Give Thanks to Bill Mantlo

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.

Bill Mantlo and his sister-in-law Lizbeth

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:

Bill Mantlo

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!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

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7 Responses to “Give Thanks to Bill Mantlo”

  1. Arthur Adams (no, not the artist) says:

    Bill Mantlo was one of the first comics writers I considered myself a fan of, Micronauts and Rom, especially. (It’s too bad the rights for those make TPB collections unlikely. It would be wonderful if whoever has the rights would allow collections with a portion of the proceeds going to help pay for Bill’s medical expenses.)

    I’ve sent a card to him before, but this reminds me I should do so again.

    And it makes me glad to know he still smiles.

  2. David H. says:

    that was a very heart felt comment Arthur. i have a ROM Spaceknight blog that’s about 1 1/2 years old now and there is no shortage of mentions about Bill’s work. just last weekend i made ROM slide show for which i made a point to pay homage to Bill Mantlo. i’ll be mailing him a letter this holiday season. you can see the slide show on Youtube at:

  3. mike mantlo says:

    Gerry, I can’t thank you enough for the kind and heartfelt article that you’ve written. Your compassion towards other human beings less fortunate than yourself is the perfect example of how Bill lived his life, and he would be honored to call you “friend”!

    Writer Greg Pak dedicated his final issue of “The Incredible Hulk” (# 635) to Bill, and set up a link to the Bill Mantlo Support Fund that I run. This fund allows me to provide Bill with anything that might bring him some happiness, and improve his quality of life (even if it’s in just a small way, or for only a little while). The link can be found by clicking here:

    Donations are always welcome, and no amount goes unappreciated!
    I personally thank ALL contributors, and to all who have donated in the past, THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN!

    Gerry, I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving, and wish you all the best that life has to offer during this Holiday Season!

    Thank you so very much,
    Mike Mantlo

  4. Doug Freeman says:

    I am deeply saddened to see Bill Mantlo in such a condition…I enjoyed his work for many years. I am currently employed at a long term care facility myself, and it is indeed a depressing environment at times. I can only pray that Mr. Mantlo is surrounded by caregivers who actually ”care” enough to make his life as comfortable as possible. Thank you so much Bill, for sharing your great talent with us. God bless u…

  5. Travis says:

    I read about this a few months ago, and it is pretty crushing that someone like this, who has had such an impact on people in their formative years, can have something like this happens.

    To mike mantlo, its great you are helping support him and keep the fund going so he gets the care he needs. The man is an Icon and deserves the best we can give him. I for one will be donating.

  6. […] for Rocket Raccoon, his co-creator, Bill Mantlo, could be a poster child for The Hero Initiative’s wonderful work. Bill was the victim of a […]

  7. Gerald Marks says:

    I attended a preview of Guardians of the Galaxy last week and jumped when I saw Bill’s name in the credits. Then, when I got home to the computer, was first so pleased to see that it was, indeed, my former brilliant student in the credits. Then I read the tragic story and was shocked and saddened.

    Bill was one of a group of several especially brilliant students in the Photo-Silkscreen Workshop class I taught at Cooper Union in the early 1970’s. One summer, he also worked as a teaching assistant/counselor at Buck’s Rock Work Camp, where I ran the silkscreen shop.

    I learned that Bill’s accident was on Rollerblades in ’92, not long after I began ‘Blading. And, it especially hits home as I have recently had to adjust to ending my own blading career at the age of 73, fortunately having come through unscathed!

    Bless you, Bill,

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