Welcome to Centaur Crossing, where comic book writer and filmmaker Greg Pak expounds upon the things that influence, affect, or excite him creatively. Which sometimes includes centaurs.
As another Thanksgiving rolls around, I take personal stock and remind myself to be kind, helpful, and thankful towards my friends, family and colleagues, who every day make my life better. And in my professional life, I give thanks to all of the readers, reviewers, and retailers who buy my books and talk them up. Yes, I'm talking about you, amigos and amigas. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.
And then I find myself thinking about money.
For better or for worse, we live in a world in which the strategic application of cash can be the most efficient way to effect change. Given the United States Congress's single digit approval ratings, I probably don't need to dwell on the negative side of the phenomenon. So I'll focus on the positive:
I'm thankful to live at a time when it's incredibly easy for everyday people with limited funds to make a huge difference in the lives of others by spreading small amounts of money around in smart ways.
So if the Thanksgiving spirit is upon you this week, allow me to suggest a few comics-related places you might consider dropping a few dollars. And I suggest a simple criterion for you in making your decisions:
If you love something, throw money at it.
Did that sound crass? I'd argue instead that it's an enormously practical and helpful way to push the world in a positive direction. And it doesn't take much to have an impact – just a few bucks will make a major difference to everyone on this list.Give to the Bill Mantlo Fund
In the 1990s, the great comic book writer Bill Mantlo was struck by a hit-and-run driver and suffered traumatic brain injury. His insurance company abandoned him many years ago; by donating to Bill's brother Mike Mantlo, you can contribute towards Bill's ongoing care.
For more about Mantlo's career, accident, and current condition, check out this deeply moving article by Bill Coffin.
Give to the Rosalie Lightning fund
Just a few days ago, Rosalie Lightning, the daughter of graphic novelists Tom Hart and Leela Corman, died unexpectedly in her sleep. Friends of Hart and Corman have set up a donations page to help the family through this unfathomable tragedy. Click here to donate.
Give to your local library or to a books-for-kids charity
Last year my mind was blown by a study that quantified the pretty obvious idea that the more books a child has, the more education he or she is likely to get. A child with 500 books in the house will get 2.4 years more education on average than a child with a single book in the house. On purely practical terms, that can translate into thousands of dollars more income later in life and the difference between life below or above the poverty line.
After doing some poking around, I found First Book, which is dedicated to getting books in the hands of children in need, and of course, Reading Is Fundamental, which I remember giving me free books as a tot.
Of course, your local public library might be the best place to drop a few dollars. With constant budget cutting in the face of the recession, public libraries everywhere are suffering. If you're in North Texas, I highly recommend the fine folks at the Friends of the Dallas Public Library, at whose benefit I spoke last month.
Preorder your comics with your local shop
You knew I'd get around to this, didn't you?
If you're one of those beautiful people who buys the comics you read, thank you! And if you haven't done it yet, please consider setting pre-ordering your comics a couple of months ahead of time. That's called setting up a "pull list," and it lets your local retailer know that he/she should order extra copies of the books in question because he/she knows you'll buy them.
That's the single most effective thing you can do to help ensure that the books you love continue to be produced. Just a few thousand people adding a book to their pull list can bump up orders enough to protect a series from cancellation.
Why mention this here? Because every cancellation represents freelancers losing critical work and great stories fading into oblivion. Once again, if you love something, throw money at it. That's the best way to keep getting the stories you want from the creators you enjoy.Pay for comics
I'm not going to moralize here. But if you download pirated comics, please consider this challenge:
Go through your list of the comics you've downloaded. Pick out the one you love the most. Then go buy it, either from your local shop or from an online vendor like Comixology. Don't do it for me; don't even do it because it's the right thing to do. Do it purely for self-interest – because if the book doesn't make money, it will get cancelled. If you love something, throw money at it.
Donate to a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo project of your choice
A few months ago, the comics community had its collective mind blown as the Womanthology project racked up over $100,000 in pledges to help produce an anthology of comics by female creators. That's four times the amount the organizers originally hoped to raise. And it means that soon we'll see a slew of stories that might never have otherwise been published.
The lesson? If you're hungry for a certain kind of story or genre, someone has a Kickstarter or Indiegogo page just for you. And by donating a few bucks, you can help ensure that project sees the light of day. It's almost shocking how little some of these projects require -- every dollar absolutely makes a difference.
No money? Your word of mouth is solid gold.
There are times when we just don't have the scratch to spare. But if you're reading this, you're online. So you have a voice. And there's nothing more powerful in getting folks to act than getting encouragement from their friends. Womanthology had 2001 individual donors -- but I'd be willing to guess that five times that number of people retweeted messages or forwarded emails about the project.
The Internet seems custom built for snark, and that's fun. But if you want to help build something, sing the praises of something you love, or point folks toward a cause or charity you believe in. We're all richer in positive influence than we know. Spread it around.
Greg Pak writes Alpha Flight and Herc (with Fred Van Lente), Red Skull Incarnate, and Astonishing X-Men for Marvel and Dead Man's Run for Aspen. For more about his work, visit www.gregpak.com, www.twitter.com/gregpak, and www.gplus.to/gregpak.©2011 Pak Man Productions. All rights reserved. Greg Pak as a centaur, drawn by Stephen Morrow! Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!