Friday night, at Long Beach Comic Expo, the ceremony for the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity was held. The evening was hosted by voice talent and actor Phil LaMarr, who introduced speakers and videos that celebrated the memory of the late comics and animation writer who is the namesake for the award.
William J. Watkins, one of the members of the judging panel, spoke a few words before giving way to LBCE Guest of Honor, Don McGregor. The writer was an early champion of diversity in comics having penned an influential run of Black Panther in Jungle Action and was also one of the first creators to incorporate gay characters in his work. He shared an anecdote about a series never to be that he planned to do for McDuffie at Milestone Media. He wanted to create a comic about a gay, black lawyer dying of AIDS, but due to his commitment to writing Zorro, he would later be forced to abandon the project.
The keynote speaker was Andrea Romano, who worked with McDuffie in animation. She is a known voice actor and voice director. She discussed the transition of the voice talent industry to be more inclusive rather than relying solely on young, white, male actors.
Finally, the big moment came where McDuffie’s wife, Charlotte Fullerton McDuffie announced the winner of the night’s big honor. Leon: Protector of the Playground by Jamar Nicholas won this year’s award. Nicholas beat out fellow finalists Chimaera by Tyler Ellis, Full Circle written by Taneka Stotts with art by Christianne Goudreau, The Once & Future King written by Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride with art by Nicholas Brokenshire, and Quince written by Sebastian Kadlecik and Kit Steinkellner with art by Emma Steinkellner. Though Nicholas was not present to accept the award in person, he did record a video for his acceptance speech.
The only finalists to attend the ceremony were the creative team for Quince. Embracing the night’s theme of inclusion, they were allowed to give a brief speech even though they didn’t win the award.