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The Boisterous One

I’m a Bill Mantlo fan, and I have been since before I knew who Bill Mantlo was. Before I read the credit boxes, I was drawn to his stories. I have a portrait of ROM Spaceknight hanging above me as I write this. It’s for that reason that I must share with you this heartrending, incredibly researched piece by Bill Coffin (we Bills stick together) on Bill Mantlo’s life, family, work, and hardships after suffering a devastating brain injury caused by a hit and run driver.  The article delves deep into the flawed health insurance system that allows patients like Mantlo to fall through the cracks and never make the recoveries they could have, would have, should have. The article will break your heart and make you angry, but it is necessary reading.

(Thanks to Kevin Melrose at sister blog Robot 6 for linking to this originally and friend of CSBG Ian A. for pointing me to it.)

11 Comments

I really hope this piece gets pickup around the web and old school news.
It’s a great piece for many reasons.

I don’t say this in a negative way, more so just a curious way…

I have never understood why people like Bill Mantlo’s writing. I certainly haven’t read enough to declare it bad, but I have read enough to be confused about it’s quality.

Brian, would you be willing to throw in a “Greatest Bill Mantlo stories” this month to help people like me know what in his body of work is especially worth seeking out?

While I don’t “get” his appeal, I do want to.

Terribly sad. I remember the accident being announced back then and there was some optimism that he might recover. Obviously, it was misplaced.

Third Man, as someone who has read every issue of Avengers, FF, Thor, Iron Man, Cap, MTU, MTIO, etc., Mantlo has always been one of my favourite writers. Even as a kid, when I really only looked at the art, I noticed his stuff was different. Mostly, I found the writing at Marvel quite samey. Not so with Mantlo. He seemed to put a lot into his stories and it had quirky and original details here and there that made them stand out. (Early Claremont was the same; he put a lot of different stuff in, like having characters globe trot when usually they were tied to New York.) He wrote great dialogue for Ben Grimm (see Marvel Two-In-One), and had some amazing stories in Hulk, including the Crossroads stories and the child abuse interpretation of Banner (although in recent years onership of this idea has been disputed). I never knew quite what to expect with Mantlo, although he avoided the really outlandish and unbelievable stuff that Englehart was guilty of putting into his stories. Not everything he did was great, but that’s true of everyone. He wasn’t liked by everyone, either, and he had a falling out with Sal Buscema, one of the nicest guys in comics. Nevertheless, he was a good guy and genuinely took a pride in his work and comicbooks in general. He was not a great but he was certainly very good.

Brian, would you be willing to throw in a “Greatest Bill Mantlo stories” this month to help people like me know what in his body of work is especially worth seeking out?

Top idea, make it happen.

And while you’re waiting Third Man, buy Incredible Hulk 290.

I saw this pop up on a Twitter feed last night and was going to link to it here this morning when I saw Bill already had. It’s a must-read. Harrowing, but important.

And while you’re waiting Third Man, buy Incredible Hulk 290.

Ms. Modok!

Here’s why Bill Mantlo was great in two words: Rom: Spaceknight.

Oh sure, you’re saying, neat riff on the aliens are among us trope, some fun ideas.

But here’s the thing: I actually owned the Rom toy it was licensed from. And it was terrible. It was a non articulated robot that had glowing LED eyes and if you pressed some buttons on his back you got maybe 4 different sound effects. And IIRC, there was no real backstory with the toy. It was just something you were supposed to play with till you got bored with the four sound effects and three “guns” that came with the box.

Mantlo created the backstory, the characters. He set up the fear, the tension. Those first issues were horror-movie scary, and magical. This wasn’t Parker Bros. doing; it was all Mantlo.

The toy got thrown out years ago. I kept the comics.

Oh, and ditto for MIcronauts, although those were better toys.

@ MarkR

Totally agree with the Rom Spaceknight opinion. One of the finest comic runs IMO.

Bill Mantlo was also responsible for my all time favourite Hulk run – The “Crossroads” saga which I absolutely love. His writing combined with Sal Buscema’s art was absolutely brilliant!

In addition to that, Bill also wrote two of my favourite bronze age comics when I was a little tyke – The Human Fly (who was uber-cool ’cause he was REAL) and the short comics adaptation of The Man from Atlantis. Two obscure, largely forgotten titles that Bill wrote, but that I cherish to this day.

Thanks Bill.

Finally got around to reading that article after seeing about a half-dozen links to it on various comic-related blogs this weekend; truly heart-breaking (although that story about Mantlo, after getting arrested with a bunch of protesters, using his one phone call to order pizza for everyone in the holding cell brought a smile to my face…)
MarkR: agree with you about Rom, but I actually thought Micronauts was Mantlo’s masterpiece. Also, his entire extensive run on Hulk is truly underrated.

It’s a crime that his Hulk run hasn’t had some TPB love.

*personally* I’m not a fan of the crossroads story that ends it but the rest is gold. Did anyone else before him make the Hulk inteligent?

Ed (A Different One)

November 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I’ve recently become aware of some possible ethical issues involving Mantlo that made me pause a bit in my admiration for him as a writer (as Boabie alludes to above – they have to do with the origin of some of his ideas). Irregardless though, he’s written enough great stories that I can’t imagine that all or even most of them are tainted by such considerations. Of particular note to me is a “gun control” story he wrote in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man that I count as one of the top 5 Spidey stories of all time – and I feel that way even though he came out opposite to my own idealogical views on that issue.

Writing aside though, what happened to him is tragic in every sense of the word and just shouldn’t happen to anybody . . .

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