Robot 6

‘My name is Bill Mantlo. I want to go home.’

From National Underwriter Life & Health

If you have the time, and emotional fortitude, I recommend you read this lengthy and heartbreaking profile of Bill Mantlo, the prolific 1970s and ’80s Marvel writer who now, 19 years after being struck by a car, lives in a Queens, New York, nursing home. While his struggles have been reported on in the past, I can’t recall them being chronicled in such crushing detail.

Mantlo turned 60 on Wednesday, but in his gaunt and pale condition, is described as looking closer to 80. He lacks mobility and labors to speak; he has a history of violent outbursts. Marvel’s “fill-in king,” who co-created Cloak & Dagger and penned titles like ROM, Micronauts and The Incredible Hulk, hasn’t been able to write since 1995. The last personal entry in his journal, dated Feb. 14, 1995, begins, “My name is Bill Mantlo. I want to go home.”

The article in National Underwriter Life & Health magazine, titled simply “Tragic Tale,” recounts his career at Marvel — warts and all, including accusations of plagiarism — where he wrote more than 500 issues, until his assignments dried up in the mid-’80s. It also touches upon his work as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society and the bitter divorce that preceded the hit and run that started Mantlo on a tragic two-decade decline.

When Mantlo’s health-insurance provider wouldn’t cover the long-term respite care it deemed necessary, his legal guardian, his brother Mike, quickly sold off the majority of his assets so he could qualify for Medicaid. His collection of toys and memorabilia, his comic books, the vacation cottage he once owned with his wife — all gone. That was 1995.

It really is a heart-wrenching story, a tragedy made worse by a flawed healthcare industry and an insurer eager to cut its losses.

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Comments

49 Comments

thank you for posting this.
It’s terrifying, and so necessary.

Just read the entire article. Devastating.

Oh my god, I need to go take a long walk. I need to call my dad.

THANK YOU for this, Kevin.

That article is a hearbreaker and answers a ton of questions I’ve had about Mantlo over the years, and gives me new ones to ponder.

Wow. Why do people let this stuff happen to other people??? There are times where I question the very heart of human nature….

I almost started crying at “I want to go home.” I’m almost crying now just typing it.

I guess this calls for a link to the Hero Initiative. I reckon I’ll be throwing them some scratch later this evening…

thank you for the update on Matelo was wondering if his condition got any worse or better now sadly looks like bill needs a hero of his own.

Thank you for posting this and the link.

Man. Just … Jesus Christ.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

This is really sad. Mantlo was a great writer. He wrote my all-time favorite issue of Iron Man.

I’d like to recall that none of the to cases of plagiarism related in that text are confirmed.

In Hero case, Jim Shooter give credit to Mr Ellison without even speak with Bill and yet today, Shooter have not seen the original Soldier Chapter which was supposed to have been plagiarized. I’ve seen both, and there is very little in common. Mantlo’s Hero story is about “hero of the day” (not in Ellison’s Story) and Kang (obviously not in Ellison story) All science fiction is based in previous works. You can always find some similarities.

About Hulk 312 there are some facts that bring me some doubts about the matter:
- BWS apparently didn’t say a (public) word about this thing until 2003. why? BWS proposal is dated in July 1984. Hulk #312 was published in 1985. Bill’s accident was in 1992… why didn’t BWS tell anything until 2003 when Mantlo couldn’t be asked?
- Looking at those two stories, the only thing in common is the childhood trauma, nothing else: The atmosphere is different. The structure is different (a unique thanksgiving day vs. different life time moments). In one the father is disturbed by war and goes wild when drunk. The other is obsessed by thinking his genius child is a Monster. We see Hulk in one as a metaphor of the child he was (from Banner’s memory), in the other we see a reminiscence of Hulk that means Hulk was always there (a flashback).
-There is a point no one seems to notice: 312 is the end of an argument arch. In 312 one of the main things Mantlo tell us is the origin of the Triad, an arch that started several months before, and had nothing to do with BWS story.
-One weird thing is, BWS story was titled “Thanksgiving”… Mantlo story was titled “Monster” and played with “Who was really the Monster?” theme. But now, BWS’s graphic novel, that uses his original story… is titled “Monsters”!! That doesn’t make any sense to me to put your Graphic Novel the title from the story you say is a plagiarism from yours…
I think it’s very difficult to determine that Mantlo conscientiously plagiarized BWS’s story, and I think it’s unfair to say it since he can’t answer.

