The Heroes at HERO


HERO Comics #1

Here’s something that’s definitely worth your four dollars.

This is a benefit comic for the HERO Initiative, a federally recognized not-for-profit charity dedicated to helping comic creators, artists, and writers who are in dire financial straits. They’ll help pay medical expenses, rent, even help creators find paying work in the comics industry.

If you know anything about the history of comics, you know that lots of creators never got paid very much money. We like to think of comics as a career path where you can get fame and fortune, but it’s often just not so. Creators in the Golden and Silver Ages were often underpaid, and even today, when creators get paid a lot more, there are still plenty of people who don’t get the high-profile work that leads to bigger paychecks. And even someone who makes good money can find themselves in deep financial trouble, especially where medical expenses are concerned.

And the comics industry hasn’t always been too kind to the people who helped make it successful — DC fired a lot of its creators in the ’60s when they had the gall to ask for insurance, Marvel notoriously tried to keep Jack Kirby from selling his old artwork, and comicdom’s poster children for creators-getting-royally-screwed-by-their-publisher are Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, whose families are on the verge of making DC pay through the nose for the rights to Superman.

And those are just the high-profile cases. Silver Age Superman artist Curt Swan had to keep working into old age to keep money in the bank. Wayne Boring, another Superman artist from the ’60s, ended up working as a part-time bank guard before he died. Fletcher Hanks, whose colossally bizarre but enthralling comics were collected in 2007 in “I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets,” froze to death on a NYC park bench in 1976. More recently, Howard Porter, who illustrated Grant Morrison’s “JLA” series, suffered a hand injury and was unable to draw for two years — he had to drive a school bus to keep from going broke.

Basically, being a comics creator is hard work, and the HERO Initiative tries to smooth out the rough spots.

So what do we have in this comic? It leads off with the first new “American Flagg!” story that Howard Chaykin has drawn in years and includes a comedic piece by Lowell Francis, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon about Hollywood’s attempt to modernize the Biblical story of Samson, along with a sci-fi fairy tale by Kaare Andrews. There are pinups and portfolios by Arthur Adams, J. Scott Campbell, Matt Wagner, and Mark Schultz, and a script by the late comics writer Dave Simons.

But the best pieces are a couple of one-pagers. First, Josh Medors brings in a very simple story, more text than artwork, about how HERO helped him stay on his feet financially and emotionally after he contracted a rare form of cancer. And finally, HERO president Jim McLauchlin tells a short story about meeting one of the charity’s beneficiaries at a convention and learning just how much HERO had really helped him. Both stories are deeply, deeply moving, and serve as great illustrations for the HERO Initiative’s work.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Go buy this comic, and if you can spare the scratch in this economy, consider tossing HERO and your favorite creators a little coin.

No Comments

  1. swampy Said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

    Superman away from DC? that would be devastating to DC if that happens

  2. Scott Slemmons Said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

    It won’t happen. The Siegels know that DC will pay them millions of dollars for the rights. The lawsuit is just about establishing that there’s no way DC can blow the Siegels off. The only question now is whether DC and Time-Warner will offer the family an insanely huge lump sum for the full rights, or if they’ll opt to pay them a smaller, but still colossal, amount over a period of a few decades.