My Friend Steve Perry:

Remembering the Man & His Work, Part 2

Ah, hell, I don’t want to write this — I don’t want to post this — but here goes.

Though the Zephyrhills, Florida police still haven’t said anything conclusive, the headlines are becoming dire.

  • In 24 hours, we’ve gone from “Thundercats writer Stephen Perry missing in Florida”
  • to “Zephyrhills missing person case now possible homicide” in this article by Kevin Wiatrowski, for Tampa Bay Online (“updated 11:48 p.m. ET, Sat., May 22, 2010″).
  • Kevin writes, “The disappearance of a writer for a 1980s cartoon series now is being investigated as a possible homicide. A man and woman who live with Stephen J. Perry — and who also initially were listed as missing under suspicious circumstances — are behind bars on unrelated charges.”

  • “Timespirits Creator Steve Perry Missing, Presumed Dead,” reports Rich Johnston at BleedingCool.com;
  • “Zephyrhills case now a possible homicide” writes St. Petersburg Times staff writer Erin Sullivan (“In Print: Sunday, May 23, 2010″).
  • “Now Perry was missing, and possibly murdered…” writes Sullivan; more chilling still, he quotes Steve‘s estranged former partner (and Leo‘s mother) thus:

    “Saturday, [Krystal] Carroll talked of Perry in the past tense. She would not say what detectives told her, as she doesn’t want to hurt the case.

    But she did say her son ‘knows that Daddy is in heaven.’…”


    [Steve and Leo Perry, photo compliments of Meredith Randazzo, taken on March 17, 2010 at Steve Perry's home in Zephyrhills, FL; ©2010 Meredith Randazzo, all rights reserved, posted with permission. Please do not take this photo for your own use or publication.]
    __________________

    To understand who and what Steve is and was – without revealing any particulars about his childhood – you must know that his childhood was irrevocably marked by adult betrayals. Abandonment, neglect, betrayal: this was just some of the baggage he had survived but carried into his own adult life.

    From the time we first met, he always seemed to expect, dread the worst. Our friendship was shaped in part by the fact that I never, ever did anything but my best for or with Steve. Oh, I inevitably let him down many a time — I’ve let a lot of people down in my lifetime — but I always did my best not to. 

    Still, there was a blindspot there. Steve had a knack for alienating those who did their best for him, while drawn inexorably to those people, plans, schemes most likely to do him harm.

    OK, enough on that, for now.

    You must also understand a few basics about the business of comics. These are things freelancers know from hard experience, but those who only think of TV and movies and comics as somehow being money-machines for anyone involved simply don’t know, or care to comprehend when the realities are described to them.

    Yes, there are wealthy cartoonists and writers working in the comics industry. We could name some of them – but I guarantee that a few of those you name aren’t as ‘wealthy’ as you might presume they are.

    The majority of those working in the comics industry and TV animation industry (such as it is and has been) aren’t wealthy at all. Ever. They are, in fact, often living between scant paychecks, making due in lean times as best they can, occasionally earning good money in the fat times. Unless they are under exclusive contract or salaried employees (which is another kettle of fish altogether, with its benefits and problems), even the hardest-working freelance writers rarely enjoy anything resembling ‘stability’ or ‘a steady paycheck.’ It can and does, however, add up to ‘a living,’ albeit one fraught with peril and the need to refine certain rarified survival skills.

    The illusion of wealth attributed to those who earn their livings creatively is too often just that: an illusion. Despite some healthy paychecks and steady output in the mid-1980s, Steve and his family (a household raising three boys) were still living modestly, and times were often painfully lean.

    The problem with freelancing for a living during even the most prolific stretches is budgeting: no money comes in for weeks, even months (Steve sucked at budgeting — no dis there, a lot of folks suck at it). When checks do arrive, however fat they may be, the bills already due or overdue too often wipe out whatever’s just come in.

    Know, too, that comicbook work-for-hire – which most comics work remained during these years, and all animation script work most definitely is and was – didn’t pay particularly well, and rarely offered royalties or dividends of any kind. (When it did, those checks were rare and always a surprise; they were nothing to be counted upon. It’s always a feast-or-famine lifestyle, and Steve was never good handling money when he did have it.)

    Creator-owned or co-owned work paid even less. Though one was investing in one’s own property, the fact that Steve wasn’t an artist meant he had to work collaboratively, and this meant low page rates were divided to still lower shared checks split with penciler, inker, and sometimes letterer and colorist. A black-and-white creator-owned venture – like Salimba – for a black-and-white publisher – like Blackthorne (an imprint launched by former Pacific Comics publisher Steve Schanes) – paid precious little up front, and even less on the back end.

    It’s inappropriate for me to get into what I might know about the division of payment on each project, but suffice to say here that Steve’s ongoing efforts to assert the primary position and import of the writer’s role also began to take a toll. “There’s nothing to draw without a script,” he started to say, with that quiet drawl only Steve could muster between his 19th and 20th cigarette. This new philosophy asserted itself after an evening spent with comics and TV writer Bruce Jones, who convinced Steve writers should be paid equal to or more than artists (Jones was, at the time, just coming off having editing and scripting Twisted Tales and making his move into scripting for television and movies).

    This further strained relations with already underpaid creative partners on some projects, and was another factor in Timespirits coming to an end.

    I am not vilifying Steve here: every creative team has to work out their respective division of labor, and how the paychecks – be they advances, page rates or royalties – will be divided, and why. While there are industry standards one can readily determine, each case is unique in and of itself. Did the writer originate the concept fully? Did the writer create the characters, including their visual design? Did the writer contribute more to the initial concept than the artist, or vice-versa? Did the writer sell the project first, and then bring in the artist, or did the artist do that legwork? Etc. Etc. Etc. – you get the idea.

