HOLLYWOOD/LOS ANGELES — On May 27, police in Zephyrhills, Florida confirmed that Stephen Perry, the 56-year-old author of the 1980s animated hit series “ThunderCats,” had been murdered.

Perry had disappeared on May 9, and further suspicions were raised after he did not show up for a scheduled court hearing on May 13. On May 16, an amputated arm had reportedly been found near Perry’s van at a motel in Tampa, and more body parts were discovered in a container at a gas station two miles from Perry’s apartment, which had been ransacked. Two individuals who had lived with Perry, 45-year-old James Davis and 49-year-old Roxanne Davis, had also been missing, and were later taken into custody on charges not connected to the case. Though not suspects in Perry’s murder, the pair is considered “persons of interest” by police.

Perry had previously battled serious health ailments like bladder cancer, and at one point had been without employment or medical care, which compelled him to live with his five-year-old son Leo in his van. (Leo is now living with his mother, Krystal Carroll).

After reaching out to fans for assistance with his financial difficulties, Perry was eventually aided by a Los Angeles-based organization called “The Hero Initiative,” formerly known as “A Commitment to Our Roots,” (“ACTOR”), that volunteers emergency support to comic artists in need.

For the past eight months, the non-profit group had successfully helped Perry to locate employment and pay for rent, utilities, and health care. Christina Arrobio-Zietsman, of “The Hero Initiative,” told Canyon News, “We help comic creators in need by raising funds for professionals who are active in the comic book industry. People who donate [to “Hero”] donate arts, sketches and other work and sell the pieces they create, or present them at conventions for free, which goes into a fund for us to help artists. We’ve also helped a gentleman in his 80s, and he’s still alive.”

Zietsman further reports that comic legend Gene Colan, who had also been suffering from ill health, had also received assistance by “Hero.” “He [Colan] was one of the artists for the comic series ”˜Daredevil,’” Zietsman stated.

Zietsman told Canyon News that “Hero,” volunteers support to established artists through a board of directors and operations and a fundraising board. “We have helped artists who were terminally ill, with health problems like cancer, and who didn’t have medical insurance to pay their bills,” she said.

Zietsman described the news of Perry’s murder as “horrible” and expressed special concern for five-year-old Leo. She stated that those who are interested in volunteering aid to artists like Perry may learn more about providing donations and other assistance at http://www.heroinitiative.org/. A YouTube video of Perry who relates how “The Hero Initiative” had assisted him through his past hardships is available at the Web site.

Perry is most renowned for co-authoring the epic 1980’s television series “ThunderCats” and “SilverHawks” and also wrote the comics “Timespirits” and “Psi-Force” for Marvel, and Wally Woods “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” for Deluxe. He had written the “ThunderCats” episodes “The Doomgaze,” “Safari Joe,” “Queen of Eight Legs,” “Tight Squeeze,” “Trapped,” and the two-part episode “Feliner.” He had also written the first issue of “SilverHawks” from “Star Comics” in 1987, and issues 14, 16, 19, of “ThunderCats,” also from “Star Comics,” from 1987 to 1988.

The “ThunderCats” first aired in 1985, featuring humanoid cat-like warriors that have been widely adored by fans of all ages, including “Lion-O,” the show’s incredibly gorgeous and fearless young hero.

A recreated version of the cartoon will appear in 2011, according to a press release issued by Time Warner. The series was initially distributed by Telepictures Corporation, which eventually merged with Lorimar Productions. In 1988, Lorimar Productions was purchased by Warner Brothers, whose television syndication arm later assumed the cartoon’s distribution. Warner Brothers was originally founded in Hollywood in 1918, and its headquarters are currently based in Burbank.

A fan-based movie trailer featuring Hollywood actors like Brad Pitt, (who stars as “Lion-O”), is available at a variety of Web sites, including YouTube.

James McLauchlin, another spokesperson with The Hero Initiative, and previously a writer for “Wizard: The Comics Magazine,” told Canyon News in an interview about Perry’s previous difficulties.

“Steve had bladder cancer, and treatment was neither easy nor cheap,” McLauchlin confirmed to Canyon News.  “He was essentially homeless, so when he stumbled upon ‘The Hero Initiative’ we arranged to help pay for his housing, utilities and medical expenses.”

McLauchlin stated to Canyon News that despite Perry’s high-profile career as a comic book writer and co-author for ‘The ThunderCats,’ that Perry’s career was not necessarily lucrative. “Comic book writers don’t make a heck of a lot of money,” McLauchlin said. “They make less money than a meter reader for the DWP, [Department of Water and Power].  But I can’t really say exactly how much a comic writer makes. It varies widely.”

When asked by Canyon News about his perspective on Perry’s death, McLauchlin said, “We’re just waiting on the police investigation.  It looks like a classic case of homicide so it looks like the police are deliberately allowing the investigation to move into a slower phase.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

McLauchlin, who had known Perry personally, described Perry to Canyon News as “a really great guy.”

“He was very appreciative of how much ”˜Hero’ had helped him, and he wanted to take the time to help us so he could give back,” McLauchlin stated to Canyon News. “There was a situation about a month ago, when Steve had massive surgery on his bladder and had to have seven tumors removed.  Not long after that he wanted to attend a ‘Star Trek’ convention in Florida, where he wanted to go to set up a table and hand out brochures for ”˜Hero.’  I told him, ‘Steve, don’t be a [expletive] idiot. You just had an operation. Stay home, rest, relax, rehabilitate.’ I finally got him to listen to me, but this is just how he was.”

McLauchlin had been a professional writer and editor for 17 years. He began his career in 1989 in “Baseball Cards” magazine and worked for several years as a sportswriter. He also worked as a senior writer and contributing editor for “Wizard: The Comics Magazine” for “Wizard Entertainment” for 11 years, and worked for two years as editor-in-chief of Top Cow Productions. McLauchlin’s current works appear largely in “FHM” magazine, “PlayBoy” and “Baseball America.” He has also appeared in publications like “Esquire” and “Xbox Nation.” McLauchlin is now the director of content for the fantasy sports site “FSDashboard.com.”

McLauchlin told Canyon News that he hoped that Perry’s legacy would remain alive through “Thundercats”  and all of Perry’s other massive works. “I think I missed it [‘ThunderCats’] by a few years, but my little brother was a fan of the show,” McLauchlin told Canyon News. “Steve was definitely a very nice guy.”