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A Tribute and a Helping Hand

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If you were from my generation, then you must have read at least one story by Bill Mantlo. From the late 1970s throughout the 1980s, Mantlo wrote just about every Marvel character there was. He, at one time or another, wrote all three Spider-Man books of the time (Amazing, Spectacular and Marvel Team-Up ). He also worked on Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk.

He spearheaded the adaptation of the Micronauts and ROM toy lines into comic book form. He also created the cult characters Cloak and Dagger and wrote many of their adventures.

I believe that Bill Mantlo is one of the most underrated creators in comic book history. He, like Roger Stern and others, does not get enough credit for his contributions to the medium.

I started reading the Incredible Hulk during Mantlo’s run, right before the title’s Secret War crossover. The books leading out of that event stand as one of the most definitive Hulk arcs of all time. Mantlo took what was a Hulk with the intelligence of Bruce Banner and, in under a year, slowly changed him into the most savage Hulk of all time.

I was in my early teens then, and I was hooked. I picked up every issue just to see how far Banner’s tragic decent into utter rage would take him. The storyline ended in a battle royal with most of the Marvel Universe in Incredible Hulk #300 and the banishment of the Hulk to the crossroads dimension.

A little over a year later, Mantlo and John Byrne would conduct a trade. Byrne would leave Alpha Flight and take the reigns of the Incredible Hulk and Mantlo would go in the opposite direction. Mantlo’s work on Alpha Flight pushed the boundaries of the comic form. The stories took weird twists and turns and were truly unlike anything else published by Marvel at that time. As a matter of fact, Mantlo’s work on Alpha Flight could quite conceivably be right at home at Vertigo Comics, which had yet to exist at that time.

By the late 80s, Mantlo had earned a law degree and passed the New York State bar exam. He left comics to work in the New York City public defenders office. He worked as a lawyer for several years before tragedy struck.

In 1992, Mantlo was struck by a car while rollerblading. He suffered what was referred to as a "close-head, traumatic brain injury", an injury from which he has yet and may never recover from and most likely will cause him to need full-time nursing assistance for the rest of his life.

Mantlo: A Life in Comics serves two purposes. It is a labor of love created by Mantlo fan David Yurkovich, done as a tribute to the author and his work. Yurkovich has painstakingly researched past interviews with Mantlo and interviewed colleagues such as Tony Isabella, George Perez, and Ed Hannigan to give insight into Mantlo’s career in comics.

But the book also acts as a fund raiser to pay for the constant care that Mantlo requires. Proceeds from the book will go to Mantlo’s caregiver to insure that his daily needs are met.

Working in comics does not usually provide creators with retirement or disability benefits. If you wish to give a helping hand to the creators who have given you years of enjoyment in the past, buying this book is a step in the right direction. In addition, you may wish to consider making a small donation to groups such as the Hero Initiative that look out for comic creators in need.

Also out this week:

• X-Men Endangered Species One-Shot

"No more mutants."

With those three words in House of M, the Scarlet Witch changed the landscape of the Marvel Universe forever. Not only did the mutants number dwindle from the millions to just under 200, it also guaranteed that no new mutants will be born. Overnight, mutants became a dying breed—an endangered species if you will. It’s seems inevitable that mutantkind will eventually die out. And there are certain humans who would like to speed it along.

This year’s Marvel X-Men event sets out to examine this new status quo, and this one-shot is the opening salvo of said event. What happenes in this issue will carry over into back-up stories in the X-books for months to come, making this book a must have for any X-fan out there.

Mike Carey (W), Scot Eaton (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

• Spirit #7

The Spirit is one of comic book’s most enduring icons. For over 60 years, the character has been gracing comic pages of one form or another. I’m sure many a present-day comic creator would jump at the chance to work on the character, to leave their mark on its rich history. Well, this week, six all-star creators will get their chance.

Darwyn Cooke, the man entrusted with the new Spirit ongoing, is taking a month off. In his place comes a trio of tales featuring creators ranging from Kyle Baker to Walt Simonson leaving their mark on the character. In addition to giving these creators a shot at the Spirit, it also gives new fans an excellent opportunity to jump in on one of DC’s better series.

Kyle Baker, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Walter Simonson (W), Kyle Baker, Jordi Bernet, Chris Sprouse and Karl Story (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

• Madame Mirage #1

Paul Dini seems to have made a new home in the world of comic books. In addition to being "head writer" on Countdown and writing Detective Comics for DC, he now has a new, creator-owned title coming from Top Cow.

Madame Mirage seems to be a throwback to the pulp era of the Shadow and the Spider, with a healthy dose of the femme fatale thrown in for good measure. The blend creates something new and novel in the world of comics today, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a hard sell. Will comic readers react well to Dini’s latest labor of love? Or will the audience consist only of Dini’s hardcore fans. Time will tell.

Paul Dini (W), Kenneth Rocafort (A), Top Cow, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

• Hedge Knight 2: Sworn Sword #1

The Dabel Brothers reached a certain amount of success with their licensed books, most notably 2003’s the Hedge Night—the first in a long line of comics adapting George R.R. Martin’s popular A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Since then, the Dabel Brothers have entered into a partnership with Marvel Comics, resulting in stronger distribution and more sales. What a perfect time for the Brothers to roll out the next installment in their adaptation.

Fans of Martin’s writing have been eagerly awaiting this series, but fans of sword and sorcery should be on the look out, too. You might just discover a new venue for you who love knights and magic.

George R.R. Martin & Ben Avery (W), Mike S. Miller (A), Marvel/Dabel Brothers, $2.99. Six-Issue Minieries.

• Highwaymen #1

Abe "Speed" Monroe and Alistair McQueen were once the best highwaymen in the business. No cargo too dangerous, no trip too deadly, they succeeded at all costs. Now, bad blood between them and the years since their prime have caused them to retire. But one very important job for a dead President will reunite them one last time. However, this will turn out to be their most difficult haul yet. And they might not survive the experience.

Wildstorm has carved out a niche for itself in the DC family of companies. They seem to lie right in the middle of DC proper and Vertigo, and their stories appear to be a mixture of each. This series would be the perfect example, as it features elements that would be at home in 100 Bullets or The Losers.

Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman (W), Lee Garbett (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

# # #

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website,

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