By Molly Stazzone
Photo courtesy of Sam Howzit.
Superheroes save cities, fight villains, and protect citizens; but, when comic book creators are down on their luck, they turn to The Hero Initiative to save the day.
The Hero Initiative is the first ever federally organized nonprofit corporation that dedicates its time to helping comic book veterans who are in need of medical and financial emergency help. The initiative was created in 2000 and was approved by the federal government the next year. The founder and president, Jim McLauchlin tells BTR how he created an organization that has real-life heroes working there.
The Hero Initiative was formerly known as ACTOR, which stands for A Commitment To Our Roots.
“I was a sportswriter before I started The Hero Initiative,” McLauchlin recalls. “At the time, Major League Baseball had an organization that helped former ballplayers’ and their families get through hard times, such as financial and medical issues. It’s called Baseball Assistance Team (BAT). For so long there wasn’t an organization that helped comic creators in need like BAT.”
After writing for Baseball Cards Magazine, in 1989 McLauchlin began working for Wizard: The Comics Magazine. He explains how he got into the comic book world:
“As a little kid I read comics, but after getting into cars and girls I left them. At Wizard I started out as their sportswriter–however that went under after two years. That’s how I got to be the senior writer.”
He adds, the reason why comic book creators need more help stabilizing their finances is that, while they may have had stable income when their work was popular, those earnings would have dwindled as their books or characters fell out of the public’s favor.
However, since The Hero Initiative started, the organization has granted over $700,000 to 50 comic book creators. McLauchlin explains the mission of The Hero Initiative is to put people back to work. The organization helps find jobs for veteran comic creators through top-named, partner organizations, one of which is called Transit Air Cargo. For 25 years, TAC is a worldwide leader in providing transportation and logistics services for trade show booth and exhibit materials.
Katie Box, Senior Account Manager of TAC, tells BTR that The Hero Initiative was one of the company’s first partners. Through The Hero Initiative, Christopher Ivy–a former comic creator who was down on his luck–was hired to create images and comics celebrating TAC’s 25th anniversary.
“We hired comic creator, Chris Ivy to draw sketches, design them on the computer, and market them,” Box says. “He was great, we will hire him again for future work.”
The Hero Initiative has also partnered with comic book giants, Marvel and DC, to fund their grants. Once a year Marvel prints blank-cover Uncanny X-Men copies and The Hero Initiative commissions 100 top artists to do an original drawing of the covers. These covers are then auctioned on eBay.
“The amount of money we make by selling the Uncanny X-Men copies can go from $40,000 to $100,000. We donate a percentage of the proceeds to our organization,” McLauchlin says. “We have partnered with DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and just recently with The Walking Dead.”
Their new Walking Dead 100 Project was presented at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. “It’s a marathon,” McLauchlin says, “It’s over now, but Comic-Con usually [lasts] for five days; we had a good time. The numbers range every year, but there were around 130,000 people this year.”
TAC was at SDCC as well and has new ideas for the future. Box explains that the company is branching out and thinking about new ideas, like handing out comic book-style sketches that say what TAC is about.
Box states, “It’s a positive feeling when veteran comics [creators] still can design after all these years.”