Dennis O'Neil

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Dennis O'Neil (2009)

Dennis "Denny" O'Neil (born May 3, 1939 in St. Louis , Mississippi ; † June 11, 2020 in Nyack , New York ) was an American writer , comic book writer and editor. He was best known for writing numerous Batman comics in the 1970s and editor of Batman comics in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

Life and activity

O'Neil came from a Catholic family in St. Louis. He graduated from St. Louis University and earned degrees in English literature, creative writing, and philosophy. After graduating, O'Neil joined the US Navy . As a sailor, he took part in the American naval blockade that the American government imposed on the island during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

After retiring from the Navy, O'Neil initially worked occasionally as a columnist for a newspaper in Fort Girardeau, Mississippi. O'Neil's columns drew the attention of the writer Roy Thomas , who was then working as an author at Marvel Comics . Thomas put O'Neil on a recruitment test at Marvel Comics. O'Neil's performance on this text impressed then-Marvel Editor and Chief Writer Stan Lee , allowing Thomas to hire O'Neil as the new writer for Doctor Strange , which focuses on the adventures of a powerful modern magician.

Under the pseudonym Sergius O'Shaugnessy, O'Neil worked briefly at Charlton Comics in the late 1960s , where he met Dick Giordano . After the bankruptcy of Charlton Comics, O'Neil moved to DC Comics . The series and characters published by DC were widely considered socially conformist, well-behaved and tame at the time. In particular, the dramatic social changes and conflicts in the United States of the 1960s (race riots, women's movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, a growing trend towards questioning social conditions and structures as well as the actions of political authorities) were reflected in the comics published by DC at the time hardly reflected at all.

At DC, O'Neil initially wrote for the series Wonder Woman and Justice League of America . In addition, he created a new figure with the "crazy" vigilante creeper (meaning "sneak, scary guy"), which turned out to be a permanent addition to the figure inventory of the DC universe: behind him is the journalist Jack Ryder, who is under the Influence of a miraculous poison repeatedly transformed into a superhumanly strong and acrobatic, but at the same time also insane (but essentially good-natured), constantly crazy laughing, creature with yellow skin and green hair who experiences all kinds of shrill adventures.

O'Neil, who was a lifelong professor of leftist views, consistently used his position as the writer (and later editor) of some of the most widely read American comic strips since the late 1960s to translate what he regarded as ills of the real world through the To thematize and denounce the medium of the comics he oversees. Conservatist author Chuck Dixon , who wrote comics about the superhero Batman for more than a decade as the author of O'Neil as editor from the early 1990s to the early 2000s, mocked, from the right angle, 2016 about O'Neil, that this is "probably the most famous liberal of the American comic industry" ( "perhaps comicdoms most famous bleeding heart liberal" ; the term bleeding heart liberal is loaded with the value judgment in the language of the American conservatives that that part of the Left, who is so-called, is filled with excessive and misplaced empathy for those parts of society who allegedly wrongly claim to be disadvantaged and oppressed) but added that he and the O'Neil felt that they were sociable and undoctrinal during their collaboration " we always got along wonderfully" ( "we never got along anything but famously" ).

As the author of the anthology series The Brave and the Bold , O'Neil took it upon himself to modernize the appearance and character of the superhero, armed with a bow and arrow, visually and characteristically: While this one was essentially a generic one in the original version Robin Hood's imitation had been without any notable individual personality traits, O'Neil gave him a contoured personality for the first time: while the old Green Arrow was a clean-shaven interchangeable superhero with no opinions, qualities or political convictions to speak of, O'Neil made him one passionate supporters of leftist ideas (questioning authorities and power structures, rejection of the military, police violence, nuclear weapons, conviction that a greater degree of social justice must be achieved), who - an addition to the hippie movement of the 1960s - has a long beard let and almost more than against criminals against fought social injustices.

