Regular Heroes: William Messner-Loebs
In less than a week, nearly $10,000 has been raised for a local NGO in Howell, Michigan (USA). The organization is called The Severe Weather Network and it is more than meteorology.
They provide coordinated support for the homeless in their region but become a life-or-death service to many during the otherwise deadly winter months. In 2017, Howell documented 1003 cases of homelessness in a city of under 10,000 people. Of the documented cases, 445 were homeless students.
The Severe Weather Network has seen a recent surge in funding due to a local news article, social media, and one of the giants of comic book art. But sadly, not for his acclaimed work.
For decades, William “Bill” Messner-Loebs (now 69 years old) helped bring marginalized narratives into his runs with mainstream comic characters: DC’s first openly gay character (Pied Piper), a modern version of Wonder Woman (credited in the 2017 film), struggles of victims and the mentally ill (The Maxx), and homelessness (The Flash, Bliss Alley).
The last one stings the most, as Bill is no longer raising awareness about homelessness in masterful packagings of visual art and scripting. He is living it.
Like homelessness everywhere in the world, it comes with a stigma. But homelessness in America comes with a special kind of cruelty. There is a severe lack of social support systems and a form of self-determination social shame “for not being good enough.”
But Bill Messner-Loebs is one of the living masters, a recipient of an Inkpot and a Bill Finger Award (two of the most prestigious awards in comics), which should be a wake up call to any young artist working today. Even the best talents and most reputable careers are not immune to more powerful storms: accidents, vicious forms of capitalism, and sometimes both at the same time. It is even more incredible that Bill has done it all with only one arm. Bill is not the problem.
For stories like this, it is a sobering reminder that superheroes don’t exist. Worse still, superpowers with the means to help (Marvel, DC, even the United States of America) consistently turn a blind eye toward enacting meaningful policy around worker security. Lack of compassion at the highest levels is a problem.
But regular heroes do exist. And from the outpouring of support on social media and small NGOs like The Severe Weather Network, there is an ever-growing movement of ordinary people who are connecting and willing to say:
“We see you. We are here to help.”
Watch the news segment on William Messner-Loebs here.
Click here for GoFundMe page for The Severe Weather Network organization.
If you would like to contact Bill directly, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org