I think it’s fair also that those who read that text also know what Bill Mantlo used to think about Jim Shooter. This is what Mantlo said about him, before his accident:
“(Shooter) had been trying to destroy me as a writer ever since he became an editor… He would attack me either directly, or through the editors, by making it miserable for the editors who had to edit my stuff. Some of the editors did not want to work with me because Shooter would be so hard on them”
(…)
“Shooter breached my contract at Marvel by refusing to give me the amount of work they were contractually obligated to give me. I took Marvel to arbitration over this. Shooter bitterly opposed any settlement with me… In the course of our negotiations, it became apparent that Jim Shooter was irrational, and I think this was the first time for management to see this. They basically kept it in mind when his contract came up”

It’s a sad story. I’m not sure it was appropriate to make a political statement about it at the end there, though.

Just reading the comments to this and the LifeHealthPro page has me teary-eyed, and I’ve only gotten through two pages of the actual article so far. I want to write two letters now – one, a fan letter, and two, a letter to my dad.

Cookie Crisp 1970

November 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

As a kid, Bill Mantlo provided me with many stories I needed to endure the horrors of child abuse. For however long I could escape into those pages—I was in a different world filled with Spider-man, Cloak and Dagger and the Micronauts. My prayers are with him and his family.

I echo what everyone else said…heartbreaking.

And Darin: pointing out that our healthcare system is flawed is hardly political. Every system is inherently flawed.

On a lighter note, the author of the article has the same last name as Ray and Steve Coffin, two of the human characters from the first MICRONAUTS storyline. :)

It is INEXCUSABLE that the entire comic book community has not risen up and come together to take care of Bill.

The comic book community, artists and writers, do not really make that much money and many are not even safe from something like this happening to them, as there are no health insurance issued on a contract for freelancing. This should be something that the large companies could try to set up. Some type of fund, but that is not going to happen anytime soon.

What could help on cases like this is health coverage provided by the state or the federal govt. Sadly, most people oppose this type of things because the only real way to pay for it is to increase taxes across the board. Not gonna happen. People don’t want that. Until by a freak accident, they need it. It saddens me to read that someone that created so many wonderful and at times powerful stories is in this position and I just pray that someone will come to his aid somehow.

Thanks so much for writing about this, Kevin. Just wanted to let folks know that there are easy ways to send money to Bill’s brother Mike that will be used for Bill’s ongoing care. Please check it out and consider donating: http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml

My God. Depressing and unfair does not even come close to describing this. I want to cry and scream at the injustice of all this. He have us so much, Rom, Micronauts (still the best toyline based comic ever), and with Sal Buscema (for me at least) the definitive Hulk. Damn this world we live.

Omoloc: I agree that it’s a shame that Jim Shooter was one of the people they chose to interview about Mantlo’s life. What a two-faced crook.

Hysan: If all systems are flawed then why bring it up at all? Seemed like a cheap shot to me.

Bill Mantlo wrote some of my favorite stories and his story always pains me to contemplate. I pray for people in his condition.

Wow what an article. After reading this it makes our everyday worries and troubles seem miniscule compared to what this man and his family went through — and are still going through.

Not only was he an amazing writer but he wanted to devote his life to helping others… and it got cut short. What a tragedy.

When I was a kid, Micronauts was my favorite comic and still stands so well up to this day.

Bill Mantlo is responsible for why I still read comics to this day.

It is true that every system is flawed. But the US healthcare system is not just flawed – it is deeply disgusting and would be criminal in any decent society. The US spends $700 billion a year on its military, but the richest country in the world can’t find the money to provide universal healthcare to its people – something that exists in some form in every other advanced, industrialized state.

So, yes, the political comment is called for. indeed, given what this story depicts, the comment is far too tame.

I can’t see Bill Mantlo having gotten better treatment in any other country’s health care system. Choosing to end the article on a political note like that cheapened the whole thing, as far as I’m concerned.

