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William Messner-Loebs


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The arist behind such beloved books as The Maxx and Epicurus has fallen on very tought times. From here...



"People say I handle adversity well," says cartoonist Bill Messner-Loebs, 55, of Howell. "If you're going to be miserable about misfortune ... you're going to die of stress."


Despite misfortune and many setbacks, the cartoonist keeps his sense of humor.


By Kurt Anthony Krug / Special to The Detroit News


HOWELL -- During the past several years, Bill Messner-Loebs has been in a car accident, lost his house, had his mobile home stolen and been unemployed.


But the self-taught artist, who earned a living as an illustrator for such famous comic books as Wonder Woman and Batman, has kept his sense of humor.


"People say I handle adversity well -- that's nice to hear," said Messner-Loebs, 55, of Howell.


"It's not really an option. If you're going to be miserable about misfortune for four years, you're going to die of stress."


Any one of the misfortunes would send a lesser man spinning out of control, but Messner-Loebs learned at an early age to let things roll off his back.


He was born with a cancerous tumor on his right arm, which had to be amputated while he was still an infant.


"I've been dealing with questions about my arm for 55 years," he said. "I have no sense that I lost anything. Sure, it's inconvenient sometimes, especially when I'm carrying three bags of groceries. That's when I think it'd help if I had another arm.


"I feel my parents raised me well. They told me I can do anything and not how I can't do anything."


As a youngster, Messner-Loebs started doodling, which took on more artistic forms. Eventually, he got jobs working as an illustrator for mainstream publishers of comic books such as Johnny Quest, Batman, Flash, The Maxx, Thor and Wonder Woman.


As a result, Messner-Loebs amassed a comic book fan following. His fans supported him morally and financially when his world fell apart.


In mid-2001, Messner-Loebs was driving his Dodge minivan on his way to pick up his wife, Nadine. He misjudged a left turn, and turned too soon. All he could remember was being hit, totaling his vehicle and seeing five cars scatter like bowling pins.


"Thankfully, no one died," he said. "It's bad enough that I have to live with the memory of the accident. I wouldn't have wanted dead bodies in my memory."


On Sept. 10, 2001, Messner-Loebs lost his house in Pinckney when he couldn't keep up the mortgage payments.


"The worst thing in the world is telling creditors you don't have any money," he said.


Messner-Loebs said his money was used to pay medical bills for his late mother and Nadine. Nadine's skull was fractured when she was mugged 30 years ago. There was some brain damage, resulting in migraines, vertigo and food sensitivities.


It's hard for Nadine to find steady work because of her medical problems. Neither Messner-Loebs nor his wife receive disability payments.


To make matters worse, when he lost the house, Messner-Loebs was not working.


"I thought I'd be getting a job any day, but it didn't work out," he said. His last comic book work was in early 2000. He speculated that he hasn't gotten work because of leadership changes at Marvel and DC Comics.


"There are very few people in comics who remember who I am -- it's been over four years."


But some fans learned about Messner-Loebs' plight and sent him some money and he received a small inheritance when his mother died. The couple bought a mobile home in 2002.


However, the mobile home was full of mold, and the man who sold it to him wouldn't take it back, Messner-Loebs said. Several months later, the mobile home was stolen, he said.


Ever since, Messner-Loebs and his wife have lived in a small hotel in Howell, but spend a lot of their time at the Brighton Senior Center.


"The senior center has become their home," said Nancy Hall, manager of the senior center, which provides meals, social activities and enrichment classes to its 400 members.


"He is a wonderful asset. He did caricatures for the seniors on Senior Power Day. He had a long line, and people were pleased with his drawings."


Finding steady work has been hard.


Messner-Loebs and his wife have worked as enumerators for the U.S. Census Bureau. For a time, he worked at a library and as a pizza deliveryman. He applied to temporary services, but was never called back.


"Some employers probably don't want a one-armed man representing their company," he said.


Despite it all, Messner-Loebs is a survivor.


The people of First United Methodist Church in Brighton, where he and his wife have attended for 10 years, have been supportive.


"I'm still here. I'm still warm and dry and safe. The car's still going," he said. "After a while you learn being angry and bitter and saying 'Why me?' all the time only makes you feel worse. It's better to laugh."


So yeah, he's had it rough, and Mark Millar posted this on his board, asking for help from fans:


I just received an email from Brad Meltzer and he said he'd read the Loeb story via this board. I'd missed this entirely and only just read it, but it's absolutely heart-breaking. Brad suggested we do something and we're racking our brains, but in the meantime he has Bill's details if anyone can spare a few bucks and help him out. I hope I'm not offending him in any way here, but Brad says he'll be cool with this so fingers crossed.


Bill's address is:

PO Box 558


Pinckney, MI 48169-0558


Also, his email is: bloebs@yahoo.com.


Even if you can't help out financially, drop him a line if you've enjoyed his work and tell him how much you appreciate it. Sometimes that's enough to get someone over a bad day or at least bring a little light in.





Fially, here's an online petition to get the big companies to give him work (let them know youd like to see him on another project, he's a great artist too!), and finally, a quick profile of the man for those who havent had the unique opportunity to read some of his works.



Volunteer Angels is one of many illustrations created by Bill Messner-Loebs.


Age: 55.


Personal: Born in Ferndale, he and his wife, Nadine, have been married for 21 years.


Education: Undergraduate degree in history from Oakland University.


Professional: A self-taught writer and artist. He is best known for his work on comic books featuring The Flash and Wonder Woman for DC Comics. He also worked on the comic books featuring Dr. Fate, Thor, Artemis: Requiem, MaxiMage, The Maxx and Hawkman and the Batman newspaper comic strip.

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Agreed. Well, that local news spot, Millar, Newsarama, Bendis board etc are showin love, with mad letters to get the man work....talent like his shouldnt need sympathy assignments, but i wish id hear what Sam Keith was up to these days too (i bet 2T knows).


I feel good about buying Epicurus soon - its the greatest philosohy/comedy ive read in a comic (thanks again to Jumbie & :D for showing it to me), and its creator-owned, so that's money in his pocket.

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The EIC talks WML....


Q- O.k. Joe I have one for you and its important enough that I am also going to P.M. you this to make sure you get it. With the problems , and talent , why isn’t BILL MESSNER-LOEBS working for Marvel?


JQ- Well, here’s one of those types of questions that I see a lot of people try to avoid answering because sometimes the truth gets you into trouble. First and foremost, charity is not the right to dole out comic’s work just as it would be unfair for me to hand assignments to people who are my friends. Work has to be handed out based upon the strength and merits of a proposal. If Bill Loebs had a strong proposal in with us, we would not hesitate to publish it. That said, my heart goes out to Bill and not to tell tales out of school, and without getting into any detail, Marvel already helped Bill last year. Also, through ACTOR, of which I’m also on the board of directors, Bill has received considerable help. I really don’t think there’s much else I can say on the matter.

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