Comic Art Friday: Yes, we do need another Hero

I’m not one for causes, generally speaking. The few that I do support, however, I support wholeheartedly. As most of our regular readers know, the fight against breast cancer is one of my causes.

The Hero Initiative is another.

Flash Gordon and Dale Arden, pencils by comics artist Ralph Reese

The Hero Initiative is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose efforts benefit comic book creators in need. Although in recent years, some comic book artists and writers have managed to turn their creative endeavors into multimillion-dollar enterprises, these still-rare circumstances haven’t always existed.

For decades, comics creators worked for the most part on a freelance basis, for paltry remuneration by most standards, and without corporate healthcare or pension benefits. As a result, many of these talents hit rocky financial straits later in life when their skills were no longer in demand, and as the sorts of health challenges that become common as people grow older befell them. No safety net was in place to help.

Until 2000, when the Hero Initiative — formerly known as ACTOR (A Commitment to Our Roots) — was established.

Supported by a consortium of comics publishers — including Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Dynamic Forces, Top Cow, and Wizard — the Hero Initiative provides financial assistance to veteran comic book writers and artists (defined as those with industry credits spanning ten years or longer) in need. The disbursement of funds is overseen by a board entirely composed of comics creators, including such legends as George Pérez, Dick Giordano, John Romita Sr., Denny O’Neil, Jim Valentino, and Roy Thomas.

Last year, the Hero Initiative began supplementing its fundraising efforts through the sale of annual memberships. I’m proud to be HERO member #115. (Stan Lee, the longtime writer, editor, and publisher of Marvel Comics, is #1.)

One of the perquisites of membership renewal is a sketch card drawn by a noted comics artist. This year, I received a sketch of Flash Gordon and Dale Arden drawn by Ralph Reese, who worked on the Flash Gordon newspaper strip in the early 1990s. Reese’s diverse credits include work on projects ranging from horror titles (for DC, Marvel, and Warren) to superheroes (THUNDER Agents) to science fiction (Magnus: Robot Fighter) to humor (National Lampoon). As related in this article from the Los Angeles Times, Reese himself has been helped by the Hero Initiative, making this sketch all the more awesome.

Times are tough, and there’s no end of worthy opportunities for whatever cash one has available to support such causes. But if you’ve enjoyed the work of comics creators over the years, and you’d like to show your appreciation in a tangible manner, the Hero Initiative is a good way to do that.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Explore posts in the same categories: Breast Cancer Awareness, Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day

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