On Saturday, February 18, the third annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics was announced at the Long Beach Comic Expo. The nominees were Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels; Shaft: Imitation of Life by David Walker and Dietrich Smith; Amazing Forest by Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, and others; StarHammer by J. N. Monk and Harry Bogosian; and 14 Nights by Kristina Stipetic. Ultimately, Ezra Claytan Daniels won the award. Upgrade Soul is an "immersive science fiction graphic novel" with a score by Alexis Gideon and interactive design by Erik Loyer. It is the story of an elderly couple who undergo an experimental procedure to rid their bodies of toxins, but encounter unforeseen consequences. "This was such a huge honor," Daniels said, in response to winning.
Dwayne McDuffie was a hugely influential creator in the comics industry, and a list of his accomplishments, which include Milestone Comics and Justice League Unlimited, would barely begin to do justice to his vision and legacy. An editor at Marvel Comics with a master's degree in applied physics from the University of Michigan, McDuffie was a tireless writer and editor who helped shape many of comics' most iconic characters into the forms for which they are known today. He was the winner of three Eisner Awards, and was the first African American to win the Writers Guild of America's award for Animation Writing, which he was awarded posthumously in 2011. When the nominees were announced last week, his widow, Charlotte Fullerton McDuffie said, "I am pleased to once again welcome another group of outstanding work and all of these remarkable creators to be forever associated with my late husband's name…Everything they create from now on, they'll do attached to Dwayne's reputation for not just inclusiveness but excellence."
Previous winners of the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics have been Nilah Magruder and Ms. Marvel. The judges this year were Mark D. Bright, Neo Edmund, Joan Hilty, Joseph Illidge, Heidi MacDonald, Don McGregor, Kevin Rubio, Cassandra Pelham, Gail Simone, Will J. Watkins, Matt Wayne, and Len Wein. Illidge recently wrote a stirring tribute to McDuffie for Entertainment Weekly.