My guess would be that the majority of people calling for “universal healthcare” coverage have never had to deal with it or rely on it for care. Sounds great on paper – doesn’t work very often or very well in reality.

Darin: Reading between the lines here because you won’t just come out and say it, but by “cheapened the whole thing” I’m guessing you mean you don’t agree with this story’s position/observations on the state of insurance reform and health care in the U.S. It might be interesting to read the “Make Mine Mantlo” editorial by the same author where he talks about the need for industry insiders to speak truth to each other that they might not want to hear.

Brian: I would have been just as disappointed if the writer chose to take the opportunity of this article and Mantlo’s situation to praise our health care system (which isn’t really a “system” yet). I wouldn’t think it was appropriate either way.

My prayers are with Bill and his family

I just lost it when he asked for ice cream. There’s very little justice in the world, and I hope some has gotten around to the person who hit Bill Mantlo—but I wish more than that for Bill to get the care he deserves.

Darin: The story was written for and posted on a healthcare website. They’re going to make a comment on healthcare. Live with it.

Living in the UK, after reading this article i’m incredibly grateful for the NHS. What Americans call their healthcare system is an absolute disgrace. The systematic destruction of Mantles life in order to pay for healthcare costs is absolutely horrifying, especially with the knowledge that were it not for a idiotic system the man could have recovered enough to be on here posting messages himself to his fans. The fact that it happened to a man who devoted much of his professional life to trying to help others makes it even more saddening and unfair.

@Darin: If he had been in the UK his healthcare would have been free, his assets would not have had to be sold out from under him, his family would not have been torn apart. His condition may not have been any better as a result, but at least his life and legacy wouldnt have been completely destroyed in the process.

I miss Bill Mantlo comics SO MUCH. His Hulk, Rom, Team-Up, and especially Micronauts were a huge part of my childhood in the ’80s, and I still often revisit his work. Every time his name comes up now, I always hope it will be an article telling us he is on the road to recovery. I’ll never stop hoping for that.

So sad. He wrote some of my favorite books. I don’t think complaining about the health care system is political. Saying something like this should never have been allowed is what decent people should think.

“My guess would be that the majority of people calling for “universal healthcare” coverage have never had to deal with it or rely on it for care. Sounds great on paper – doesn’t work very often or very well in reality.”

@Harpo – it works in my reality, namely the UK. As @Alistair points out, the UK’s National Health Service might not have improved his medical condition, but he wouldn’t have had to sell his entire life’s assets to pay for a basic level of ongoing care. It amazes me when people talk about the USA’s frankly appalling medical care situation as if it’s the best there is and alternatives either don’t exist or don’t work. Our system is far from perfect, but here in the UK, when you’re ill, or injured, or dying, you get looked after and not fiscally punished for getting that way. No-one should lose their home or their life savings just because they’re sick. It doesn’t have to be that way and there are numerous countries where, thankfully, it isn’t that way. My deepest sympathies are with Mr. Mantlo and his family.

I am not going to win any fans with this but my absolute wish if I am ever in a situation which Mr. Mantlo suffered, that I just be allowed to pass on. I have no desire to exist in a world where all I can do is sit in a wheelchair or bed and depend on other people to change my diapers or bathe me. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live that existence. It’s just the people who get to go on with their lives and aren’t having to live that way that doesn’t want them to die- and let their suffering end.

Dying is not scary -living in constant suffering is terrifying.
My heart goes out to him that he can rest in peace soon.

Ger, my father used to say the same thing, but he ended up spending his last three years in a nursing home, and… it wasn’t terrible. It doesn’t have to be. I visited him almost every day, and even though he had advanced Alzheimer’s, his face lit up whenever I came into the room. The employees at the nursing home were wonderful and took good care of him. They didn’t just keep him clean (and brush his teeth every day!), they talked to him and made sure he was comfortable and had things to do. Was it a step down from his previous life as a college professor? Yes. Was it a life not worth living? I don’t think so. He was surrounded by people who cared about him. The whole Alzheimer’s unit was like its own little society—not what we are used to, but still a place where people functioned and lived in their own way, and if some of them thought it was 1945, well, we all just rolled with it.

