The comics community and Heritage Auction's involvement in the Ed Asner Family Center Charity Auction evolved out of the Asner family's love of comics. "We both thought it's a great early entry into reading," says Ed Asner's son Matt Asner. "We just loved them — they're an amazing way to tell a story." Ed Asner, who died on August 29, 2021, has a pop culture legacy of his own, having defined roles such as Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Santa Claus in Elf, and Carl Fredericksen in Pixar's Up. That legacy has even included influences on comic books. "Jon Bogdanove, who did Superman: Man of Steel, is one of the artists who contributed to this auction," Matt Asner continued. "When I went to see him to pick up his art, he said something sweet. He said 'I modeled my Perry White character after Lou Grant.'" Bogdanove joins a number of other popular artists whose artwork is up for bid in this charity auction, including Jim Lee, Bill Sienkiewicz, Walt Simonson, Arthur Adams, Kevin Nowlan, and many others.
Items from this auction, Inktoberfest for the Ed Asner Center Charity Auction, are up for bid now, with the auction closing on Thursday, October 28. Proceeds from the auction will go directly to the Ed Asner Memorial Fund for programs and services at The Ed Asner Family Center, a resource "for neurodivergent individuals and their families seeking wholeness in all attitudes of life." The center "gives children and adults of all levels of ability a chance at dignity, confidence, and self-respect" through an assortment of arts and career advancement programs that are offered after school and on weekends, as well as counseling and mindfulness classes.
When asked to participate in a charitable event, people agree for different reasons. In some cases, it is the acknowledgement of the event or the organization behind it and belief in the stated mission. For others, it is about how they are approached, and by whom. Still others are drawn to the idea of being attached to a project driven by a notable or admirable celebrity.
When comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz was approached about joining in the effort to boost a comics auction created to raise money for The Ed Asner Family Center in Reseda, California — founded "… to establish an oasis of creativity in every special needs community," according to the center's website — it was some of all three.
Sienkiewicz got involved, contributing artwork and helping to convince other artists to do the same, after he was approached by his friend, comic artist Kevin Nowlan, who said that Asner's son, Matthew, wanted to connect.
"Matt and I spoke a number of years ago, and I was in," Sienkiewicz said. "I have been a fan of Ed's since … forever, so that was a little bonus. To know someone I respect as a creative force, who also is such a strong advocate for social change … it was easy to get involved."
Beloved for generations for roles that included gruff-but-lovable Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Santa Claus in Elf and Carl Fredericksen in Pixar's Up, Ed Asner died Aug. 29, leaving a legacy as a giant among Hollywood stars and a champion for numerous special needs communities. Matthew, the center's president and CEO, and his wife, Navah Paskowitz-Asner, continue their tireless work of creating programs and services for those with special needs. Among the most important is raising funds to support the center, through events like Heritage Auctions' Inktoberfest for the Ed Asner Family Center Charity Auction. Bidding for the event — Heritage's third on behalf of The Ed Asner Family Center — opens Sept. 30 on HA.com; the event closes Oct. 28.
The event is one of the center's primary annual fundraisers, thanks to generous contributions from some of the comic-book industry's best and best-known artists.
"Matthew and Navah are people after my own heart," Sienkiewicz said. "It made perfect sense to work with them."
Matt Asner said Nowlan gets at least some of the credit for the creation of the event.
"My dad and I both loved comic books," Matt said. "We both thought it's a great early entry into reading. We just loved them — they're an amazing way to tell a story. We were talking to Kevin Nowlan, and he said we should definitely do an auction, because we could probably get a lot of great people to contribute. He gave us a huge list of people we could contact … and he was right."
The result is an extraordinary event, with roughly 140 lots of art donated by the artists who created them; the proceeds will go to support the programs and services offered at The Ed Asner Family Center. The list of artists who have contributed to the event reads like a Who's Who of comic art, among them Sienkiewicz, Nowlan, Don Maitz, Jim Lee, Ibrahim Moustafa, Philip Tan and Arthur Adams, to name but a few.
"Jon Bogdanove, who did Superman: Man of Steel, is one of the artists who contributed to this auction. When I went to see him to pick up his art, he said something sweet. He said 'I modeled my Perry White character after Lou Grant.' That meant a lot."
Without Ed's involvement, this year's event, of course, holds special significance to Matt and all involved with the Ed Asner Family Center.
"A thousand percent — everything feels different now," he said. "Obviously, it makes me want to do better, it makes me want to succeed at a greater level. I feel safe that his legacy is safe with Navah and me pushing this forward.
"He died right when everyone was getting their art for the event sent in, so I had many people who I was bugging throughout the summer writing to me, saying they were sorry. I guess this year becomes more emotional, more important, because it's about honoring my father's legacy and making sure that his torch burns bright."
Proceeds from the auction will go directly to the Ed Asner Memorial Fund for programs and services at The Ed Asner Family Center, "a one-stop shop for neurodivergent individuals and their families seeking wholeness in all attitudes of life." The center "gives children and adults of all levels of ability a chance at dignity, confidence, and self-respect" through an assortment of arts and career advancement programs that are offered after school and on weekends, as well as counseling and mindfulness classes.
"They're doing so many great things with the center," Sienkiewicz said. "The fact that Ed and Matt asked if I would reach out to colleagues on their behalf … I was totally down for that. Everything they're doing is complete above board. I knew that if I put them in touch with artists, most of the artists would do it, because they're great people, just like the Asners."