As I was perusing Twittter today I came upon a story that broke my heart. It seems that fan-favorite writer William Messner-Loebs and his wife Nadine are living out of their car while he works a few hours a week at Panera and picks up janitorial work. A staple in the comic industry for a time, Bill has written some of the biggest titles for DC, Image, and others. Wonder Woman, The Flash. The Maxx. The list goes on.
This is a tragedy. A man who was once a millionaire due to MTV’s animated The Maxx series, and who was recently credited in the box-office smash Wonder Woman is now homeless.
From the Fox 2 Michigan article:
Meanwhile, he took ‘Jonny Quest’ from the ‘60s TV show and turned it into a 31 issue series and his talent grabbed the attention of DC Comics. In the late 80s when they pegged him to work on ‘The Flash’, then ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Thor’.
The road was long and prosperous for Bill and it all peaked in 1993 when MTV took his book ‘The Maxx’ and turned it into a series. The checks were large and the acclaim was far reaching. Life was good.
And then, it wasn’t.
After ‘The Maxx’, Bill and his wife Nadine moved into a nice home. But life happens and disease spares no one. Bill’s mom got sick. Then his wife got sick. Like any house, there were issues that required money to fix. Before he knew it, his Maxx money was more like minimum money. September 2001 was when he finally lost the house and was evicted. The date? September 11, 2001.
The story goes on:
So now Bill goes from church to church with his car as the placeholder in between. He works part time for Panera and just recently started picking up janitorial work at one of the churches.
He said he works about 16-20 hours a week, which is good, but when you sprinkle in the inconvenience of being homeless, it doesn’t leave him much time to draw. That sucks because damn, Bill is good. He’s innovative: back in 1991 he introduced one of the first gay characters into the DC universe. Until he took the ‘Pied Piper’ and relaunched him as gay, the only homosexual comic book characters were flawed people who could be “fixed”. But in 1991 Bill took a chance, when that type of thing was a little harder to pull off.
He developed a ‘Wonder Woman’ character named Artemis who is rumored to pop up in Wonder Woman 2. He even developed a homeless character for a comic book series called Bliss Alley, that he wrote before he became homeless. How’s that for ironic?
This creator who has breathed life into so many characters I love is living out of his car while those same characters are making millions on the big screen. At the same time other creators are using gofundme accounts to pay medical bills. Others are working full-time jobs on top of their comics work.
It’s the sad state of this industry that leaves artists, writers, colorists, and others with no safety net in case of emergency. I’ve heard it said that nobody gets into comics for the money, but surely if these companies are making so much off of adaptations of their properties the creators who’ve given so much of themselves to make those properties bankable deserve a little something to put away for a rainy day.
I don’t know what the answer is, but we should do better. For Bill and Nadine, and all of the people who’ve created these tales of heroism that we are so passionate about. We need sweeping changes to this industry, but until that happens it’s up to us.
If you want to help you can contact the Fox 2 writer Derek Kevra at [email protected] or donate to the Hero Initiative. You can also donate to the Severe Weather Network, who’ve been helping the homeless in Livingston, including Bill and Nadine. Bill has given us so much, it’s time to give something back.