Acme Comics Takes the Initiative

Big thanks—like 3,095 times over—go out to Acme Comics of Greensboro, NC. The forward-thinkers at Acme came up with an idea that turned out to be great for everyone—Hero Initiative included.

Acme asked its customers to bring in old, unwanted comics for Acme to accumulate. The staff there matched every book brought in with one of its own, tirelessly sorted and alphabetized the stock, and held a massive, one-day sidewalk sale with all books that were brought in available at $1 each.The results? A lot of people cleared some deadwood out of their collections. A lot of OTHER people found some gems that they really wanted. And 3,095 comics were sold at $1 each, with proceeds benefiting Hero Initiative.

It was a great, grass-roots idea that really calls to mind Hero’s campaigns as well, where individual fans can set up their OWN fundraisers. It was low-impact, fun, people participated in different ways at whatever level they felt confortable, and a charity got some much-needed funds.

Our gracious thanks to Jermaine Exum and the whole crew at Acme. Next time you’re in North Carolina’s Triad area, check ’em out.

Jim McLauchlin

MORE Hero Comics blank covers

Including THIS great Hulk from Alan Kupperberg!

Coming soon (or sooner or later) to an eBay near you.

More details…here!

It’s Hulktober at Graham Crackers!

The calender—trust me—says it’s Hulktober, soon to be Hulkvember. And in celebration, you can get Hero’s stellar Hulk 100 Project softcover for HALF PRICE at Graham Crackers Comics when you buy Marvel’s new Hulk #1 or Hulk #2.

Check out Graham Crackers’ nine Hulk-a-riffic Chicagoland locations, or the ever-popular Website.

Jim McLauchlin

FREE stuff from Hero at Long Beach con!

No matter if your tastes run to spiders, or…well, spiders, we guess—Hero Initiative has something for you at the Long Beach Comic Con, Oct. 29-30, 2011.

Sign up your Ralphs Rewards card for Hero or bring us your old, unused cell phones and printer cartridges, and we’ll give you great free stuff in return!

If you like spiders (as in Spider-Man), there’s The Ultimate Spider-Man 100 Project softcover, a $10 value. If you dig spiders (as in Spider Jerusalem), there’s always Transmetropolitan: All Around the World, a $50 value.

Swing by Hero’s booth at the con, #213. See you there!

Jim McLauchlin

Tom Ziuko reminds us: ANY time is a good time

In terms of credits, well…Tom Ziuko has a raft of them as a comic colorist: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Action Comics, Superman, some Hellblazer stuff I remember very well, and the beat goes on. Dude has a resumé to die for.

Alas…he almost did. Tom has been laid low by kidney problems of late, but always soldiers on. Hero Initiative has helped him in that soldiering of late, and…maybe it’s best just to let Tom take it from here:

I’ve been a professional freelance colorist in the comics industry for 30 years now. I began my career in 1981. You may know me from my earlier work—the 20 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 such as 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.

First, giant props to Tom for sharing the story. It’s an amazingly difficult thing to share such private information in a public forum, but Tom knows, first-hand, just how important is to let people know the work we do, and how it can change lives for the better. I’ve spoken to Tom several times, and he’s genuinely concerned about the “us” he mentions. He knows there’s him, and the him+1, him+2, and well beyond.

Second, our thanks go out to the people who have already contributed to Hero based on Tom’s story. Right off the bat, on Tom’s advice and consent, I shared Tom’s plight with a few “friends and family” types, who immediately opened the checkbook. Some were some rather big-name comic creators. I don’t wanna out any one here, but let’s just say some names might rhyme with “Schmad Beltzer” and “Flobert Hirkman.” If you’d like to follow their lead so we can continue to help Tom in his convalescence, and many others like him, we certainly would appreciate it.

Jim McLauchlin

See? We TOLD you Hero Comics blank covers existed!


This one from Sam Kieth!

Jim McLauchlin

Hero Comics blank covers: Yes, they exist!

And the next rare bird you’ll be seeing: Hero Comics 2011 blank covers. Yes, they exist. But just barely.

A mere 100 of these were manufactured in conjunction with IDW Publishing’s release of, yes, Hero Comics 2011. Of those, 50 belong to our ol’ pal Joel Elad. I’m sure he’ll be sliding a few out into the marketplace soon enough. As for the other 50…

Hero Initiative will likely be spreading them around to a few artistic friends and family to do some drawings on. More on that…when it happens!

Jim McLauchlin

Your quote of the day: “Guy drew like a dream.”

