No Stranger to Fiction #11: ‘Live Together, Die Alone’

“Lord, you play a hard game, you know we follow every rule.

Then you take the one thing we thought we’d never lose.

All I ask if she’s with you, please keep her warm and safe.

And if it’s in your power, please, purge the memory of this place.”

–Cowboy Junkies, “This Street, That Man, This Life”

“Nobody does it alone, Jack.”

–Christian Shephard, Lost episode 6×18 – “The End, Part II”

I know it’s probably foolish to have held out hope for as long as I did, but I wanted confirmation. As you’re probably aware by now, I’m someone who needs hope in varying forms to get by. I need hope that somehow the economy, the environment, the nations of the world will all be as they need to be sometime soon if we are to survive and prosper in any form as a species. And I know it seems foolish to lament the death of a sole individual during another Vatican sex scandal, a catastrophic oil spill, a global economic depression, a catastrophic war on abstract concepts, the constant stripping of human rights worldwide and more.

But I have to.

Like many others, I knew logically that the public announcement of the death of Stephen Perry wasn’t far away following the extremely suspicious news of his disappearance. My heart, though, told me to hold out hope, as it always does.

In my head right now, Paddy Chayefsky and Kurt Vonnegut are yelling at me about Edward George Ruddy, Howard Beale, Valencia Merble, Edgar Derby, Roland Weary and Billy Pilgrim. “Woe to us.” “So it goes.”

Stephen Perry, fifty-five year old American comic book and television writer best known for his contributions to the ThunderCats franchise as well as, Silverhawks and Centurions, seemingly defeated bladder cancer in 2008. Only the disease manifested again during terrible financial troubles not too long ago. With the help of the Hero Initiative, the not-for-profit comicbook industry organization formerly known as ACTOR, Perry survived long enough to obtain medical insurance to deal with the cancer, move out of his car and into a home with his son and relish simple joys of modern living. He’s noted as having said that “The Initiative gave me the breathing room to get some Medicaid and food stamps, and while we are always in danger of losing our home, electricity and belongings at any moment, I will always be grateful from the depths of my heart for the past six months of fairly solid home life I have had with my little boy.”

Stephen Perry’s remains were found near a Tampa motel shortly after his disappearance, and his roommates were arrested, charged with multiple criminal offenses. His arm, which of course was so key in helping him pen episodes of Spider-Man Unlimited, The Centurions, The Real Ghost Busters and Silverhawks was found detached.

Stephen Perry’s son had to be told that his father was “in Heaven now.”

So it goes.

I have always tried to believe, like some philosophers, in the overwhelming goodness of the human race. I have always wanted right to triumph over wrong, and always secretly hoped it would. I have always hoped, like Alan Moore and so many Gnostics and New Agers, that 2012 will bring about a renaissance in the collective soul of humanity.

Senseless acts of murder, be they in Uganda, Afghanistan or the outskirts of Tampa, stop the potential ascension of mankind, be it literal or metaphorical.

So it goes.

Stephen Perry, father, writer, cancer victim, sufferer of poverty and other hardships, formerly homeless and always thankful, was murdered by monsters far worse than Mumm-Ra, Clayface or The Penguin. He was murdered by depraved, insane humans, the type with no regard for the lives of others, the type who don’t care about what they’ve been through and never could.

I don’t claim to have known Stephen Perry. I can’t even claim to have met him. By all accounts, he was a kind, caring, genuine human whose work spoke to that. I knew his work well, and I grieve his loss. His last two years of life were brutal and cruel, yes, but hopefully his legacy will speak to his character, and that this terribly gruesome crime will be properly punished.

I can’t help but wonder what the Stephen Perry of 2008, who arrived at a hospital with no money, would have thought when told that the cancer wasn’t going to kill him, nor the poverty, nor the homelessness, but that two years from then he would be murdered. The newborn cynic in me says he might not have bothered with the procedure.

The hopeful child in me that will always try to stay afloat knows he would have kept trying. The characters he worked with, at the very least, tell us this. I even like to think that, like Batman in the episode “The Mechanic”, for which Perry drafted the story, would even forgive his transgressors.

He seemed like the kind of man who could bear no ill will to anyone, even those who would destroy him.

Yes, I know about the oil spill. I know about the War on Terror. I know about the volcanoes and the pedophiles in the Church and the depression and the human rights violations.

But I also know about Stephen Perry and the work he left behind.

May he rest more peacefully than he ever could have in life.

“Remember: in the Dream Time, things are not what they seem, but what you make them seem.”

–The Shaman, Gargoyles episode 2×33 – “Walkabout”

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