Dennis O’Neil: We Can Be Heroes
Unions have not been consistent, not in my limited experience. An anecdote? Right after graduating from college, my friend Don Tonelli and I went to San Francisco. No agenda, just a long ramble to somewhere we’d never been. While in the Bay Area we visited my uncle Oscar, whom I’d seen once very briefly when I was a tot, and who was the subject of a bemused mention at clan gatherings. Oscar was a marvelous old man who kept us entertained and fascinated for most of a week. Among his entertainments were stories of the early days of the unions, when he and other skilled craftsmen went to meetings in large groups, armed with rifles, defying the fat cat bosses and their goons, demanding decent wages and working conditions. Back then, unions were the good guys.
But by the time Don and I shared wonderful hours with Oscar, unions had changed. Not for the better. The story went like this: unions had been infiltrated by criminals and had becomes nests of bullies and mobsters. Pretty damn shady enterprises, all in all. We baby blue staters grouped them with society’s ills. We didn’t consider that they provided insurance plans and pension plans and sundry other benefits, including a sense of the pride in working for a living. We were young. We were slow to look at both ends of a question. And, besides, it felt righteous to be pissed off.
Lately, I’ve grouped unions with the good guys again. They are among the few sources of campaign financing that can compete in fund raising with the billionaire-favored superPACs, and so they help blue collar voices to be heard. And they still provide those benefits. Those benefits are important.
We comics guys have never had unions. The closest thing to a union in our world was the Academy of Comic Book Arts, created by a motley crew of freelancers in 1970. ACBA, as we fondly called it, didn’t attempt to negotiate with the publishers, though that was discussed at early meetings, and in the end, did little to provide those important benefits. What it did do was present yearly awards for exemplary work, and that is no small task. But those awards weren’t of much use if your kid was sick or the rent needed paying.
No unions, no benefits. Good luck.
And this brings us to my heart’s dear cause: The Hero Intiative. Which is what, exactly? Here’s a paragraph from the organization’s website:
The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterdays’ creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. It’s a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment.
If you get a chance to help H.I., you should take it.
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