Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bill Messner-Loebs.

Today is Wednesday which is New Comic Book Day. And speaking of comic books, I want to take a moment to reflect on Bill Messner-Loebs.

But before I talk about Bill, let me make a confession. I am frequently not appreciative of all that I have. I have a house. Yes, it’s a mess and a lot of things need work but it’s our home and would you believe it’s almost paid for. Next month, Andrea and I will make our last mortgage payment. Yes, it’s a mess and a lot of things need work which is why I refer to it as my Fortress of Ineptitude but damn it, it’s our home and it’s all ours. 

Bill Messner-Loebs lives out of a car.

Last year, I had a fall that shattered my elbow followed by two surgeries and painful physical therapy but by God, I still have my arm and it works just fine.

Bill Messner-Loebs only has one arm. 

Relating to comics, I’m telling you about Bill Messner-Loebs because there was a time when you could frequently find a comic book on the shelves written by the man. He wrote a run of The Flash back when Wally West was the Fastest Man Alive that remains a favorite to this day. Bill found new, clever ways to express the Flash’s super speed. Like how does a man who runs real fast save someone when there's no ground to run on? 

But his real gift was in character development. The Wally West who inherited the mantle of the Flash from Barry Allen was shallow and self centered. Under Bill Messner-Loebs, Wally slowly became a better person, a better hero. There was no flip of a switch and POW! Wally was a good person. Under Bill’s guidance, Wally sometimes made steps backward but he also made steps forward in a nuanced and relatable journey to coming a hero.  

Writing for The Flash back in the 1980s, Bill Messner-Loebs was ahead of his time, having the Pied Piper come out as gay and introducing an inter-racial relationship. He even wrote an issue that centered on postpartum depression. 

Bill Messner-Loebs also wrote a series with a female version of Doctor Fate, decades before Jane Foster ever picked up Moljinor to become the Mighty Thor.

He also wrote a run of Wonder Woman whose influence was felt in the Wonder Woman movie that came out last year; the name of William Messner-Loebs appears among the comic book creators cited in the end credits.

A photo for Bill Messner-Loebs mashed up with Wonder Woman art by Brian Bolland

 In addition to being a prolific and talented writer, Bill Messner-Loebs was also an artist. He wrote and illustrated a series in created called Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine McAllister, a series about a 19th century frontiersman. Even with only one arm, Bill still does sketches at comic book conventions to make a little money here and there. 

Unfortunately, the vagaries of  various misfortunes and the march of time has brought Bill Messner-Loebs to his current state, living out of a car.  For more on his story, click here.

For all his misfortunes, Bill Messner-Loebs remains a gracious and kind person. He’s probably more positive about his life than I am about mine.

Bill Messner-Loebs is an excellent comic book creator whose work deserves to be remembered and acknowledged. It is a body of work that Bill Messner-Loebs deserves to be rewarded for.     

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