The Comics Industry Pays Tribute To Denny O’Neil

The Comics Industry Pays Tribute To Denny O’Neil

Professionals Remember A True Original

The sad news came out yesterday that legendary comics writer and editor Denny O’Neil has just died and here’s a few tributes from Twitter and Facebook from a number of professionals…

From Bill Sienkiewicz on Facebook
The great Denny O’neil has passed away.
Late last night. Quitely, peacefully, at home, with home health care nurse holding his hand.
He was a kind man with an acerbic edge, a giving soul, wickedly funny, and an incredibly talented writer who penned some of the greatest comic stories ever told.
He was also my first comic book editor on Moon Knight, which, as a fan of his work, was intimidating as hell. He made me up my game. More, he took time out of work life to become a friend, one who generously gave of his personal time to talk from experience and of demons, to a young farm kid from New Jersey about the path of self-destruction farm kid was heading down because of farm kid’s drinking. Not many folks will step up like that. Denny did, and I will be forever grateful.
He helped make me a better professional, and better artist and storyteller, a better person, and to take what i do very seriously as a responsibility. Of course, in doing so, he also helped create a monster who butted heads with him about any number of creative issues on MK, but in the end , he was a dear friend, a wonderful colleague and mentor. I learned so very much from him.
You will be missed, my friend. Rest in Peace.

Walter Simonson put this up on Facebook
Denny O’Neil has taken the last flight out via Power Ring. I’ve known Denny since shortly after I got into comics professionally, although I knew his work before that as comics reader. I think we only worked together once, early in my career. He was my editor. After I finished working on Manhunter, I did some oddball/one-off jobs. Then, out of the blue, Denny asked if I’d be interested in doing layouts for Wallace Wood to do finishes over on a book called Hercules Unbound. I already knew Woody slightly from hanging out at Continuity Associates. And in any case, Woody was really a legend, a brilliant artist early in his career. At that point, I’d never done layouts for anyone to ink; I’d always inked my own work. But this was Wallace Wood! I jumped at the chance. I was thrilled to do the armature drawing for Woody to polish off. And this meant that in hindsight years down the road, I would appreciate more than ever that Denny gave me the chance to check off two names on my bucket list. 1. Got to work with Wallace Wood. 2. Got to work with Dennis O’Neil. I’ll always be grateful. Thanks for everything, Denny. I sure hope that you and Marifran are together again. Godspeed, pal.

(And an update – I’d completely forgotten that even earlier in my career, I had worked on Sword of Sorcery for DC, the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, a book that Denny wrote. I co-penciled issue 3 with Howard Victor Chaykin​, penciled and inked a short Young Fafhrd story in issue 4, and penciled and inked the lead story in the 5th and final issue. So that’s another big check on the bucket list. 🙂 )

Paul Levitz stuck his tribute up to O’Neil yesterday too

Denny’s gone, brought social conscience to comics. He was a journalist at heart, and knew his obit would have Batman in the lede, but I think he’d have been prouder of this way of looking at his life. Not that he was the first, much less the only one, but damn it he was the loudest. Not personally, he wasn’t a shouter. But the stories he told and edited screamed for justice for the causes that mattered to him. From GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW to SEDUCTION OF THE GUN, and in subtle moments as well as the loud ones, he set the standard for giving a damn.

He was a teacher, maybe the best of his generation teaching writing and editing in comics. He taught me copy editing, and how to parse my dialogue for comics to be effective. His disciples filled the field.

He was the most economical of writers, communicating with his collaborators in the briefest of art directions but getting great work from them, offering tight dialogue that was precisely on point.

He was a philosopher, searching for ways to make the world better…even exploring how a new religion might be necessary for a time when it was no longer about man mastering the Earth, but learning to live in harmony with it.

And having buried the lede, he made Batman what he is, writing the stories and editing others that set the tone for the post-camp Dark Knight on through everything that Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan leaned on.

Denny got a second lease on life from his marriage to MariFran, and they shared amazing years until her passing. Once she was gone, it was only a matter of time until he followed.

This is the second of my poker buddies to cash in their chips in about a month. He lived a full life, was shocked at the recognition he achieved, and leaves behind his son Larry, with whom he shared many personal and professional joys.

But most of all, and ever so relevant at a moment like this, he taught us that we could…no, we should…damn it, we must use our podiums as writers, editors and teachers to push the world to become a better, more just place.

Finally his regular collaborator and friend Neal Adams put up a lengthy tribute to him on 13th Dimension Comics

My other creator half has finished his work and now, has left us.

Everyone asks, “Did we work closely together?”

No.

“Were we friends?”

No.

We didn’t have to be either. We worked together… apart, and he was totally professional. I trusted him to do the best damn job he could do, and he never let me down.

But Denny O’Neil meant more to me than that or that others could understand.

Many comic book writers come from being comic book fans. Not Denny. Denny was a news writer often on the night beat. His eyes saw reality and he wrote that into his work.

I come from the real world.

Sure we both read comic books, but superheroes are far from the real world. They are fantasy, mostly.

Look at the work we did. Green Arrow, Batman… no “superheroes”, but heroes. Green Lantern, a superhero but like Stan Lee’s characters… flawed. He’s a test pilot… a real-life hero. Would you test a jet? I wouldn’t.

So, Denny wrote comics of characters that emerged from reality.

That being so, why would I need to ever question such a writer? And I never did.

Denny made me shine because he gave me reality in a fantasy genre.

Were we alike?

No, Denny was a passionate, Irish writer. I am a Sasquatch, bumbling around, crashing through walls and upsetting every applecart in the hall.

Were we friends?

In our way… the best of friends. Professional friends.

A story:

Years ago, Denny had a heart attack in a restaurant. It shook him. We talked… then… a lot, about the concept that he must change many things in his life. I promised him if he resolved to make changes he would live a long, happy life.

He changed.

He married a wonderful woman. An old flame who watched over the new Denny. It was good.

Then, as life would have it, she died. And now… would he still be alive if she didn’t die?

Life doesn’t have easy answers. For me, dammit, I’m glad he was there to help me do the work, by doing his half.

He changed comics for the better.

He was a massive figure in comics and his legacy will continue for many decades to come.

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