Final Shortlist for Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics Revealed (Exclusive)

Shaft Imitation - Publicity - P 2017
Deitrich Smith/Dynamite Entertainment
'Shaft,' 'StarHammer' and 'Amazing Forest' are all in the running for this year's award, to be announced this Saturday.

This weekend, the winner of the third annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics will be named at Long Beach Comic Expo, continuing to celebrate both diversity in the comics industry and the legacy of the beloved comic book creator responsible for Marvel's Damage Control and the animated series Static Shock. Ahead of the Feb. 18 announcement, Heat Vision can exclusively reveal this year's final list of nominees.

The five nominated works have been chosen for their commitment to diversity both on the page and behind the scenes, with each one also representing diversity in terms of subject matter, as well. Stories range from sci-fi tales about genetic manipulation and up-and-coming superheroes to a revival of Blaxploitation hero Shaft and a romance between two unlikely lovers. The 2017 nominees are:

Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels 
Shaft: Imitation of Life by David Walker and Dietrich Smith
Amazing Forest by Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas and more 
StarHammer by J. N. Monk and Harry Bogosian
14 Nights by Kristina Stipetic

"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, and I look forward to seeing where our 2017 nominees' careers go from here," said Dwayne's widow, Charlotte Fullerton McDuffie. She added, "Everything they create from now on, they'll do attached to Dwayne's reputation for not just inclusiveness but excellence. Please continue to do him proud in all ways, always."

McDuffie's career included work on Warner Bros. Animation's Justice League Unlimited, Ben 10 and Static Shock series — the latter of which he co-created, based on the Milestone Media property he was partially responsible for. He also worked on projects for Marvel, DC and other publishers. In 1993, he became one of the founding partners of Milestone Media, a studio created to promote diversity in mainstream comic books and other media. He died in 2011, aged 49.

"The Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity continues to be one of the personal highlights of the weekend for me, bringing together such an incredibly talented and diverse group from all aspects of the business," Martha Donato, executive director and founder of the Long Beach Comic Expo, told Heat Vision about the annual award, which debuted in 2015. "We are so honored to pay tribute to one of the visionaries of the comic book medium, though the work of those whom he inspires. This year's nominees continue in that tradition, and I am looking so forward to seeing who takes home this year's honor."

Judges for this year's award include a number of comic book industry luminaries, including celebrated Black Panther writer Don McGregor, Batgirl and Birds of Prey writer Gail Simone, Green Lantern and Iron Man artist Mark D. Bright, and Milestone Media's Matt Wayne, among many others. The winner of the award will be announced at a special ceremony on Saturday at the Long Beach Comic Expo.