Comic Books & Graphic Novels

Comics Writer Martin Pasko Dead at 65

Comic book and television writer Martin Pasko passed away of natural causes on May 10th at the age of 65.

Born in Montréal, Quebec in Canada on August 4th, 1954, Pasko’s writing credits included most of the marquee titles of DC Comics in the 1970’s and 80’s, stints at First Publishing and Marvel, and animated series like My Little Pony, G.I. Joe, and Batman: The Animated Series.

Pasko first made a name for himself by being a prolific contributor to comics letter columns as a fan. After selling “Eye Opener” to Warren Publishing (Vampirella #20, 1972) at the age of 18, he was brought onto the Superman titles by DC editor Julius Schwartz, who was familiar with Pasko from the many letters he had sent to Schwartz’s letter columns. The letters were acutely critical, and the name recognition served him well, starting with backup features in Superman #277 (July ’74) and moving to featured writer from 1977-1979. Along the way he would write stories for characters like The Atom, and co-created Superman villains like the Atomic Skull and the Master Jailer.

Outside his decades-long writing for the Man of Steel, Pasko redefined the character of Doctor Fate for modern audiences and wrote for Wonder Woman, Metal Men, Batman and many more DC titles. He and artist Thomas Yeates revived Swamp Thing in 1982, and he wrote the first 19 issues, along the way bringing back characters from Len Wein’s original ’72-76 run such as Abigail Arcane and Matt Cable, and resurrecting recurring foe Anton Arcane. His successor on the title, British writer Alan Moore, would take many of the elements that Pasko either introduced or brought back in new directions as he put his own stamp on the character.

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While still working on Superman titles in the ’80s and ’90s, Pasko also wrote Gargoyles for Marvel Comics, and he served as the head of DC’s Special Projects Group, an internal name for the part of the company that worked with licensed titles like Star Trek, Warner Brothers Online, and stage shows for the Six Flags park chain. From 1995 to 2005 he also served as the liaison to Warner Bros. Studios, acting as a consultant for continuity and helping develop live-action shows like Smallville and the short-lived Birds of Prey.

The 1980’s also saw Pasko writing for both live-action and animated series for television, with series such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Rosanne, and Max Headroom for the former, and My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Exosquad for the latter. His work on Thundarr the Barbarian included naming the character Ookla the Mok and being the second season story editor. He would go on to write for The Tick, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, and in 1992 he joined the production team of Batman: The Animated Series as a writer and story editor, winning him a Daytime Emmy in 1993.

While he continued to do freelance work as a comic writer and for video games, the final decades of Pasko’s life saw him working on non-fiction titles like The DC Vault and The Essential Superman Encyclopedia, and researching and consulting for 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. He seemed to enjoy the consultant role, and continued in it for several companies, including Cryptozoic Entertainment, which has a successful card-based gaming system based on DC Comics as well as many other licensed genre properties.

On a personal note, reviewing the list of titles that he wrote for that I read growing up, or the TV shows he wrote for that I watched as a child and a teen, was… almost overwhelming. As a writer Martin Pasko had a hand in a rather large portion of the comic and genre worlds of the 1970’s through the 1990’s, and his contributions would be too long to list in full here. If you grew up in those decades, or are fans of those periods in comics and television, I would direct you to the archived listing of his entry in Jerry Bails’ Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999 for a sizable if incomplete bibliography of his work.

He will be missed.

Timothy Harvey

Timothy Harvey is a Kansas City based writer, director, actor and editor, with something of a passion for film noir movies. He was the art director for the horror films American Maniacs, Blood of Me, and the pilot for the science fiction series Paradox City. His own short films include the Noir Trilogy, 9 1/2 Years, The Statement of Randolph Carter - adapted for the screen by Jason Hunt - and the music video for IAMEVE’s Temptress. He’s a former President and board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City, and has served on the board of Film Society KC.

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