Rest in peace, Peter B. Gillis

The co-creator of ‘Strikeforce: Morituri’ and writer of ‘Doctor Strange,’ ‘Defenders’ and ‘Micronauts’ has passed away at the age of 71.

Peter B. Gillis, the writer of Strikeforce Morituri, Shatter, Doctor Strange, The Defenders and more, has passed away. His brother Rob shared the news on Facebook, saying that Gillis passed away around 2 a.m. this morning after battling health issues for the last two years. He was 71.

“Many of you know my brother Peter has been struggling almost the the last two years with health issues,” his brother posted. “Getting better, getting much worse, getting much better, getting far worse. Yesterday he went from being ‘on the road back home’ in the morning to a quick decline and passed away around 2am this morning in the presence of some close friends who drove to Albany to be with him.”

Gillis began his career in comics in the late 1970s, with his first published story appearing in Captain America #224, which featured artwork by Mike Zeck. He went on to write issues of Marvel Two-In-One, Super-Villain Team-Up and What If…?, of which he wrote about 12 issues in the early 1980s, which gave him the chance to write everyone from the Fantastic Four to Conan the Barbarian.

He spent the early 1980s writing for both Marvel and First Comics, when it was a fledgling independent comics company. He wrote Warp, Mars and Starslayer, among other titles, and would go on to work with Mike Saenz on Shatter. That title is considered the first commercially published comic where all the art was created on a computer — which may not seem that impressive in 2024, but in the mid-1980s it was a big accomplishment. Saenz left the title after two issues, with Steve Erwin, Bob Dienethal and Rick Oliver coming on board to draw it in the traditional method, then scan it into a computer. Charlie Athanas took over as artist with issue #8, and he returned to creating it on the computer until it was canceled with issue #14.

At Marvel, Gillis moved from doing one-off issues to writing his own titles, starting first with a run on Defenders — or The New Defenders, as it was called at the time, and it featured a standing line-up that included Beast, Angel, Iceman, Moondragon and Valkyrie. When Marvel rebooted Micronauts in the mid-1980s, Gillis worked with Kelley Jones on the title, and eventually began writing Doctor Strange in the late 1980s. He kicked off an Eternals maxi-series for which he wrote eight issues, with Walt Simonson writing the final four, but probably his biggest contribution at Marvel was outside the Marvel Universe — Strikeforce Morituri.

Gillis and artist Brent Anderson created the title, which took place in its own universe. The science fiction comic featured an Earth that was at war with an alien race called the Horde, and to help fight them off, volunteers would be given super powers that would eventually kill them. The subtitle of the comic was “We who are about to die,” which was a take on the Latin phrase “Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant,” or “Hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute you.” It was a particularly brutal series that went through several generations of heroes who would regularly die off and be replaced by new ones. Gillis was said to be working on a movie adaptation back in 2011, which followed an announcement by the Sci Fi Channel in 2003 for a TV adaptation, but neither ever came to fruition.

Gillis continued to write for Marvel after leaving Strikeforce: Morituri with its 20th issue, writing more Doctor Strange as well as a Black Panther miniseries drawn by Denys Cowan that featured a story about Apartheid. He’d also start working for DC in the late 1980s, on titles like Tailgunner Jo and the TSR title Gammarauders, which tied into their RPG Gamma World.

Gillis was largely absent from comics from about 1992 to 2010, when he’d return to write an adaptation of The Last Unicorn #1–6 at IDW.

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