While growing up during the '50s and '60s, Brooklyn-native Bill Mantlo was an avid comic book reader. So when his college friend got him a job at Marvel in 1974, working as a colorist, he was thrilled! His big break would come soon afterward when a writer missed their deadline. Editor Tony Isabella was in desperate need of a fill-in story for Deadly Hands of Kung Fu and that is when Mantlo leaped at the opportunity.
"Whipping up a tale on his lunch break, Isabella was pleased with the result, and Bill earned his first writer’s credit," Mike Mantlo, Bill's brother and legal guardian, recalled to THR. "The floodgates were opened, and would not soon be closed again. The writing assignments grew steadily, and Bill became known as the “fill-in king” at Marvel. His imagination and creativity flourished, and within a few short years he was churning out upwards of eight different titles every month."
By the mid-'80s, Mantlo was becoming discouraged with the the way the industry treated its creators -- not allowing them to take ownership of their creations -- and how he was overlooked for plum assignments. So, wanting to be a real-life superhero, Mantlo made a career change.
"Bill decided to enroll in law school and pursue a career that “meant something.” He attended night school at Brooklyn Law, and earned his degree in 1987," Mike said. "After a few half-hearted stints at established law firms, he found his niche at the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx. Bill immersed himself in defending the defenseless, and earned a rapid reputation as a thorn in the side of the Bronx prosecutorial staff."
In the summer of 1992, while going through a bitter divorce, Bill's life was forever altered. While rollerblading, just four blocks from his apartment in Upper Manhattan, he was struck by a car. "His head smashed into the windshield, and when thrown off the other side, his head hit the pavement as the driver sped away," Mike explained. "Rushed to the emergency room of St. Luke's Hospital, he was in a coma, and diagnosed with a closed head traumatic brain injury. The prognosis was bleak, and proved to be as devastating as all of us feared it might be. Despite a few false glimmers of hope during his first three years post-injury, Bill has never recovered the cognitive skills that were stolen from him."
According to Quartz: "[Bill] moved through a series of rehabilitation facilities in five states, and was seen by a number of specialists, but after several years with little progress, he was admitted to the Queens Nassau rehabilitation center in 1995, where he has been ever since." Quartz adds: "He’s able to walk, Mike explains, but he’s unwilling to, and so over the decades his leg muscles have atrophied. There’s no television or radio—Bill finds them distressing—and he takes his meals in bed. When offered opportunities by attendants to leave his room or venture outside, he resists."
However, there is some happy news. Because Marvel wanted to use Rocket, a character Bill and artist Keith Giffen created in 1976, in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, the studio "agreed to a very nice compensation package for the rights" to use the genetically-altered, cybernetically-enhanced talking raccoon. Based on the money that he has received from that deal, according to Mike, "[Bill] will now be able to leave the institution he’s lived in since 1995, and have in-home the care he needs for the rest of his life."
And like they did with the first film, Marvel will be screening Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 this Saturday for Bill. "He is very much looking forward to that," Mike shared. "I am working feverishly to cut through all the bureaucratic red tape involved in getting Bill released from the nursing home, and into the new house that I’ve had built for him right next door to the house my wife and I live in."
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Set to the backdrop of ‘Awesome Mixtape #2,’ Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is written and directed by James Gunn (Slither). The film marks the return of the original Guardians, including Chris Pratt (Jurassic World) as Peter Quill/Star-Lord; Zoe Saldana (Star Trek Into Darkness) as Gamora; Dave Bautista (Spectre) as Drax; Vin Diesel (Furious 7) as the voice of Groot; Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) as the voice of Rocket; Michael Rooker (Jumper) as Yondu; Karen Gillan (The Big Short) as Nebula; and Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls) as Kraglin. New cast members include Pom Klementieff (Oldboy), Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, Everest), Chris Sullivan (The Knick, The Drop) and Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight, The Thing).
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is scheduled to hit theaters on May 5, 2017.