How the Success of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Character Rocket Raccoon Saved His Creator
Bill Mantlo may not not be a household name, but it’s a legendary one to longtime fans of Marvel Comics. During the 70s and 80s, the New York native was one of the publisher’s most prolific writers. He penned over 500 issues for the company, with long runs on titles like The Incredible Hulk, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, ROM The Space Night, and Micronauts. Along the way, Mantlo created numerous characters including Cloak and Dagger and Guardians of the Galaxy breakout Rocket Raccoon. However, a devastating accident permanently ended his career — and nearly his life — 25 years ago.
In the summer of 1992, Mantlo — by then an accomplished lawyer and public defender in addition to his writing — was hit by an unidentified driver while rollerblading near his New York home. The accident briefly left Mantlo in a coma. It also caused permanent closed head trauma and severe brain damage. Bill Mantlo’s brother, and primary caregiver Mike Mantlo, explained the severity of the injuries to Newsarama in 2014:
“Bill is, and has been, trapped in a world of confusion and despair since his accident 22 years ago. The cognitive deficits he suffered have left him unable to reason or understand his situation, and he struggles daily to maintain any control over his own mind. For someone with his intellect and imagination, this was the absolute worst type of injury that could ever have happened to him.”Due to issues with his insurance company CIGNA — detailed in a 2011 story in LifeHealthPro — Mantlo was repeatedly moved to different medical facilities, with his family saying that each move negated all progress he previously made. By 1995, his coverage had been cut off completely, and his family was forced to sell off all Mantlo’s possessions in order for him to qualify for Medicare. Once he did, Mantlo was placed in a care facility in Queens seemingly for the rest of his days. While Bill Mantlo’s story was known in the comic book community, his story didn’t truly become mainstream until 2014 when Mantlo was hailed as the creator of Rocket Raccoon — the breakout star of the Guardians of the Galaxy film. Marvel and parent company Disney — who according to Mike have always treated his brother in an “exceptionally fair manner” — gave Mantlo a creator credit in the film and arranged a private screening for him. With the 2017 release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and a television series based on Cloak & Dagger premiering next year, things have improved. Bill Mantlo’s work is being touted in numerous publications, and the on-going compensation package with Marvel will allow him to move out of the facility he’s been in for the last 21 years. Mike Mantlo detailed the situation in an emotionally charged piece for The Hollywood Reporter:
“In 2014, Marvel Studios produced The Guardians of the Galaxy, featuring one of the characters that Bill created, Rocket Raccoon. Marvel negotiated and agreed to a very nice compensation package for the rights to use Bill’s characters, and thanks to their acknowledging Bill’s contributions, he will now be able to leave the institution he’s lived in since 1995, and have in-home the care he needs for the rest of his life. I have been Bill’s guardian for these past 25 years, and the outpouring of love, the praise he’s received, and the accolades he’s earned from fans and industry professionals alike is absolutely astounding. We have received cards and letters from all around the world, and Bill has an enormous fan base that continues to grow to this day. There is nothing that makes him prouder, or happier, than when someone writes and tells him how he, Bill Mantlo, changed their life is some magical, positive way. On May 6 of this year, Marvel will once again bring to Bill the gift of a private screening of the new Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and he is very much looking forward to that. I am working feverishly to cut through all the bureaucratic red tape involved in getting Bill released from the nursing home, and into the new house that I’ve had built for him right next door to the house my wife and I live in. Improving his quality of life has been my life’s goal, and I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully Bill’s crooked smile will finally return, and he can experience some joy and happiness for the rest of his days.”Mike Mantlo spoke to Your Daily Dish about the reaction to his Hollywood Reporter article. “The response to the Hollywood Reporter story about Bill was absolutely wonderful!” Mantlo told Your Daily Dish. “There have been many new additions to the Bill Mantlo Support Group FB page as a result of the story, and the outpouring of positive messages has been incredible.” He also encouraged fans to continue supporting Bill Mantlo anyway they can. “I support and encourage every fan and/or follower of Bill’s work to continue lifting his spirits, and am hopeful that the future will be bright for ‘Boisterous Bill.’ THANK YOU, ONE AND ALL,” he wrote. While Mantlo’s story currently has a happy ending, it stands as a stark reminder that there are many issues that still exist with the American healthcare system. Information on how to assist Bill Mantlo and the Mantlo family can be found at BillMantlo.com and the Bill Mantlo Facebook page.
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