Five years ago the ACTOR Comic Fund (A Commitment To Our Roots) launched in an effort to help those members of the comics community in financial need. In those five years, they've helped numerous members of the community with cash donations and support to help them get back on their feet.
Since the beginning there's really only been one complaint about ACTOR - the name. Some found it confusing and that it didn't quite speak to the mission of the fund. After five years, some members of the Board of Directors wanted to change the name for those very same reasons and today ACTOR took action by announcing they've changed their name to the Hero Initiative with a new Web address - www.HeroInitiative.org (a new Web site is coming shortly). CBR News caught up with Hero Initiative President Jim McLauchlin on Monday evening for a quick chat about the fund and the name change.
McLauchlin told CBR News that when the fund would venture outside the arena of comics, often he'd be met with curious stares when mentioning the name. "People would get confused, as the mission just didn't compute with the name," said McLauchlin. "[Marvel EiC] Joe Quesada always said it was as if we were running the benevolent society for baseball, but our name was 'football.' It's a decent point.
"Most importantly, it serves the mission of 'mainstreaming' the cause and broadening the field. My ultimate goal is not to just circulate money within the comic industry, but to bring it in from outside. Right now, we're getting contributions from places such as Ralphs, which is a mega-grocery store chain in the West, and Microsoft. I like the idea of taking Bill Gates' money! We're also close to striking a deal with a branch of AOL-Time/Warner and we have many other similar irons in the fire. Plus, with all the movies and media and whatever else surrounding comic characters, there are people eating Superman-braded Life cereal and seeing X-Men movies who might be only peripherally aware of comics, or of us. They, and the companies that produce breakfast cereal and movies, can and should also participate in taking care of the people who spawned the industry they now enjoy."
As for the name change, specifically the use of the word Hero, McLauchlin said that was thanks to Joe Quesada. "[Joe] said that you say 'hero,' and bam! - people instantly associate comic books. We tweaked that into 'The Hero Initiative,' maybe just because it sounded cool. I didn't want to step on any toes, so I put in a call to Shelton Drum, who owns the Heroes Aren't Hard to Find store and runs Heroes Con in North Carolina. I told him we were planning a name change, and looking down the path of something 'Hero.' He said he thought it was a great idea. He said the name has certainly treated him well over the years and he was actually rather flattered that we'd want to do similar."
While we briefly introduced the fund's goals above, we thought more detail was in need before we let you go. Simply put, the Hero Initiative is the first federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated to helping comic creators in need. The fund creates a financial safety net, if you will, for yesterday's creators who need emergency financial aid and support for medical needs or the essentials of living, with an entrée back into paying work. Some of those who've benefited from the efforts of the Hero Initiative have gone public, but it is the fund's policy not to disclose those recipients names themselves to protect their privacy. "To date, we've disbursed over $200,000 to folks who have really needed it," said McLauchlin. "We've literally paid back rent when people were 48 hours from being evicted, paid electric bills when people were 24 hours from having utilities shut off, and paid for desperately needed operations that weren't covered by medical insurance.
How can you get involved? You can donate directly to the fund by visiting their Web site, for starters. The Hero Initiative has also put together "ACTOR Comics Presents," a 152-page anthology for $10 available at the upcoming Baltimore Comic-Con (a preview of one of the stories in the anthology is included at the end of this article). They'll also be in attendance at the following conventions:
- Baltimore Comic-Con September 9th & 10th
- Phoenix Cactus Comicon September 23rd & 24th
- Wizard World Texas November 10th - 12th
There's also the Heroes Helping Legends event in Chicago, September 16th & 17th, a fan run even with all the procedes benefiting the Hero Initiative.
And finally, on December 2nd in Los Angeles, there's "Marvel: Then and Now - A Night with Stan Lee & Joe Quesada" at the UCLA Student Union. Certainly an event that comic fans won't want to miss.