Help support Domestic Violence Charity Programs by supporting Women Of Wonder Day Oct. 30
For the past five years, Andy Mangels - founder of the Wonder Woman Museum - has set up special events at local comic book stores celebrating the world's most powerful Amazon, and giving all proceeds to help out Domestic Violence programs. This year? Women of Wonder Day is going nationwide, with three different events in three cities. To find out more, we chatted with Mangels about where the event started, where it's going, and what auction art pieces he would snag if he could:
MTV Geek: Okay, Andy, how did this event come about?
Andy Mangels: In 2006, I was approached by a TV show called FANatical out of Canada, who wanted to do an episode about Wonder Woman fans who inspired good things in their communities using their fandom. They asked if I had ever done any charity work that involved Wonder Woman. I had been doing charitable fundraisers since the 1980s, but had never directly involved the world's most famous Amazon. Since I do own one of the world's most extensive collection of Wonder Woman memorabilia, and with twenty years in the comic book industry, a very large rolodex of contacts, I got inspired to do my next event.
I very quickly decided to put together a gala for a future date that would involve comic artists creating Wonder Woman artwork for sale at a silent auction as a "Wonder Woman Day." I chose October 29, 2006 for three reasons: 1 - October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month; 2 - Halloween is near that day, so costumes are encouraged; and 3 - Wonder Woman's "birthday" is October 25th, the first day that All-Star Comics #8 (the first appearance of Wonder Woman) debuted on newsstands in 1941.
Then it became a mad scramble of contacting about a thousand comic artists and asking them to contribute art. A little over 100 of them agreed to contribute, and the event was underway. The first year, we raised over $15,400 for domestic violence charities in Oregon, and FANatical was there to film it. The second year, we added an event in Flemington, New Jersey, and it has blossomed from there.
Geek: It has seemed to grow rather quickly... Has it had the growth you've wanted, or are there areas you'd like to see embracing it even more?
AM: This is the sixth year of the event, and we are now in three cities, having added San Antonio, Texas, this year. Our five-year total is over $110,000 for domestic violence programs — and we have garnered four past Mayoral Proclamations in Portland, and one this year — so it has been a huge success thus far. That doesn't compare to huge corporate-sponsored events, or entertainment-industry galas, of course, but we are a smaller grassroots campaign, and 100% of the monies have all gone directly to the charities.
I expect that the event will continue to evolve and grow. We've already had cities ask if they can join in the future. It's become a huge task for me to organize, especially as a volunteer, but I believe in the cause. Domestic Violence is on the rise, especially as the economic hardships have put pressure on families. The need is greater than ever for heroes and heroines to step forward. Women of Wonder Day is a necessity as I see it; this is a way for comic book creators and fans to acknowledge and be heroic in the real world, by sharing their passion for characters they embrace as fans and professionals.
Geek: How about the comic creator community? What has their response been like?
AM: Each year, I ask anywhere from 1200-1500 artists to contribute, and each year, there have been between 100-200 contributors, so about 10% of the comic creators have found time in their schedules. They are truly wonderful in sharing their time and talent for charitable usage. We've asked a lot of companies to contribute products, and this year, with the expanded mission, we also asked writers to help, and entertainment companies.
The response from companies, however, has been woefully small, with many saying they get a lot of charitable requests and refusing to provide even 1-5 items. Most never respond at all. Of the TV networks I asked this year for help, only one responded, negatively; thankfully, one of the people working with me in Texas, Fred Bronaugh, was able to secure some cool items directly from the productions of Glee, Big Bang Theory, Castle, Nikita, and Chuck.
We had a rough time with writers, as we asked some pretty big superstars to do write-ins of auction-winners into their comics. Although many companies have done this before, we weren't able to make it happen YET for any corporate-owned books, but white-hot writer Brian Michael Bendis is auctioning a walk-on role in one of his books this year. That auction ends on ebay - and in Portland live - on Sunday at 5:10pm PST.
The one other area that has been a bit weird is the comic book press. Although some sites have been supportive year after year, the majority of the comic book news sites have run only minor coverage, if any, in the past six years. It's disappointing, but all of us working on the events hope that the coverage will get better in the future.
You can bid to be written into a comic by Brian Michael Bendis!
Geek: Can you talk about the name change? Without, I imagine, legally mentioning the name it used to have, I guess?
Andy: The first five years of the event were called "Wonder Woman Day." Given that Wonder Woman is a licensing property owned by a multi-national corporation, there was, understandably, a lot of friction in using their licensed character even in a fully charitable and heroic context. I was cautioned early on that official approval for the event would be an impossibility, but that a lot of people behind the scenes were highly supportive of the event and its purposes.
After five years, we had generated over $110,000 and 800+ pieces of Wonder Woman-themed artwork. It seemed that the event as it was could stand to have some freshening up and an expansion of its theme and topic. So, I reworked the event as Women of Wonder Day for 2011, with a new logo, and an expanded mission. This also enabled artists to portray any heroic women they wanted in their contributions. We still have a lot of Wonder Woman art, but we also have art featuring characters from ElfQuest, Walking Dead, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Hermione from Harry Potter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and other heroines from Marvel, Archie, and Image Comics. Hopefully next year, as things expand even further, more comic companies will work more closely and directly to support the event.
Geek: Okay, what can we look forward to at the events, then?
Bid on this amazing illustration by Nicola Scott for Women of Wonder Day
AM: The largest element of the event is the art and collectibles auction. All three events have over a hundred pieces of art or collectibles to auction, for their respective domestic violence charities. Beyond that, we have comic book creators appearing at each event, sketching and signing autographs. There are also costumed characters at each event, including super-heroes and heroines, pirates, Star Wars characters, and more! The idea is to make the event family-friendly and fun for everyone involved!
Geek: How about the auction? Any favorite pieces you're going to secretly sneak away for yourself?
AM: Each year, there are some incredible pieces. This year, some of my favorites include a gorgeous piece by Australian artist Nicola Scott, and a strong Wonder Woman by Cat Staggs. There are also some incredible non-Wonder Woman pieces, including Evey from V For Vendetta by her co-creator David Lloyd, Lisbeth Slander from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Patric Reynolds, Leetah from ElfQuest by Wendy Pini, and many, many more. Ben Dunn did a fun piece for Texas I particularly like, and there are some striking Batwoman pieces up this year as well. They're all visible at www.WomenofWonderDay.com, including all art from past years.
If I were employed at this time, I'd happily bid on some of the pieces. I tend to favor either retro-style Silver Age/Golden Age concepts, or items that portray the Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman from the TV show. A few artists have sent me along a quick sketch or something — DJ Jackson even included a Darth Vader as Wonder Woman painting on his shipping envelope! — but anything that comes for the auction goes to the auction. Neither I, nor any of the volunteers takes anything away from these events other than the knowledge we accomplished something good, and the need for a week of sleep.
Geek: Lastly, where do you see this event going? Is it enough that you're helping people in these communities, or - I imagine - would you like to see it grow into a national phenomenon?
AM: In my dreams, Women of Wonder Day would become a national event that could help raise money in a fun way for Domestic Violence charities on a larger scale way. It's certainly something that the "real world" has looked at and said "look at what a cool thing the comic book people have done!" It's a lot of work though, and since it's all volunteer, it will only be able to grow as much as there is time to volunteer. I'm actively involved in other charities — and looking for writing gigs and other paying work — so without the aid of others involved, including Debbie Fagnant in Portland, Stacy Korn and Beth Delaney in New Jersey, and Fred Bronaugh and Adam Conley in Texas, as well as those we work with from the domestic violence charities, it wouldn't be the success it is.