    And this gets back to that blindspot of his: Steve didn’t take care of his partners, in part because Steve rarely took care of himself. There was no malice  in it, though there was a touch of greed, but Steve expected others to damn well watch out for themselves, too. That’s business, the American way. Short-term immediate gain trumped long-term relationships; if seeing to his needs first meant his partner was compromised or momentarily left out in the cold, well, that’s life. Or that was life as Steve had experienced it throughout his childhood.

    As Steve began to feel the rush of some success, he began to assert his importance. This was natural; it was also problematic at times.

    I was a steady friend, and when he would give me that “there’s nothing to draw without a script” line of bullshit, I would laugh and whip out four drawings in a few minutes to prove him wrong. In fact, in the methodology we’d evolved to work, there usually wasn’t a script until some drawings existed, and those fueled our best collaborations. I did character model sheets and/or portraits before scripts existed. I laid out pages and cranked out ever-refined thumbnails to feed Steve’s scripting process. In recently preparing a Center for Cartoon Studies lecture on how Steve and I created the story “A Frog is a Frog,” I found no less than four complete sets of roughs I’d completed (among sketchy intermediary stages) and over six drafts of Steve‘s scripts. We were rigorous in our process, despite tight deadlines, and Steve agonized over every single caption, sentence and word. 

    I also didn’t have any problem with Steve splitting the income: depending on the circumstances, 50/50 was fine with me, unless I needed an assist (from Rick Veitch or John Totleben), in which case we’d do a 1/3 to the writer, 2/3 to the art end split so I could properly pay Rick or John for the help. I didn’t let egos get in the way, and I had no problem asserting my will when I thought I was in the right, or the artwork required the additional income to get the job done on time. Steve would make those concessions with me fairly easily. I understand it didn’t always go so well with others.

    Furthermore, Steve usually preferred work-for-hire. Many writers do, a fact I’ve taken some heat for over the years for stating – but it is a fact. It makes it easier to resolve the ‘who owns what?’ and ‘who should earn more?’ issues. If both creators are employees, neither is cast in the uncomfortable role of employer. For Steve, work-for-hire simplified equations and negotiations: the editor and/or publisher had already established the page rates, royalty split (if there were royalties) and so on.

    This was fine with Steve. On work-for-hire jobs, there was no friction between team members; for the most part, the editor was the traffic cop, and jobs went smoothly.

    Work-for-hire also paid more generous page rates, by mid-1980s standards, and Steve always went for the higher page rate if there was an option to do so. When we worked together on “The Saurian Remains” for editor Carl Potts and Amazing High Adventure, Marvel made a rare offer: we had the option of retaining our copyright ownership at a lower page rate, or selling the story outright to Marvel for a higher rate. Steve was in need, per usual; bills were overdue. We opted for the work-for-hire rate, and that was that. The check came in, and the money was gone in a heartbeat. 

    It usually was.

    But we were being paid to make comics — and that, my friends, was the dream.

    As long as Steve was fulfilling his dream of working in comics, he was able to sustain his momentum.

    Throughout the mid-1980s, Steve had a pretty good run, but the demands of family life, the instability of freelancer income, the work time poured into projects that didn’t sell, and his own inability to responsibly handle money – well, it all added up. In time, all this took a toll.

    Steve was bummed when Timespirits fell apart, and those last couple of issues were rocky going for Steve, Tom and editor Archie Goodwin. Steve had played a pivotal role in its eventual fate — the division of income remained a sore point to the end — and he knew that, but still, it was a loss.

    His tougher negotiation stance in trying to squeeze the best possible deal for himself job to job, at times at the expense of a potential creative partner, also exacted a price, and fewer freelancers chose to work with Steve unless page rates were already set.

    But the key nail in the coffin of Steve’s mid-‘80s comicbook writing career was the loss of the Thundercats scripting job.

    We all have disappointments and setbacks, but this happened after Steve‘s working so hard to make it possible for issues to be scripted with prior approval on issues adapting existing Thundercats TV scripts.

    I am not implying, by any stretch of the imagination, that that Marvel editor was single-handedly responsible for all that followed, right up to this past week’s tragedy. All freelancers deal with such things, at one time or another. It’s an old story with countless variations. Hell, I’ve seen Marvel do it to their own fucking editors: my first Marvel editor was fired between the time Marvel shipped him off to a major convention to promote Marvel Comics and his return to Manhattan to find his desk cleared, his office no longer his office, his job gone and someone else in his chair.

    Comicbook publishers eat their own young at times. They’ll shrink their own mother’s head for a dollar. They have no problem doing the same to mere freelancers from hick towns in backwoods Bugfuck VT

    But it was a reprehensible act, typical of the kind of corporate shilling that thrives each and every day in American business: a salaried editor wielding power over a freelancer who did not earn a paycheck every Friday, who was utterly dependent on scoring that next issue scripting job, who went above and beyond to help the editor, to streamline the working process and ease of meeting deadlines – a salaried Marvel editor canned Steve for making that editor’s job easier.

    Instead of being rewarded for using all his inside connections at Rankin/Bass (the producers of the Thundercats animated TV series) to accomplish what no other Marvel editor or staffer or freelancer had, Steve was effectively punished.

    The editor assigned the remaining year’s inventory of issue scripting to the editor’s friends and associates – other writers.

    It was a major hit to Steve’s freelance income, his family’s next year of making ends meet, Steve‘s ability to work and bring home the bacon, an irrevocable blow to all he had worked toward.

    It also demolished, with a single act, his lifelong dream: to regularly write for Marvel Comics.

    Who needs a boss that fucks you over? He had just done a major favor for Marvel Comics, and he’d been fucked over. Shafted. Dumped. Screwed. He’d made the editor’s job easier, and the editor ‘fired’ Steve without firing him.

    After all, when you’re an editor, you don’t have to fire freelancers.

    You just don’t have to return their phone calls.

    You don’t owe them an explanation; you don’t have to tell them what happened, or why.

    You just have to let them dangle.

