Archive for Hero Initiative

Hero’s Creed

Hero Comics 2012

So it’s Memorial Day — a day when we traditionally salute our military heroes. Instead, today let’s talk about some other heroes familiar to all of us comics readers. No, not superheroes — the creators of our comics.

I know we’ve talked several times about the Hero Initiative. They’re a not-for-profit charity that focuses on providing assistance to comic creators, artists, and writers who are having serious financial troubles, whether because of age, illness, or simply because of difficulty finding work. They’ll help pay medical expenses, rent, even help creators find paying work in the comics industry.

Much of the history of comics has been filled with sad stories about comics creators who didn’t get paid very much for the work they did, or who didn’t receive pensions or retirement benefits or health insurance because they were freelancers. In fact, that’s still a problem today — it’s not uncommon for for an active freelancer to have health issues and have serious trouble finding the money to pay for the treatment they or their families need. There are all kinds of things that can leave comics creators unable to work in the industry and facing hard times without a safety net. The Hero Initiative does what they can to make things better. They’ve taken up the cause of taking care of the heroes who helped create the hobby we all enjoy.

They’ll put out a benefit comic about once a year to raise funding and awareness — they tend to focus on a combination of stand-alone feature stories combined with shorter comics in which creators tell about how the Hero Initiative has helped them. So we get an “Elephantmen” story by Dave Sim and Richard Starkings, a story about the Red Star by Christian Gossett and Brennan Wagner, and the piece you’ll really want to pick this up for: a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story by Kevin Eastman himself. Coupled with those are short autobiographical works by Tom Ziuko, Russ Heath, Alan Kupperberg, and Robert Washington — they’ve all gone through lean times and have been able to rely on assistance from Hero Initiative to get back on their feet.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Eastman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story is really entirely excellent, but I think the real stars here are the creators who tell their own stories about how Hero helped them keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Their stories do the heavy lifting to demonstrate all the good that the Hero Initiative does for the heroes who created comics for us. They’re a great cause — why not help them out by sending them a few bucks?

The Unwritten #37

Things have changed for our heroes and for the world — Pullman is dead, Tom Taylor and Richie Savoy are both famous, Lizzie Hexam is dead — and fiction is disappearing from the world. More people look on Tom as a messiah figure as he travels the world talking to fans, and the police are taking an interest. As Tom’s tour takes him to Australia, we get acquainted with police detective Sandra Patterson, who’s trying to track a string of disappearances linked to a cult of Tom Taylor worshipers. She goes undercover hoping to flush out the truth — but she’s quickly discovered, ejected, and beaten — and she misses the chance to witness the cult’s magic.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Few appearances of the comic’s stars, but the story moves forward fine on its own. It’s an intriguing concept, too — what happens to a world that finds itself unable to remember stories anymore? A combination of depression and madness — slow at first, but accelerating as time passes. It’ll be interesting to see where this is all going.

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Heroes for All

Hero Comics 2011

We’ve discussed the awesomeness of the HERO Initiative at least once before — they’re a not-for-profit charity that works to help comic creators, artists, and writers who are having serious money troubles, whether because of age, illness, or just plain difficulty finding work. They’ll help pay medical expenses, rent, even help creators find paying work in the comics industry.

In decades past, comics creators often didn’t get paid very much for what they did, and they rarely enjoyed pensions or retirement funds. And freelancers today often can’t afford medical insurance. There are all kinds of things that can leave comics creators unable to work in the industry and facing hard times without a safety net. The HERO Initiative does what they can to make things better, and they’re absolutely industry heroes.

They also periodically put out a benefit comic to help raise money and awareness — and this year’s is certainly one of the most impressive I’ve seen — whether we’re talking benefit comics or anthology comics. The spotlight piece is a story called “My Last Landlady” by Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, and Sam Keith — the original creators of the Vertigo “Sandman” series. It’s a beautifully painted horror short, claustrophobic and tense, set in a seaside resort. Later, Sam Keith whimsically illustrates the e-mails that he, Gaiman, and Dringenberg exchanged while they were working on the project. We also get a short “Elephantmen” story by Richard Starkings and Dougie Braithwaite, and a psychedelic “Chew” story by John Layman and Rob Guillory.

And on top of that, we get three short one-page stories from Christopher Ivy, Jason Craig, and Ralph Reese, talking about how HERO helped them through tough times. And despite the array of powerhouse talent in the rest of the comic, all turning in outstanding work, these little one-pagers are the most touching and moving stories in here.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Brilliant comics in here — spooky and funny and sad and heartwarming. It’s all for a great cause, it’s definitely worth the four bucks you’ll pay for it — and please visit the HERO Initiative’s site to learn more about what they do.

Dungeons & Dragons #9

Adric Fell and his band of adventurers are stuck in the Feywild and under attack by a bunch of gnolls, but they’ve got aid from Toveliss E’Teall, an Eladrin king — and Adric’s girlfriend’s father. He’s not a big fan of Adric, but he helps them all out anyway. After bringing them to his own magic castle hidden under a waterfall, Toveliss reveals that the Eladrin who were forced through the dimensional portal back in the Dwarven dungeon ended up as disembodied spirits, and the only way to restore them — and the only way Toveliss will agree to send the adventurers back to the normal world — is for the party to travel to the now-ruined City of Stairs, which is now occupied by monstrous Fomorians. After the party battles a dryad (which Khal disarms in a uniquely awesome way), they finally reach the City of Stairs. But to reach their goal, they’re going to have to travel underneath the city…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, great dialogue, and the twist in the battle with the dryad is really superb. All around, a very fun comic book.

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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.

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