Of Marvel Movies and Their Creators

Okay, so I think we’re all aware of the two big news stories this week, but in case you haven’t heard, the long-awaited, much-speculated-about Guardians of the Galaxy film finally got its official movie trailer this week.

Yeah, this movie’s gonna be amazing. But what’s equally amazing and wonderful to me is how many people have been discovering and sharing the story of what happened to team member Rocket Racoon’s creator, writer Bill Mantlo.

Mantlo got in on the ground floor of the fan-turned-pro incursion into comics in the 1970s, quickly becoming famous for his ability to consistently write fill-in stories on any given title and eventually became one of Marvel’s most famous, prolific writers. But because of a head injury brought about by a hit-and-run in 1992, Mantlo has been living with severe disability and has been shunted through the underbelly of the American health care system ever since. You can read more about that here.

As that article mentions, because he created characters like Rocket Racoon and White Tiger before an incentive program was implemented allowing creators of characters to get proceeds from merchandise, Mantlo and his family–who serve as his legal representatives and caretakers–won’t see a dime from the millions of dollars Guardians will no doubt make when it comes out in August.

This is yet another example of what an insightful article at the Escapist yesterday pointed out: comics creators, who over the decades have gone from being creatives just looking for work to fans specifically looking to work in the medium, have been and still are consistently underpaid and mistreated, even as their publishers continue to make millions of dollars from their work. For someone who’s had as much terrible stuff happen to him as Mantlo has, that means everyone may know who you are, but that won’t help you whatsoever.

In an age where fans can easily access a colorist’s profile on deviantART and Transformers writer James Roberts regularly holds court via Twitter, this sort of thing should be swept under the rug and a new paradigm created. But until that happens, Mantlo, and people like him, need your help. You can learn how to donate to Mantlo’s care here.

Moving on to the other big news of the week–the revealed cast for the new Fantastic Four films–I’m reminded of the many, repeated attempts by the family of the great Jack Kirby to get some restitution for Marvel’s terrible mistreatment of such a great talent. Of course, one could make the claim that, as with Mantlo, since Kirby was work-for-hire, his heirs aren’t entitled to compensation. But given how iconic these characters are, dispensation must be made. Justice must be done.

If you’d like to help out other creators, the best resources possible are the Hero Intiative, which helps creators who have fallen on hard times, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which ensures First Amendment protection to all parts of the comics medium.

Yes, I know this is a PSA, but guys, this stuff is important. Before there were superhero movies, there were superhero comics, and before that, there were people. People with ideas that couldn’t be contained and chose to express those ideas through words and art. Thank you.

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