Remembering Marvel & Buffy Scribe
By Billy Ingram
I suppose when you reach a certain age it’s natural to want to Google an old classmate or childhood friend to see what became of them. Every once in a while you’ll discover that person has passed on.
That was the case when I searched for Pierce Askegren who I met at Mendenhall Junior High during the single year he resided in Greensboro, NC. There weren’t a lot of kids collecting comics back in 1969 but Pierce was a collector and a sci-fi fan, big time.
He was a year older than myself and my friend John Hitchcock but we had a lot in common, a love fore drawing and writing. Pierce was very creative and extremely intelligent but awkward, like a lot of us geeks.
There was an incident at Mendenhall that I remember for its brutality, when our gym coach Mr. Loflin ordered him to run around the building for some dumb infraction or another, maybe skipping gym class for a doctor’s appointment, they were unbelievably strict. When Pierce rounded the building Pierce was having a full blown asthma attack.
As an example of how strict this middle school was, if you were caught with comic books on campus they would be confiscated and destroyed. Despite the fact that, during homeroom, comics were routinely auctioned off - though I can’t recall where that money went!
After his year in Greensboro, Pierce moved to Northern Virginia and we kept in touch, at least until I moved to California in 1979. Pierce graduated from James Madison University that year and began writing stories for Warren Publications (Creepy, Eerie) and was authoring paperback novelizations of various Marvel Universe heroes.
He even wrote my name in for a minor character in a horror tale in 'Creepy' magazine ("Hell's Playground", illustrated by Leo Duranona, Creepy #108). He was very encouraging to me as I attempted a career drawing and writing comics.
Pierce Askegren also penned reviews for Gary Groth’s 'The Comics Journal’ in that publications early years, the late-1970s.
It was a critical review of 'The Illustrated Harlan Ellison' in 1979 that drew the ire of the famous science fiction writer, leading to an extended interview for ‘The Comics Journal’ (issue number 53) where Ellison disemboweled Pierce in print, really tore into him. It was brutal. If you've ever read Harlan Ellison rant over some injustice or other you know what I mean, he takes insults to a whole new level. He was a true artist in that way.
By that point, I no longer had contact info for Pierce Askegren, I'm not sure how that public evisceration affected his mental health but he stopped contributing to that publication after the Ellison screed. Am I remembering that Pierce wrote a rebuttal and Ellison attacked again? I honestly don’t recall. Being the kind of guy who was bullied at school, I imagine Ellison's barbs stung Pierce pretty badly.
Now I know that, thanks to Wikipedia and elsewhere, growing up Pierce took part in his parents’ high-wire circus act until an accident ended this endeavor at age 11. Who knew? This would have been just a few years before we met.
After 1980 Pierce became a technical writer in Annandale, Virginia, returning to comics (of a sort) in the mid-1990s, writing prose short stories for anthologies starring Marvel Comics characters, beginning with "The Broken Land" in ‘The Ultimate Silver Surfer.’
A friend and collaborator wrote: "Pierce sent along a wonderful story for 'The Ultimate Silver Surfer.' I was impressed with his knowledge of obscure Marvel trivia, his excellent characterizations, and his fine writing style. I also got along with him personally, as dealing with him I quickly learned he had an amazing sense of humor."
Besides contributing to Marvel paperbacks he also wrote TV show novelizations for 'Alias' and 'Angel.'
Wiki: "Outside the realm of licensed properties, he wrote the "Inconstant Moon" trilogy of science-fiction novels, about corporate colonies on the moon: Human Resource (2005), Fall Girl (2005) and Exit Strategy. His last short story, "Try and Try Again," appeared in the anthology 'Time Twisters,' released posthumously in January 2007.. In 2010, his 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' novelization, After Image (2006), was rereleased, along with two other Buffy books.
On November 29, 2006, Askegren was found dead at age 51 after suffering a heart attack, “on an unreported date." Who knows what he might have accomplished had he hung around for a few more years.
A warm, funny, curious, knowledgable, loyal friend and talented writer, I’m sure Pierce Askegren is sorely missed by his friends and family. I am left forever richer due to our brief association.
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