Chances are, you’ve seen the new trailer for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and you probably noticed there’s a raccoon with the machine gun. Bill Mantlo co-created Rocket Raccoon in 1976, but since it was a work-for-hire project, he likely won’t see a dime from this big-budget comic book film.
In 1992, Mantlo was struck by a hit-and-run driver and suffered traumatic brain injury, and has been living in a nursing home/rehabilitation facility, and as you can imagine, this is costly. So, with the recently popularity of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and the likelihood of Rocket Raccoon becoming an immediate kid-favorite, it’s a good time to bring everyone’s attention to Mantlo and his tragic plight. You can donate through PayPal to help with Mantlo’s medical expenses.
I never was a Rocket Raccoon fan. Just as I’m not a fan of C’hp, the squirrel Green Lantern. Or Howard the Duck. They just seem too dumb to suspend my fairly liberal comic book suspensions of disbelief. I also didn’t care for the obvious riff on the Beatles song, not that that song is a classic. But after seeing the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, I’m starting to warm up to him. If the movie clicks, I suspect I’ll end up really digging him.
Bill Mantlo created Rocket Raccoon. It was a work for hire project, so he, like countless creators before and after him, knew what he was getting into — and would get out of — when he signed his contract. He was a solid, reliable, “go to” writer. He was also an expert at taking toy properties such as ROM, Spaceknight, and The Micronauts, and creating imaginative worlds, and rich storylines for them, enriching both licensor and licensee, as well as his readers.
Wikipedia lists 54 characters that Mantlo created, characters such as Cloak & Dagger, Lady Deathstrike, the N’Garai, Sabra, Swarm, the Soviet Super Soldiers, the Steel Spider, and the White Tiger, among others.
Mantlo was a workhorse, and as noted by former Marvel editor Jim Shooter, who counted on him many times, workhorses often don’t get respect. And when tastes change, or new tropes emerge, workhorses are commonly discarded by capricious editors unwilling to even give them the chance to prove themselves.
Such was Mantlo’s fate. But rather than fulminate, or despair, Mantlo enrolled in law school, passed the bar exam, and became a public defender. For the Legal Aid Society of NYC — a resource designed solely to help the indigent. He went from writing about heroes, to becoming one for desperate individuals in need of help.
And on July 17, 1992, Mantlo was struck by a hit-and-run driver. The driver of this vehicle sped away, while Mantlo lay on the pavement, with severe head trauma. For a while, he was comatose. And his injuries were, and remain, irreparable.
Bill Mantlo now lives in an assisted-living facility and requires constant care.
This once imaginative, vibrant, and honorable man, now relies on dedicated workers, and the undying love and commitment of his brother Michael, just to live; just to get through a day. And as many of you know, this type of care does not come without a significant cost.
In a perfect world, and given his extremely dire situation, Bill Mantlo would get something back from Marvel.* But that’s just not the way things work. So it’s up to us to be heroes now for Bill. If you’ve ever read one of his wondrous stories, then think about what that story (beyond the 30¢ cover price!) was worth to you. Put a price on it.
And think if you can spare those few dollars to help Bill, Michael, and his dedicated care so he can make it through another day. Please consider donating to Bill Mantlo’s ongoing care.
There’s more info over at Greg Pax‘s site, which reprinted a note from Bill’s brother Mike (see below):
First off, I send out a big THANK YOU to everyone that has helped support Bill over these past 19 years (!). Every donation, no matter how big or small, and every card or letter is greatly appreciated. Bill’s condition remains the same (he suffers severe cognitive impairments, anger, and depression), and these factors keep him very much isolated from “the outside world.” Aside from my visits, and the kindness of my beautiful wife and some of the attendants at the nursing home/rehabilitation facility he resides in, his contact with other human beings is virtually non-existent. But the support and encouragement of fans, and industry professionals like yourself, helps to bring a little ray of sunlight into his dark and dreary days. When I (or my wife) engage Bill in conversation, his spirit emerges and is as strong and pure as it ever was! So, once again, I can’t thank ALL of you enough!! I strongly believe in the power of practicing random acts of kindness, and with that belief I hope that ALL of your kindnesses will be returned to you many, many times over!
Cards, letters or donations to Bill Mantlo can be sent to:
26364 East Pintail Road
Long Neck, DE 19966
Please make out any checks to “Michael Mantlo” — Bill’s legal guardian.
[Bill Mantlo and his sister-in-law Liz, August 10, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Mike Mantlo via Greg Pax.]
*UPDATE: It turns out Mantlo is being compensated for the characters he created (after joining with several other work-for-hire creators and winning a legal battle) and his family has said that Marvel has been very generous, but even with all that, Mantlo’s bills for medical care and nursing home facilities remain enormous.