Rest in peace, Martin Pasko

After a career that spanned comics, TV and animation, the writer/editor passed away at 65.

Martin “Marty” Pasko, a writer and editor whose career span decades, has passed away at the age of 65, multiple sources have reported, including his friends and colleagues Paul Levitz and Mark Evanier.

During his long career, Pasko worked in many creative and editorial capacities, with much of his career spent in the comics industry and animation. His love for comics, though, started before that, as a fan and frequent contributor to letter columns.

“Marty connected with comics originally as a letterhack, with Julie Schwartz pinning the label ‘Pesky’ Pasko on him,” Levitz said on Facebook. “Whether commenting on the latest comic he read, the events of the day in politics, creative theory, or just making conversation, Marty had one of the sharpest wits of our generation, and opinions…oy, did he have opinions. I learned from him, learned by arguing with him, and took joy in ample helpings with the hamburgers or Chinese food we shared over the decades.”

Pasko broke into the business in the early 1970s, writing for Warren Publishing before moving over to DC, where he became known for his work on Superman.

“Marty broke into DC in the early 70’s and worked with many of DC early architects such as Julie Schwartz and Len Wein, soon becoming the mainstay writer on Superman,” DC Publisher Jim Lee wrote on Twitter today. “But it was his Justice League of America stories along with Cary Bates’ run of the mid-1970’s which made this 10 year old comic book fan fall in love with the expansive DC multiverse and mythology. Those were the stories that inspired the issues that I drew decades later.”

During the 1970s, Pasko also wrote titles like Wonder Woman, DC Comics Presents, Metal Men, Kobra, Adventure Comics and a Doctor Fate back-up that appeared in the Flash that established Nabu as living in the helmet of the hero. In the 1980s, he would do his first work for Marvel, writing their licensed Star Trek title. He’d also go on to write the Star Trek comic strip and the DC Star Trek title when they obtained the license. He also was the first writer on DC’s Saga of the Swamp Thing with artist Tom Yeates, preceding Alan Moore’s run on the title. Other titles he wrote over the years included E-Man, Impulse, Marvel’s Gargoyles title and a Secret Six revival in Action Comics Weekly.

Writer and editor Mark Waid paid tribute to Pasko on Facebook, detailing a page Pasko wrote that Waid said made him what he is today:

Martin Pasko and Elliot S Maggin, I have said, were the two strongest influences on me as a writer. That’s because they had a gift for taking one-dimensional characters that I loved and bringing out their humanity, a gift for connecting me emotionally with their adventures. Marty, specifically, wrote one page of Action Comics #500, a life story of Superman, that when I was a teenager showed me the familiar in a brand new light. It was a scene where Superman was recounting the story of his dog, Krypto, and explaining how much it had meant to him as a boy and as the sole survivor of his race to finally have a friend at his side who took away his loneliness. A friend to share things with him, “things I desperately needed to share, or the pain of being alone would have been too great. Things like the feeling of the wind in your face in a way no one else on Earth can feel it, or the sound bullets make when they bounce off living flesh.”

Nothing else I have ever read has ever affected me in quite the way those words did. To me, they were the key to everything: the lesson that if you’re going to write about these characters well, you have to live inside them. You have to wear the suit and think hard about what your daily life, minute to minute, would be like if you could fly like Superman or had Daredevil’s radar senses. What moving objects would look like to you if you were fast enough, like the Flash, to live between the ticks of a second. How the subatomic world would appear to you if you were the Atom. How your hearing on land would be compromised as Aquaman because water conducts sound more efficiently. Whether or not heat vision carries with it the faint smell of ozone. Tom Peyer calls it “writing about the superhuman condition.” It’s how Marty taught me to write with that one page, and it became the absolute bedrock foundation of my style and, frankly, my career.

Here’s the page Waid is referencing:

Outside of comics, Pasko contributed to many television shows over the years, everything from Fantasy Island to Roseanne. On the animation front, he worked on Batman: The Animated Series, for which he won a Daytime Emmy, as well as animated adaptations of The Tick, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Cadillacs & Dinosaurs. And he also consulted on shows like Birds of Prey and Smallville, as he served as the liaison between DC Comics and Warner Bros. Television.

Many of his colleagues, friends and fans posted remembrances about him on social media:

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