The Worst.Comic.Podcast.EVER! was the first podcast I featured here on KC Geeks, and I’ve had the absolute pleasure of getting to know the guys over the past several months. We hung out at Kansas City Comic Con, and gotten together for geeky happy hours on several occasions. They are funny, big-hearted, and generally just good people. They are also giving – they are very involved with Hero Initiative, first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. When I heard about their heroic work, I knew a follow-up post was in order.
Read on to see how the guys at WCPE are involved, and how you can help spread a little geek love.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Jerry McMullen, and I serve on the Regional Volunteer Board for the Hero Initiative. I am assisted by my podcast partners and best friends, Cullen Stapleton and John Holloway.
How and when did you get involved with Hero Initiative and what do you love about it?
We started volunteering for Hero in the early 2000s, in the first years of the organization. Cullen recruited John and myself to volunteer our time for Hero at our local show. Cullen served on the Regional Volunteer Board in the Kansas City region until 2015, prior to moving to Portland. When he left, I took over on the Regional Volunteer Board for Kansas City. Cullen is now on the Regional Volunteer Board for the Oregon region.
Tell us about Hero Initiative.
The Hero Initiative was founded in 2000. In simplest terms, Hero creates an emergency fund for comic book creators in times of financial need. Many creators were paid by the page or story or issue, and received no residuals or no royalties. These creators are independent contractors, so they may not have medical benefits or a 401k. Like a lot of other people in life, sometimes creators struggle to pay their bills at the end of the month. So Hero was established to create an emergency safety net.
Over the last 15 years, Hero has distributed over $1,000,000 in funds to assist creators. That could be used to pay for a prescription co-pay, to getting an artist set back up in a new studio. Sadly, there have even been times when Hero funds were used to pay for funeral expenses for a creator. The funds are distributed by a committee made up of long-time comic book professionals, so they know who the funds are going to at all times.
What made you want to get more involved?
My friends and I grew up reading comics. Our friendship was formed over our love of comics. As we matured in life, we realized that there were more to these funny books than just the panels, story and art. There were real-life people who wrote, drew, inked, colored and lettered these stories. We started meeting these comic book creators and realized just how much these creators put into their work. Our volunteering for Hero is one way for us to give back to the comic book community that has given us so much over the years.
Tell us about what you do for the organization.
We volunteer our time at local comic conventions. At the larger comic book conventions, we set up a table for the Hero Initiative. We sell some Hero Initiative product at the tables as a way to generate some funds for the organization. We also coordinate tip jars on many of the creator tables on the show floor. Many creators will put a jar on their tables, and suggest donations be made to Hero in exchange for the creator autographing books or doing a sketch. We also get to meet and host some incredible comic book creators.
Tell us about a memorable moment, or what the charity has been able to achieve.
It’s a challenge to answer this question. Hero is very respectful of the creators’ privacy. Not every creator wants it to be public knowledge that they needed financial assistance. So Hero does not publicly promote the times that they distribute funds, unless the creator approves.
Instead, let’s focus on the opportunities this has given us. We have had the opportunity to meet so many great comic book creators. We have had creators like artists Doug Mahnke and Karl Moline sit at our table at a con for the weekend.
In 2015, Cullen and John had the opportunity to help a comic book writer relocate from Austin, TX, to San Diego, CA. They drove the writer’s car cross-country for him, arriving in southern California just in time for San Diego Comic Con. They then got to help volunteer at the Hero table at SDCC.
In 2016, Cullen volunteered for Hero at Wizard World Portland. He ended up taking care of comic book legend Denny O’Neil and his wife, transporting them between the airport, the hotel, and the convention center.
What has been the response to what the organization offers, and your participation with it?
Our first year volunteering at a show, we went in with huge ambitions and little product. We were lucky to raise $300. But over the years, we have refined our presentation, added Hero product, and leveraged the comic book creators as a fundraising option. Today, we are raising $3,000 to $4,000 at the show in Kansas City. I believe that speaks more to the giving nature of KC, and that people come to the shows planning on donating some funds to Hero.
How can someone get involved with Hero Initiative? What help do they need?
VOLUNTEER! Make yourself available! Give your time to help work a table at a convention. If you don’t see Hero listed as a participant at your local con, contact the Hero Initiative and volunteer to set up at your show. If you do see them listed, they will put you in touch with the local volunteer to coordinate times at the table.
Can’t volunteer at a show? Then help spread awareness of the Hero Initiative. Use your social media channels to share postings from Hero. You can find Hero on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube (see links below). If you like what you see there, share it on your feed.
Finally, DONATE! All donations matter! On the Hero Initiative website, there is a Paypal link if you want to make a donation there. Or check out their eBay feed to see some auctions of unique art that has been donated to Hero.
What future plans lay ahead for the organization?
First, if there is a major convention in this country, you can expect the Hero Initiative to be set up at that show. On the Hero website, you can find a list of upcoming shows where Hero will be at.
Where can someone find more information about the group?
- Website: heroinitiative.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heroinitiative/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/heroinitiative
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/heroinitiative
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heroinitiative/
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Giving Tuesday is right around the corner! Please consider donating to Hero Initiative, or another geeky charity – they all could use your support!