Plenty of comic fans have bought a piece of original work to support an up-and-coming artist, but in the case of 5-year-old Kansas native Aidan Reed, people across the world have been finding that supporting his creativity helps him fight something bigger and far scarier than monsters and supervillains: Leukemia.
"Aidan's pretty energetic. His big thing is putting on costumes – classic horror like Jason and Freddy, but he's also into the Hulk, Wolverine and things like that," Aidan's father Wylie Reed told CBR News of the young horror and comics fan's passions. "He's got quite the collection of Marvel classic characters, and if he's not doing his costumes or drawing, he's usually playing with those. I joke with people about how half our furniture is hand-me-downs, but I've invested about $2,000 in obscure Marvel stuff."
Of course, the extra money in the Reed household hasn't been going for action figures over the past year. The family (who just welcomed their second child Amry a few months back) had their lives turned upside down earlier this year. A three week cough and an unexpected lethargic streak in Aidan (what Reed described as "an extreme change in behavior and personality") dealt a shocking blow to his parents after a bone marrow test confirmed their fear of a Leukemia diagnosis.
"The oncologist at Wesley hospital, Dr. Wiesner, explained to us that out of all the forms of Leukemia to have, this is the one," Reed said of the first calming moment they had after an arduous waiting period at the Wichita hospital. "It's the most common. It's the most curable. And even though Leukemia is a bad thing, since this one has a 90% curable rating, we shouldn't be quite as upset as we were. That was a breaking point for us where we'd spent the previous five hours not knowing if we were going to lose our son. Hearing '90% curability' was a big turn for us obviously, and it made all the other unpleasantness that we'd have to deal with over the next two or three years not that big a deal."
Months of up and down chemotherapy followed, along with a number of complications. After early rounds, a bad infection on Aidan's Hickman line IV led to a temporary halting of treatment while antibiotics were administered. On its heels have come swings of energy and emotion along with more chemo treatments and waiting. "I slept on the floor next to his bed on a little Spider-Man rug the first night he had the pump hooked up," Reed explained of his early fears that his son would forget his external medicine and have more complications with his line.
Amidst all the treatments, Reed's sister started a website and Etsy shop to promote awareness for Aidan's illness and sell a few prints of the 5-year-old's drawings at AidForAidan.Wordpress.com. "Instead of donating to a nameless, faceless entity, people could get something tangible to remind them of Aidan," Reed said of the site which has grown massively in patronage since it debuted in September.
"[My sister's] goal was 60. She thought, 'If I could sell 60 of these things by Thanksgiving, that'll help make up for the work Wylie has to miss,'" Reed said, noting that while he has insurance to help pay directly for Aidan's treatments, he's set to lose a quarter of his annual income as he takes time off to shuttle Aidan through the hardest parts of treatment. "Once the story picked up on Reddit, she said she saw a considerable spike in drawing sales. I think sales went up past 2,000 in a matter of a week. I couldn't believe how people from all over the world were writing in with well-wishing messages. People from Australia, Brazil, all over the UK and Europe, China and Japan.
"When Aidan got Leukemia, the world seemed pretty big and pretty cold. But after seeing so many people want to take a part in Aidan's story and helping him, it really made the world a lot smaller and a lot warmer. That was very valuable to us. I can't say enough good stuff about it."
Support has poured in, not just through sales of Aidan's drawings of everyone from werewolves and vampires to his personal favorite Marvel character, the Green Goblin. Many have stood in solidarity via their own gifts and creativity. "I think Aidan's favorite thing so far is that Tyler Mane heard about him and how he liked the 'Halloween' movies, and so he sent him a signed photograph of him as Michael Meyers. That's been the coolest thing so far, but there have been a bunch of things. One artist drew Aidan in with Frankenstein and Jason, and that was really cool. People send him little things, like this gal who makes stuffed doll zombies. There's a lot of people doing their own thing for them. Donations are really helpful, but these people using their talents or expertise or taste is very positive and very, very warm."
While the support of all kinds has helped the Reeds make it through the process of fighting the disease, Aidan's full treatment will take upwards of three years. "We've been able to maintain our house payments and our bills. We dialed our frivolous expenses back before Aidan got sick in preparation for our second child, but just things like going out to eat more than once on the weekend all got cut out," Reed said. "We're in a mode where we do need help, and help is coming, and we're thankful for that. We're probably getting more help in this situation than the average person would, but that doesn't mean we immediately need to shut everything down and start sending money back. People wanted to be a part of Aidan's story and wanted his drawings and to send him messages or something they'd made. All of this has helped take Aidan's mind off of the spinal taps and just feeling like crap and wanting to sit on the couch and watch TV all the time."
Reed went on to explain that several people have inquired about commissioning the young artist for specific characters, however for now the prints available in the Etsy shop are all that will be on the market. "We've had a few requests, and I had to tell a lot of people we couldn't accept requests because he's on the steroids and not in a mood to do much of anything. But once he got past the antibiotic and to the not as aggressive phase of chemo, he's been more energetic. And if he's not jumping around in a costume, he's drawing – more than he does anything else."
With a little luck and the help of his parents, Aidan's career will hopefully continue to grow at an impressive pace. "One funny thing is that lot of people have made really positive comments and said, 'Wow! You draw really well for a five-year-old,'" Reed said. "But I don't believe there's a drawing posted on his website that's any less than a year old. So some of those he did when he was four."
For more on Aidan's story and to purchase prints of his monster and supervillain art, go to AidForAidan.Wordpress.com