LifeHealthPro has a lengthy article taken from the November 7th issue of National Underwriter Life & Health Magazine covering the heart-breaking story of comics writer Bill Mantlo. For Marvel Comics, he co-created the super-hero duo Cloak and Dagger, which is currently being developed as a TV series for ABC Family, and the sci-fi oddity Rocket Raccoon. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, he also wrote Spectacular Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, over 500 issues total. As the article details, in the early ’90s, he had become a public defense attorney for a non-profit until he was severely injured by a hit and run in 1992. For a moment, it looked like he would have a miraculous recovery, but through a series of bullying and manipulation by his insurance company, he ended up losing the ground he’d regained and getting stuck in what amounts to a nursing home. Bill’s brother Mike Mantlo has been running his affairs since the accident, and as you’ll read, it has not been an easy journey. That might be one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever written. Please read the article.
I reached out to some of the people who have been involved in various fundraisers and also Mike Mantlo to get some additional details.
In communicating with Mike, there were a few points of the article that he felt were inaccurate, and I offered him the opportunity to offer up his side for the public record.
Regarding the contentious selling of Bill’s comic book collection, which served as his archive and research library for his prolific work with Marvel, Mike told me that Bill had sold it prior to the accident. According to Mike, “he himself sold it off around 1986 to finance the cottage”.
As the LifeHealthPro article states, that cottage is another matter of controversy with the family. Mike stated that Bill never owned it outright, but shared ownership in a co-op. “Bill’s ex-wife was given 3 opportunities to assume the debt remaining on the mortgage that Bill bought her out of, but reneged 3 times with the bank.” Mike added, “I was forced to sell it to a friend of another co-op member through a ‘short sale’, just to get the asset off of Bill’s ledger so he could qualify for Medicaid”.
The final point he wanted to make was regarding the life insurance issue. “There was never any $100,000 life insurance policy that was surrendered for cash.” He pointed out that “if there had been, the state would have seized any funds” for Bill’s Medicaid coverage.
In 1994, Mike Mantlo set up a fund to help raise money to cover the ongoing expenses of Bill’s care. Recently writer Greg Pak (Incredible Hulk) wrote a wonderful tribute about Bill Mantlo’s influence on his own writing and included a link to Mike’s fund through PayPal:
I also checked in with Jim McLauchlin of The Hero Initiative. It was somewhat perplexing and disappointing to read in the LifeHealthPro article about The Hero Initiative’s apparent confusion over their own contributions. However, when I briefly spoke with McLauchlin, he said he had provided lots of information for the article. As he recalled to me, his contact with Bill’s brother was initially around 2002 and 2003 when the organization was still very young. This 2009 interview with Mike Mantlo confirms that The Hero Initiative provided the first support of any kind from the industry:
I had to struggle to fight his insurance company from cutting off his benefits, and the comics industry didn’t really step forward until many years later (probably because Bill had left it in the mid-80′s to become a lawyer). It was only when [The Hero Initiative] (comic book professionals support group) was formed in the late 90′s-early 00′s, that any assistance, or (financial) support came through. They deserve a lot of credit, as does Tony Isabella, who’s been the biggest champion of Bill’s throughout this whole ordeal.
The Hero Initiative is a great organization that has done crucial work to provide financial support and employment opportunities for comic book creators in dire need. The structure of the organization requires that requests for funds or assistance comes from the recipient or their family. McLauchlin stated that he hasn’t heard from Michael for about 3 or 4 years. I asked Mike Mantlo about whether he was considering re-approaching The Hero Initiative for additional support, but he said it wasn’t something he was planning on doing.
I will always be indebted to them for their kindness. I do not intend to approach them again, as I feel their mission is to assist all comics industry professionals that are in need, and I know their funds are stretched pretty thin with the many people they help (Ed Hannigan being the latest example that i was aware of). Bill would have wanted these funds shared equally, and I support his wishes in that regard.
Artist Ed Hannigan collaborated with Bill Mantlo on Spectacular Spider-Man and in creating Cloak and Dagger. Below is a video of Hannigan talking about his career, his struggles with multiple sclerosis, and how The Hero Initiative has helped him.
As The Hero Initiative’s Jim McLauchlin expressed to me, Bill’s story is tragic and it is indicative of issues that go beyond him and beyond comics. As health care reform takes full effect in 2014, we’re likely to see more of this topic on the national stage.
Mike Mantlo isn’t the only one remembering Bill. Over a year ago, Bill’s daughter Corinna Mantlo and her brother Adam Pocock set up the Facebook page The Bill Mantlo Project to pay tribute to their father and attempt to rebuild a complete library of Bill’s work. Eventually, they also hope to set up a non-profit scholarship fund to help kids pursue an education in art and writing. As the Facebook page mentions, “Bill was lucky enough to attend public art high school in NYC and then Cooper Union for a virtually free college art education, but many aren’t as lucky.” Friday night, I reached out to Corinna for additional details but by press time had not received a response.
