I am reeling right now... I was already having a fairly crappy Saturday when I found out that Robert L. Washington III died after suffering multiple heart attacks. I loved his work on Static and Shadow Cabinet (both for Milestone Comics), but he also wrote for DC, Valiant and Acclaim in the early 90s. When the bottom fell out of the industry in the mid-nineties, Washington found himself unable to get work in comics, and had to settle for call-center and warehouse work. Ugh. That sounds painfully familiar...
I wanna go out on a limb and say that Static is the best teen superhero since Spider-man. And Washington would be part of the reason for that. Mcduffie, Washington and John Paul Leon built Static the way Stan Lee and Steve Ditko built the Wall Crawler: from the inside out.
|excerpt from Static #1 which he co-wrote with the late Dwayne McDuffie|
This creative team also created my favorite Milestone book, one of the best and most unique superhero comics I've ever read: Shadow Cabinet. The Shadow Cabinet was an organization of superhuman operatives led by Dharma, whose powers allowed him to sense the past and future of any object he touched. A methodical application of his abilities allowed Dharma to predict threats and dispatch his vast clandestine network of superheroes to neutralize them before they became unstoppable. For the most part, Dharma selected his operatives on a case-by-case basis, with some members going undercover alone, reporting only to him for months or years at a time. The exact number of members in the Cabinet and their whereabouts at any given time were known only to him. The nature of the team led to the comic being referred to as "the JLA as run by the CIA"... but it was more culturally and racially diverse than the JLA ever hoped to be, having more in common with the X-men.
While most of the Milestone flagship characters have spent time running errands for Dharma, the book was at its best when focusing on a core group of characters created specifically for the series. Dharma's right hand woman and field team leader Iron Butterfly remains one of my favorite characters ever. The Palestinian ferrokinetic was flanked by Donner and Blitzen, a lesbian interracial couple who served as the teams' resident strong woman and speedster, the animal shape-shifter Sideshow, Dharma's energy field powered sister(s) Plus, and Iota, a size-changing thief and superhero with a massive arsenal of weapons tucked in her costume's many pink pockets.
Anyways, Washington had since fallen on hard times. He wrote this piece about receiving assistance from the nonprofit group The Hero Initiative, which they published in their fundraiser anthology annual Hero Comics 2012, which came out on May 30th, exactly one week before he passed away. He was 47.