"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms."
- Kristin Hunter
The comics industry is not without its flaws and some of them are dark, indeed. But its creators, fans, retailers, and even, on frequent occasions, its publishers are among the most generous of people. Without sounding too prideful about this, we are a pretty decent bunch.
Most major and mid-size conventions usually include some sort of charitable component. Online charity auctions are commonplace, benefit books equally so.
Creators freely share information among themselves about legal matters, medical insurance, and the tools of our trade. They even pass along tips to underemployed creators about where they might be able to pick up assignments.
Every year, Comic-Con International in San Diego gives out the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award to some individual in our industry. In 2008, it was awarded to DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz. My hunch is that, in any given year, the hardest part of presenting this award is narrowing the many deserving choices down to just one.
Creators in need can call on the Hero Initiative, the first federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators. The organization assists creators of the past and even present with "emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and avenues back into paying work. It's a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment."
New for 2009, Hero Initiative memberships are being offered. The memberships start at $29 and, even at that level, joiners will get a membership card, an original art sketch card, and more. You can learn more about The Hero Initiative online:
When the First Amendment rights of comics creators, retailers, and publishers are threatened, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is there to defend those rights. Since incorporating as a non-profit organization in 1990, the CBLDF has championed dozens of members of the comics community, raising and spending over $200,000 in these efforts. The group's guiding principle is that "comics should be accorded the same constitutional rights as literature, film, or any other form of expression."
For more information on the CBLDF, its cases, and its members, visit its website at:
Since the history of the comics industry is filled with tales of creators being treated badly by publishers, I often wished there were a "Comic Book Legal Offense Fund" to assist comics creators in receiving their proper due from such publishers. Now there is one, though it's little more than a year old.
The organization is called Unscrewed! Its mission statement can be found on its website:
Unscrewed! is a collection of individuals gathered together to educate creators on their rights, warn the industry about the harmful behavior of predatory individuals, and turn negative situations where creators have been wronged into positive experiences.
The group was founded in response to the despicable actions of a would-be publisher who cheated dozens of comics creators, fans, retailers, and even charitable organizations. Though the efforts of Unscrewed!, some of this publisher's victims have won judgments against him and countless potential victims have been warned away from him. Other actions are working their way through the system. The combination of industry alerts and legal action has effectively shut down this publisher's operations.
But there's far more to Unscrewed! than its work with this one publisher. The group has assisted comics professionals with other publishers and other matters. Its website is a treasure trove of resources available to freelancers seeking copyright information, health insurance, legal representation, etc. With the requisite disclosure that I have assisted Unscrewed! on several occasions, I recommend the organization to freelancers and other comics industry professionals and fans who want to stand with the men and women who make the comics we love.
By and large, we in the comics industry are a decent bunch of people. Let's continue to cherish and support that.
While I appreciate the e-mails and expressions of support from my friends and readers, I don't plan to comment here any time soon on either the Black Lightning: Year One mini-series or Black Lightning's appearance on the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series. I have a lot on my desk and in my life at present and, unfortunately, these things make it nigh-impossible that I'll be writing any new TOTs this month. Even more unfortunately, once my desk is clear, there's no new work on the horizon.
I do have various thoughts to share about Black Lightning and other recent appearances of black characters, but those must wait for now. In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying the previously-published material from Comics Buyer's Guide and elsewhere. I have sufficient backlog that you will be seeing a "new" TOT every Monday through Friday throughout January.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: