Many Newsarama readers have probably heard and maybe even donated a few dollars or purchased a fundraising product from The Hero Initiative, the charity dedicated to helping comic book creators in medical or financial need. But less often do readers get to see the good the organization does on the ground.
Recently The Hero Initiative solicited testimonials from creators whose lives it has touched through the aid they received, to help illustrate the kind of work that it does and how important it is to keep seeking out ways to help more creators in need.
Here's a look at two such testimonials, from veteran writer Alex Simmons (Archie, Scooby Doo, Batman: Orpheus Rising, and founder of the Kids Comic Con) along with artist Don Hillsman II (Street Fighter, Gambit, Martian Manhunter and Countdown to Final Crisis), published in their entirety courtesy of The Hero Initiative.
"Sometimes the only way to truly express gratitude is to put it in perspective.
"For number of years I’ve made an effort through my writing and my work with children and young artists to make a difference in the world. And for 40 years I've managed to do some good.
"This has not made me wealthy. In fact, as a struggling artist, it often put me and my family in very difficult situations.
"Then a couple of years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. The news hit hard and I wasn’t really sure how I was going to come out the other end.
"But friends and loved ones stayed by my side. Plus the writing in comics and books, and the workshops and classes that I taught to children and teens, helped make life possible and worthwhile.
"Yet, on the financial side I was still struggling and almost went under a couple of times.
"What has helped me help others was the Hero Initiative.
"By coming to my rescue when I needed it most, they enabled me to get through those difficult times, and you continue to do for others.
"Of course I will never be able to thank them enough. But I hope one way I can try is to continue helping others. And by asking you to reach out and help Hero Initiative. Support them, however you can, so they can be there for other artists who made our lives a little bit better.
"Thanks to the Heroes!
"This is possibly the hardest thing I've ever had to express, as I am a very proud person who never thought I would be in this position in life, but here we are.
"My name is Don Hillsman II and I’m a comic book veteran having landed in the business since 1984, right out of high school in 1984. I’ve worked for Marvel, DC, Crossgen, Image, Dark Horse and others as a penciler and inker. Over the course of 2010-12, I lost everything in a divorce after 26 years of marriage, and work slowed to non-existence. Suddenly, I was ANOTHER comic artist who got thrown out the cold, like so many others. No matter how hard I struggled, my mental and physical state both rapidly deteriorated. I had “untreatable" depression, anxiety, hospital stays, and suicide attempts that failed.
"I completely lost hope and stopped taking ANY care of myself. I was at the end of my rope, mentally and physically. Then a fellow comic professional suggested I call Hero Initiative.
"Without hesitation, they helped. They immediately got me a vision test and new glasses so I could function as an artist again, and helped with several other ongoing health problems.
"Hero Initiative pulled me out of a very, very bad spot. I would ask all comic professionals to lend them a hand as well, because someday, you may need them too. In an Industry with almost no support system, no insurance, no retirement, The Hero Initiative is the light in the darkness.
"I am ecstatic about not being in pain anymore. Hero Initiative has literally helped take away my physical pain so I can function like regular human being again.
"It saved my life, mentally and physically." - Don Hillsman II
The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterday’s creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue 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.
Since its inception, The Hero Initiative has had the good fortune to grant over $1 million to the comic book veterans who have paved the way for those in the industry today.
For more information, please visit www.heroinitiative.org.