A Word About The Creator of Rocket Raccoon
So the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was sweet. We all love Rocket Raccoon. He’s a raccoon that shoots a gun, after all! Who could say no to that?
But he didn’t spring, fully formed, from the ether, despite what people may think happens with artwork on Tumblr. He was created by a legendarily prolific Marvel Comics creator, and the story of Bill Mantlo does not have a happy ending.
Until his regression in Georgia, there was hope that with enough rehabilitation, Bill might one day return to his home, living with assistance but actually having something approaching a normal life. Now, that seems impossible.
“At this stage, there really isn’t much that he gets out of life,” Mike says. “He doesn’t like to eat. He doesn’t like to listen to music. He doesn’t like to watch TV. He doesn’t like to read. He doesn’t want to do anything. It’s very difficult.”
If a way could be found to get Bill in front of a computer, perhaps with dictation software, Mike feels that Bill could probably write a story. But that depends entirely on whether Bill could maintain his concentration long enough to form a creative thought. These days, it does not happen often.
Mike does not have a large collection of Bill’s writing. But he does have a printout of the computer journal Bill kept while he was at Meadowbrook. Many of the entries contain loose details that appear to be connected to his Martian invasion story. But there are personal notes interspersed that reflect Bill’s own anguish, and his resistance to the very treatments that were slowly returning him to normal.
“My name is Bill Mantlo,” he writes in his last personal entry. “I want to go home.”
At they say, read the whole thing.
Bill Mantlo is in hospice care and his family approaches destitution due in part to the flamboyant failures of the American health care system, but frankly, the fact that he doesn’t see much in the way of royalties for his work cannot possibly be helping. Marvel is about to release a movie that will probably pull in half a billion dollars at the minimum, and Mantlo’s family won’t see anything from it.
If comics taught me anything, it taught me that that isn’t right.
So I urge people who are looking forward to that movie to donate what you can, when you can, to the Hero Initiative - a charity dedicated to being the safety net that too many comics creators lack - and specifically to Bill Mantlo’s care. When Guardians of the Galaxy comes out, I’ll see it, but to do so in good conscience I’ll donate an amount equal to the cost of my ticket to the Hero Initiative. I did this last year with Man of Steel and the year before with Avengers.
It’s only right.
Anonymous asked: I'm probably going to phrase this wrong because I've had a tough day and I'm not thinking straight, but I wanted to ask: Do you think there will ever be a good representation of the mentally ill in comics (as something other than criminals)? I know some people expect you to change everything. Let me assure you that I don't, and I think everything you've done in comics is brilliant, but I wanted to know from someone who knows comics whether you think it's a possibility.
I certainly hope so.
I actually feel this is the area where I have fallen down the most. For decades, any sort of mental illness almost automatically meant ‘evil,’ and that is something we really have to address.
I have some characters I am proud of in this regard, like Rose and Thorn (based on an actual young woman with her permission), Savant and Burden. But I don’t feel I have presented this well or consistently. So I have not been part of the solution. And that sucks.
I promise I am trying, I do have some plans for this, in Barbara’s civilian and night-time life, in just a few months. Hopefully, I can start doing better. Around issue 32, we start to see something that I think does address this.
While I am at it, let me throw it open to everyone…what Marvel or DC books do you feel HAVE presented mental illness (of non-criminal types!) well?
As a psychologist who teaches mental illness, psychology in literature, and related classes, I must say that I cringe when comic book writers refer to specific mental illness, treatments, and other psychological concepts. Most don’t even seem to keep the difference between psychologist and psychiatrist straight - hence some inconsistencies regarding characters like Harley Quinn and the Scarecrow. I couldn’t get past the 3 page of Batman: Jekyll & Hyde because of how horribly the author mangled the psychiatry.
I have no doubt that that is correct. I am fortunate in that I have a few qualified professionals out there who have been endlessly gracious resources.