February 19, 2014
A Word About The Creator of Rocket Raccoon (UPDATED)

So the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was sweet. We all love Rocket Raccoon. He’s a raccoon that shoots a gun, after all! Who could say no to that?

But he didn’t spring, fully formed, from the ether, despite what people may think happens with artwork on Tumblr. He was created by a legendarily prolific Marvel Comics creator, and the story of Bill Mantlo does not have a happy ending.

At all.

Until his regression in Georgia, there was hope that with enough rehabilitation, Bill might one day return to his home, living with assistance but actually having something approaching a normal life. Now, that seems impossible.

“At this stage, there really isn’t much that he gets out of life,” Mike says. “He doesn’t like to eat. He doesn’t like to listen to music. He doesn’t like to watch TV. He doesn’t like to read. He doesn’t want to do anything. It’s very difficult.”

If a way could be found to get Bill in front of a computer, perhaps with dictation software, Mike feels that Bill could probably write a story. But that depends entirely on whether Bill could maintain his concentration long enough to form a creative thought. These days, it does not happen often.

Mike does not have a large collection of Bill’s writing. But he does have a printout of the computer journal Bill kept while he was at Meadowbrook. Many of the entries contain loose details that appear to be connected to his Martian invasion story. But there are personal notes interspersed that reflect Bill’s own anguish, and his resistance to the very treatments that were slowly returning him to normal.

“My name is Bill Mantlo,” he writes in his last personal entry. “I want to go home.”

As they say, read the whole thing.

Bill Mantlo is in hospice care and his family approaches destitution [UPDATED: see below] due in part to the flamboyant failures of the American health care system, but frankly, the fact that he doesn’t see much in the way of royalties for his work cannot possibly be helping. Marvel is about to release a movie that will probably pull in half a billion dollars at the minimum, and Mantlo’s family won’t see anything from it.

If comics taught me anything, it taught me that that isn’t right.

So I urge people who are looking forward to that movie to donate what you can, when you can, to the Hero Initiative - a charity dedicated to being the safety net that too many comics creators lack - and specifically to Bill Mantlo’s care. When Guardians of the Galaxy comes out, I’ll see it, but to do so in good conscience I’ll donate an amount equal to the cost of my ticket to the Hero Initiative. I did this last year with Man of Steel and the year before with Avengers.

It’s only right.

[UPDATED] I’ve been in contact with Bill Mantlo’s brother, thanking me for making this post but also seeking to correct a misconception: the family is not approaching destitution as I had previously thought and reported. Mickey wanted me to make this clear in the event that accusations of misrepresenting the facts fall upon the family; this fuckup was mine alone.

Since Tumblr likes to delete questions after they’ve been answered - because sure, that makes sense - here is a screencap so you can read Mickey in his own words.

To be clear, however, Bill Mantlo still can use all the help he can get, and so does the Hero Initiative. Later today, in an effort to make up for this mistake, I’m going to double my donation to Mantlo in addition to donating to the Hero Initiative later this year.

This was my error. Send all your hate mail my way. But Bill is still in a rough situation and still needs help, and he still deserves far wider recognition than he’s gotten.

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