trek,’” says McDuffie. “So we both did our take on that.”
As for McDuffie’s future? Maybe it’s time for some more Milestone titles to become animated.
“Boy, I hope so!” says McDuffie. “If someone’s interested they should call them up and get it going. I’m all for it. I’d love to see Static again. I’d love to see Icon, Hardware, all the guys.”
Of course, he has to fit it into his already excruciatingly busy schedule, but one gets the feeling McDuffie will find a way to squeeze it in.
FLORIDA ANIMATION CON BRINGS FUTURAMA/PINKY & THE BRAIN
There some interesting changes in what once was called the Florida Anime Supercon. It’s officially changed its name to the Florida Supercon, and it’s backing that new name.
Guests of honor will include almost the entire primary voice cast of “Futurama” and “Pinky & The Brain.” That’s Billy West, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen. Katey Sagal won’t be able to make it as she’s currently working on “Sons of Anarchy.” As an added bonus, “Futurama” executive producer David X. Cohen has just been added to the guests.
The convention is being held at the Doubletree Miami Mart Convention Center, October 2-4. For more information, <a href=http://www.animationsupercon.com>click here.</a>