The Green Arrow figure he reworked also made O'Neil one of two protagonists of one of his most powerful works: Together with the draftsman Neal Adams, O'Neil paired Green Arrow and the figure of the space policeman Green Lantern, who was armed with a magic ring who experienced in the series Green Lantern (which has now been renamed Green Lantern / Green Arrow ) in a more than a year storyline "Green Lantern / Green Arrow: Hard Traveling Heroes" adventures that turned out to be an adventure for the time revolutionary way differentiated from the then popular superhero stories. "Hard Traveling Heroes" sends the two heroes on a self-discovery journey through the United States in the early 1970s. In their endeavor to get to know the "real America", the heroes in the story deal less with criminals and super villains, but rather encounter complex problems such as racial discrimination, opiate addiction, social impoverishment, hatred, bigotry and corruption. It turns out that these problems cannot be solved in the way that was common for superhero comics until then, that some fiends are given a few neat punches (after which everything turns out for the better). Even the seemingly omnipotent magic ring of Green Lantern is utterly useless in attempts to deal with these phenomena. The press hailed the series at the time as a powerful display of grievances in the real world, raising awareness of the ugly sides of contemporary America. O'Neil and Adam's work was also assessed as evidence of the maturation of the comic medium: Critics recognized the "Hard Traveling Heroes" as proof that comics need not necessarily be limited to stories tailored exclusively for children with less demanding content , which exhausts itself in entertaining entertainment without any depth, but that it is also possible to present actions and ideas in comics that convey entertainment and even food for thought, also suitable for adolescents and adults.

His main work in the 1970s was the modernization of the character of the superhero and crime fighter Batman, whose modern, up to the present day interpretation O'Neil developed (see the corresponding subsection).

For Marvel Comics, O'Neil wrote for the Iron Man series for a long time in the 1970s . In particular, he dealt with his own serious alcohol problems in the 1970s, when the playboy, entrepreneur and engineer Tony Stark, who hides himself behind the superhero Iron Man wearing modern high-tech armor, was plagued by addiction problems in the storyline "Demon in the Bottle" Wreck that is only slowly finding its way back to life.

In the early 1980s, O'Neil had an extended run for Marvel Comics as the writer of the Daredevil series about the blind lawyer Matt Murdock, who, despite his disability, uses a radar sense to fight crime at night. He was supported as a draftsman by the young artist Frank Miller , whose career he promoted from then on. So O'Neil Miller got the job of his successor as the writer of Daredevil when he left the series. And in the mid-1980s, O'Neil brought Miller to DC Comics, where Miller presented the O'Neil-edited miniseries The Dark Knight Returns (1986), a future dystopian version of the Batman myth that reflects 1980s America , as well as with the four-part series "Batman. Year One" (Batman # 404-407), also edited by O'Neil, produced artistically and commercially extremely successful works.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, in addition to his work as a comic book writer, O'Neil also wrote episodes for television cartoon series such as GI. Joe and Batman. The Animated Series and for series with real actors such as Superboy . In the early 1980s, he was also involved in the conception of the animated series Transformers about two warring factions of alien robots who can transform themselves into vehicles and airplanes, mainly through the series of action figures flanking the cartoons - one of the big seller of the 1980s - became extremely successful. Among other things, he was the one who gave the well-known leader of the "good" robot faction, the Autobots, the name "Optimus Prime".

Another series written for the O'Neil editions was the series about the pulp hero The Shadow (artist: Mike Kaluta).

At the end of the 1980s, O'Neil wrote the new edition of almost 30 issues of the series originally published by Charlton Comics and now taken over by DC Comics, about the trench coat-wearing "faceless" mystery hunter The Question , which was artistically implemented by Denys Cowan .

In the 1990s, O'Neil taught at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan alongside his work for DC Comics .

O'Neil received various awards for his work, such as the Shazam Award for "Best Individual Story" for "No Evil Shall Escape My Sight" in Green Lantern # 76 (with Neal Adams), for the "Best Writer" (Dramatic Division) in the 1970s for series like Green Lantern , Batman , Superman , etc. a. as well as for the "Best Individual Story" for "Snowbirds Don't Fly" in Green Lantern # 85 1971.

Dennis O'Neil died in June 2020 at the age of 81.

Working on Batman (1969 to 2008)

O'Neil's best-known and most powerful work, however, was ultimately the general overhaul of the superhero Batman, also realized together with Neal Adams as artistic partner: After Batman himself in the 1950s and 1960s from an eerie creature of the night, which under cover of darkness was more threatening Avengers hunted down criminals, had developed into a harmless and even humorous figure who went on child-friendly tame adventures, O'Neil and Adams led her back to her origins of the late 1930s and early 1940s from 1970 (and even went over significantly these out), by giving the Batman stories a much darker look and a much darker content and a grimmer and more adult style than in previous decades. Instead of an affable contemporary who mostly acts during the day, who goes through life carefree and cheerful and grapples with adversaries who would fit into the entertainment program of a children's birthday party, they made Batman a broken and traumatized figure who is driven by inner demons that force him to wage a tough private war against dangerous criminals at night. To this end, Batman's most famous adversaries, such as the Joker, the Penguin or Scarerow ("the scarecrow"), who had been amusing and harmless shooting gallery figures in the 1950s and 1960s, were broken down to their foundations by O'Neil and Adams and then reinterpreted as dangerous psychopaths and the insane (Joker, Scarecrow) or as clever master criminals (Penguin). The versions of these characters known to this day - adapted in numerous television series, films and video games - were essentially created by O'Neil and Adams in the early 1970s. They also brought back the villain Two-Face , which has not been used since the 1940s , and reinterpreted him as a much darker figure - a murderous mental patient with criminal genius, guided by obsessional neuroses and painful obsessions - than in the original version. They also added a new villain to Batman's villain gallery with the charismatic cult leader and terrorist Ra's al Ghul , an adept of the mysterious magical arts who gave him life for centuries, who proved to be extremely popular with readers and one of the most most frequent recurring adversaries of the superhero prevailed. Other enduring characters that O'Neil added to the Batman universe were al Ghul's daughter, Talia, who is torn between her loyalty to her father and his ideals, and her love for Batman, and who in later stories is the mother of Batman's son will be the eccentric gangster Maxie Zeus, who believes himself to be a reincarnation of the supreme god of the Greek pantheon, and the humanist doctor Leslie Tompkins, who is dedicated to caring for the poor and sick in the slums of Batman's hometown Gotham City .

O'Neil wrote adventures for the various Batman series with interruptions until the late 1970s. In 1986 he was brought back from DC Verlag and entrusted as editor with the editorial supervision of the entire Batman range of the publisher: In this position he directed the fortunes of the superhero for more than sixteen years, until 2002, by helping authors and draftsmen to design the Hired and directed comics, checked manuscripts, issued guidelines for the further course of the series, and the like. Under his aegis, the publisher's Batman program grew from three monthly series in 1986 (Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and the Outsiders) to nine monthly series in 2002 (Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman : Gotham Knights, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin). For example, in 1989, under O'Neil's direction, the almost twenty-year-old series Legends of the Dark Knight was started, which tells especially dark stories in terms of content, tone and appearance, which are specifically aimed at adult readers and which play in the early years of Batman's career as a crime fighter. Unlike all other Batman series, Legends of the Dark Knight did not have a permanent creative team , but was looked after by constantly changing authors and draftsmen, who each tell one to six issues of the series, and then make room for the next artist couple do. In 1992, O'Neil initiated the fourth monthly Batman series Batman: Shadow of the Bat (replaced in 2000 by Batman: Gotham Knights ). In the course of the 1990s, he added several spin-off series to the Batman program, telling the solo adventures of characters who originally appeared as helpers or opponents in the Batman series: The series Catwoman and Robin began in 1993 . This was followed by Azrael (1995), Nightwing (1996), Birds of Prey (1998) and Batgirl (2000). For the Azrael series , which tells the adventures of a young man who has been indoctrinated by a religious secret society (the Order of Saint Dumas) since early childhood and systematically trained into a living weapon through subconscious mental programming, before becoming a living weapon with the help of Batman This secret society broke away, O'Neil took over in addition to his duties as group editor for the Batman section of the publisher, the writing duties. He wrote all 100 issues (and a special issue and several annuals) for this series, which appeared monthly from 1995 to 2003.

As the author of Batman comics, O'Neil contributed individual storylines to the anthology Legends of the Dark Knight in the 1980s and 1990s, parallel to his work as editor , including the storyline "Venom", in which he again deals with the The dangers of drug addiction dealt with, as well as the anniversary issue # 50, which tells a possible variant of the first encounter between Batman and his archenemy Joker.

During his time as Batman editor, O'Neil also worked on five Batman films made since 1989 as a consultant. He also took on the task of writing the comic adaptations of the four films Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997).

In the 1990s he also wrote some special Batman projects published outside of the ongoing series: For example the miniseries Batman Sword of Azrael (1992), which tells the first appearance of Batman's ally and temporary replacement Azrael, the miniseries Gordon of Gotham (1998), which describes the early career of Batman's ally Jim Gordon, Gotham City Police Chief, as an idealistic street cop, and the one-shot Batman: Death of Innocents (1996). The latter tells a story that warns of the dangers of landmines : Batman travels to a fictional country plagued by civil war to find the missing daughter of an employee of Wayne Enterprises, which he owns in his secret identity as Bruce Wayne. He succeeds in finding the girl, but shortly before the helicopter arrives to remove her, she dies as she tries to pick up a supposed toy that turns out to be the detonator of a land mine, which has been specifically designed to be like looks like a children's toy, being torn apart. This comic book, which contains a foreword by longtime Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and several stories from people who have had personal experience with mines, was distributed by the United Nations to children in the Balkans and some Central American countries such as Honduras and Nicaragua to do so to help educate them about the dangers of landmines, which were widespread in these countries as a result of armed conflict, and to instruct the children in behavior that would reduce their risk of coming into contact with mines.

As a novelist, O'Neil wrote a book adaption of the two-year and more than eighty comic book storyline "Knightfall" as well as the novel adaptations of the movies Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008).

O'Neil's last Batman story was the short Steve Epting illustrated "Return to Crime Alley" (a sequel to his classic "There is No Hope in Crime Alley" story), which he contributed to the 2019 anniversary issue of Detective Comics # 1000 .


Working for Charlton Comics

  • Charlton premiere # 2
  • Thunderbolt # 58-60

Working for DC Comics

  • Adventure Comics # 418, 419, 449-451
  • Armageddon 2001 special # 2
  • Atom and Hawkman # 42-45
  • Azrael # 1-100
  • Bat Lash # 2-7
  • Batman # 224, 225, 227, 232, 234, 235, 237, 239-245, 247, 248, 251, 253, 256-264, 266, 268, 286, 303, 320, 684
  • Batman - Gordon of Gotham # 1-4
  • Batman - Legends of the Dark Knight # 1-5, 50, 127-131
  • Batman - Sword of Azrael # 1–4
  • Beware The Creeper # 1–4, 6, 8
  • Brave and the Bold, The # 93
  • Challengers of the Unknown # 68-74
  • DC Comics Presents # 19, 20, 23
  • DC Special Series # 1, 5, 18, 19
  • Detective Comics # 395, 397, 399-401, 404-406, 410, 411, 414, 418, 431, 451, 483-491, 851
  • Doc Savage # 1-6
  • Dragonslayer # 1-2
  • Flash, The # 217-221, 223, 224, 226-228, 230, 231, 233, 234, 237, 238, 240-243, 245
  • From Beyond the Unknown # 7-8
  • Green Lantern # 63, 64, 68, 72, 76-87, 90-100, 102-129
  • Hercules # 3-5
  • Isis # 1
  • Joker , The # 1-3, 6
  • Justice, Inc. # 1-4
  • Justice League Of America # 66, 68-75, 77-83, 86, 115
  • JLA # 91-93
  • Kamandi , The Last Boy on Earth! # 4 5-48
  • Legends Of The Dark Knight # 1–5, 16–20, 50, 59–61, 63
  • Legends Of The DC Universe # 7-9
  • Nightwing (miniseries) # 1-4
  • Phantom Stranger # 8
  • Question, The # 1-36
  • Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter # 1-10, 13-18
  • Shazam! # 1-7, 9, 14, 15, 17, 25
  • Shadow, The # 1-8, 10, 12
  • Showcase # 82-84
  • Specter, The # 9
  • Strange Sports Stories # 4
  • Super Friends # 20, 22, 24
  • Superman # 233-238, 240-242, 244, 247, 253, 254
  • Super-Team Family # 2
  • Sword of Sorcery # 1-5
  • Tarzan # 255, 256
  • Weird Worlds # 4–10
  • Wonder Woman # 178, 179, 180-182, 199-201
  • World's Finest # 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 211, 212, 214, 244, 256-264

Working for Marvel Comics

  • Amazing Spider-Man, The # 207-219, 221, 223
  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual, The # 14
  • Billy the Kid # 68, 69
  • Chamber of Darkness # 3-5
  • Cheyenne Kid # 66-69, 70-73
  • Daredevil # 1 94-202, 204-207, 210-223, 226
  • Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, The # 6, 14
  • Epic Illustrated # 16-20
  • Ghost Rider # 7
  • Go-Go # 7
  • Hercules # 2
  • Heroes For Hope Starring The X-Men # 1
  • Hulk # 21-24
  • Iron Man 1968 # 158, 160-208
  • Kid Colt Outlaw # 134-136, 138, 139
  • Moon Knight # 26 - The Cabbie Killer
  • Power Man and Iron Fist # 85-89
  • Rawhide Kid # 56, 59, 60, 62, 66
  • Savage Tales # 5
  • Team America # 2
  • Two-Gun Kid # 90, 92
  • X-Men # 65

Graphic novels

  • Justice, Inc - 1975
  • Shadow the Private Files - with Mark Waid 1989
  • Batman: Bride of the Demon - 1990
  • Batman: Birth of the Demon - 1992
  • Green Lantern / Green Arrow: Hard-Traveling Heroes - 1992
  • Green Lantern / Green Arrow: More Hard-Traveling Heroes - 1993
  • Batman: Sword of Azrael - 1993
  • Batman: Bloodstorm - 1995
  • Batman: Death of Innocents - the Horror of Landmines - 1996
  • Batman: I Joker - 1998
  • Batman: Shaman - 1998
  • Batman in the Seventies - 2000
  • The Deadman Collection - 2001
  • Batman: The Ring, the Arrow, and the Bat - 2003
  • Green Lantern / Green Arrow Collection - Volume 1 - 2004
  • Green Lantern / Green Arrow Collection - Volume 2 - 2005
  • Green Lantern - Hero's Quest - 2005


  • "The Iconoclasts" - Fantastic Stories, ed. Ted White, Ultimate Publishing, 1971
  • "Report on a Broken Bridge" - Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine , December 1971
  • "After They've Seen Paree" - Generation, ed. David Gerrold, Dell, 1972
  • "The Elseones" - Fantasy & Science Fiction, February 1972
  • "Mister Cherubim" - Fantastic Stories June, 1972
  • "Noonday Devil" - Saving Worlds, eds. Roger Elwood & Virginia Kidd, Doubleday, 1973
  • "Devil Night" - Haunt of Horror August, 1973
  • "Annie Mae: A Love Story" - The Far Side of Time, ed. Roger Elwood, Dodd Mead, 1974
  • "There Are No Yesterdays!" - Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction March 1975
  • "Sister Mary Talks to the Girls Sodality" - Harpoon Magazine, January, 1975
  • "The Killing of Mother Corn" - Fantasy & Science Fiction, February 1975
  • "Father Flotsky" - Apple Pie Magazine May, 1975
  • "Alias ​​the Last Resort" - Best Detective Stories of the Year, Ed. Hubin, 1975
  • "Adam and No Eve" (with Alfred Bester) - Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction March 1975
  • "Wave By" - Fantasy & Science Fiction, September, 1980
  • "Bicycle Superhero" - Superheroes, ed. John Varley Ace Fantasy, 1995


  • The Bite of Monsters - Belmont, 1971
  • Dragon's Fists - Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Master with Jim Berry, 1974
  • Secret Origins of the Super DC Heroes - Crown Publishing Group, April 1976
  • The Super Comics - Scholastic Book Services, 1981
  • Batman Knightfall, 1994
  • The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, 2001
  • Green Lantern Hero's Quest, 2005
  • Batman Begins Novelization, 2005
  • DC Universe: Helltown, 2006
  • The Dark Knight , 2008

Articles, reviews, interviews

  • The Lurker in the Family Room - The Haunt of Horror, June 1973
  • Review of Will Eisner's “A Contract With God” - Comics Journal # 46, May 1979
  • Interview w / Samuel R. Delaney - Comics Journal # 48, Summer 1979
  • The Super Comics - 1980
  • Article on Gary Trudeau / Doonesbury - Comics Journal # 63, Summer 1981
  • Forum & Interview w / Gil Kane - Comics Journal # 64, July 1981
  • The Man of Steel and Me - Superman at 50, 1987
  • Martial Arts - Superman & Batman Magazine # 1, with Marifran O'Neil, Summer 1993
  • Comics 101 / Classes 1 & 2 - Write Now! # 3, March 2003
  • Comics 101 / Classes 3 & 4 - Write Now! # 4, May 2003
  • Comics 101 / Classes 5 & 6 - Write Now! # 5, August 2003

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Richard Sandomir: Denny O'Neil, Writer Who Left His Mark on Batman, Dies at 81. In: The New York Times , June 18, 2020 (English). Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  2. Chris Arrant: Legendary Batman writer, Denny O'Neil dies at age 81 ,, published and accessed June 12, 2020