Friday, July 13, 2012


Anyone who comes here with any frequency knows how I felt, and feel, about my brother Mike Wieringo. But I can't remember whether or not I've mentioned how much affection I have for the late Mark Gruenwald.

Mr. Gruenwald was an editor and writer at Marvel Comics back when I was a little bitty fan avidly reading his CAPTAIN AMERICA, QUASAR and SQUADRON SUPREME books. He was one of my favorite writers and when I was old enough to start submitting plot samples to Marvel, he was the first editor I sent them to. Even for books he wasn't editing. I sent my writing samples to a lot of editors, in fact, and got a lot of form rejection letters. Mark Gruenwald was the only one to send me a personal reply. I almost jumped out of my skin. I didn't care that my plot was resoundingly rejected. Mark had taken the time to write a reply and compliment me on my grasp of the characters. Then he pointed out what I did wrong and I paid attention. He also suggested I stop sending editors (him specifically) submissions for books they didn't edit. That part I ignored. And you know what? He replied to the next one anyway. I still have those letters stored away somewhere and I treasure them. After I got enough rejections, I thought maybe writing comics wasn't for me and when summer was over, I went back to college and forgot about it.

In 1996, I was very saddened to hear (and I believe it was Mike that told me) that Mark Gruenwald had passed away unexpectedly at the age of 44. On August 12th. We tend to lose a lot of really talented people at a young age but little did I realize how that age and date would come back to haunt me...and Mike. As you know, Mike also died on August 12th at the age of 44. Every year, especially this fifth anniversary of Mike's passing, I get a little uptight as August 12th approaches. I remember that date in vivid detail and it's not a time I like to think about. But now Marvel editor Tom Breevort and Jim McLauchlin of The Hero Initiative have done something to shed a little sunshine on August 12th.

They've created something called M-DAY, a memorial to Mike and Mark as a way of raising money for The Hero Initiative. The goal is to raise $5,000 to go toward aiding comic industry professionals who are in need of a helping hand. As you probably know, most comic book pros are freelancers and a lot of them can't and couldn't afford health insurance and retirement plans. Especially the folks who are getting a little older that created a lot of the great characters and stories that you're seeing on the big screen these days but don't see any of the money being generated by the movies.

I don't generally like to get into Mike's personal business but one of the things that tears me up about his death was the fact that, as a freelancer, he could not afford health insurance. When Mike went to the doctor, it cost him a lot. And so he only went when he felt it was serious enough to warrant it. I'm convinced that Mike would likely still be with us if he'd had health insurance.

This is a great cause. They are there for the people who were there for me when I was younger, reading comics as an escape from being a poor, fat kid with glasses and braces. They created, and are creating, the worlds and characters that are making other people rich and some of them need a little help. I know times are rough and money is tight. But I'm hoping you can spare a little money for The Hero Initiative. If you can, please go to the link below and donate a little money, even if it's just a couple of bucks, and give me something to smile about when I think of August 12th.

Thanks in advance.



Brian said...

I'm headed over there now.

todd said...

Mark was the true soul at Marvel at the time--the spirit that kept everyone true to course. I had many really fine conversations with him and was moved by his absolute love of all things comics.

At a summer party at his house--not too far from mine--Mark had built an obstacle course/climbing tower and had invited me and several other locals to come and try it, challenge ourselves to get to the top in all it's many exercises. But before I could take him up on it, we were all shocked to hear of his sudden passing.

He was a great, great guy, a fabulous editor, and a fantastic teacher.

Marvel lost it's compass that day.