Another Thanksgiving is gaining on us and this year there seems to be less and less to be thankful for. The economy sucks, the world is in turmoil, and everyone is miserable. Boy, I can’t wait for Christmas! I think I’ll ask Santa for a “happy pill.”
I am generally an optimistic person and have often been accused of living in “Gerry World” by my family and friends for my unwillingness to be dragged down by life’s burdens. I am a firm believer that everything is relative. I have a hard time complaining about life in our country when I compare it to the standards of living in an economically devastated place like Darfur.
I remember a time when I was having a particularly bad day, the car had broken down and I was stranded in the middle of nowhere with my son who was getting very upset by the situation. I shared with him two fatherly bits of advice: “shit happens” and never say, “it can’t get any worse.”
Years later we look at that experience and laugh, both at how we managed to get through that micro-crisis in one piece and at how many times since we have needed to refer to those two particular life lessons.
My theory of relativity was tested when I read the recent web post Tragic Tale, a lengthy, nine-page, article that details the tragedy that has befallen legendary Marvel Comics writer Bill Mantlo whose most notable works were The Micronauts, Rom Spaceknight, Cloak and Dagger, and The Incredible Hulk along with a huge array of other titles. Mantlo was struck by a hit-and-run driver while rollerblading in New York in 1995. He has been left, brain damaged and stranded by the system in a nursing home, forgotten by the legion of fans that for many years found joy in his work.
Many people were shocked and devastated by the news which was delivered with an agenda to illustrate, through Mantlo’s experience, how the Health Insurance Industry and Federal Healthcare Reform does not work in America. The story was embellished a bit to accentuate the author’s point but none of that changes the fact that Bill Mantlo’s life has been ruined by a tragic accident and his existence has been reduced to a pale shadow of his former boisterous self.
Ladies and gentlemen, anyone who has ever enjoyed a Bill Mantlo comic, anyone who has ever worked with Bill Mantlo and anyone who has ever considered themselves a comic creator or enthusiast, please, this holiday season, please, remember that one of our own, a member of the comics family, needs us. Bill Mantlo needs to be remembered, not just for his contribution to comics but for still being human. Bill Mantlo’s body may be broken, his brain may be damaged, but he is still a person with rights to dignity and a need to be loved and respected.
Like many people who call themselves comic creators, I have a need to work a full time job to pay the bills and provide health benefits for my family while I pursue my interests here at CO2 Comics. I have worked in a long term healthcare facility for a number of years as an Activity Professional. It is my job to ensure that people like Bill Mantlo enjoy whatever quality of life they are capable of. I put smiles on their faces and help to make their existence as bearable as possible. I do this by respecting them for who they are, today. Though I do not know Bill personally and have never had the opportunity to meet him, I know from my own experience what kind of life he is currenrtly living.
Not everyone is as lucky as Bill Mantlo to have had the opportunity to entertain an adoring audience around the world with his writing. While we can all be sad that Bill may never write again or enjoy the life he once had we can all give back to him a sample of the joy that his work gave to us simply by sending him a greeting card this holiday season or writing him a short note of friendship or a thank you. This may sound trite but in a healthcare facility something as simple as mail is a big deal.
Mail is required by law to be delivered immediately to residents. For someone like Bill, who may not have a lot of personal interaction with staff, an extra visit a day by a warm bodied person delivering mail has a big impact. It becomes an even bigger deal when someone, wether it be staff or a family member takes the time to help him read his mail. I personally enjoy delivering mail to my residents because I know that it is another opportunity for me to impact their day and get to know them better.
I have been in contact with Bill’s brother, Michael Mantlo, and he is excited about the idea of Bill getting mail sent to him at the healthcare facility. Michael stresses that there be NO requests for autographs, correspondence, or art from Bill since it would be difficult and frustrating for him to respond to them, also he asks to please send nothing legal, financial or solicitous. A simple short note of appreciation and well wishes will go a long way!
Please DO NOT send money, clothes, gifts, original art or anything of value as they may be stolen, damaged or destroyed. Photocopies of fan art or comic covers would be fine and encouraged since Bill seems to respond very positively to images of comics, especially ones that he worked on.
Please send any mail to the following address:
c/o Queens Nassau Nursing Home
520 Beach 19th Street
Far Rockaway, NY 11691
It is important to note that although the Tragic Tale article painted a devastating picture of Bill’s existence at the nursing home, his brother wrote me, “the facility is not really as bleak as the writer of that article made it out to be. Bill’s room is pretty basic, but that is by both necessity, and choice. Bill has “trashed” his room (sometimes severely) many times, and wants no part of a radio, TV or phone. I had provided all of those to him, at one time or another, and all have either been destroyed by him in a fit of rage, or he has demanded that they be removed. After 19 years, I have learned that it is far better to acquiesce to Bill’s demands than to enrage him. No one benefits from his angry explosions, least of all Bill.”
Michael has also sent me a few recent pictures of Bill that show him smiling and happily enjoying the company of family members who had come to visit.
Nobody likes nursing homes, they can be a depressing place that people envision you go to to die. The reality is that nursing homes are where people that cannot take care of themselves or whose family are not adequately equipped to care for them properly go to live. The facility is their home and they are protected by the same rights that we all have. Some facilities are better than others but all are made better when people step up to the plate and show the residents that someone cares for them.
My wish for Bill Mantlo this holiday season is that he has a reason to smile everyday and that he knows that he is not forgotten. So please, send him mail, if you are religious, pray for him and maybe, just maybe, Bill will experience a miracle and at least feel a little bit more human everyday.
Thanks, Bill, for the happiness you gave me as a young comic reader. The Micronauts was one of my favorite comic books!
Making Comics Because I Want To
Tags: Bill Mantlo, Christmas, Cloak and Dagger, CO2 Comics, comic creator, Federal Healthcare Reform, Health Insurance Industry, Marvel Comics, Michael Mantlo, New York, Rom Spaceknight, Santa, Thanksgiving, The Incredible Hulk, The Micronauts