Dwayne McDuffie, a pioneer of comic books with African-American heroes, died in 2011. Following his death, veteran producer Reginald Hudlin teamed with McDuffie’s former business partners to relaunch his company, Milestone Media, in tribute to the trailblazing artist.
But in a lawsuit filed Monday in L.A. Superior Court, the artist’s widow alleges that his estate was excluded from the revived company.
McDuffie wrote for Marvel and DC before launching Milestone Media in 1992 in an effort to bring greater representation of black heroes to comics. Milestone had a publishing agreement with DC Comics. McDuffie developed the characters Icon and Static, and produced a TV show, “Static Shock,” which aired on the WB network.
McDuffie died of complications from heart surgery at the age of 49. In 2015, Hudlin announced that he and McDuffie’s original partners would revive Milestone Media for a new generation of comics fans. Hudlin, who produced “Django Unchained” and directed the forthcoming Thurgood Marshall biopic “Marshall,” told the Washington Post that he and partners Derek Dingle and Denys Cowan hatched the idea to relaunch Milestone while gathered at McDuffie’s wake.
McDuffie’s widow, Charlotte McDuffie, alleges that his estate was excluded from the revived venture. At the time of his death, McDuffie owned 50% of Milestone Media, with Dingle owning the other half, the suit contends.
The three partners did not buy out McDuffie’s share of the company. Instead, they formed a new company called Milestone Media Company LLC, also referred to as “Milestone 2.0,” which took control of Milestone’s intellectual property, the suit alleges.
Charlotte McDuffie alleges that her inquiries about the new company have been met with “stalling and stonewalling tactics.” According to the suit, the new company is seeking to expand Milestone’s relationship with DC Comics, and is talking to other publishers about new projects, “all the while utilizing the intellectual property rightfully owned by Milestone, without compensation to Milestone or McDuffie’s estate, and without the consent of the Plaintiff or McDuffie’s heirs.”
The parties entered into a tolling agreement in April as they sought to settle the dispute. However, those talks appear to have broken down with the filing of the suit. In the agreement, Milestone’s partners issued a denial of the estate’s allegations.
Milestone’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.