Bill Mantlo Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Bill Mantlo didn’t create the titular star of the much-beloved ROM Spaceknight, but he did help define who ROM was and what he was about in the early 1980s. A group of supportive comic creators and fans have come together to bring new attention to Mantlo’s work in light of his recent medical troubles. How? By recreating, page-by-page and panel-by-panel, ROM Spaceknight #1, originally illustrated by co-creator Sal Buscema.
This new project, titled the ROM Remix Project, has 20 individual artists each drawing a page of the original story, from the 18 story pages to the Frank Miller cover, and even the Hostess ad in the back of the original comic. Organized by Rob Harrington, it’s intended to be a public art project as well as a way to bring renewed attention to Mantlo’s situation.
Robert Kanigher, Bill Mantlo and Jack Mendelsohn have been named the recipients of the 2014 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Writing, named in honor of the uncredited co-creator of Batman.
Although the committee typically selects one posthumous and one living honoree, this year it voted to recognize two living creators, Mantlo and Mendelsohn.
“This year, the judges couldn’t decide between two living recipients so one said, ‘Why don’t we just give it to both of them?’ And we decided to give it to both of them,” committee chair Mark Evanier explained in a statement. “They’re two men who deserve the honor and we figured, why make one of them wait until next year, especially in light of the fact that Bill Finger would have turned 100 this year? And as for our posthumous recipient, Robert Kanigher, that one’s long overdue.”
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.
This time around Carla lovingly tackles the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, with a shout-out to Rocket Raccoon co-creator Bill Mantlo, while Tim remembers Dwayne McDuffie, who would have celebrated a birthday last week. Plus there’s frozen bromance, rockin’ gods, Daredevil #36 and more. So let’s get to it …
As unlikely as it may seem, the Guardians of the Galaxy are poised to be the next Marvel team to get a tent-pole movie, following The Avengers (me, I was hoping for a Champions movie, as all but Hercules have been previously introduced in movies*).
The publisher has turned to Avengers-rehabilitation expert Brian Michael Bendis to write a new Guardians of the Galaxy series, and after teasing them in the first arc of Avengers Assemble, the comic featuring the cast from the Avengers movie, the writer is all set to launch a new Guardians monthly, penciled by Civil War artist Steve McNiven.
The title kicked off Wednesday with its first issue, Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 (market research apparently revealed that comics buyers are more attracted to decimal points than either the number 1 or even 0), and it isn’t a bad read at all.
It’s the origin of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, and while the story is essentially one character telling another his history, Bendis, McNiven & Co. depict it as a regular comic, rather than a long, dull conversation, as Bendis is often in the habit of doing. The last two pages reveal the cast.
And who, exactly, is this cast, and where did they come from? Based on the sales of the previous volume of Guardians of the Galaxy vs. sales of your average Bendis or McNiven comic, I imagine a lot of folks will be reading the new series without knowing much of that. And, as always, I think it’s worth keeping in mind who created these characters and how long ago (none of them are any newer than 1976, if you’re wondering).
So let’s take a look at your new Guardians of the Galaxy, shall we?
For years comic-book and toy fans have been clamoring for the resurrection of ROM: The Space Knight, cyborg enemy of the Dire Wraiths, star of his own Marvel series, and poor-selling action figure. Now it appears his return may be imminent.
Toy Ark catches that Hasbro has filed to trademark ROM for “toy action figures and toy robots convertible into other visual toy forms,” signaling the manufacturer’s plans to rescue the clunky, and noisy, silver doll from late-1970s obscurity.
Released in the United States in 1979 by Parker Brothers (now a Hasbro subsidiary) amid a wave of science fiction popularity that followed the success of Star Wars, ROM was a commercial failure, fulfilling Time magazine’s prediction that the cheaply made figure would “end up among the dust balls under the playroom sofa.”
“Rom is a spaceman doll whose computer memory gives it a disappointingly narrow range of behavior,” the magazine wrote. “It breathes heavily (one of its better effects), buzzes, twitters and flashes its lighted eyes, and sounds ominous gongs, one for good and two for evil. The trouble with this Parker Bros. homunculus is that it looks as if it should be able to use its arms and legs like a true robot, and it can’t.”
