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05/13 - Martin Pasko Dies At Age 65

Writer Martin Pasko has passed away at the age of 65. While well-known for his work with DC, Pasko worked on some Daredevil-related projects in his career.

Under his pseudonym Kyle Christopher, Pasko wrote a DD story in the MARVEL SUPERHEROES book edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, and also drafted a proposal for a Daredevil animated show for Ruby-Spears that ultimately did not get picked up.

In 2013, I received an email from Pasko via my site, and he was wondering if I'd be interested in bidding on his animated proposal script. Guess who won that auction?

I asked Mr. Pasko if he'd like to do an interview about his story in the MARVEL SUPERHEROES book and the proposal and he said he could try to fit it in. So I sent him a question every few days... and unfortunately he became very busy and couldn't finish the interview.

I went looking through my old emails and found the questions and answers from 2013. Mr. Pasko had some really in-depth answers about Daredevil and I wanted to share.

From Jan/Feb 2013:

Kuljit Mithra: In interviews, current DAREDEVIL writer Mark Waid has constantly referred to your "Blind Justice" story in THE MARVEL SUPER-HEROES book as an influence for his writing on the title. He's even got a character named after you, Dr. Elliot Pasko. You focused quite a bit on DD's "super senses" in the story, and from reading your animation outline and script (which incidentally were written around the same time as that story), I can see DD's senses were an important aspect of the character that you wanted to explore. Is that THE thing about Daredevil that has always fascinated you?

Martin Pasko: Absolutely. In a sense, that was all that made DD genuinely unique when I first discovered the character -- remember, Elektra and all the martial arts grace notes that came later were, at that point, just a glimmer in Frank Miller's eye -- actually, I think Frank Miller was still a glimmer in someone's eye. But I digress.

Yeah, the super senses was not just "an import aspect" of the character; they were the character. The idea that -- as I think I put it in that novella -- everyone thinks that Matt Murdock is "less than" conventionally functional when he's so "much more than" was the conceit that made DD seem so cool to me when I was a little kid and an uncle who knew that I was into comics brought me this thing called Daredevil that I'd never heard of. Of course, the reason I read it immediately -- this was one of the first ten issues but I don't remember which, because I don't have it today; I reread it so many times, in those days before I started collecting and putting stuff in plastic -- that it fell apart! -- but I remember he was still in the yellow, black and red costume -- what got my attention immediately was that stunning Wally Wood art. I'd been reading MAD for a few years by then, and even though Woody was no longer contributing to the magazine at that point, I was blown away by his caricature and his ability to "spec" other cartoonist's styles, that I saw in the MAD paperback reprints. But I had no idea he could do straight heroic comics (this was a few years before the Tower T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents stuff), so I was, like, "Whoah."

Then, when I got into it, and saw that Matt Murdock was blind but all his other senses were heightened, I was hooked. Then, after Woody left, I gradually drifted away a bit -- Mom didn't like me reading too many comics during the school year, LOL -- till that Gene Colan sequence in '68 with The Jester and that photo collage cover with them battling it out atop the Statue of Liberty -- and then I was hooked all over again, and stayed with it through the rest of Colan's run and a bit longer. I think Rich Buckler was doing it when I finally decided I couldn't afford the cover price, and the only titles I read were the ones that by then I was getting for free as a writer for DC. But that was "my" Daredevil.

When Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, the editors of that paperback, offered me the chance to do the Daredevil novella, I jumped at it because of the formal challenge. It was a simple idea I had about how to approach it, but one that I had no idea would later turn out to be so well remembered so many years later. To do it differently from the other prose attempts at the character that I'd read, wherein the narrative voice stood outside the character, looking on -- what's known in prose as a third-person omniscient point of view -- I said to myself, to make this somewhat special, and set a helluva challenge for myself, I'll do it from a third-person limited point of view, which means you write as if it were in the first person, but just say "he" when you would otherwise say "I."

I decided to do it all from Murdock's point of view precisely because it wasn't a "view" at all. So every time I would imagine what he was seeing, I had to ask myself how he saw it -- and that led to intricate descriptions of how this man who could not see navigated the everyday world: how did he pick out his clothes? Well, could he feel the texture and color? How did he know when to get up to go to work if the alarm clock didn't go off and he couldn't see the sunlight? Well, with heightened senses he could feel the warmth...and on. And the further I worked through the draft, the more convinced I became that I was really "onto something": I realized that precisely because it wasn't a comic book -- precisely because I couldn't
express in visual terms what Matt saw-but-didn't-see-in-the-conventional-sense -- and couldn't afford to get lazy and just say, "Let the artist figure it out" -- I was able to suggest what it was like to be Matt Murdock in a way the comics couldn't.

