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Pasko in 2017 with Keith Giffen, via Facebook

Martin Pasko, (Marty to everyone who knew him), the Emmy Award winning co-writer of the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm animated film, has passed away according to numerous social media posts. No further details right now. He was 65.

Pasko had an immensely prolific and influential career, starting out as a letterhack and rising to become an editor, writer and screenwriter. At DC he was known for his work in the 70s on Superman, Dr. Fate and JLA. He was also the original writer of the Saga of the Swamp Thing revival and would be succeeded on the title by Alan Moore.

In the 80s Pasko went on to write for Marvel and began working in animation, and would later become the story editor on Batman: The Animated Series, an achievement which by itself would inscribe his name in history.

In recent years he consulted for various companies, including Cryptozoic and was active on social media with his always trenchant observations.

I worked with Marty at both Disney and DC and treasure our conversations – and the advice he gave me at several points in my career. Marty was a true original, a keen judge of talent and story,  just a one of a kind human being.

In 2017, his post about the role of editors got a lot of attention – and it’s quintessential Marty:

I’ve been following a lot of comments in other threads about “ageism” in comics, which I’m not sure is the only factor in why passing down knowledge of craft from one generation to the next is such a problem in the comics business today.

I think the main problem is, rather, the redefinition of the role of the editor, for which horror I blame Jenette Kahn, reducing the editor to the role of talent-wrangler rather than teacher. Paul Levitz would explain it, as he did to me, by saying that, after 1985 or so, there was so much more money to be made as a freelancer that no new arrival on the scene with any creative talent wanted to BE an editor. From which — now with no attribution to Paul — I conclude that that’s why we got stuck with all these clowns who didn’t know what the fuck they were doing, because they got promoted to editors from running the Xerox machine, on the basis of what Flavors Of The Week they had in their contact lists.

I, on the other hand, got to work with editors who had TOTAL CRED: people like Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Dennis O’Neil, Joe Orlando, Dick Giordano, and many others who had walked the walk. When THEY talked, I sat up and listened, and busted my ass to satisfy them … all the while confident that, if I fucked up, they could pick up their pencils and FIX it.

And, knowing that they COULD do that, I was secure that nothing I ever did for them would embarrass me in the finished product. That confidence — that liberating, encouraging confidence — inspired me to work harder for them, not just to seek the approval of talents I so deeply admired, but also to spare them the trouble of spending too much time having to edit my stuff.

These guys inspired me to swing for the fences. Not sure I ever succeeded, but it was one helluva gratifying experience trying. And that’s what a good editor — especially if they themselves have creative credibility — is all about: inspiring their Talent to try to bring their “A game.”

Please understand that this post is NOT intended as a blanket condemnation of all contemporary editors. There are many excellent editors today who haven’t worked as Creatives in this field, but who aspire to be Professional Editors, which is a craft in and of itself. They not only work very hard at it, but succeed more often than one might assume. And you can tell who they are just by looking at their results. Part of my point was simply that there aren’t enough of them, and we sorely need more.

His great friend (and former roommmate) Paul Levitz has a touching tribute.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I remember his letters in numerous comics of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Editors called him “Pesky Pasko.” His nitpicking (as I saw it then) sometimes infuriated me, but now I can see he often made valid points.

  2. From all the times I’ve talked to him on facebook, I never knew he lived a few blocks from me in Sherman Oaks, Ca until today.

    Martin also used to be roommates with Elliot S. Maggin.

    ~

    Coat

  3. I liked Marty a lot. He was gracious and funny and a good guy. I’m definitely going to miss him.

    As others have said, that’s not Keith giffen in the photo it’s Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.

  4. My memory of him was as the writer of the daily strip “The World Greatest Superheroes” with artists George Tuska and Vince Colletta. Rest earned.

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