Hero Initiative: Helping Comic Book Creators in Need
By Andrea Fort
It’s very easy to go to your local comic book store every Wednesday and pick up the newest titles. It’s easy to find a soft corner on the couch or a favourite table in the coffee shop and get lost in the art and story; isn’t that what comics are about after all? Consider that all of pop culture’s favourite characters had to be born from someone’s imagination. Writers, artists, creators laboured to bring our favourite heroes into existence. Of course, some are a household name. For example, Stan Lee is a celebrity. He has continued to build his empire by way of his charm and eccentricity. But there are so many unsung heroes, so many creators that even if their names are well known, they do not receive compensation for their work. The Hero Initiative is aiming to rectify that.
The Hero Initiative, formally known as A Commitment To Our Roots (or A.C.T.O.R.), was founded in 2000 when a group of comic publishers realized that those working in the industry were doing so without a financial safety net. Almost every other profession supplies some type of insurance or financial aid, but for many who are dedicated to creating comics, this support does not exist. The idea was that Hero would provide that support based on appeals for funding. So that creators or their estates can maintain a reasonable standard of living.
In March 2001, the US government approved the Hero Initiative as a not-for-profit corporation under section 501, thus allowing them tax exemption. Now recognized as a charity, Hero was poised to make an impact. It is the first ever not-for-profit dedicated to comics and their industry and exists purely on public support. To date, they have distributed over $500,000 to comic ground breakers and veterans by way of emergency medical aid, financial aid, and assisting in finding avenues back to paying work.
While Hero’s funding comes from the public, they find a great deal of support from working creators as well as merchant partners. They fundraise through charity signings, and auctions, as well as accepting donations, and selling annual memberships. In Toronto, Paradise Comics holds many events to raise funds for Hero. Recently they offered a series of exclusive signings at San Diego Comicon with such creators as Jimmy Palmiotti, Dave Gibbons, Joe Quesada, and Herb Trimpe to name a few. The initiative raised over $9,000. They have also hosted charitable signings in store for the release of the Hero Initiative Avengers 100 and the Wolverine 100 projects. Both are collections of covers created by today’s ubiquitous artists.
As comic fans, we have a duty to acknowledge and support the Hero Initiative’s work. Without those of us who love comics, Hero cannot support those who were the building blocks of the industry. While membership sales have just closed for the year, they always accept donations and have an active EBay page where you can find everything from their exclusives and variant covers to original art and signed books. You can also keep your eyes open at the next convention you attend, as they frequently have a presence, and certainly watch their website for ways to participate. In the meantime, when you sit down each Wednesday with your new stack, spare a thought for the pioneers that made those fantastic books possible.