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Jackie Robinson, who once said that, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Many others are eulogizing and chronicling the life of Gene Colan today, as well they should. Here are a few anecdotes that speak to the impact Gene Colan had on others’ lives, from some people you might not know.

Hero Initiative volunteer Wendi Freeman:
“I remember two years ago, and the greatest experience I could have had at San Diego Comic-Con was getting to hold Gene Colan’s hand walking him back to his table from the Hero booth. Thank you so much for those moments, and for everything Hero does.”

Hero Initiative volunteer Ray Feighrey:
“Gene was extremely gracious to me when I was introduced to him a couple of years ago and he signed my Iron Man #1 print. That image that has great personal significance to me, as my Dad gave me a copy of Iron Man #1 for Christmas when I was a kid. I was a huge fan of Gene’s, as you know, and he will be terribly missed.”

Hero Initiative volunteer Tony Tower:
“I had the great pleasure of interviewing Gene Colan for a Hero Initiative video back in early 2009. Along with my friends/crewmates Mike and Ethan, we traveled out to Gene’s home in Nassau County. Gene could not have been a more gracious host, and I think his humble, almost shocked gratitude at Hero’s support really comes through in the video.

“Our little trio really hit it off with Gene. He was quite the film aficionado, so throwing him in a room for a couple hours with three guys who work in TV (two of whom went to film school)…well, let’s just say there was a lot of classic movie talk in between the proper interview questions about Gene’s career and the good work of Hero. It certainly helped me get past any fannish nerves at talking with the guy who drew some of my favorite Captain America stories, or all the Batman comics I read as a kid, or THE image of Iron Man we all know so well:

“Flash-forward to that fall’s New York Comic Con. I was volunteering at the Hero Initiative table there, and was delighted to see that Gene had his own booth as well. Saturday was my day to look around the convention floor and shop, so I made a point of catching up with Gene. I later got an autograph from actor Robert Culp of Greatest American Hero fame (now sadly departed as well), and chatted briefly with him.

“Sunday morning I was on-duty at the Hero booth, and about 20 minutes before the show opened, Robert Culp was roaming the floor. He paused in front of our table, with a somewhat baffled expression on his face.

“’Morning, Mr. Culp. Good to see you again. Can I help you?’”

“Emphasizing his words in a distractingly Bill Maxwell-esque way, he replied, ‘Yeah. I don’t know what you’re doing here. What’s this all about?’”

“So I went into my version of The Hero Initiative spiel. Mr. Culp was quiet interested. He apparently was a cartoonist himself in his youth, and was conversant with the names of several comic book and comic strip artists from the 1950s and 1960s. Since that was the period he knew, I figured I’d give him a ‘f’rinstance’ from that era:

“’Well, one of the artists The Hero Initiative has been able to help is Gene Colan.’”

“Without missing a beat—‘Gene Colan? I remember Gene Colan’s art. Guy drew like a dream.’”

Remembering our discussion of film and actors, I had a feeling nothing would please Gene more than to know that Robert Culp was a fan. So I described where Gene’s table was, and told Mr. Culp how excited Gene would be to meet him. I would have walked him over myself, but was manning the Hero table alone just then and couldn’t get free.

A few hours later, I managed to slip away and check in with Gene, and asked if he’d had any interesting visitors that day…

“’I did. You know Robert Culp, from I SPY? He stopped by. Said he’d liked my art for a long time.” Gene paused. “’Gosh, that was nice to hear.’”

Gene Colan obviously had a lot of fans, me included. But I have to think that meeting was extra special for him. So in addition to all the other support The Hero Initiative provided Gene in his later years, it helped make that moment happen as well.

And one from a current comic artist, who chooses to remain anonymous:
“I have no idea how you’re feeling right now. But the first thing I thought of when I heard the news was, damn, all of us, without exception, have to go sometime, but there has to…HAS TO…be a difference between dying with or without hope. And however you feel, Jim, I really hope you and everyone involved in the Hero Initiative eventually can feel a sense of pride, or happiness, or SOMETHING positive, for, at the VERY least but possibly MOST important, giving a man hope, especially through a time where I know in my heart people would need it most.

“I’m proud of you. I’m proud to consider you a friend.

“My thoughts are with you, for what they’re worth.”

And there we go. Let’s take this occasion to share some good thoughts all around, huh?

Jim McLauchlin

My Lunch With Joe Quesada

My Lunch with Joe Quesada
By Greg Pelkofski

Yes, I am the fan who spent $536.51 to have lunch with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada. Yes, it was one of the best experiences of my short twenty-one years on this planet. Yes, it was a “dream come true.” (And I’ve had some pretty strange dreams. No joke, the night before the lunch, I had a dream where Spider-Girl was fighting the Joker in a burning building. Crazy, right?) However, this meeting was even more meaningful as I am a college student looking to break into the comic book industry after graduation.

Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to work in comic books. Well, I actually wanted to be Spider-Man, but by middle school I started to realize that even if a radioactive spider did bite me, it would probably kill me, not make me stronger. In college, I started tailoring my course work to becoming a comic book editor. I even got an editorial internship at AARP The Magazine in Washington D.C., after my repeated applications for Marvel met with failure.

In 2009, during a Friday night happy hour (so many of my family’s stories start this way) my parents impulsively decided to take me to the San Diego Comic Con for my birthday. There I attended Marvel’s “Breaking Into the House of Ideas” panel. I listened as writers, artists, and editors all told their unique stories of how they got a job at Marvel. One of the panelists made the point that each person needs to find their own path into comics, and once someone blazes that path, that trail goes cold forever. I knew I needed to find my own path into comics.

Jump ahead to October 1st of this year, again during happy hour, when I told my dad about how I saw Joe Quesada post on his Twitter page an auction for The Hero Initiative. The prize was lunch with Joe at the New York Comic Con. I mentioned it would be such a great opportunity if I could make it there the next week. Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe it was his parental desire to see me happy and successful (probably the alcohol), but he told me if I paid for the auction, then he would pay for my train ticket and hotel room in NYC.

Anyway, I won the auction. The next Friday morning, Oct. 8, came around quickly. But strangely, I did not feel nervous. I felt confident that the lunch would go well. Armed only with my knowledge of comics that comes from owning and reading over 3,700 of them, and with a pocket full of business cards, I set out to meet Joe Quesada at Five Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen.

My first thought while waiting at the restaurant was “if this is Hell’s Kitchen, where’s Daredevil’s Japanese fortress?” No sign of the fortress, but shortly after noon Joe Quesada came in, escorted by fellow Hero Initiative Executive/Fund Raising Board member, Jim McLauchlin. Now, only seconds away from shaking Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief’s hand, the man who led my favorite comic book company through some of it’s best stories and made me want to work in comics even more, I was suddenly nervous. But I put on a smile and stuck out my hand, and with a firm shake introduced myself to one of my role models.

Almost immediately, Joe began asking me questions about myself and I was able to explain my desire to be a comic book editor. With an attentive ear, he patiently listened to me speak of my college studies and my experience as an intern at AARP. He explained how tough it is to actually break into comics, especially in today’s job market, but he also told of how rewarding the work is. We discussed editorial work in comics and what a typical day at Marvel is like, and I found myself wanting to work there now more than ever. (Also, finding out that I wouldn’t have to wear a suit and tie to work was a huge bonus.)

Soon, my inner nerd broke loose and I had to ask some questions about the comics that I enjoy so much. I listened as Joe explained his reasoning behind “annulling” Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane (also the name of my cat), after which I completely understood why he made that decision. I also got some insight into the timeline of the Marvel Universe that appeared in a two-page spread in Avengers #5.

Throughout lunch, Joe and Jim told some funny stories of their experience in comics. Their stories just made me want to work with these people who sounded so similar to myself and with whom I felt a common geeky connection. Though, I seemed to have the last laugh when I said that I paid for the auction with my profits as an investor after Disney bought Marvel.

Nearly 90 minutes and one big-ass burger later, it was time for Joe and Jim to move on to their next scheduled events. Both were surprised when I said that I did not have a NYCC pass and came up only for the lunch. Jim let me borrow his pass for the afternoon so I could get into the convention and Joe introduced me to a few of Marvel’s staff. Joe and I got our picture taken together at the Marvel booth. It was an unexpected bonus in an incredible day.

While I realize I face great odds at being hired by Marvel straight out of college, I do believe this was one of the best opportunities I’ve had to help realize my dream of becoming an editor. More importantly, I had a great time and got to support the Hero Initiative, which helps the comic book creators who have provided me and countless others so much joy over the years. So, thank you Hero Initiative and Jim McLauchlin for setting up the auction in the first place. Thank you Joe Quesada for meeting me and listening to my little dream of being an editor. Thank you mom and dad for supporting me and my dream by paying my way to New York. And thanks to the comic creators for the heroes they made.

Greg Pelkofski

Stan Lee Day in L.A.!

The Hero Initiative arranged with our friends in county government to have Friday, Oct. 2 declared “Stan Lee Day” in Los Angeles County. This certificate the County presented Stan is just too cool for words.

Big ups, as the kids might say, to the mighty Harlan Wenig, who knows how to make the wheels of government turn.

Jim McLauchlin