William Timothy "Bill" Mantlo was born November 9, 1951 in Brooklyn. He was the oldest of three boys born to William W. and Nancy Mantlo. As a boy, Bill Mantlo was very much into comic books. In fact, he was a big fan of DC superheroes until he discovered Amazing Spider-Man #4 on the stands one day in 1962. After that, he was a confirmed Marvel fan until the mid- to late '60s.
Mantlo's interest in comic book art led him to attending the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan. After graduating, he enrolled in the Cooper Union School of Art, also in Manhattan, whereupon he completely dropped comics and his interests changed to painting and photography.
Following his graduation from Cooper, Mantlo held various civil servant positions and worked as a portrait photographer. Then an old college friend called asking if he'd be interested in a position in Marvel's production department. Although he'd stopped buying comics years prior, he took the job.
In 1974, editor Tony Isabella had to hastily plot a Sons of the Tiger story for Deadly Hands of Kung Fu in order to get it to then-newcomer artist George Pérez. Isabella was unable to find a writer with time to script it, so Mantlo volunteered. This led to a permanent writing position on Deadly Hands.
Shortly after this, new editor-in-chief Marv Wolfman instituted a policy to avoid the missed deadlines plaguing Marvel. Titles in danger of missing their deadlines would have fill-in stories written, primarily by Mantlo. If the regular writer met the deadline, Mantlo's fill-in story would not be used. Many of Mantlo's story did end up being used and Mantlo quickly became the fill-in king, creating stories under very tight deadlines.
Mantlo also began being assigned other titles, but primarily on the fringes of the Marvel Universe and many already close to cancellation. Then Mantlo got assigned to Marvel Team-Up. This also marked his first collaboration with Sal Buscema, one that continued through many more issues of Marvel Team-Up.
Mantlo went on to work on Iron Man and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. He also was assigned several licensed properties, including The Human Fly, Man from Atlantis, and The Micronauts, which was a project he proposed.
Then Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter brought Mantlo in as writer for Rom. After viewing the promotional video created by Parker Brothers, Mantlo began writing a proposal which he himself later said "was f***ed up." Shooter rejected it and wound up plotting the first issue himself. Mantlo continued through the first four issues generally disliking it and believing the series had no chance.
Mantlo later began to see its potential thanks to editor Jo Duffy. After a guest appearance by the X-Men in Rom #17-18, Mantlo was amazed at the letters Marvel got saying people were going to check out that title because of what they read in Rom. Buscema also began getting excited about the title and the two began greater collaboration.
After starting on Rom, Mantlo and Buscema also began working together on Hulk. Both collaborations later ended with Buscema leaving. He cited the two butting heads more often. He was also growing tired of Rom and wanted to work on different material.
As Rom was winding down, Mantlo began working on Cloak & Dagger and his creator-owned project, Swords of the Swashbucklers, plus numerous limited series starring a variety of characters, some of which he co-created, like Rocket Raccoon and Jack of Hearts.
Meanwhile, Mantlo was also finding himself butting heads with Shooter. Mantlo even tried, unsucessfully, to organize Marvel's writers into a union due to some of the injustices he perceived. This eventually led him to get a law degree. Meanwhile, Shooter slowly cut the number of titles Mantlo wrote. Eventually Shooter was dismissed, but Mantlo found Marvel now full of editors he didn't know and still had trouble getting work. After getting a single job for DC, Mantlo left the comic book industry to work full time as a public defender in New York City.
On July 17, 1992, Mantlo, an avid rollerblader, was rollerblading home when he was struck by a car. Mantlo was not wearing a helmet. His head hit the car's windshield before he fell to the street. The car driver fled. Mantlo suffered closed-head traumatic brain injury. After emergency surgery, he was comatose for two weeks. When he recovered, he still knew his friends, family, and himself. After years of therapy, however, it was determined he would never fully recover. Mantlo has since regressed and now lives in Queens Nassau Nursing Home where he must have 24-hour assistance.
Mantlo's care has long since used up his health insurance. In 2007 David Yurkovich published a biography entitled, Mantlo: A Life in Comics to help raise funds for Mantlo's care. In addition, Floating World Comics has sponsored two events called Spacenight: A Tribute to Bill Mantlo, an art show made (almost) entirely of various artist's interpretations of Rom, to help raise funds.
Those wishing to make direct donations may send them to Bill's brother Michael.
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