    You just have to let them figure it out, which they eventually will when the phone doesn’t ring and the increasingly desperate calls to the person they thought was “their editor” aren’t returned, and the news that other writers are writing what you thought was ‘your’ comicbook series slowly reaches you.

    You just have to lock your door and hide under your desk when the freelancer shows up at the office.

    They go home with nothing… sans a next job, either. More nothing, coming right up!

    The editor, of course, still goes home with a paycheck that Friday.

    After the loss of Thundercats, the fire went right out of Steve’s eyes.

    Something childish but essential had been extinguished: even in the realm of comics, yet another major adult betrayal of his hopes and dreams had rolled him into the dirt.

    As I say, it happens all the time — but Steve didn’t have the wherewithall to deal with this blow.

    It was the end of a fertile creative run, a tombstone on his career, such as it was, and I’m sorry to say I never saw Steve regain his footing from that day onward.

    This precipitated a downward spiral Steve never recovered from. The chips fell pretty quickly thereafter, loss upon loss, calamity upon calamity, disaster upon disaster, and it never seemed to let up. His marriage dissolved and he lost all sense of purpose and direction, abandoning freelance and working odd local jobs with no greater goal in sight.

    Mind you, Steve had worked odd jobs all through the 1970s, including grunt work, day jobs, editing a specialty paper in Waterbury, VT, working for a newspaper in Burlington VT – but that was OK, he had a higher goal: he was really a writer, he was really going to write comics.

    But after Marvel so unceremoniously dumped him from Thundercats, there was no higher goal. The odd jobs – including delivering WIC diary and food to needy families – were an aftermath, what came after. There was no future: he would not be writing comics again. He’d worked and jockeyed and positioned himself to the goalpost over years, to arrive at scripting a monthly Marvel comicbook – and he’d been punished for it. Betrayed. Disposed of.

    Steve repeatedly told me at the time, “I am a failure; who did I think I was?” By 1991, he was eking out a feast-or-famine living of sorts as a flea market dealer. He badly mismanaged his initial partnership with our  mutual friend Alan Goldstein on the launch of First Run Video, the first video superstore to open in southern Vermont; by the time First Run Video opened its doors to business in November 1991, Steve was no longer part of the venture (with no fault to Alan, I hasten to add). It was another failure, another loss, another betrayal – the worst kind: a self-betrayal. He’d fucked himself out of co-owning a business he himself had initiated and named.

    Steve sustained a hand-to-mouth lifestyle that continued right up to this month. With the exception of a fairly recent period of time he was caretaking an apartment building for a few years, his life became scoring and selling, well, junk: lots of junk, spiced with the occasional genuine collectible. He was forever in search of ‘the big score’ — and those times he did score, he squandered the rewards, or lost them completely, or even had to return the income. It seemed endless, the variations on the theme.

    And all through this he essentially abandoned writing completely, only occasionally returning to the keyboard, including stabs at writing genre novels (crime and/or horror) and comics, but he had burned many bridges behind him. When he’d tell me of his latest insane real-life escapades (and there were some doozies), I’d urge him to use it as the springboard for a novel. If he’d simply written what he’d lived, as fictionalized autobiography, he’d have easily sold his first novel. I still believe that to be true.

    When he showed me the initial two chapters of a horror novel he’d begun, I thought it was good stuff. It made me cringe, laugh, and there was one zinger grossout. Damn my eyes, I made the mistake of praising it – and I was praising it! – by evoking the pleasures Steve used to find in the prolific British writer Guy N. Smith’s novels (author of the infamous Crabs novel series). I thought he’d get the connection; after all, he was the friend who’d turned me on to Guy N. Smith’s work back in the 1970s and ’80s, and his bookshelves were once peppered with Smith’s most lurid tomes (Steve’s favorite title of them all was The Sucking Pit). Unfortunately, Steve took it all wrong; he was offended at the comparison, though those opening chapters reveled in a setting (a beach) and grue evocative of Smith’s Crab novels. The younger Steve would have laughed and it would have lit a fire under him to crank up the horrors to come; but he was now a sliver of his former self, lacking all confidence and self-esteem.

    I never again compared anything he wrote to any other living author, but the damage had been redone, much to my regret. “I’m no writer,” Steve told me repeatedly during this period, “that was some other fellow I no longer am.”

    Throughout all this, Steve was a father. With his first wife, he had three boys; their first son was born in 1983. He had a fourth son with his second wife in a marriage that lasted less than a year and ended acrimoniously. Sometime after 2000, he began working with an Eastern states carnival, joining the nomadic Maine-to-Florida circuit where he eventually sired another child who is now five years old — his son Leo.

    Over the past few years and months and weeks and days, he dedicated his life wholeheartedly to this youngest son.

    Somehow, on that journey, the spark to write was rekindled.

    During the last two years, Steve occasionally returned to the keyboard. He collaborated with artist and long-time friend Jim Wheelock on a semi-autobiographical carnival-set series entitled Red Eye Gravy (as yet unpublished). In 2009 Steve pitched a crime series proposal to Vertigo Comics (which was politely declined by series editor Karen Berger) and scripted a one-pager for a forthcoming Hero Initiative benefit comicbook.

    His involvement with Hero Initiative really fired him up to tackle his dream of writing for comics again, though he did so tentatively and constantly belittling his efforts, girding himself for the inevitable denial of the dream or pending betrayal. In 2010, Steve scripted a new story, “The Battle of Dulce,” for Surprising Theater #4 (forthcoming, SuperGraphics, September 2010), and also completed and delivered a new Salimba short story, “Baby: A Salimba Tale,” after clearing ownership rights with his former Salimba partner Paul Chadwick and selling the property series to AboutComics publisher Nat Gertler.

    That was Steve’s final professional writing effort.

    I’m still reeling with the shock of this week’s news.

    Whatever happened to Steve – and we still don’t know what it is or was – it’s horrific, savage, violent.

