Comic-Con 2013: We Can Be Heroes, CBLDF and the con’s charitable side

July 18, 2013 | 7:49 a.m.

Artist and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee unveiled the last of eight "Justice League" designed Kia cars. The team-themed Kia Sorento will be auctioned for charity as part of DC's We Can Be Heroes charity initiative; the other seven, each featuring individual team members, are display-only. All eight will be on view at Comic-Con International. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Artist and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee pulls the silk cover off the Justice League-themed Kia Sorento. He designed the art, which was then hand-painted onto the vehicle by West Coast Customs in Corona. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Artist and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee said he was lucky to get to indulge in his childhood obsessions of comics and custom cars. The EBay auction for the car runs through July 27. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Artist and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee finishes the art on the Justice League-themed Kia Sorento during a news conference. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Artist and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee draws Superman on the tailgate of the Kia Sorento that will be auctioned on EBay to raise funds for We Can Be Heroes, which works with other groups to fight famine in the Horn of Africa. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

"Glee" star Chris Colfer runs in the Course of the Force lightsaber relay to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The lightsaber traveled via fundraising runners from George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch north of San Francisco down to San Diego, where it arrived Tuesday. Colfer is seen on the first day, July 9. (WireImage)

Alexis Denisof ("Much Ado About Nothing"), seen with wife Alyson Hannigan, their two children and Darth Vader, ran in the first day of the fundraising relay decked out like C-3PO. (WireImage)

Jaime King ("Hart of Dixie"), who did voice work on the animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," runs on the first day of the Course of the Force fundraising lightsaber relay. (WireImage)

"Super Graphic" author and designer Tim Leong made this infographic -- about why certain comic books and graphic novels are banned in libraries -- for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. He'll be appearing at the CBLDF's booth at Comic-Con to sign the book. (Tim Leong / CBLDF)

This very-limited-run edition of "Lazarus" No. 1 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark is the first of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's tongue-firmly-in-cheek Comics Code Variant program. The covers bear the infamous Comics Code Authority approval emblem. Copies will be available at the booth for a donation. (Image / CBLDF)

Hero Initiative will have comics talents including Dan Jurgens, Darick Robertson, George Perez and Roy Thomas appearing at its Comic-Con booth to help raise funds to support comics creators in need. (Hero Initiative)

A look at artist Darick Robertson's fundraising offerings at the Hero Initiative booth. (Hero Initative)

Hero Initiative's booth offerings include an edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide with an exclusive cover. (Hero Initiative)

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 super-custom 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 on 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.”

FULL COVERAGE: San Diego Comic-Con 2013

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 the 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 of unlikely donors: “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. They’re also entered into daily drawings for prizes donated by Comic-Con exhibitors.

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, beginning July 9 and ending 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 1st Amendment matters; the Hero Initiative assists comics writers and artists in need.

"Super Graphic" author and designer Tim Leong made this infographic about why certain comic books and graphic novels are banned in libraries for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. He'll be appearing at the CBLDF's booth (1920) at Comic-Con at 5 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday to sign the book, and a print of this graphic will be available there for a donation. (Tim Leong / CBLDF)

“Super Graphic” author and designer Tim Leong made this infographic about why certain comic books and graphic novels are banned in libraries for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. He’ll be appearing at the CBLDF’s booth (1920) at Comic-Con at 5 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday to sign the book, and a print of this graphic will be available there for a donation. (Tim Leong / CBLDF)

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. Its fundraising activities this year include a welcome party on Thursday night with special guests including writer John Layman (“Chew,” “Detective Comics”) and writer-artist Paul Pope (“Batman: Year 100,” “100 Percent”) and an art auction on Saturday with items from Pope, Lee, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Jill Thompson and more.

Hero Initiative, which has granted more than $500,000 since its inception in 2001, brings comics talents including Dan Jurgens and Darick Robertson to its exhibition floor booth, where they will sketch for fans and donate all proceeds to the organization. And on Thursday night it and sponsor comiXology are putting on the Blank Page Project, in which an array of comics pros will fill in a giant 12 foot by 8 foot page behind the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel for later auction.

Robertson, whose work includes “Transmetropolitan” with writer Warren Ellis and “Happy!” with Grant Morrison, and whose new series is “Ballistic,” is appearing at the initiative’s booth for multiple sessions and offering limited-edition versions of his books for donations. He’s 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 healthcare 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.”

Jurgens, whose long career as a writer and artist in comics includes the major 1990s story line “The Death of Superman,” wrote that he’s happy to help creators who came before him “because without their creative contributions, we might not have the industry we do today.”

So, is the giving side of Comic-Con surprising?

DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, in an interview at the We Can Be Heroes event, said, “People like having a reason to step up and give, and to do so on behalf of characters they love.”

– Blake Hennon | @BlakeHennon

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