As briefly mentioned in the LifeHealthPro article, during the last decade there have been other efforts made to pay tribute to and raise funds for Bill Mantlo. It started with Sleeping Giant Productions in partnership with Mike Mantlo producing Mantlo: A Life in Comics, a book which covered Bill’s life history and career (disclosure: I donated to help cover some production costs). While now out-of-print, it can be downloaded at Wowio.
I checked in with David Yurkovich of Sleeping Giant Productions to see his response to the article.
I wasn’t aware that the article was being published. My priorities over the last few years have shifted away from comics (ie, now a parent, new job, etc), which has left me with little time to devote to the medium. Even the Mantlo portal of the Sleeping Giant Creations web site has become terribly outdated, I’m afraid. But as the saying goes, you can only do what you can do. The article was heartbreaking. Obviously I’d known about Bill’s condition for a while, but my understanding was vague and limited. Bill Coffin’s article appears to have been exhaustively researched, both from a personal and health industry perspective. The costs associated with Mr. Mantlo’s care are staggering. I would have been interested in knowing more about the “new medication” that, for a time at least, improved Bill’s cognition and activities of daily living. If the drug was working, why did the physician in charge suggest doubling the dosage? Why wasn’t a small, gradual increase suggested? All water under the bridge now, I suppose.
As difficult as it was to read the stunning details in Bill Coffin’s article, I’m glad that he wrote it and that it saw publication. The vast majority of comics fans really have no idea whatever became of Bill Mantlo. The struggles he’s had to live with, not to mention the struggles his family have had to endure, really underscore the need for serious healthcare reform in the US.
Regarding any future plans for fundraising, Yurkovich told me the following:
There probably are [plans for more fundraising]. Bill has a legion of fans world-wide. Ideally I’d like to see Marvel step up to the plate and produce a Bill Mantlo Visionaries hardcover collection or an Incredible Hulk Omnibus containing Bill’s amazing run on that series, with a percentage of proceeds going toward Bill’s care.
In addition to Mantlo: A Life in Comics (pictured at the top of this article), the art show Rom: Spaceknight was put on by Floating World Comics in Portland, Oregon. They exhibited and sold new artwork of the cult favorite Rom character in which Bill was so involved. Walt Simonson (Thor), Jeffrey Brown (Incredible Change-Bots), and Guy Davis (B.P.R.D.) were among the artists that contributed. Finally Wowio reached out to Mike Mantlo to issue a digital release of Bill’s original graphic novel and comic book series Swords of the Swashbucklers, although that unfortunately does not appear to be available anymore.
My hope is that the LifeHealthPro article has inspired renewed interest in helping Bill Mantlo and that some of the above projects will see renewed interest and support. If you’re not comfortable with PayPal (above), you can also mail a check made out to Michael Mantlo to help with costs of Bill’s care:
26364 East Pintail Road
Long Neck, DE 19966
Please help, if you can.
Today, we look at comics publisher Archaia Comics. Originally set up as a banner for the self-publishing efforts of writer/artist Mark Smylie and his high fantasy series Artesia, it expanded into a full on publisher in the middle of this past decade, launching the anthropomorphic fantasy series Mouse Guard by David Petersen to much acclaim. More comics were announced until the young publisher seemed to become overwhelmed by its own plans, almost completely grinding production to a halt. It appeared as if Archaia was going to be another in a long line of comics publishers who have abruptly vanished. Then came news of the acquisition of Archaia by Chicago-based media company Kunoichi. For a time this didn’t seem to change anything, but then Archaia came back. In the past year, they have firmly landed on solid ground and proved themselves to be a dependable publisher of quality comics and graphic novels, with an eye to innovation in the digital comics space. Read the rest of this entry
Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?
(Still catching up. Time keeps on slipping-slipping-slipping into the future. For your patience… a sorta-kinda Halloween-themed edition!)
Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of September 23 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.
Don’t have a lot of time, so not much commentary from me. Just imagine me being excited about all of these because they all look awesome.
Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.
Ghost Comics: A Benefit Anthology for RS Eden – $10.00
Edited by Ed Choy Moorman
176 pages; published by Bare Bones Press
Ghosts of dinosaurs, transforming robots, and forgotten pasts abound in this star-studded book of staggeringly good comics.
All proceeds benefit Minneapolis substance abuse treatment facility RS Eden.