    Steve was a gentle man. Though he was often his own worst enemy, battling his own worst instincts, various addictions (including alcohol), and was locked in the end with a life-and-death struggle with cancer that consumed his organs and this entire past year of life, I maintained my friendship with Steve and did all I could for him because he was, at heart, a good man. If I honestly didn’t believe — know — that, it would have been easy to walk away long, long ago. Many people did.You love your friends for who and what they are, and you do your best — or you don’t remain friends. We remain friends. Given his formative years, Steve lacked certain skills that might have kept his head above water and even allowed him to thrive. But he was, at heart, a good man. He was a gentle man.

    As many of you know, over this past year of his life, Steve battled cancer with the help of aid from the organization Hero Initiative, and the donations and contributions from fellow comicbook professionals and an international fanbase that rallied to help him. He did so with more determination and tenacity then I’ve ever seen from him.

  • He screwed up his courage, despite agonizing pain and exhaustion from his ongoing battle with cancer, to attend MegaCon in Orlando, Florida in mid-March, and the local press covered his appearance. “Charity saved “Thundercats” writer Steve Perry, stricken with cancer and destitute,” The Orlando Sentinel headlined the article.
  • This communal effort, along with a harrowing near-death experience after a particularly grueling surgery a little over a month ago, awakened Steve to a new sense of self-worth and appetite for life that he hadn’t expressed in over two decades.

    He was hopeful, despite the overwhelming odds against him.

    But –

    His lifestyle during his last 20 years constantly put him in the proximity of sketchy characters, and I fear that blindspot – his uncanny inability to recognize those who might do him the worst harm, even while he always expected everyone was capable of doing him harm – has taken terrible toll. Perhaps, I fear, the ultimate toll.

    Steve Perry is my friend.

    He’s no longer talking to anyone. He’s no longer answering his emails. He’s no longer there for his youngest son, or his older sons.

    I fear I’ll never be talking to or drawing for or with Steve ever again…

    God, I miss him.


    Discussion (51) ¬

    1. Roger Green

      This is all SO bizarre; don’t even know what to say… My thoughts are with all affected, including you, Steve B.

    2. Richard

      This…is beautiful, Steve.
      Thank you for sharing this story. The learned advice on how the industry works, and especially this glimpse into who Perry was, who he is. By your description, Perry could be me, could be any of a number of my friends. This is just more and more heartbreaking.

    3. Fotojock

      Steve- I’m heartbroken to hear this latest news. For you and for Leo. To lose a person in your life that was such a big part of it in the first place has got to be a lot to handle and then to have it happen this way. There are no words!! I’m keeping Leo in my prayers and sending well wishes to everyone who Steve has touched in one way or another. If he really is gone it’s a great loss and I hope the people who have done this pay dearly! I’m so sorry for you Steve B. this whole process I know has not been easy on you and yet you have kept us all up to date on what’s going on so we might be able to help. It goes to show your character, Steve, and prove what I’ve known for so long……Your a good guy, a hero as such. Love you and wish you peace in all this.

      April

    4. Bryan Land

      You never forget a friend. No matter what. There’s something tremendous about that.

    5. Sam Kujava

      A touching, affecting tribute, warts and all, to a man who was your friend. IS your friend, for as
      long as you, and we, remember him, he and his work, live on.

    6. K. A. Laity

      This is heart-breaking.

    7. Gail Simone

      I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, Steve.

    8. Meredith Randazzo

      It’s hard to say the right words. We visited with Steve while traveling in Florida back in March. I found him to be a kind, if timid man, who loved his son very much. Leo depended on him for love, for security, for everything. They put a face on the struggles of humanity for me…the people that I overlooked on my way to work…and back to my warm bed and widescreen TV…I won’t be the same person after meeting him. I don’t want to be. Please make a donation to the Hero Initiative or other charity…get to know your neighbor…be a friend. Sorry to be preachy…this story is too terrible to remain unaffected by it. Leo, I am so sorry for your loss. You have friends if ever you need them.

    9. Mark Ellis

      Steve–thanks for this. In a lot of ways for professional creator folks, it’s a ” there but for the grace of God” kind of story.

      I can’t help but think if he hadn’t settled in the sh*thole of central Florida and stayed around friends like you, he might not have met such an end.

    10. srbissette

      I’ll be posting this link to the main body of the next MYRANT post proper, but here goes:

      http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/05/24/the-last-days-of-steve-perry/

    11. srbissette

      Mark, Steve was trying to get OUT of Florida all through 2010, but lack of funds, his ongoing health crisis, and his son kept him in Zephyrhills.

      He ended up in Florida because it was initially ‘easier’ to be broke and poor in a warm climate instead of New England; eventually, being there led to the job he had as the apartment super, which kept him and Leo with a roof overhead until that, too, ended badly.

    12. Kim Scarborough

      Why protect the identity of the editor that screwed him over?

    13. James Robert Smith

      Yeah, it doesn’t seem to get any sadder than Steve’s story. People will take advantage of you. People will steal from you. People will kill you.

      I can understand his bitterness toward writing for comics. Met that bitterness myself. But there’s no real reason that he should have stopped writing. Instead, he should have turned to short stories, novels, articles, etc.

      Oh, well. Should have.

      Who has his small son? Is the child safe?

    14. srbissette

      This essay is about Steve. The editor is a matter of public record.

    15. Kim DeMulder

      A heart wrenching story and one that must have been difficult to write. But thank you for sharing this, Steve.

    16. srbissette

      Leo is with Leo’s biological mother, Krystal. I don’t consider him ‘safe,’ based on Steve’s own accounts of 2009-2010 and the events of April-May alone.

    17. Dale

      Probably the same editor that wanted Superheroes in The ‘Nam comic book.

    18. Steve Weiner

      I am deeply saddened to learn this, Steve. I met Steve P in the 80s at that comic book store by the theatre in Greenfield, Mass that you used to frequent.

      Freelancing can be a really hard life, possibly hardest for those who can’t manage to live other ways. My condolensces to you & others close to him.

