Success Stories

Gene Colan, artist of Iron Man, Daredevil, Batman:

“If there was not a Hero Initiative, I probably would have gone under. Hero picked up the slack and made sure I didn’t drown. They kept me going, paid the rent. That, to me, is a miracle. They saved me, and my family.”

In the last years of his life, the Hero Initiative was able to contribute more than $60,000 towards the medical and living needs of this comics titan.

Josh Medors, artist of G.I. Joe and Spider-Man:

“Hero Initiative has changed my life.”

Josh, barely thirty, has been battling inoperable spinal-cord cancer for some time. Thanks to your donations, the Hero Initiative has been able to assist Josh with expenses. Moreover, we’ve been able to commit time and resources to securing freelance comics projects for Josh that help him not only provide for wife and young son but also allow Josh a chance to be active and confident in the face of his affliction.

Ralph Reese, award-winning comics artist since 1966

Ralph Reese was once a dynamo of the drawing board. Today, he is on Social Security Disability due to herniated discs, torn shoulder muscles and back and neck problems, unable to stand or walk without pain. Caught in the infamous “coverage gap” between Social Security and Medicaid, Reese asked the Hero Initiative to help him afford prescribed medications he would otherwise be unable to afford.

Steve Gerber, writer of Superman, Spider-Man, and creator of Howard the Duck

Steve Gerber, beloved by fans and fellow industry professionals alike, was still a vital creative force when he began his fight with pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that made his efforts to work sometimes difficult, sometimes impossible. Up until his death in 2008, the Hero Initiative was able to provide medical and living expenses for Gerber thanks to generous donations from his fans and peers.

Russ Heath, artist of Sgt. Rock and Little Annie Fanny

Like almost all of his contemporaries, Reese spent most of his career without access to affordable insurance or medical treatment. Now, at age 84 and on a fixed income, Heath thanks the Hero Initiative for helping to provide free and discounted medical services for his recent knee replacement and associated expenses.

Tom Ziuko, longtime colorist for Marvel Comics, DC, Vertigo, Archie and many others:

“Like so many other freelancers out there, I live paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford health insurance. Without an organization like the Hero Initiative to lend me support in this time of dire need, I truly don’t know where I would be today.”

The Hero Initiative considers itself fortunate to be able to help Tom Ziuko, hospitalized in 2011 for acute kidney failure and colon surgery. Without your donations, his expenses would be insurmountable.

My Hero Initiative Testimonial
by Tom Ziuko

     I've been a professional freelance colorist in the comics industry for thirty years now. I began my career in 1981 - you may know me from my earlier work -- the twenty years I spent working for DC Comics on a wide variety of titles and genres -- from superhero comics like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, to animation titles like Looney Tunes and Cartoon Network Presents, to more adult themed series like Hellblazer for DC/Vertigo. Perhaps you've seen my name appearing in the last ten years at Marvel, where I do art reconstruction and recoloring for their reprint volumes; or over at TwoMorrows publishing, where I color covers for magazines like Alter Ego and The Jack Kirby Collector.

     Or maybe you've seen my name on the internet this last year, where it was reported in January that I was hospitalized with kidney failure. Yes, this last year has been a difficult one for me; made all the more so by the fact that as a freelancer, I cannot afford health insurance. I spent two months being treated in the hospital for this disease, and the subsequent months at home convalescing; unable to return to work, and unable to earn any income of any sort.

     This is where the Hero Initiative comes in. The Hero Initiative, without whom, I would have to say, I wouldn't be here today. Or at the very least, I would be homeless. After I was released from the hospital, I spent months convalescing, while jumping through hoops trying to get government assistance; such as food stamps, medicaid and disability benefits. In some cases I'm still fighting for help that has yet to come through.

     But the Hero Initiative was there for me right from the start -- even while I was still in the hospital receiving treatment. They were there to help me pay back rent, and to cover my outstanding bills and utilities. And after my release, while I was still bedridden at home and unable to return to work, or even sit at my computer work station for more than a few hours a week, they continued to assist me in paying my rent, covering my monthly bills and living expenses -- literally keeping a roof over my head and food on the table.

     And they did so up until a month or so ago, when I was finally well enough to start to return to work; albeit on a part time basis. And then cruel fate struck again, and the unimaginable happened (or at least nothing I ever wanted to imagine). I was rushed to the hospital with excruciating abdominal pain, where it turned out that emergency surgery had to be performed in order to save my colon. Before going into the operating room, I was informed that things did not look good for me -- on the downside, there was the 1 in 5 chance that I might die right on the operating table; on the upside I would probably lose up to 80% of my colon, resulting in my having to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of my life. Not the sort of thing you want to hear, but faced with a choice, I'll take living with a colostomy bag over the alternative.

     Well, I'm overjoyed to report that I had an incredible surgical team; not only were they able to save my life, but they saved my colon as well. No colostomy, no colostomy bag. And I also want to tell you that once again, the Hero Initiative was right there to come to my aid.

     I ended up spending a month in the hospital, and since my release, the Hero Initiative has been a lifesaver.  You have to understand something about me -- I am loathe to ask for a handout, or help from strangers. I'm in my late fifties, and I've never so much as applied for unemployment insurance during my life, even during the lean times that come with being a freelancer. But this was beyond me -- I needed financial help, and reluctantly had to once again approach the board of the Hero Initiative for assistance.

     They didn't flinch for a moment. They immediately approved my request, and covered my rent, bills and utilities -- once again, while I was still in the hospital. They also assured me they'll be here for me while I recuperate at home - and now I can rest easier as I heal and get well, because I know they will be there to back me up.

     I can't impress upon you enough how frightening it is to actually come up against a life threatening medical situation (not to mention two times in less than a year), and not have the financial means to survive if you're suddenly not able to earn a living. Like so many other freelancers out there, I live paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford health insurance. Without an organization like the Hero Initiative to lend me support in this time of dire need, I truly don't know where I would be today.

     So I urge you to please contribute in any way you can to the Hero Initiative. So they can continue to come to the aid of artists and creators in our beloved comics industry that are in need of assistance. Some of us need help from time to time -- to pay the bills, or to just survive; and I'm so thankful that the Hero Initiative was created, and was here to help me when I needed them.

     Better than even Superman rescuing someone falling from a burning building, the board members of the Hero Initiative are true real-life superheroes -- saving the lives of real people in real need in the real world. Please give what you can to help them continue to help us.

Chris Wozniak, artist on Superman, Star Trek and The Spectre

Chris Wozniak didn’t just lose his home to the 2011 tornado that destroyed Tuscaloosa, Alabama; he lost his studio, as well, leaving him with the unbelievable task of having to rebuild not only his personal life but his career. Because of your donations, the Hero Initiative was able to help Wozniak with relocation and rebuilding expenses.

Chris Ivy

Chris Ivy, longtime artist/inker for Marvel and DC Comics:

“I don't have enough words to express the gratitude to Hero Initiative for their help in giving me the chance to start feeling like a normal person again after ten years.”

Over the last decade, inker Chris Ivy’s life crumbled around him. After years of attempting unsuccessfully to move into other careers, Ivy eventually ended up homeless, living out of his SUV. Once he reached out to the Hero Initiative, we were able to negotiate with Ivy’s creditors, help him move from a shelter into his own apartment, and find paying work at IDW Publishing. Sadly, Ivy’s story isn’t unique; only with the help of donations are we able to give similar assistance to those in need.


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May 20-22, 2016

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June 2-5, 2016

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June 3-5, 2016

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