There’s a world of difference between a good nursing home and a bad one. Here’s my advice, if you are ever in the awful position of having to choose one for a relative or loved one: Visit the place and watch the faces of the staff and the residents. If they are smiling, that’s the place for you. I passed up a much nicer-looking home (chandeliers and everything) for the shabby, friendly place we found for my father, and I’m glad we did.

QFT

It is true that every system is flawed. But the US healthcare system is not just flawed – it is deeply disgusting and would be criminal in any decent society. The US spends $700 billion a year on its military, but the richest country in the world can’t find the money to provide universal healthcare to its people – something that exists in some form in every other advanced, industrialized state.

So, yes, the political comment is called for. indeed, given what this story depicts, the comment is far too tame.

One of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to sound political, or even start a raging debate over this, but… I will say that if this had happened in Canada, Bill would be writing again. Is personal insurance needed in Canada? No. But it helps. I worry about travelling to the U.S. and getting hurt. And the saddest thing is a story like this that only reinforces my feelings.

How ’bout a “Greatest Bill Mantlo Stories” feature CBR? Mr. Pak, there may be a bit more cash coming your way.

So lets see… a few yrs ago we all “pitched in” to save the HOUSE that Superman writers supposedly thought up the original idea of superman in 1935 (rein of the supermen).
This was just before the economy went belly up.

Money to restore a house that honestly means NOTHING and has no bearing on anything. No one linked to segal or shuster have lived there for 60 yrs. Both creators are dead. and The house has no bearing on Supermans mythos in anyway shape or form.

SO… we can give money to fix a house but nothing to a poor guy whos been like this for 20 yrs????

On the flip side though…. who has money these days to help anyone out. Nobody has a job anymore or can afford anything.
Is Mantelos condition hopeless?

Very sad story. Last I heard Bill was still in a coma after the hit & run, I didnt know he had regained consciousness.

Just heartbreaking. I totally sympathized when Bill asked his kids to kill him, the daily “existence” he now endures IMO is a fate worse then death itself…

Given this series of events:

… CIGNA eventually brought in its own physician, who examined Bill and filed a report to CIGNA stating that no further rehabilitation was medically necessary for Bill. Mike says he was never given a copy of the report.

Bill’s primary physician at Whittier protested the report with Whittier’s management itself, arguing that it could not allow the insurer to bring in its own medical personnel to reverse the medical opinion of a department head within the hospital.

I think it’s a bit much to dub Kevin’s postscript a political statement. The insurer brought in its own doctor to reverse the opinion of Mantlo’s primary physician.

I would hope that anyone of any political stripe would view that as a sign of a health-care industry that needs help, whether you’re an advocate for single payer or tweaks to our current system. And it’s worth noting that both major parties in the U.S. have offered health-care reforms to fix various perceived problems.

Masont, there have been efforts to help Mantlo over the years, and Greg Pak offered a link above with info on donating to Mantlo’s care: http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml.

I wish I was rich.

I wish I had a magic wand.

Best I can do is donate.

We can debate politics and the state of the US healthcare industry all we want. Just be sure that, as you’re doing so, you’re also donating some money to help out.

As Greg Pak and Mike Mantlo said elsewhere, any little bit helps.

I’m going to donate some money right now. I hope everyone else will do so too.

I know everyone is having a hard time in today’s economy, but we as a community can really pull together here to do some concrete good and to help one of our own who has been suffering for 20 years.

Regarding the mention of the Hero Initiative, which I’ve supported in the past: What kind of record-keeping do they keep? If they don’t know the amounts or dates of when the organization has helped out needy creators in the past? The article reflects poorly on them, because Bill Mantlo seems to be a prime candidate to help out with the flashy special issues they put out annually… Just saying…

john arlequin

May 26, 2013 at 11:11 am

I had the privelege of being bills friend when we were students at the high school of art and design in manhattan from 1966 to 1969. I am heart broken to read about his accident and the condition that he is living in. bill was one of the nicest guys you could ever know. Frank Brunner was also part of our group of friends in school, we all loved comics and comic art. I wish Bill all the best, if anyone has info as to where donations can be made please email me. God bless Bill

Very sad to see

I Don’t know if there’s any hope for Bill but I would recommend going to strokebreakthrough.com and seeing if there might be something there available to help Bill restore some of his life.

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