    19. Peter D

      I can’t say that I really knew him. When I first heard the story of his troubles a few months ago, and realized that, in addition to Thundercats, which I loved, he’d written the first two issues of one of my favorite obscure comics (Psi-Force), I was moved to help out, just a tiny bit. I gave him the couple dollars that had been lingering in my paypal account for a couple years. I thought that’d be the end of it, got a fairly heartfelt thank you, even if it did seem copy-and-pasted.

      Then every couple weeks, I’d get another e-mail, an update, usually but not always with bad news, and hoping for more money. I have to admit at first I was a little…. well, put out, isn’t quite right, but I can’t think of anything eles. I hadn’t asked to be filled in on his day to day problems, to hear he still needed help while I did not really have any means to give it. Yet, I read them, and kept reading them, and once he asked for not money, but advice. It was another e-mail sent out to many people, but I gave him my thoughts, and we talked a little more personally from then one. Not much. Maybe 3 or 4 e-mails in total that I didn’t think were being sent, in large part, to a bunch of others (I never minded that, actually – I appreciated that he probably had little time and a lot of people to fill in, almost all of whom he was closer to than me).

      I can’t say that I knew him, but I felt at least the start of a connection. The second last time he mentioned being in financial difficulty, I resolved to give him a bit more money, not much, but more than before, but it would take 6-8 business days. I told him it would be coming. In the intervening time, he sent his last e-mail, the one he said might well be the last e-mail he planned on sending out, that if we heard from him again, it would be good news. The money still hadn’t made it from my bank account to my paypal, but when it did, I sent it. Thinking back, it may well have shown up after whatever happened, happened. I don’t begrudge the money (if it is languishing somewhere and the friend who’s paypal he’s been using has intentions to pay it back, I’d rather it go to HERO in his name), but I’d like to think that he got it and at least it made him a tiny bit happier that day, but he was just too busy to reply.

      I can’t say that I knew him, but it’s strange that I miss him too, even that little tiny connection was something.

      Thanks for giving me at least a little more of a sense of the man with your posts about him. I hope that, despite my misgivings about his current situation, Leo is well taken care for.

    20. superggraphics

      Just an update as to Steve’s story for Surprising Theater #4… superggraphics performs book design production work and lettering for Mark F Davis’s Suirprising Comics Group and is not the publisher (Mark is)… I also made an error in reporting the publication date (#3 is released in September and #4 the next scheduled quarterly issue (I apologize for the confusion Steve but this entire matter is very disturbing and upsetting to say the least)… I last heard from Steve on March 5th and if anyone is under the impression Steve’s son Leo is safe with his mother, according to Steve at that time, nothing could’ve been further from the truth… I pray the boy will be allright… Steve’s story Dulce will see print and is almost finished being illustrated… There is a possibility it will be released as a special One Shot comic as well as appearing in Surprising Theater #4… I’ve read the script and contrary to what Steve thoght of his writing skills in his later life he still “had it”… You can keep updated on Steve’s story “Dulce” or contact Mark with any questions at http://www.surprisingcomics.com

    21. Rich Arndt

      A additional note on Supergraphics’ email up above. Steve let me read both the script for The Dulce and his last Salimba story and they were both great. Excellent adventure material. His writing was just as tight and taunt as it ever was. I look forward to seeing both stories in print.

      Steve’s last email to me on the morning of May 9th also discussed the many kindnesses that Sandra Maples & her husband Eric had done for him.

      I’d also like to lend my voice to those suggesting that a contribution to Hero Initiative would be a great idea. You can find them at http://heroinitiative.org

    22. Stacia

      Steve, per your comments and the article by Rich on bleedingcool.com, it seems the restraining order he had gotten before he went missing was against his ex. Do you happen to know why the news article that reported on the restraining order didn’t state this specifically, just said “a woman”?

    23. srbissette

      Steve’s family and I have NO idea why the police are proceeding as they are; I am not family, so it’s none of my business, really, but the police are really keeping Steve’s surviving family members in the dark, too, and it’s frankly pissing them off. I’ve no idea of the legalities of these matters per Florida law, but it seems incomprehensible to me given the time that’s passed.

      Time will tell — and eventually the investigation will be made public. Until then, Krystal still has legal custody of Leo, and those of us who have been informed of particulars we’ve been asked not to discuss publicly must maintain a respectful ‘radio silence.’ I’ve said about all I can at this time via these two blog posts.

    24. demoncat

      so sorry that steve did not some how get one more miracle and make this night mare end with him not end sadly with every one now figuring that the out come all feared has happen and the post is a touching tribute to steve .

    25. Peter Urkowitz

      All this is terrible, heart-breaking news. I’m so sorry for all of Steve Perry’s friends and family.

      One little note. While I recognize that losing the ThunderCats scripting gig was a crushing blow for Steve, strangely enough, the series was cancelled at Marvel less than a year later, and they lost the license to other publishers. So at least they didn’t really profit from screwing him over. I know it’s not much, but in sad times like these, even a tiny bit of schadenfreude is something to cling to.

      I apologize if the above comment sounds frivolous or inappropriate, please accept that it was given with good intentions. Thanks.

    26. Jedi

      Really, I guess there’s no real point in saying much but I will say this: The mother removed the child from Steve’s care not to be vindictive (she never wanted to keep Steve from his son) but in part because she didn’t want him living in the house with strangers. Had he been in that house…I dare not think of what would have happened to him.

      I spoke with the child (I will not post his name for his safety, and I don’t believe his mother nor the rest of his family would want a picture of him on this blog for the same reason) last night and he is doing very, very well.

      Side note: It is one thing to praise Steve (he was a good guy) and another to add slanderous comments about his child’s mother. I’m sure Steve did not speak poorly of her to his child and in case the child reads this one day, I don’t think others should either. There are two sides to every story.

