Days Past

[ 1 ] April 27, 2020

The death this week of Marty Pasko pulled my mind back to the late 1970s, and the years of our regular poker games. For about five years I sat in a Friday night game, most often hosted in Greenwich Village at the apartment that Marty and I shared for a while and I kept afterwards. The other most frequent players included Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Jim Shooter, Tom DeFalco, Denny O’Neil, Steve Mitchell, Al Milgrom, Jack Abel, Roger Slifer…with less frequent appearances by Roger McKenzie and his then wife Dickie, Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, or not-ready-for-even-penny-ante poker players like Jenette Kahn or Paul Kupperberg. (Kups once folded a royal flush in a game of jacks or better, not realizing it was more than enough for openers…I kept those cards, autographed by him, and returned them years later as a wedding gift.) The stakes were low, literally nickel and dime bets…comics didn’t pay that well, and it was a pretty young crowd. Nonetheless, for at least a year it was a major source of income for Roger, who was only getting about a comic a week of coloring work from Marvel at that stage (maybe $80 then?).

Jack, as the grown-up at the table, tried to keep us focused. This wasn’t tournament-style poker, Texas hold ‘em would show up, but games with wild cards were prevalent as we went round the table with dealer’s choice. Snacks were financed by a small draw from each pot, and not very lavishly served. The talk, unsurprisingly, was mostly comics…players would drop out for a hand to look at the latest pages the writers were dialoguing (Gene Colan’s TOMB OF DRACULA pages were a special treat…beautiful as his work looked under Tom Palmer’s inks, Gene was born to be an artist shot from his pencils).

When you think about the number of years folks at that table served as either editors, editors-in-chief, major writers or publishers, you realize the influence we had on each other…and on comics as a whole. I was on the younger and less experienced end of the group, but each of us had a distinctive knowledge and perspective.

Games would start after dinner, most of the gang going to a midtown coffee shop near the DC and Marvel offices, or BREW & BURGER where your soda got infinitely refilled. We’d go on until after midnight, usually giving up around 1 a.m. When I was hosting, if the game was going on with energy past that time, I’d usually fade out to my bedroom and go to sleep and tell the gang just to let themselves out when they were done.

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  1. Tim Berger says:

    Nice to hear the stories from the 70’s. I caught your web interview with Mark Evanier and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. I’ve been a DC and Legion fan since the 70’s and have always liked your work. Thanks for your contributions.

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