Afterword

News, notes and follow-ups

Category: animators

Dwayne McDuffie, comic book writer and 'Static Shock' creator, dies at 49 [updated]

Dwayne McDuffie, who wrote scores of comic books for Marvel and DC and founded his own publishing company before crossing over to television and animation, died Monday, DC Comics said. He was 49.

[Corrected 3:20 p.m.] An earlier post said he died Tuesday. 

The cause and place of death were not immediately known.

McDuffie, a Detroit native, wrote comics for the New York-based DC and Marvel, including runs on "Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight," the Fantastic Four and the Justice League of America. He also penned several animated features, including the just-released "All-Star Superman," ''Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" and the animated TV series "Static Shock" and "Ben 10: Alien Force."

He founded publishing company Milestone Media in 1992.

[updated 5:55 p.m.] More from the Associated Press:

News of McDuffie's death was first reported Tuesday by the website Comic Book Resources. As recently as last week, McDuffie attended the premieres of the new "All Star Superman" film in Los Angeles and New York, and was scheduled to appear at an event this week at Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles.

McDuffie tweeted last week that he was "Taking a break from a script I owe to attend the LA premiere of ‘All Star Superman.’"

McDuffie's work for Marvel included "Damage Control," which took a serious but fictional look at a company whose job it was to clean up the damage — both physical and legal — resulting from battles between superheroes and supervillains. In 1992, however, he formed the comic book company Milestone Media, which gave him the freedom and leeway to create his own characters, many of whom were of differing ethnic backgrounds.

Milestone Media focused on multicultural superheroes including "Hardware," "Icon," "Blood Syndicate," "Xombi" and "Static," which was turned into the popular children's cartoon "Static Shock," on which he served as a story editor.

McDuffie also wrote for other titles and characters, too, including Black Panther and Deathlok.

Besides comics, McDuffie was a producer and story editor on Cartoon Network's "Justice League Unlimited," and wrote and produced episodes of other cartoons, including "What's New, Scooby Doo?," "Ben 10: Ultimate Alien" and "Teen Titans."

McDuffie was nominated for two Emmy Awards for "Static Shock," a Writers Guild award for "Justice League" and three Eisner awards for his work in comic books, his website said.

McDuffie's death took his colleagues and friends by surprise.

Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Entertainment, said the writer "left a lasting legacy on the world of comics that many writers can only aspire to. He will not only be remembered as an extremely gifted writer whose scripts have been realized as comics books, in television shows and on the silver screen, but as the creator or co-create of so many of the much-loved Milestone characters, including Static Shock."

Added DiDio: "The industry has lost a true talent."

Tom Brevoort, Marvel's senior vice president for publishing, said McDuffie was a force behind bringing more diversity into comics.

"He was very interested in creating a wider range of multiculturalism in comics, having been profoundly affected by the example of the Black Panther when he was growing up, and wanting to give that same opportunity to others of all races, creeds and religions, which is one of the reasons he left Marvel and co-founded Milestone," Brevoort told the Associated Press. "And he eventually came back to write both 'Beyond!' and 'Fantastic Four' for me."

— Associated Press

Mouseketeer Lonnie Burr recalls Disney animator Bill Justice

Mouseketeers
Lonnie Burr, an original Mouseketeer on TV's "The Mickey Mouse Club," says he was saddened to hear about the death of former Walt Disney Studios animator and Imagineer Bill Justice, who died of natural causes Thursday in a nursing home in Santa Monica at age 97.

In an e-mail to The Times on Friday, Burr wrote:

"Most people do not know that the warm, funny raconteur Bill knew Walt liked to discover things himself, so when there was need for a 'Pencil Song' on the upcoming Mickey Mouse Club in 1955, Bill had his talented actor/singer/song-writing, tennis buddy, Jimmie Dodd, write the song and had him sing it for some execs and Walt in the latter's office.

"Walt said, 'He's our new Mickey Mouse Club host!'

"Bill smiled knowing that he had helped his buddy and helped Walt find him."

The Times' obituary on Bill Justice is here.

--Dennis McLellan 

Photos: Jimmie Dodd, Lonnie Burr and the rest of the Mouseketeers (top) and Disney animator Bill Justice (below). Credit: Walt Disney Co.

Justice 
 

One year ago: Roy Edward Disney

Roy-e-disney

Roy Edward Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, was so committed to his uncle's creative spirit that he mounted revolts that led to the unseating of two of the company's chief executives who he felt were leading the company astray. He died one year ago at age 79.