    27. srbissette

      Jedi, I don’t know who you are, and I appreciate your being supportive of the mother, but the fact is the extensive email record I have kept of ALL my communications with Steve Perry over the years — and this last year in particular — do not in any way line up with what you’re saying.

      I’ve said enough. I have remained civil, diplomatic and polite.

      I don’t care to publicly speculate as to why Leo was removed from Steve’s home — especially after the months of neglect by all but Steve and those few he trusted, however ill-placed that trust may have been.

      I’ve said enough here. For now.

    28. srbissette

      Peter — yep, THUNDERCAT the Star Comics series was cancelled. Had Steve been on the book when that happened, that would have been a different kettle of fish; it was the betrayal that knocked him for a loop.

      I’ve been as diplomatic as possible in talking about these circumstances and this history. Given the horrific context prompting my writing and posting this essay, I simply can’t bring myself to be more candid about much of what I experienced and know involving my friend Steve. He was a difficult man to love at times, and his own worst enemy — I’ve made that clear, I think, without either vilifying or lionizing the man.

      This isn’t easy or fun stuff to wrestle with. I’m sorry if it upsets anyone — but damn it, it should.

    29. srbissette

      The latest: James Davis, in jail, portrays Steve as a drug fiend. Thankfully, I sent the reporter some of Steve’s own emails in time to counter it somewhat, but this still infuriates me to no end:

      http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/missing-zephyrhills-mans-agonized-last-months-recalled/1097407

    30. Rembrand

      I just read about what happened to Steve and I’m completely horrified. I exchanged a few emails with him last month and he seemed like a lovely and courageous guy. Man, this is fucked up.
      But I’m glad at least someone who knew him is writing about him.

    31. Mike Loughlin

      I loved Thundercats when I was a kid. The villain was actually scary.

      I’m very sorry for the loss of your friend.

    32. Jon Lewis

      Steve, the long email in that Pulse page you linked is one of the most powerful and desolate things I have ever read; I am sitting here just devastated. Even people who know nothing about Steve Perry or comics should have to read it, as a picture of what it is to be ill and impoverished in this country.

      But my heart is broken to know he never made it to that hearing and got his say, never got a chance to find a way to live on at whatever price…

    33. A good friend

      Leo is with Leo’s biological mother, Krystal. I don’t consider him ’safe,’ based on Steve’s own accounts of 2009-2010 and the events of April-May alone.
      YOU NEED TO HEAR BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY !!!! I HAVE KNOWN KRYSTAL FOR A VERY LONG TIME AND STEVE SINCE HE AND KRYSTAL MET !! If Krystal did NOT get Leo a month ago whos to say where Leo would be NOW ?? Leo is VERY safe and is very deeply loved. SO, PPL need to stop bad mouthing Krystal.. I talk to Leo myself every day and he is JUST FINE. Yes, he misses his daddy. I believe Krstal had every right to know what is going on. WITH OUT HER. Know one would of known where his family was. she has HIS son and as the MOTHER of STEVES son she has a right to know what is happening. She had done alot to get to the bottom of alot of things. WITCH THE PPL TALKING CRAP DON’T KNOW THAT !!!! Like I said theres 2 sides to every story !! IF you don’t know both saids then KEEP your NOSE OUT OF OTHERS BUSINESS………If anyone thought Leo was in danger the JUDGE, COPS, and others involved would not of ALLOWED Leo to go live with his MOTHER !!! The way I look at it is LEO is ALIVE and who knows where he would be if he was still living with his dad when Steve disapeared.. Think about that before you OPEN YOUR MOUTHS…. I know for a fact Steve still loved and cared for Krystal cause she was LEO’S MOM. When PPL are sick, angry and hurt alot of things are said that aren’t really MENT. BE ADULTS !!!!!!

    34. srbissette

      Well, whoever you are, aka “A good friend,” we’ll see.

      First off: you know my name, I always post USING my own name. I stand behind what I say, and would welcome being proven wrong. Let’s see, you know who most of the people are here, as they too are posting by name — so for the record, anonymous posts will not be tolerated for long on this subject. This is the third anonymous post claiming privileged knowledge and arguing passionately about the mother’s position, sans evidence other than emotional assertions, and we won’t tolerate many more. If you’ve got something to say, put your name to it. Understand please that not giving your name immediately places your comment in questionable turf.

      In any case, there is truth — and until we know what that is via fact-checking and verification of various claims that have been made by those involved (including Steve Perry’s own intensive written accounts), and until we know what happened to Steve Perry, I’m taking it all with a major barrel of salt.

      Sorry, but I am reserving a large portion of that for your claims.

      In fact, Krystal didn’t “get” Leo “a month ago,” and that’s just the beginning of your claims here not matching available accounts. I’m not going to get into this further in this public space — Steve’s emails, with relevant legal documents, have been turned over to the authorities and a trio of reporters. If you persist, those may be made public sooner than later.

      The truths will come out soon enough. There isn’t just “2 sides to every story,” there’s a core truth — either one “side” is telling the truth, or they’re not.

      “The way I look at it is” yes, Leo is alive, but Steve might not have been in jeopardy himself or involved in whatever he was involved in had there been some material and emotional support for Steve — including family support, a partner’s support — other than distant friends begging for him, and the kindness of strangers.

      Let’s be adults.

      Steve was battling terminal cancer, and fighting daily to sustain his and Leo’s life — Why was Steve so alone in his struggle until distant friends like Tom Yeates, myself and others and strangers (who soon became friends, via Steve’s ongoing contact with the outside world via email) interceded on his behalf?

      I don’t pretend to “know” the core truth here, but the evidence I’ve had in hand throughout these long, excrutiating months is pretty persuasive. I reckon we’ll see what bears the scrutiny of fact-checking, fact verification, witnesses (as they come forward) and the various medical records, payment records and legal paper trails, which do in fact exist.

