I think I first met Marty Pasko as the ubiquitous letter hack, nicknamed Pesky Pasko by editor Julie Schwartz. He was a familiar name to me for some time and then suddenly, he was compiling Julie’s letter pages. I still recall his tender editorial reply to the sister of one reader, James T. McCoy, who wrote in to share he had passed away.
When I began hanging out at the Second Sunday events Phil Seuling ran between New York Comic Cons, I got to befriend many a Big Name Fan and somehow met Marty in the flesh. When he and Paul Levitz shared an apartment in Greenwich Village, I would visit. I distinctly recall one afternoon, Marty was hunched over the desk by the window, pages of Walt Simonson’s art before him. He was tweaking dialogue to a Metal Men script and bounced ideas off me just for feedback. That was probably my first real exposure to the craft of actually creating a comic book story.
We were friendly enough that when he left for California, we stayed in touch. Then suddenly, I was editing Comics Scene and Howard Cruse had decided he was done writing his Loose Cruse column. I decided I liked have a regular columnist and hit upon Marty. He entitled it Mise en Scene, a play on the French term for the arrangement of scenery and stage properties in a play.
Alas, his first column arrived in time for the final issue of the magazine.
Then suddenly, Marty was back to writing for comics as a writer’s strike kept him away from Hollywood. Mike Gold wisely coaxed him back to DC as we were launching Action Comics Weekly, having Marty write Blackhawk’s latest adventures, following on the heels of Howard Chaykin’s prestige miniseries. And then Dick Giordano had Marty reboot the Secret Six for the title. Since Dick was running the company, we all knew he’d have to hand it off, but I didn’t expect to be the receiver. Then again, it reunited me with Marty which was a delight as we worked on the series.
Knowing his affection for Star Trek, I also had the delight to invite Marty to write a fill-in issue for me. FOr the first time, he was unfettered, his work on the comic strip and the Marvel version hampered by various restrictions. He did a fine job, of course, aided with terrific GrayMorrow art, and it sat waiting until I was told the series was ending as contract negotiations for a renewal stalled. I scheduled it as the final issue, with a terrific Jerome Moore cover, and it resonated with the fans.
Flashforward a few years, Marty is now back at DC, arriving as a Group Editor for Special Project which grew and contracted over time. While I didn’t work for him, it was great having him around on a daily basis leading to weekly lunches with Paul Kupperberg, whose tribute is well worth reading, Brian Augustyn, and others. There was some socializing with Marty and his then-wife Judith, not nearly enough. I loved mocking him for his carefully printed To Do lists which always started with “Feed cat”.
I separated from DC in 2006 and Marty left soon after, taking advantage of being flown out as a guest at San Diego Comic-Con to move west once more. We stayed in sporadic touch and in 2008 or so, we found ourselves both contracted to write encyclopedias. I was deep into The Essential Batman Encyclopedia, setting the tone and template for Phil Jimenez’s Wonder Woman and Marty’s Superman. However, this schedule did not work for Marty, who was mired in research and perfectionism. He fell behind and after writing maybe 25% of the book, asked for help. I stepped in and we got it done on schedule.
Over time, we talked about other projects, even trying to launch a magazine at a time no one wanted to buy magazines anymore. We’d exchange the occasional email with Marty always promising a catch-up call and then months would go by. And this became our routine, a streak of years broken only by a weekend’s reunion at Terrificon in 2017, which was an utter delight.
Then the word spread that he was gone. It was a peaceful passing but one left with tremendous unfulfilled promise.
Marty was voluble, who lusted after life in all its sensuous pleasures, from food to drink and more. He loved word play, he loved to write, and if his efforts weren’t good enough, you can imagine what he thought of today’s pop culture. His rants on Facebook were smart, snarky, and funny.
I will miss my friend.