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Rest in peace, Rachel Pollack

The Doom Patrol writer, science-fiction author, and co-creator of The Vertigo Tarot, has died at 77

Rachel Pollack
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Rachel Pollack, acclaimed author and writer of Doom Patrol, New Gods, and Time Breakers for DC in the 1990s, has died. She was 77.

Pollack’s career started in 1971 with the publication of her first short story, Pandora’s Bust. She would continue to sell short fiction throughout the next two decades, with her first full-length novel, Golden Vanity, published in 1980. She wouldn’t break into comics until 1993, when she took over the Doom Patrol series from writer Grant Morrison to coincide with the launch of DC’s Vertigo imprint.

As Doom Patrol writer, Pollack arguably took the lead from Morrison’s reimagining of the team and went to destinations and directions Morrison could only have dreamt of at the time. Pollack’s take on the team was rooted in a reality and a sexuality that at the time felt both fresh and almost shocking to longterm readers of the book, and to this day stands alone in its frankness, honesty, and approach towards subjects that are still rarely talked about in pop culture as a whole, never mind the arena of superhero comics. (Notably, Pollack’s Doom Patrol introduced the first transgender superhero from a Big Two publisher, Coagulate, in 1993.)

Unfairly maligned at the time — and canceled just two years into her run, despite the presence of artists like Richard Case and Ted McKeever on the series — Pollack's Doom Patrol run now, thankfully, is recognized for the groundbreaking work that it is.

It wasn’t only Pollack's work for DC at the time that stood out; she also contributed to a couple of other Vertigo projects — Vertigo Visions: Brother Power the Geek and Vertigo Visions: Tomahawk, two reboots of longstanding DC properties — as well as the five-issue miniseries Time Breakers, for the short-lived science fiction imprint Helix. With her Doom Patrol editor Tom Peyer, she also wrote the first 11 issues of a New Gods revival that, to this day, stands as one of the most underrated and successful attempts to follow Jack Kirby’s ambition and intent for the Fourth World, even as it uses a voice and attitude all its own. (It’s on DC Universe Infinite, and it’s well worth your time.)

In addition to Rachel Pollack's comic book and science fiction prose writing, she was also recognized as a leading expert in the Tarot, having written multiple non-fiction books on the subject — including 1985’s Salvador Dali’s Tarot, 1990’s Haindl Tarot, and 1995’s The Vertigo Tarot, designed and illustrated by Dave McKean — and having taught on the subject for a number of years.

In a 2022 interview, Pollack said that deciding to embrace strangeness and magic even with no guarantee of success of happiness is “one of the big themes” of her work, adding, “That, along with the idea of trusting in yourself and trusting in the mystery and the story. And not having to have everything explained and neatly filed away.”

Pollack had required constant medical care since the summer of 2022; Neil Gaiman had publicly signaled that she was coming to the end of her life last month. She is survived by her wife Zoe and a legion of friends and loved ones.