    35. Chelsea Brown

      I am also a VERY close friend of Krystal’s and I know a lot about Krystal. She is like a sister to me. If it wasn’t for Krystal who knows what could have happened to Leo. {Maybe the same thing that happened to Stephan?!?!} Stephan moved not ONE but TWO strangers into his house a house that also happened to be where his 5 year old son lived. {What type of parent would put his child in that situation?} I don’t blame Krystal for being worried. {Look at the type of people they were, robbery, theft, ARMED robbery.} You want your kids around that? Krystal was PROTECTING her son!

      Krystal took care of Stephan for a good many months while and when he was sick but he told her to get out. Who was there for her after he had his tumors removed? Krystal was out trying to earn money to give to Stephan to support their child. {Now, I don’t agree with traveling with the carnival, but it was a quick way to earn money that was very much needed. It may not have been enough but it was better than nothing!}

      I’ve known Krystal for 23.5 years and I’ve known Stephan ever since they started dating. {Mind you Krystal was VERY young to be dating a man of his age but she loved him!} I believe Krystal had EVERY right to know what was happening with Stephan’s case. {Who else would have to tell Leo that their dad is in heaven? I believe if a mother dies that ‘s the father’s pain to have to tell the kid{s} just like if that father dies the mother than tells the kid{s} whether they are together / married or not!}

      It was not Krystal’s choice not to be there with Stephan, he kicked her out and told her he didn’t need her. {Now please keep in mind I am not saying Stephan is a bad person, because he wasn’t he was a GREAT man and father, but he was terminally sick and unable to care for their child the way a dad should be able too.} He was always asleep because of his pain med’s. What would have happened if a fire broke out? Or if someone broke into the house? {and Leo was unable to do anything and Stephan was knocked out?}

      Leo is in very save hands and he’s an amazing little boy who learned a lot from his daddy. Krystal is a GREAT mother and will do a wonderful job raising Leo the way Stephan would have. Even thought Krystal and Stephan were no longer together I know that Krystal still loves and cares for Stephan! {She tells me everyday that I talk to her. Krystal is very depressed and doesn’t even feel like leaving her house because she just feels nothing.} She is staying home and taking care of her son the way a mother should be!

      Stephan: I know that Leo and Krystal will miss you deeply. I didn’t know you well but I do remember having to walk to the post office everyday when you and Krystal started dating to see if Krystal had recieved any mail from you. {She loved you more than words could explain.} I know that Krystal will keep your memories alive in Leo and she will raise him to be a great man like his daddy. I will be there always and forever helping Krystal and Leo in any way shape or form needed. R.I.P Stephan

      Love Always,
      CHELSEA BROWN
      {I’m not anonymous, keep that in mind!!!!}

    36. Esther Legere

      I am “A good friend”, I’ve known Krystal for 26 years. I use to be her neighbor and baby sitter. She and my daughter, CHELSEA BROWN, were and still are very close. Krystal is like my second daughter! My name is ESTHER LEGERE!!!

    37. srbissette

      Thank you for identifying yourselves; these comments are up and will stand.

      You’ve now provided character references. I’ve known Steve Perry since 1974. We’ve both aired our impressions of the characters of two of the adults involved in this tragedy. I hasten to add, however, that your version of what happened between the couple doesn’t match Steve Perry’s ongoing accounts. You’ve had your say; Steve will have his as the email accounts are released.

      Time will tell what facts emerge; what facts stand up to scrutiny and analysis; and what will be.

      We all wish the best for Leo and his future.

      Steve Perry’s own accounts of the past year are beginning to be aired; we’ll never know how the scheduled May 13th court hearing concerning Leo’s custody might have gone, had Steve been able to be there with his attorney to represent his interests.

      I’ve nothing more to say; I’ve no privileged information, save Steve Perry’s own accounts of the past few years. Except for discussion of our past in comics together and providing links for the unfolding public reports and investigations (that are made public), hereafter Steve’s own words will constitute whatever follows on MYRANT concerning this matter.

    38. srbissette
    39. Jedi

      What is the point in posting my name? There is none. You don’t know me, nor I you. I am considerably younger than both you and Steven and from a Massachusetts. Krystal is aware of who I am and I believe that is all that matters. Although, if you, Mr. Bissette, wish to e-mail me in private, that is another story. Knowing the characters involved, I will not post my name to a public blog for all to see.

      Fact of the matter is, since at least 2001, Steven hadn’t had much contact with his biological family and this includes his sister living in Florida (I doubt most of them have even seen Leo). Mr. Bissette, you have met Krystal. Not a vilified version of the woman, but the actual person, in person, as a teenager in Vermont. Did Steven seem to love her? The last time I saw Steve in person was when he was working at the apartment complex in Florida a couple of years ago. He and Krystal had put Leo to bed with a story and a kiss goodnight…together. A pretty picture of domesticity. Times got hard when Steve got sick. A few years ago he dropped a hammer on his toe and neglected it so fully that it became gangrenous. He was not a man who fretted about his health. Krystal urged him to take care of himself. He did not. This is what caused the rift between the two that ultimately led to her leaving. There was no point in continuing the relationship from the point of view of both parties.

      The last time I saw Leo in person was August 2009. His grandmother came to Massachusetts on vacation and left Leo with Krystal’s twin for the day, whom along with her husband, owned that house on 8th avenue. When his grandmother brought him back to Florida, he returned to living with Steve. I’ve known that child since he was born. Can any of you who are posting these disparaging comments about his mother say the same thing? Leo was speaking and walking before he was a year. He was using complete sentences at two, reading at three. Krystal was with him all day, everyday from the day he was born until April of last year and also drove many, many miles to see him on holidays and his birthday.

      Do I agree with all of Krystal’s lifestyle? No, no I don’t. Sometimes people need to do what they need to do to get by. Steve understood this. It’s a shame that he and Krystal couldn’t have stayed together. They loved each other very much for a long time and I believe they still cared about each other until that incident at the end of April and possibly still even after that.

