Like many of you, I was apprehensive when the Guardians of the Galaxy movie was announced. Marvel's team movie success seems to hinge on having an entire franchise of origin stories, as either moviegoers or movie makers think that an origin is necessary for every superhero, and I had no idea how they would try to pull this together with just a glimpse of Thanos at the end of The Avengers.
As casting details and promotional images started to slip out, I became a bit more hopeful. Then there was the teaser yesterday and the trailer today, and I can say with little doubt that Guardians of the Galaxy will probably be the most fun and entertaining Marvel movie since Iron Man.
And I won't be seeing it.
Because right now, the hospice care for Bill Mantlo is putting his family into financial ruin (We have received an update from Michael Mantlo; see below). There's a long and incredibly moving article at Life Health Pro that is well worth your time, detailing how one of Marvel's most prolific creators went from breathing life into some of the characters we know and love to a man who… well, you should read the article. Let's just say that he deserves to be treated far better than he is able to be right now.
Part of the reason Mantlo is in such a state comes from the tragedy of the American healthcare system. The other part is the tragedy of the American comic system, that even when creators do receive royalties for their creations, they are rarely more than a pittance. And one of Mantlo's creations is a CGI star of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.
He and Keith Giffen created Rocket Raccoon back in 1976, but that's far from his only legacy at Marvel. Mantlo was routinely the go-to writer for fill-in issues, sometimes turning around a script for a comic in as little as three days. The editorial team knew that he was the guy they could count on when their other writers couldn't hit deadlines, and he was always eager to knock out a story. While others may have complained about being assigned to Marvel's toy-based comics like Micronauts and ROM, Mantlo took it as a challenge and wrote stories that became fan favorites for decades.
While Rocket Raccoon, Lady Deathstrike, and ROM are perhaps his most famous creations for Marvel, he is credited with the creation of over 50 other characters and wrote over 500 issues for Marvel back in his heyday. This was before he left comics to work as a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society providing free criminal defense. This was before a nearly fatal hit and run put him in the condition he is in today.
I don't know how much money Mantlo's family will receive for the use of Rocket Raccoon in the film, but I don't expect it to be much if anything at all. Mantlo's time in comics was ending right around the time writers and artists actually started receiving some kind of rights to the characters they created, and his recent healthcare costs have been covered through donations, art auctions and tributes, and Medicaid.
Rather than going to see Guardians of the Galaxy, I intend to donate the cost of my ticket (and then some) to the Hero Initiative, who actively attempt to provide the safety net for the creators of comics we have known and loved.
I'm not going to ask you not to see Guardians of the Galaxy—it looks like it's going to be a great movie after all—but please do consider donating to the Hero Initiative or directly to Bill Mantlo as well.
Editor's note: We have received confirmation from Michael Mantlo that while your donations are still very much appreciated, his brother would benefit from the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy film. To help Bill Mantlo and his family, please see Greg Pak's blog.
David Fairbanks is a freelance writer, poet, and artist. You can find him on Twitter at @bairfanx.