It’s getting serious for Bill Messner-Loebs. Last week, I kidded around about the project we’re working on, The Three Tenors?Off Key, but my conversation with Bill this morning left me shaken. As if his luck wasn’t bad enough, Bill’s wife Nadine is now suffering with chronic asthma. Her condition has been compounded by the mold in the hotel room they’re currently residing in. The room was provided by the Salvation Army.

Bill is best-known for the Inkpot-award winning Journey series, which began as a back-up story in Cerebus (Aardvark-Vanaheim) in 1982. For Piranha Press, he produced Epicurus the Sage (the coffee-table version of which is now available from Wildstorm), then landed at Comico for 32 issues of Johnny Quest. His “Big Two” break came under DC’s Impact imprint on Jaguar, which led to his most impressive work?the four- and three-year stints on Flash and Wonder Woman, respectively. In a foolish oversight, DC has not yet collected these phenomenal runs, unlike Bill’s run on The Maxx with Sam Keith, which was graphic novelized by Image.

It’s no secret that the Messner-Loebs couple has been in bad financial straits for quite some time. Lost their home. Lost their income. And a lot of good folks have pitched in to help: ACTOR, petitions from fans, the forum at http://www.millarworld.com? But sympathy isn’t enough right now, and charity isn’t the answer. The man needs regular work.

“How can I help?” I asked my old pal this morning.

“Well, you can write a letter for us to the Salvation Army that some work is coming,” said Bill. “That’ll help us get into the mission.” Jeez. He wouldn’t have even asked if I hadn’t called him. That article in The Detroit News some weeks ago said he handles adversity well. Right. Too well.

“I’ll make some calls for you,” I promised. And I’ve been doing that all morning. But no one hands out a book on charity. It’s got to make good business sense. Of course it does.

So here’s what you can do, friends. Help make good business sense out of hiring Bill Messner-Loebs. Jim Reeber at Aardwolf Publishing is building a book around several of Bill’s stories (along with stories by Dave Cockrum and myself, an intro by Dave Sims and an afterword by Tom Spurgeon). This will be followed by a novel by Bill ? his first.

Support these projects, people. Show publishers that hiring Bill Messner-Loebs makes good business sense. Order the short-story collection now. The Three Tenors?Off Key signed/numbered (limited edition to just 400) available from Aardwolf Publishing is the same price as the unsigned version that will be featured in Diamond Previews in April (for books shipping in June). Aardwolf even offers the book with a money-back satisfaction guarantee. That’s pretty fair, I’d say. Order that book at this link right now.

When I hung up with Bill an hour ago, he and his wife were being evaluated for entry into the Salvation Army’s mission. If accepted, he’ll be competing for one of 300 cots on a floor. So will his wife.

I think we can do better than that.

© 2004, Clifford Meth

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