Comic writers and artists have created idols for many of us—idols that can fly, shapeshift, shoot lightning from their eyes, and use any other preternatural force to make the impossible possible and obliterate evil. Even with the power to captivate us since our first zap-zap-POW! blazed across two panels, there are still heroes who need saving.
The HERO Initiative comes to the rescue for comic creators in need, providing financial and medical aid, and recharging their dreams. You would probably never believe that legendary artist Gene Colan, who illustrated Iron Man, Daredevil, and Batman (among many others) ever found himself in a dark place, but the comics luminary nearly lost hope until HERO swooped in to provide for immense medical and living needs during the last years of his life. When late Spider-Man artist Josh Medors was struggling in the face of inoperable spinal cord cancer, it was The HERO Initiative that saved him from looming medical bills, and helped him secure freelance work that brought him back to his passion.
“If there was not a HERO Initiative, I would have probably gone under,” said Colan before his death in 2011. “HERO picked up the slack and made sure I didn’t drown. They kept me going, paid the rent. That, to me, is a miracle.”
HERO partners with Marvel, IDW, Top Cow, the Will Eisner Foundation, and more to reassemble the lives of those who have touched so many of ours through their gripping storylines and impactful illustrations. They collaborate with some of the top publishers in the comics universe for their “100 projects,” for which they invite 100 amazing artists to contribute to a book of original drawings based on a series or character, such as Wonder Woman, Hellboy, Avengers (pictured above), or The Walking Dead. Proceeds from both auctions for the original drawings and subsequent book sales benefit the initiative.
So how can you be a caped crusader? Anyone looking to get more involved in this Herculean effort can be a HERO volunteer at one of the many conventions they attend (they’ll even have your back for a percent of the ticket price). Whether you’re obsessed with comics or want to meet the human beings behind your favorite heroes and villains (or both), you will have the chance to coordinate the booth, assist talent, collect donations, and connect with the comic community. If you can’t make it to a con anytime soon, you can still buy one of the books filled with mind-blowingly awesome illustrations.
HERO Initiative is proof that even if you can’t leap from skyscraper to skyscraper or breathe underwater, you can still be a hero.