'Rocket Raccoon' Creator's Plight Draws Attention After 'Guardians' Trailer Debuts

As the Marvel teaser wows audiences, fans ask that Bill Mantlo, the writer responsible for the movie's much-hyped savage space raccoon, not be forgotten.
Mike Mignola/Marvel Entertainment
As the Marvel teaser wows audiences, fans ask that Bill Mantlo, the writer responsible for the movie's much-hyped savage space raccoon, not be forgotten.

An unexpected, but welcome, response to the release of the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer on social networks and through comics websites has been a renewed focus on the plight of Bill Mantlo, the writer who co-created (with artist Keith Giffen) the character of Rocket Raccoon back in 1976's Marvel Preview #7.

Mantlo, whose comic-related work includes runs on Marvel's The Spectacular Spider-Man, Micronauts and ROM: Spaceknight, was struck by a car while rollerblading in 1992 and remained in a coma for many years after; although he is no longer comatose, he suffered brain damage as a result of the accident, and has required full-time medical care ever since (This heartbreaking 2011 story goes into more detail about Mantlo's condition).

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Across Twitter and Tumblr, comic fans and professionals have been urging others to remember Mantlo, in terms of his creation of a character many expect will be the breakout star of the Guardians movie, but also the literal cost of his current condition.

As a much re-blogged Tumblr post, from Charlotte of Oz, put it, "Bill Mantlo is in hospice care and his family approaches destitution due in part to the flamboyant failures of the American health-care system, but frankly, the fact that he doesn’t see much in the way of royalties for his work cannot possibly be helping. Marvel is about to release a movie that will probably pull in half a billion dollars at the minimum, and Mantlo’s family won’t see anything from it. If comics taught me anything, it taught me that that isn’t right."

Writer Greg Pak, whose work includes Marvel's The Incredible Hulk and current runs on DC's Action Comics and Valiant's Eternal Warrior, has been leading the push offering links to donate to Mantlo's brother Mike to help with health-care costs. (Donating to the Hero Initiative, a non-profit specifically created to help comic book creators facing financial hardship, is also being encouraged by many.)

"I've loved Bill Mantlo since I was a kid reading his epic Micronauts run, and years later I took huge inspiration from the deep emotional groundwork his Hulk books laid for the character," Pak told THR. "I love the way Mantlo combined ridiculously huge, fun ideas with tons and tons of unabashed heart. That's pretty much what comics are all about for me. So I was heartbroken to learn of his accident -- and I've been enduringly inspired by how receptive so many comics fans have been to spreading the word about his condition and donating toward his ongoing care. Hearts all 'round, y'all, and please keep sharing."

Mantlo's work -- big, bold and bombastic -- helped shape countless childhoods; it would be good to imagine that many of those people would choose to give back when he needs it.