      I do not care to make any negative comments about Steve. Nor do I care to refute the version of things he spoke of in his e-mails. He was a damn good father and a friend to many. I do however wish to express the fact that just because two people were involved in a terrible circumstance with one another does not negate the fact that once, for a long while, they loved and cared deeply for another. Had not Steve neglected his health, had not Krystal left for those three weeks and met that man at the carnival (whom I also know and could understand Steve’s reservations about him, at least. He’s not the type of person one would bring home to meet mom, so to speak), and had they been able to sit down and speak with one another without the nonsense of the past month clouding their judgment, who knows where they would be today. Like you said, Steve was a gentle man, not one to engage in a fight or an argument and he would have done anything for Leo. So would Krystal. Sometimes two people just cannot agree upon what is right.

      Last note, I’m not sure who “A good friend is” either but from Krystal’s own mouth she only received custody of Leo a few days before Steve went missing. Also, I’m almost certain Krystal does not want to know the details about what happened with Steve. It will never be a replacement but perhaps it’s a small comfort that Leo knows that if he closes his eyes and dreams, he can see daddy.

      Good Day.

    40. srbissette

      I have been contacted by the family; this will be nipped in the bud here and now. My apologies for any further pain I’ve caused.

      I am, however, allowing the statements posted by others here to stand and remain. This hopefully ends this particular conversation. Subsequent comments were deleted; there is no need for those to stand, no good would come of it.

      When the time is appropriate — after the police have opened up about their investigation — I will redirect my efforts that were going to Steve toward some sort of fundraising and/or trust fund for Leo’s future, and ask that anyone who has felt anything positive for Steve and Leo or is interested do the same.

    41. Rich Arndt

      This blog needs to kick back to what it started out to be–a wake/celebration of Steve’s life & work. Much of the stuff mentioned in Steve Perry’s last emails can largely be verified or denied using public records and that should probably happen in either family court or in the legal system that is dealing with Steve’s death (if or when that’s finally determined). The same can also be done with the public interview given by one of Steve’s now jailed roommates, much of which was extremely self-serving, whether it could be considered the truth or not. However, there is plenty of interesting material on Mr. Perry th

    42. srbissette

      It is, Rich — this was becoming quite ugly. That said, I’m not going to start deleting posts that were placed here by those concerned — I’ve cut short the direction this was headed, and will hereafter redirect all my energies to whatever positive can be gleaned from this nightmare.

    43. srbissette

      PS: By ‘Steve’s words’ being posted on this blog hereafter, I am referring to the voluminous files I have of our creative work together since 1975 — in the context of the heated exchanges that were going on here, I can see that could read as a too-loaded statement.

      I’ve got an intro Steve wrote for our hoped-for reprint of “A Frog is a Frog” revised/expanded version we’d worked on for future publication, which I’ll be posting soon; behind-the-scenes stages of our work on that story; proposals and scripts for projects we never found a home for; and so on.

      I’ll save the best for the point after the news finally breaks about what really happened to Steve, and we can begin to work toward doing something constructive for Leo’s future.

      Fair enough?

    44. Nikki

      This is such as sad and heart wrenching story; I vaguely knew Steve when he was working for the carnival; I would be interested to read his autobiographical comic about his experience there. Does anyone know how or if it might be available?

      My deepest condolences to Steve’s family, especially the children he leaves behind.

    45. srbissette

      Steve and Jim Wheelock’s project is incomplete; were there a venue for it, I’m sure Jim would be able to re-engage with it. I’ve no idea how far along Steve and Jim were — I wanted folks to be aware that it was among the projects Steve was working on during the last couple of years.

      Steve was daily facing obstacles, disease and pain many would have found unbearable — it was often unbearable to Steve, according to his own accounts. That he somehow finished scripts and at least one short story during the past year is astonishing, and clear evidence of his tenacity and his lucidity while literally facing his own demise — and raising a young son.

    46. IB

      My sister was married to Steve briefly as you mention. I am shocked and saddened by this news. I am happy to read positive accounts of Steve’s most recent fathering. I knew him over a decade ago, and found him to be largely lacking the skills needed for fathering. He had not (as far as I know) contacted his son (my nephew) in more than a decade. I found his attraction to women decades younger than him disconcerting, to say the least. His near total self-serving tendencies, which included actions just shy of stealing from family, and his total disregard for his children, has left many wounds.
      Nevertheless, it is very sad to learn of his passing, as he is probably another needless victim of Florida’s vicious and inhumane policies towards oxycodone regulation.

    47. srbissette

      ‘IB’ (anonymous here, but id’ed for the moderator — me — so I’m going to let this go up), I know of what you speak, and agree with much of what you say (I’m sorry to say). I was very disturbed and distressed by much of Steve’s behavior over the years, including those you’ve cited.

      Thank you for weighing in, though your words will be difficult for some to read and/or take in.

      Thankfully, Steve learned a lot in years since your sister’s relationship with him — my understanding from Steve (noted in at least two emails from 2007-8 I received) was that contact was forbidden. His own self-assessment that he had been a failure as a father tormented him to his dying weeks, and this prompted Steve to dedicate his life in his final years to his most recent son Leo — whether this was atonement, redemption or simply love awakening for Steve, I cannot say, but it did demonstrate a capacity for growth and maturation in Steve that was heartening, if too late (for his other sons, including your nephew; and for Steve, given the events of the past year).

      I only wish Steve had learned as much from all his past mistakes and bad decisions in life.

      As I hope you’ll agree, I’ve done my utmost to be candid while not naming names, and honest about Steve’s life and personality. I don’t want to falsely lionize him, but I cannot let the inevitable demonizing that may come stand, either. Steve was a complex, frustrating, puzzling, infuriating man; I kept my distance to keep my own sanity and footing. But I loved him, in part due to his capacity, demonstrated in his final years, for personal growth. Too little, too late, for many — too little, too late, for Steve. But such is life — inexcusable, messy, fucked-up life.

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