A lot of people have seen Guardians of the Galaxy in the last few days, but Bill Mantlo was a particularly special viewer.
Mantlo was a prolific and fan-favorite writer for Marvel Comics in the 1970s and 1980s, producing lengthy and acclaimed runs on books like Alpha Flight, Micronauts and ROM (which he wrote for a whopping seven years). He's also the co-creator of Rocket Raccoon, which is why in the past few months fellow creators and fans have spent quite a bit of time drawing attention to the tragedy that halted his comics career. In 1992, Mantlo was struck by a hit-and-run driver and suffered severe brain trauma. He now requires expensive, full-time healthcare, and in the months leading up to the release of the Guardians of the Galaxy film, a new wave of awareness of Mantlo's situation spread, along with a call to donate funds to aid in his ongoing care.
Now Guardians is in theaters, setting box-office records and gaining millions of fans. There will be Rocket Raccoon toys in a lot of children's bedrooms before the summer is over, and that wouldn't have happened if Mantlo and artist Keith Giffen (who continues to work in superhero comics) hadn't dreamed up the character back in 1976. So, as a way of saying thank you, Marvel made sure that Mantlo would be among the millions of people who saw Rocket's film debut over the weekend, by giving him a private screening of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Mantlo's brother Michael described the experience on Facebook:
"Marvel hooked Bill up with a PRIVATE VIEWING of 'Guardians Of The Galaxy', and my wife Liz and my beloved cousin Jean assisted Bill throughout, enabling him to sit back, relax and relish in the AWESOMENESS of what is going to be, in my humble opinion, Marvel’s GREATEST AND MOST SUCCESSFUL FILM EVER!"
If you've seen Guardians already, you might have noticed that, in the closing credits, Mantlo and Giffen are given their own credit line for Rocket's creation. Seeing his name onscreen was a particularly emotional moment for Mantlo.
"Bill thoroughly enjoyed it, giving it his HIGHEST COMPLIMENT (the BIG 'THUMB’S UP!'), and when the credits rolled, his face was locked into the HUGEST SMILE I HAVE EVER SEEN HIM WEAR (along with one or two tears of joy)!" Michael Mantlo wrote. "This was the GREATEST DAY OF THE LAST 22 YEARS for me, our family, and most importantly, BILL MANTLO!"
Guardians of the Galaxy made a lot of people happy over the last few days, but perhaps no one was happier than Bill Mantlo.
(Via Bleeding Cool)