Monday, July 22, 2013

Get Cape Conscious–Join the Hero Inititative!

The 1986 shame campaign
Most comic collectors are familiar with the royalty battles that the creators of their favorite characters have had to fight against the megacorporations that now own DC and Marvel (not to mention EC, Fawcett, Gold Key, National, Timely and Atlas). If coverage of the recent Iron Man 3 or Man of Steel films seemed noticeably absent from this column it's because I was in an ethical dillemna regarding coverage of content directly related to this column and the recent court rulings that gave copyright of Superman to Warner Brothers over the estates of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and barred Jack Kirby's estate from any piece of future Marvel product. I knew that I was going to see these movies, and therefore calling for a boycott would have been hypocritical, so I decided to not further add to the publicity machine by reviewing them whilst they were still in theaters.

For the record, I really enjoyed Iron Man 3 and can't believe how implausible Man of Steel was.

Most comic fans are completely unaware, however, of the hardships faced by virtually all comics professionals in their later years. I can't call them retirement years because very few comic artists actually get to retire. Working as freelancers in an industry without a union has left very little in the way of a nest egg or retirement fund for most of the people that wrote, drew, inked, colored or lettered the best comics of the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages. When considering that most of those creators toiled for low page rates with no chance at ownership and no royalties while building a multi-billion-dollar industry, it's especially despicable. And even contemporary artists were likely to be uninsured until Obamacare went into legislation, which meant bankruptcy and premature death in the face of any serious medical issues. Natural disasters or any other unexpected expense can mean instant unemployment for them just as it can for the rest of us.

Pang-ju: created in Korea,
but manufactured in Japan
This past weekend at the annual San Diego Comic Con International, I made it a point to avoid the big entertainment company booths completely. It was my wife's first Comicon experience and she had a blast weaving through the artist alley tables and the small press aisles, and discovering the latest toys from her native Japan to make a splash here in the USA (Pullip and Pang-ju especially). We embraced the bump-into factor inherent in an event of this size, and enjoyed seeing friends from all walks of life (and parts of the world) as we navigated the convention room floor. We checked out panels for my friend Huston Huddleston's Star Trek Bridge Restoration project and Ryan Ridley's new gig writing Rick and Morty for Adult Swim. Most of the art reps whose collections of amazing original comic art helped me to launch Pop Sequentialism are all gathered in the same area, and this year I was happy to see the Hero Initiative's booth among them.

The Hero Initiative is the first ever federally chartered not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping comic book veterans. Through Hero Initiative, financial aid is available for comic creators who may need assistance with the necessities of life or simply a helping hand back into the comics industry. It's a chance to give back to the people who have given us so much enjoyment. The fund disbursement committee includes Hall of Fame creators Howard Chaykin, Denny O'Neil, John Romita, Sr., Walt Simonson, Roy Thomas, Jim Valentino, and George Perez–who drew me this awesome Robin portrait. The suggested donation for sketches was $40.00, but I tossed a Franklin in the bowl to guilt the crowd around me into giving more than just the minimum for such a worthy cause. George has done well and given back to those less fortunate. He's gregarious and still enthusiastic about comics, fans, & life in general, and his run on New Teen Titans has much to do with Robin / Nightwing being my favorite character of all time. He called me a "Graysonite" with a smile and I nodded proudly.

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