Even though we’ve only seen very brief footage and only heard actor Bradley Cooper deliver one line in the role, Rocket Raccoon is already one of the parts of the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer generating the most buzz. And why not? Rocket, a genetically modified raccoon with a penchant for heavy artillery, is such an out-there concept that he perfectly sums up the crazy, light-hearted tone director James Gunn seems to be shooting for with Guardians. But if you’re eagerly waiting to see Rocket kick some ass on the big screen, now might be the time to crack open the pocketbook and help out the guy who created him.
Rocket sprang from the respective brains of writer Bill Mantlo and artist Keith Giffen way back in 1976. Sure, the pages of comic books are cluttered with all manner of insane characters, from the fourth-wall-breaking metafiction of Deadpool to the out-of-ideas lunacy of Stilt-Man. But it takes a special kind of mind to give us a raccoon wielding a machine gun, and the recent trailer only reinforces just how amazing that idea can be when embraced fully. Unfortunately, when Mantlo should be enjoying the internet’s love affair with Rocket, he’s got more pressing problems, ones he’s been dealing with for over 20 years.
Mantlo was struck by a hit-and-run driver in 1992, a tragedy which left him suffering from a traumatic brain injury. A few years ago comic writer Greg Pak shared Bill’s story in hopes that fans of Bill’s will show their appreciation with donations to help Mantlo and his family with the costs of his ongoing care. With Guardians of the Galaxy and Rocket back in the limelight in a major way, Pak has revisited the subject on his site, in hopes that new and old fans of Rocket might make a small gesture of kindness toward one of the guys without whom summer 2014 would be missing a serious slice of awesome. Here’s a letter from Mike Mantlo, Bill’s brother and legal guardian, first published in Pak’s original 2011 Newsarama post about the plight of Bill Mantlo.
First off, I send out a big THANK YOU to everyone that has helped support Bill over these past 19 years (!). Every donation, no matter how big or small, and every card or letter is greatly appreciated. Bill’s condition remains the same (he suffers severe cognitive impairments, anger, and depression), and these factors keep him very much isolated from “the outside world.” Aside from my visits, and the kindness of my beautiful wife and some of the attendants at the nursing home/rehabilitation facility he resides in, his contact with other human beings is virtually non-existent. But the support and encouragement of fans, and industry professionals like yourself, helps to bring a little ray of sunlight into his dark and dreary days. When I (or my wife) engage Bill in conversation, his spirit emerges and is as strong and pure as it ever was! So, once again, I can’t thank ALL of you enough!! I strongly believe in the power of practicing random acts of kindness, and with that belief I hope that ALL of your kindnesses will be returned to you many, many times over!
Cards, letters or donations to Bill Mantlo can be sent to:
26364 East Pintail Road
Long Neck, DE 19966
Please make out any checks to “Michael Mantlo” — Bill’s legal guardian.
It’s easy to forget that most creative folks, even the ones whose creations stand the test of time, aren’t rolling in wealth, and even those who are well off can be laid low by the cost of a serious medical problem like Bill’s. Send a check, send a card, or just send some kind words — it’s a chance to say thanks to a guy who made the world just a little bit more bonkers and amazing, thanks to a gun-toting space raccoon with an attitude. You can donate by clicking the button below.