Last week saw the passing of Robert L. Washington III, the longtime comic book writer perhaps best known as the co-writer of the original appearances of the Milestone Media/DC Comics character Static, at the age of 47. To make the situation more tragic, Washington's financial situation at the time of his death may mean that his burial won't be befitting of a creator who contributed years of material to the comic book industry.Washington, whose work outside of his run on the initial issues of Static included Milestone's Shadow Cabinet, DC's Extreme Justice and Acclaim's Ninjak, died last week of a heart attack, bringing an all-too-early end to a hard life that had seen him homeless on more than one occasion following the crash of the comic industry in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, his troubles may continue past post-mortem, according to friend Craig Hicks.

In a message board post written by Hicks that was re-posted on The Outhouse blog, he explained the current difficult situation:

I went to school with Robert Washington in the Detroit area from 5th to 8th grade. Like many of Robert's school friends, and sadly, his family, I had not been in touch with him for many years. But when I heard about his death and learned more about his financial and family situation, I immediately became concerned that his remains might end up on Hart Island. The island is New York City's location for indigent burials. The dead here are buried in pine coffins, stacked in unmarked trenches, by Riker's Island inmates. There are no services or ceremonies.

A small group of Robert's former classmates and colleagues have joined forces to ensure this doesn't happen. We've been in touch with the city medical examiner's office and after some serious sleuthing made contact with one of his relatives. And we've started raising funds to pay for a modest funeral.

If you knew Robert, were a fan of his work or just are interested in lending a hand, here's how you can help.

The Hero Initiative - a not-for-profit, 503(c) charitable organization that helps comic book creators in need - has agreed to act as our vehicle for contributing to Robert's funeral arrangements.

The money we contribute goes to the Hero Initiative, but can be directed toward specific purposes, in this case Robert's funeral. Any money over and above the cost of the funeral will be applied in Robert's name toward helping other comic book creators make ends meet.

Donations can be made via The Hero Initiative's website (Be sure to enter "Robert Washington" in the "Add special instructions to seller" field to ensure that your money will go toward Washington's funeral). Washington's stories will be remembered by fans -- Go and seek out back issues of his Static and Shadow Cabinet runs, which remain as smart and funny now as they were almost 20 years ago, for proof -- and this action can help those same readers remember the man behind them.

Update: According to Christian Hoffer, the NYC medical examiner has placed Mr. Washington's body on hold to give Hero Initiative time to raise funds, meaning there's still a window for donations from fans.

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