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Marvel's Negotiations With 'Rocket Raccoon' Co-Creator Disclosed

The studio's contract with Bill Mantlo, the co-creator of the comic book character, was noted in a New York Times story that was later criticized for its framing.

Rocket Raccoon 1 Cover - P 2014
Mike Mignola/Marvel Entertainment

The phenomenal success of Guardians of the Galaxy is good news for more than just Marvel Studios. For Bill Mantlo, the co-creator (with artist Keith Giffen) of the movie’s break-out character Rocket Raccoon, it could "hopefully set up his future forever," his brother, Michael Mantlosaid in New York Times story that he later sharply criticized. 

Bill Mantlo, whose work includes lengthy runs on Marvel’s Incredible Hulk, Spectacular Spider-Man and licensed ROM: Spaceknight and Micronauts titles, has required full-time medical care as the result of a 1992 accident that ended his career and left him with brain damage. Many fans and creators — notably Action Comics and Storm writer Greg Pak — have led a charge on social media to bring Mantlo’s plight to light, and also push Marvel into recognizing the contribution he has made to the company as a whole and the Guardians property in particular.

The Aug. 6 story in the Times, by David Itzkoff, suggests that Marvel has recognized Rocket Raccoon co-creator, with Michael Mantlo telling the paper that his attorney "managed to secure a very nice contract for Bill." But, after the publication of the story, Mantlo contested the framing of the Times article in a Facebook post and wrote that the Times piece "made it seem as though Marvel has been unfair."

In an email to The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, Michael Mantlo did not further discuss the reported contract between Marvel and his brother. But he did elaborate on how well the studio had treated Bill Mantlo. 

"On behalf of Bill, Marvel and I have developed a solid, trusting, open, honest and more often than not an extremely compassionate relationship," Mantlo wrote. Marvel declined to comment. 

"As Bill's legal guardian — and more so as his brother — I have spent the last 22 years defending and protecting his interests, and have vowed to do everything in my power to ensure he will have an improved quality of life forever," Mantlo explained to THR. "Along those lines, when I am negotiating a contract on his behalf, my goal is to secure the best possible outcome financially for him, as the costs for his care will continue to grow as we progress into the future."

He described Marvel as having been "totally understanding and as sympathetic to that cause as they could possibly be, as evidenced by the extreme measures they took to arrange that private screening of Guardians of the Galaxy for Bill. The legal obstacles that had to be hurdled were substantial, yet [Marvel svp operations, publishing] David Bogart and [Marvel attorney] David Althoff made it happen, and it was absolutely the most wonderful gift Bill could ever have received."

In a Facebook post this weekend, Michael Mantlo described that private Guardians screening for Bill as "the greatest day of the last 22 years" for his family. "When the credits rolled, his face was locked into the hugest smile I have ever seen him wear (along with one or two tears of joy)," Mantlo wrote of his brother’s reaction to being named as the co-creator of Rocket alongside Giffen in the Guardians end-scroll. (Unusually for Marvel Studios movies, "created by" credits for the film were given for Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Thanos and Howard the Duck; the creators of Star-Lord, Groot and Ronan the Accuser alongside other characters are listed under "Special Thanks.")

"Marvel has been nothing less than, ahem, 'marvelous' in all of our dealings with them," Mantlo stated, when asked to summarize the relationship between his family and the company.