As chairman of Disney animation, Disney helped guide the studio to a new golden age of animation with an unprecedented string of artistic and box-office successes that included "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King."

But it was a long road to those successes. After 20 years of working on nature films for the studio, he quit in 1977 when he was denied a larger role in the company after the death of his uncle Walt and his father, Roy O. Disney. He remained on its board as a director but was largely a figurehead.

Disney went on to partner with lawyer Stanley Gold and became a successful financier through Shamrock Holdings, where he built up wealth to ease his reliance on his inherited Disney stock.

When he had accumulated enough money and influence independent of Disney, he made his move against the company that had increasingly frustrated him. He quit the Disney board in 1984, causing a stock turmoil that led the unseating of the company's management. Using his influence, Disney was able to bring in a whole new management team led by Michael Eisner.

The victory was short-lived. Tensions began building between Disney and Eisner when the company's president and chief operating officer, Frank Wells, died in 1994, leaving Eisner solely in control of the company. In 2003, Disney called for Eisner's resignation, saying the company had come to be perceived as "rapacious, soul-less and always looking for the 'quick buck' rather than long-term value." Eisner resigned in 2005.

Disney initially fought the hiring of Eisner's successor, Robert A. Iger, but relented when Iger made peace, offering Disney an office at the company's Burbank studios, a consultancy and the title "director emeritus."

Despite wealth estimated at $600 million, Disney remained shy and outwardly unpretentious, according to people who knew him. He also was involved in several philanthropic activities, including serving on the board of trustees of the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, where he helped carry out the dream of Walt and his father to build and sustain a top arts college in Southern California.

For much more on his turbulent career, creative passion and the sometimes tense drama within his family, read Roy Edward Disney's obituary by The Times. Also, view a photo gallery of his life.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Roy Disney, in the Shamrock Center in Burbank on December 1, 2003. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Alexander Anderson, creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle, dies at 90

Alexander Anderson, recognized as the creator of the cartoon characters Rocky and Bullwinkle, died Friday at a nursing home in Carmel, said his wife, Patricia. He was 90.

His work also included "Crusader Rabbit" for NBC, the first animated series created specifically for television.

Anderson came from a family of creative artists and in 1938 started working in animation with his uncle Paul Terry at Terrytoons, the New York studio that created "Mighty Mouse."

Anderson, who attended UC Berkeley and the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, returned to Berkeley after serving in the Navy during World War II. He started working with childhood friend Jay Ward.

Anderson reached an out-of-court settlement in the 1990s with Jay Ward Productions over rights to Bullwinkle, Rocky and Dudley-Do-Right. The settlement recoginzed Anderson's creative role.

He filed the lawsuit after discovering Ward was the sole holder of the copyrights.

-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Frank Frazetta, renowned for sci-fi and fantasy art, dies at 82

Frazetta

Pioneering fantasy artist Frank Frazetta died Monday morning at a hospital in Fort Myers, Fla., his manager said. He was 82.

Manager Rob Pistella said Frazetta died Monday, a day after suffering a stroke. He said Frazetta had been out to dinner with his daughters Sunday before falling ill.

Frazetta is renowned for his sci-fi and fantasy art. He created covers and illustrations for more than 150 books and comic books, including Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan.

Daughter Heidi Frazetta Grabin said she was hopeful that a dispute among siblings over their father's artwork had been resolved through recent negotiations.

Son Frank Frazetta was charged in December with using a backhoe to break into the artist's museum in the Poconos and trying to remove dozens of paintings.

More later at www.latimes.com/obits.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Frank Frazetta with one of his paintings in 1994. Credit: David W. Coulter / Pocono Record/Associated Press

Shel Dorf, founder of Comic-Con, dies in San Diego

Dorf

Sheldon Dorf, who founded the world-famous Comic-Con International comic-book convention, has died. He was 76.

A longtime friend, Greg Koudoulian, says the Ocean Beach resident died at a San Diego hospital on Nov. 3 from kidney failure. He had diabetes and had been hospitalized for about a year.

Dorf, a freelance artist and comic-strip letterer, founded Comic-Con in San Diego in 1970 after moving from Detroit.

Today, the convention draws 125,000 fans a year and is a major gathering for comic-book fans, artists, writers and movie stars.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Shel Dorf with some of his comic-book memorabilia in 2006. Credit: San Diego Union-Tribune

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