It was an ironic creative discovery, too, in that I decided that it was actually the absence of visuals that made the character (for me, at least) more compelling in prose than in a visual medium. I remember years later, when I was working at Marvel Productions, I was given a copy of Stirling Silliphant's screenplay for the DD movie that was then in development at Warner Bros., and asked what I thought of it. And I remember telling them how much of a disappointment I thought it was -- this was, after all, Stirling Effin' Silliphant, the great screenwriter who'd written In The Heat Of The Night -- but he got so hung up in describing what the "radar" looked like in the POV shots that it was all visual gimmickry and very little of the human being -- it played kind of like an "organic" Six Million Dollar Man. All that was missing was the LED readout of co-ordinates and stuff super-ed on the bottom of the screen.

The other element of the character that, as a writer, I could really sink my teeth into, was the inner conflict, which I think Stan Lee meant to explore in his early scripts but some of the subsequent writers lost sight of. But not even Stan was that much into the super hero as a tragic figure -- he only "went there" when something majorly traumatic happened, like Peter Parker's grief when Uncle Ben died -- but it wasn't like Stan to write a character who was always fighting off being morose and depressed, because Stan was and is a firm believer in keeping it light in the name of fun, as if there were nothing entertaining in watching a character you admire process real, everyday emotional pain. For all the bombast about Marvel introducing angst to comics, quite frankly, I think it was left to other, later, more skillful writers than Stan to genuinely, honestly, and movingly bring that quality to the characters, like what Marc DeMatteis did with Spider-Man in the '90s.

But what Stan instinctively built into DD was a better twist on the as-Clark-Kent-he's-a-cowardly-wimp-but-as-Superman-he's-a-hero trope, because you genuinely felt sorry for Matt for the act he was forced to play, because -- again, as I think I put it in the novella -- he really was, in fact, blind. And what made his being trapped inside that act he had to play was that other people merely disdained and ridiculed Clark Kent, but other people -- his friends, confidantes, even his lovers -- pitied Murdock, which he hated, and for all their good intentions, that pity kept them irrevocably beyond human connection with him. So he was like Tantalus in Greek mythology -- always reaching out, but always stymied or rebuffed, denied that connection by the role he had to play, by the path he had chosen in order to win his father's approval.

One more comment: That novella was the first attempt at prose I'd made since Creative Writing 101 in college, and I was real insecure about it -- especially since my two best friends at the time had been to the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop in Ann Arbor and had had guys like Harlan Ellison and Bob Silverberg critiquing their work, and, around that time, I'd let them read some of my clumsy, demented fiction fragments, and they were merciless in their savaging of them (but appropriately so). So, after I had a few pages, I timidly asked Denny O'Neil to take a read, because he was the only comics writer I knew and admired who was moving effortlessly back and forth between comics and prose. A day later, he handed it back to me and said only two sentences: "I know what you're doing, and you had to make that choice. Your instincts are good." I was on Cloud Nine for a week. I haven't been following Mark's remarks in interviews, but I'm deeply impressed by what I've seen of the book -- but, then, I'm an unabashed Waid fan. Here, I'm hearing about his mention of me for the first time -- though I couldn't miss "Elliot Pasko," of course -- and I must say, to hear that Mark is mentioning that novella in interviews is as big a rush as Denny's comment was lo those many years ago. And so...a special thank-you and shout-out to Mark, OK?

Mithra: My first Daredevil comics were those Wood stories you're talking about. It was a black and white reprint book which had Fellowship of Fear and then the Stilt-Man Cometh!
But I read those in 1984, not as they came out. I only started collecting monthly with issue #219, which happened to be Miller's sort-of return to the comic.

Pasko: Originally, I had ambitions to write serious, literary prose, and the world was a different place then in terms of acceptance of comics as a "legitimate" form. You have to remember, this was before anybody even knew the term "graphic novel," and the commonplace of established fiction writers dabbling in comics, as they have for years now for imprints like Vertigo, was still years away. When Len and Marv offered me the gig, I was running into Steve Englehart, who was telling every writer he knew this horror story about how he couldn't get fiction editors to even read his novel manuscript because he had a rep as a comic book writer. He said that one of them even told him -- and I'll remember this ver batim till the day I die: "I know how you comic book writers write -- very superficially."

So the last thing I wanted was for my first published piece of prose, that would be about a comic book character, to go out under my real name, so I used the pseudonym I'd been using when I was heavily rewritten on other stuff and wanted to repudiate it. The ironic thing was that I changed my mind after it started turning out well, and submitted it under my own name, as Len and Marv had urged me to do. But by then it wasn't up to us anymore: Stan Lee or Jim Shooter or someone at Marvel decided -- or so I was told -- that they didn't want the name of a writer so closely associated with DC to appear on the book, so I was stuck with "Kyle Christopher."

Thanks Mr. Pasko. His animated series proposal was great, it had a lot of the swashbuckler elements of the character. It is on my list for the LOST TALES section of my site. Hopefully I can write a summary of it soon.

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