By Jim Beard
With great sadness, Marvel Entertainment mourns the passing of Don Payne, a wildly talented writer and passionate producer who helped usher both Thor and the Fantastic Four onto the big screen. Don left us far too soon, but leaves behind an incredible legacy.
|"Thor," co-written by Don Payne|
A native of Wilmington, North Carolina, Don is perhaps best known for his brilliant work on TV’s longest running and beloved animated series, “The Simpsons.” He joined the series’ writing staff in 1998 and remained an invaluable part of their creative team until his passing last month. During Don’s many years on "The Simpsons," his inspired and hilarious work earned him numerous awards and fan recognition.
Don’s lifelong love of super heroes mixed with his gift for comedy thrust him into the world of feature films with his original creation, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend.” From there the self-proclaimed “comic book geek” transitioned from working on his own heroes to tackling two of Marvel’s most famous franchises, 2007’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” 2011’s “Thor,” and the forthcoming sequel, “Thor: The Dark World.” Don defined the tone of Thor, creating worlds and characters that, while always extraordinary, were flawed, funny, endearing and of course super.
"Don loved his family and he was a friend in the truest sense of the word, always looking out for those he cared for even when facing his own battles,” remarks Craig Kyle, Executive Producer of “Thor.” “Don was an extremely talented writer and had numerous awards to prove it, including four Emmys. But I think it was his ability to take what he loved and cherished in his own life and infuse those qualities into Marvel’s characters that we as fans should be eternally grateful for."
|"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," co-written by Don Payne|
Legendary comic writer and artist Walter Simonson met Payne in 2010 on the set of “Thor” as he and his wife, writer Louise Simonson, prepared to play Asgardians in a special banquet hall scene for the film.
“Don was seated on a stool, with his laptop in his knee,” Simonson remembers. “Every so often, [director] Ken Branagh would run over and ask for a new line for the scene that was being filmed. Don would type furiously for a moment or two, a line would be relayed to the actors, and filming would begin again. It was just like all the movies I’d seen about making movies.
“In between bouts of writing, we chatted with Don. He was a comics fan and knew a lot more about comics than we knew about movies. We shared stool seating in the dark, chatted quietly between takes when we could, and enjoyed watching him work on demand. He was funny, smart and committed, and his presence is one of our delightful memories from those three days on the set of ‘Thor.’
“I sent him a small head sketch of Thor as a thank you once we were back home, and received a very nice thank you note from him shortly thereafter. A gentleman and a scholar. It was a privilege for us to be on the set, and a pleasure to make Don’s acquaintance. Weezie and I are both deeply saddened at his passing. We’re glad that we were able to meet him and share a little time together.
“Thank you, Don. Godspeed.”