The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘M.F.K.’ cartoonist Nilah Magruder ‘in shock’ after winning first Dwayne McDuffie Diversity Award

From the webcomic <em>M.F.K.</em> , by Nilah Magruder. (Used with permission from the artist)

A DECADE AGO, Nilah Magruder was attending Maryland’s Hood College and contributing comic strips to the campus paper, The Blue and Grey Today.

Now, life as a comics-maker has taken Magruder to a new pinnacle. At this weekend’s Long Beach Comic Expo, she received the inaugural Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity for her action-adventure webcomic, M.F.K.

“I’m still in shock,” Magruder told The Post’s Comic Riffs. “It’s so exciting for a webcomic to receive this award.

“The nominees are all amazing artists and creators,” continued Magruder, now an L.A.-based storyboard and concept artist and book illustrator. “I’m humbled to be in such good company.”

Magruder, who launched M.F.K. in 2012, topped some high-profile comics. The other finalist works were: “Hex11,” by Lisa K. Weber and Kelly Sue Milano (HexComics); “Ms. Marvel,” by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (Marvel Entertainment); “The Shadow Hero,” by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew (First Second Books); and “Shaft,” by David F. Walker and Bilquis Evely (Dynamite Entertainment).

[Gene Luen Yang ‘honored’ to be among McDuffie Award finalists]

“Nilah Magruder’s M.F.K. is a great read,” Matt Wayne, director of the McDuffie diversity award, said in a statement. “Nilah created an incredibly engaging post-apocalyptic fantasy world peopled with a broad array of characters. In terms of both excellence and inclusiveness, this is just the sort of comic the award was created for.”

“I grew up surrounded by trees and wildlife and loving nature,” Magruder, who was born and raised in Pasadena, Md., said.

“I do believe much of the fantasy in my storytelling comes from my memories of home,” continued Magruder, who received her B.A. in communication arts from Frederick’s Hood College, graduating in 2005, before getting her B.F.A. in computer animation from Ringling College of Art and Design.

“It was a wonderful event and her speech was great,” writer-producer Reggie Hudlin, the ceremony’s keynote speaker, said.

“I’m online about to check out her webcomic,” noted Hudlin, who recently announced that he was co-leading the relaunch of Milestone Media, of which the influential comics/animation writer Dwayne McDuffie was editor-in-chief. McDuffie, whose work (including “Static” and the Emmy-winning “Static Shock”) featured diverse characters, died in 2011 at age 49.

[RIP, Dwayne McDuffie: Top talents pay tribute]

Magruder received the honor from Charlotte McDuffie, Dwayne’s widow.

“This award isn’t about honoring Dwayne,” Wayne said in his statement. “Dwayne wouldn’t have stood for that. The selection committee had to choose between five worthy nominees, and those works and their creators are what we celebrate today.”

“I think this award is the start of something great,” Magruder said, “and I’m truly honored to be a part of it in its first year.”


– Gene Yang’s rousing National Book Festival speech about diversity in comics and literature

– Dwayne McDuffie’s sardonic Marvel memo for ‘Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers’