Goodbye To The Man Who Cast A Huge Shadow Over Comics
Former DC and Marvel mainstay Dennis “Denny” O’Neil just passed away last night. Here Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman looks at his legacy…
One of the key figures of the Bronze Age of comics and beyond, Denny O’Neil brought about pivotal changes upon his arrival at DC in the late 1960s. His refitting of both lead heroes in the socially conscious series Green Lantern / Green Arrow in 1970 proved to be era-defining and a marked departure for the publisher that fandom considered to be old-guard and redundant by that point.
With artist partner Neal Adams, O’Neill also completely revamped Batman for modern readers, returning him to his Golden Age roots as a driven, gothic “creature of the night” that was so definitive it still casts a shadow to this day.
The process began in late 1969 in Detective Comics 395’s Secret of the Waiting Graves, and reached ever-greater heights as he and Adams introduced arch-villain Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman 232, along with reviving classic Batman nemesis Two Face in issue 234 of the title. His take on the Joker as a sadistic, mercurial psychopath in Batman 251 was a watershed moment in comic history and the template for all future iterations of the character.
O’Neill also went on to script issues of a title brimming with period atmosphere in The Shadow with artist Mike Kaluta. On his return to Marvel in 1980 O’Neill turned his hand to many titles while editing Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil, a series that both benefitted considerably from O’Neill’s experience which was also clearly influenced by his DC work. In the latter half of his career O’Neill returned to DC as editor of the publisher’s Batman line, a position he held for many years.
A cornerstone of the industry throughout his career, O’Neill was candid about his cavalier entrée into the business, but quickly became renowned as someone who took the medium very seriously, and understood its potential and uniqueness in pop culture. As an editor he knew what was required by creators to reach the standards he demanded, and how to nurture them, while as a writer his legacy is manifest and as important and influential as any of his contemporaries. A beloved and prolific figure in the industry who also spent time teaching and publishing guides for comic writing, he leaves behind a tremendous body of work, much of which is timeless. He will be hugely missed. Everyone here at Tripwire offer our condolences to his friends and family.
Here’s a few quotes from some of his work and quotes from himself
“As though we were made for each other… Beauty and the Beast. Of course, if anyone else calls you beast, I’ll rip their lungs out.”― Dennis O’Neil
“A worthy editor has one primary directive: to make the creative people look good. To do this, he must sometimes demand further work. He doesn’t do it casually. Remember, more work for you means more work for him, too. If”
― Dennis O’Neil, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics
“Make me laugh. Make me cry. Tell me my place in the world. Lift me out of my skin and place me in another. Show me places I have never visited and carry me to the ends of time and space. Give my demons names and help me to confront them. Demonstrate for me possibilities I’ve never thought of and present me with heroes who will give me courage and hope. Ease my sorrows and increase my joy. Teach me compassion. Entertain and enchant and enlighten me. Tell me a story.”
― Dennis O’Neil
“The anomaly is that, as a publishing venture, comics are not doing very well. As a venture that supplies other media, they’re incredible.”― Dennis O’Neil