Superheroes spark charitable feelings, causes


SAN DIEGO — The car has seven seats — each with an emblem representing a hero: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Cyborg and the Flash. But it isn’t for the Justice League: It’s for the eventual winner of a charity auction.

As part of its We Can Be Heroes fundraising campaign to fight famine in the Horn of Africa, DC Entertainment unveiled the eighth and final Justice League-themed car with art designed by superstar artist and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee, who finished the supercustom Kia Sorento’s look live during a news conference at the Comic-Con Interactive Zone at Petco Park just before the start of the pop-culture expo Wednesday.

Lee said the ride is “definitely worthy of the Justice League and something you will definitely not misplace when you go to the parking garage.”

The EBay auction for it and other items, including artwork inspired by the Justice League, runs through July 27.

We Can Be Heroes, which has raised $2.3 million since beginning early last year, is one of several charities active at San Diego’s Comic-Con International, offering various incentives — limited-run comics, original art, T-shirts — for donations. You might sum it up with the DC effort’s tag line: “Get something good. Do something great.”

Charity is in the blood of many convention-goers, and last year they gave 1,413 pints of it to the San Diego Blood Bank over the event’s four full days. Comic-Con’s Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive started as part of a deal to bring the bestselling science-fiction author to the convention in 1977, and has continued every year since.

Phlebotomist Suzie Lopez has been drawing blood at Comic-Con drives for more than 25 years. Amid the costumed crowds rolling up their sleeves for her — the Marios and Luigis, the occasional barely dressed Poison Ivy — she’s noticed a trend: “We get a lot of vampires.”

This year’s blood drive is sponsored by HBO, and participants receive T-shirts promoting its fanged series “True Blood” along with goodie bags. In the run-up to Comic-Con, there was a lightsaber relay run down from George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch north of San Francisco to San Diego, that began July 9 and ended Tuesday. Course of the Force participants, who included “Glee” actor Chris Colfer, actress Jaime King and lots of runners in “Star Wars” costumes, raise funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The event, in its second year, hopes to beat last year’s $100,000 total.

Two charitable organizations active at the Con are focused on the medium that gives the gathering its name. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund supports creators and libraries in First Amendment matters; the Hero Initiative assists comics writers and artists in need.

The CBLDF, which offers signed books from top creators and more at its booth and puts on a number of educational panels, last year raised $55,000 at Comic-Con.

Hero Initiative, which has granted more than $500,000 since its inception in 2001, brought comics talents including Dan Jurgens and Darick Robertson to its booth, where they sketched for fans and donate all proceeds to the organization.

Robertson is passionate about the cause: “Many of these creators never received royalties, even from their own creations,” he wrote in an email. “Their best years were spent doing work for hire. ... The comics industry is rife with creators who can’t afford insurance, as we’re rarely given health care benefits or any sort of retirement package.”

He appreciates that the initiative is there to “make sure that the artists that gave us so much in their prime don’t suffer alone … when in need.”