Including: Monica Anderson, Tuesday Bassen, Jeffrey Brown, Kevin Cannon, Allison Cole, Warren Craghead III, Will Dinski, Will Hayes, Hob, John Hankiewicz, David Heatley, Toby Jones, Reynold Kissling, Aidan Koch, Lucy Knisley, Mike Lowery, Sean Lynch. Jessica McLeod, Ed Choy Moorman, Sarah Morean, Corinne Mucha, Abby Mullen, Madeline Queripel, Evan Palmer, John Porcellino, Zak Sally, Jillian Schroeder, Mark Scott, Eileen Shaughnessy, Jenny Tondera, Sarah Louise Wahrhaftig, Maris Wicks, and Jessica Williams.
“An excellent sampler of what’s being done in today’s indie comics scene.” – Midnight Fiction
Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #15 – $4.99
Edited by Sammy Harkham
48 pages; published by Bongo Comics; available at PictureBox
Guest edited by Sammy Harkham, the award-winning creator of the popular Kramers Ergot anthology, this year’s issue is jam-packed with some of the most idiosyncratic takes on “The Simpsons” universe ever.
Among Halloween-inspired short strips by such visionary cartoonists as C.F. (Powr Mastrs), Will Sweeney (Tales from Greenfuzz), Jordan Crane (Uptight), Tim Hensley (MOME), and John Kerschbaum (Petey & Pussy), are four featured tales of inspired Simpsons lunacy: heralded artists Kevin Huizenga (Ganges, Or Else) and Matthew Thurber (1-800 Mice, Kramers Ergot) collaborate on a weird and wild story equal parts Lovecraftian eco-horror and Philip K. Dick identity comedy. Jeffrey Brown (Incredible Change- Bots, Clumsy) does a creepy and suitably pathetic story featuring Milhouse in a “Bad Ronald”-inspired tale of murder and crawl space living. Harkham and Ted May (INJURY) pull out all the stops for a tragic monster tale of unrequited love, bad karaoke, and body snatching at Moe’s Bar. Ben Jones (Paper Rad) does the comic of his life with an epic tale of how bootleg candy being sold at the Kwik-E-Mart rapidly spirals out of control into an Invasion of The Body Snatchers-like nightmare of a Springfield filled with cheap bootleg versions of familiar characters. And nobody does squishy, sweaty, and gross like up and coming cartoonist Jon Vermilyea (MOME), who outdoes himself with “C.H.U.M.M.,” a C.H.U.D.-inspired parody featuring everybody’s favorite senior citizen, Hans Moleman!
Every year “The Simpsons” TV show does a special Halloween-themed episode. They also put out a comic book that’s probably even more bizarre and hilarious. Here’s a review of it with some previews.
Underground #1 – $3.50
By Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber
32 pages; published by Image Comics
Park Ranger and avid caver Wesley Fischer is on a one-woman mission to stop Stillwater Cave from being turned into a tourist trap, but public opinion is not on her side. When locals begin blasting in the cave, Wes and a fellow ranger investigate – and a confrontation spirals into a deadly chase deep under the Kentucky mountains!
Yes, there are even comics about people who explore caves. Claustrophobics be warned. Here’s a 7-page preview. One of the characters are named Corey, so I don’t really think it’s possible for this to not be awesome.
(And if you haven’t read Whiteout, I highly recommend it. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I haven’t really heard good things about it. Like with Watchmen and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, ignore the movie and enjoy the comic.)
The author of the acclaimed “North Country” is back with a dark comedy. Despite Rick Watt’s best efforts to keep it together, he feels his life is falling apart, turning him into a zombie. After a cross-country move with girlfriend in tow, his fresh start turns into a festering mess. As a video game artist, Rick is subjected to the incompetence of three bosses and a kinky art director. His overactive imagination helps him cope until… his seven-year relationship tailspins and his ex takes flight with the guy across the parking lot. Other jobs and a new GF don’t look any better. Caught between his fantasy world and reality, Rick decides to pull the trigger.
With a foreword by Robert Kirkman, creator of the Walking Dead.
Here’s a 10-page preview. That flooded comics scene might be the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
How did Robin of Loxley become Robin Hood? Why did he choose to fight injustice instead of robbing for his own gain? Expressive and gritty, this graphic novel whisks readers back to Crusades-era England, where the Sheriff of Nottingham rules with an iron fist, and in the haunted heart of Sherwood Forest, a defiant rogue — with the help of his men and the lovely Maid Marian — disguises himself to become an outlaw. Lively language and illustrations follow the legendary hero as he champions the poor and provokes a high-stakes vendetta in a gripping adventure sure to draw a new generation of readers.
Here’s a 30-second preview for you:
And here’s the graphic novel’s blog, for interviews, reviews and some other preview images.