We weren't going to announce this yet but a couple of things prompted me to jump the gun. First, if you're very observant, you've noticed on the Heroes Convention website that there's a listing in Artists' Alley for "The Mike Wieringo Scholarship Fund" booth. Second, though we'd originally planned to announce the fund at the convention itself with Shelton Drum's full and thoughtful cooperation, we felt people would be more likely to contribute if they knew about it in advance. Shelton agreed.
Here are the basics. Suzanne and I have started a scholarship in Mike's name at the Savannah College of Art and Design. It is renewable for up to three total years and is available to any student (U.S. or international) that demonstrates financial need and a serious intention to pursue comics as a career. Since SCAD students don't declare a major until their Sophomore year, the scholarship doesn't apply to Freshmen. The award will go exclusively to students majoring in Sequential Art.
All the details are available in a wonderfully written press release posted here on the Chapel Hill Comics web site. Co-owner Andrew Neal (along with his terrific wife Vanessa) has been a huge help in getting the press release done. It was written by their friend Zack Smith who writes for some of the industry's web sites. The logo was designed by my friend Matt Wojtysiak who is a designer at The Martin Agency, where I also work. Hopefully, the press release and logo will start showing up on the trade sites tomorrow.
Suzanne and I will be manning the table next to Todd and Craig in Artists' Alley at Heroes this weekend. Shelton kindly offered us a more prominent space near the front of the convention hall but we thought it would be more fun sitting with our friends. More importantly, this was Mike's traditional spot at Heroes. I think that's appropriate and, well, strangely comforting.
Over the last year, I've gotten innumerable requests for Mike's artwork and sketchbooks. I've put everybody off, saying we had "plans" for the items. Well, this is it. We'll be raising money for the scholarship through donations and by selling copies of some of Mike's books, the remaining sketchbooks, some Flash posters, prints and some of his original artwork. I don't take this last lightly. If I could, I would keep every single page with me for the rest of my life. But the truth is, I can't store it all safely. And the thought of selling it for personal profit makes me queasy. So this is the perfect solution. Every dollar we get from the sale of merchandise and artwork at the booth will go to the fund. And the way the fund is set up, five cents of every dollar collected goes to a student...every year...forever.
This scholarship means a lot to Suzanne and me. We made the decision to establish it the week Mike died. Mike was five years older than me but we went to college at the same time because the money just wasn't there when he graduated high school. So he spent five long, grueling years working in a grocery store to save up enough money to put himself through school. He hated every minute of it and his frustration was painful to watch. When I graduated high school, the money was there and I enrolled in community college to put off adulthood just a while longer. Mike enrolled because he desperately wanted to be an artist. Mike worked hard for every single thing he ever had and earned every bit of it. But that five years he spent toiling away as a produce manager instead of drawing comics haunts me. Our hope is that this scholarship will enable some other talented person to get on with making their dreams of drawing comics a reality. Maybe we can spare someone years of frustration and uncertainty. And when they think back on how they got their start, they'll know that Mike Wieringo helped them get it.