Legal | A Belgian court has rejected a five-year-old bid by a Congolese student to have the 1946 edition of Herge’s Tintin in the Congo banned because of its racist depictions. “It is clear that neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to … create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment,” the court said in its judgment. Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, who launched the campaign in 2007 to ban the book, plans to appeal. [The Guardian]
Publishing| John Rood, DC’s executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development, discusses the results of the New 52 readership survey, noting right of the bat that it’s “not indicative of the actual system wide performance,” which makes you wonder what it’s good for. He has some interesting things to say about bringing back lapsed readers and the demographics of DC readers in general, though. [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Sarah Glidden, creator of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, chronicles her time at Occupy Miami Nov. 15-21 in a sketchbook. [Cartoon Movement]
Creators | Corey Blake follows up on the Bill Mantlo story published by LIfeHealthPro, including some clarifications of issues raised in the story and additional details on various fundraisers over the years to help pay for Mantlo’s care. [Corey Blake]
Creators | Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast interviews Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich about piracy and the Stop Online Piracy Act. [Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast]
Greg Pak‘s Afterword tribute to Bill Mantlo in the final issue of his Hulk run (The Incredible Hulks 635) genuinely gave me pause (and as I said as much in that week’s WAYR). Then last week when Kevin Melrose made us aware of LifeHealthPro/Bill Coffin‘s devastating profile of Bill Mantlo’s life since 1992, which clearly struck a chord with many Robot 6 readers. Once I saw Pak’s comment in the thread, I realized I wanted to talk to Pak about Mantlo. While I have long respected Pak as a writer, his decision to set up a donations page for Bill Mantlo’s care is the reason why I admire him. My thanks to Pak for the interview and for scanning the cover to the actual copy of his first Bill Mantlo comic (Micronauts 3), which we get to discuss also.
Tim O’Shea: At what point in your run on the Hulk did you realize that you wanted to write the Afterword, partially about Bill Mantlo?
Greg Pak: I’d cited Bill Mantlo as a big influence many times over the years in press and publicity for my various Hulk storylines. So it was a natural for me to focus on him in the afterward to Incredible Hulks #635. And it was a huge pleasure to be able to formally dedicate the run to Mantlo on that final page.
Crime | A man in Lincoln, Nebraska, told police that a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, valued at $15,000, disappeared from his home sometime between Oct. 27 and Monday morning. The 1962 issue was kept with other comics, but the man claims several people had been in and out of his home since he last saw it. A near-mint copy of the comic, which features the first appearance of Spider-Man, sold at auction in March for $1.1 million. [Lincoln Journal Star]
Creators | Writer Greg Pak has set up a page to take donations for former comics writer Bill Mantlo, whose tragic situation was detailed in an article last week. “Bill Mantlo has had a huge influence on me as a writer and reader,” Pak said. “His Micronauts stories blew my mind as a kid and his Incredible Hulk run laid the groundwork for the themes I explored my five-and-a-half year run with the character.” Money donated through the site goes directly to Mike Mantlo, Bill’s brother, for Bill’s ongoing care. [Greg Pak]
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.
I mentioned last month that Floating World Comics was putting together a second art tribute/fundraiser for writer Bill Mantlo, asking various artists to draw ROM, Spaceknight. The auctions are now live in eBay, and you can find more info by going there directly or by going to the Spacenite 2 blog, which has links to all the auctions.
Floating World Comics in Portland, Ore. is hosting another art tribute/fundraiser for comics writer Bill Mantlo, who was paralyzed after a hit-and-run accident in 1992. The event, a “sequel” to the event they held in 2007, includes an art show that features various creators drawing ROM, Spaceknight, which Mantlo wrote back in the 1980s.
Participating creators this time around include Mike Allred, Jeffrey Brown, Michael DeForge, Tan Eng Huat, Ben Marra (above), Luke Ramsey, Jon Schnepp and Matt Timson, among many others. You can check out some of the artwork over on the event’s blog. They’ll be selling digital prints of each piece at the show on Dec. 2, with plans to auction off the originals on eBay afterward. You can find more information on the Floating Worlds site.
Writer David Gallaher has been at the forefront of digital comics. For years he worked on the fringes of American comics, only to become an overnight success of sorts by winning the inaugural Zuda Comics competition with High Moon (with collaborator Steve Ellis), and then being hand-picked to launch the app from digital comics distributor comiXology with an ongoing series, Box 13. Both titles have seen multiple volumes online and opened the door for Gallaher to come full circle back to print comics with the first volumes of each in print and new work commissioned by Marvel.
Gallaher occupies a unique role as a creator whose popularity is based primarily on his online comics output, with his print work coming to catch up. The writer has a long history with the online work, going back to interning at Marvel’s interactive department in the late 1990s and being a advertising copywriter for several years. While his comics come out on the bleeding edge of comics formats, his instincts owe more to comics’ pulpy roots.
Chris Arrant: Let’s do an easy one, first – what are you working on today?
David Gallaher: This morning, I’m laying out the rest of Box 13: The Pandora Process, which is being illustrated by Steve Ellis and is being published digitally by comiXology. Steve and I also have another project we’re working on that we’re really excited about. It’s got what I refer to as the “new project smell.” Like High Moon, it plays to our pulp roots – and I think it’ll be equally as vast.
And at some point this week, we’ll start our preparation for the New York Comic Con and discuss what’s next for High Moon.