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Dennis J. "Denny" O'Neil (born May 3, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri) is a comic book writer and editor, principally for Marvel Comics and DC Comics in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and Group Editor for the Batman family of books until his retirement.

His best-known works include Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman with Neal Adams, The Shadow with Mike Kaluta and The Question with Denys Cowan, all of which were hailed for their sophisticated stories that expanded the artistic potential of the mainstream portion of the medium. As an editor, he is principally known for editing the various Batman titles. Today, he sits on the board of directors of the charity The Hero Initiative.

BiographyEdit

Early LifeEdit

O'Neil was born into a Catholic household in St. Louis. He still recalls from his youth the Sunday afternoon ritual where he would accompany his father or his grandfather to the store for some light groceries and an occasional comic book.

O'Neil graduated from St. Louis University around the turn of the Sixties with a degree centered on English literature, creative writing, and philosophy. From there he joined the U.S. Navy just in time to participate in the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

After leaving the Navy, O'Neil moved on to a job with a newspaper in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. O'Neil wrote occasional columns on the subject for the newspaper, which attracted the attention of Roy Thomas, who would eventually himself become one of the great names in the history of the medium.

WritingEdit

Marvel ComicsEdit

Roy Thomas soon took work with DC in its Superman stable, but left before long to work for Stan Lee at Marvel Comics. He suggested that O'Neil take the Marvel writer's test, which involved adding dialogue to a wordless four-page excerpt of a Fantastic Four comic; and O'Neil's entry impressed Lee enough to offer him a job.

When Marvel's expansion made it impossible for Lee to continue writing the company's entire line of books, Lee passed as much on to Roy Thomas as he could, but still needed writers, so O'Neil took the reins for a short-term run of Doctor Strange stories in Strange Tales, penning six issues. He also wrote dialog for such titles as Rawhide Kid and Millie the Model, as well as scripting an issue of Daredevil over a plot by Lee when Lee went on holiday.

Charleston ComicsEdit

The available jobs writing for Marvel petered out fairly quickly, and O'Neil took a job with Charlton Comics under the pseudonym of Sergius O’Shaugnessy. There he received regular work for a year and a half from Charlton's editor Dick Giordano.

DC ComicsEdit

In 1968 Dick Giordano was offered an editorial position at DC Comics and took a number of Charlton freelancers with him, including O'Neil. Charlton talent arrived at DC from a different culture of comics. At DC, the office seemed like a snapshot from 1950, with a crowd of short-haired men in white shirts and ties. The jeans-wearing, hippy trended Charlton crowd visibly represented a different generation. O'Neil's first assignments involved two strategies for bolstering DC's sales. One approach centered on the creation of new characters, and O'Neil scripted several issues of Beware the Creeper, a series starring a new hero, The Creeper, created by artist Steve Ditko. From there, DC moved O'Neil to Wonder Woman and Justice League of America. With artist Mike Sekowsky, he took away Wonder Woman's powers, exiled her from the Amazon community, and set her off, uncostumed, into international intrigues with her blind mentor, the dubiously-named I Ching. These changes did not sit well with Wonder Woman's older fans, such as Gloria Steinem, and O'Neil later considered that removing DC's single super-powered female might have alienated readers. In Justice League, he had more success, introducing into that title the first socially and politically themed stories, setting the stage for later work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow.

Following the lead set by Bob Haney and Neal Adams in a Brave and the Bold story that visually redefined Green Arrow into the version that appeared in comics between 1969 and 1986, O'Neil stripped him of his wealth and playboy status, making him an urban hero. This redefinition would culminate in the character that appeared in Green Lantern/Green Arrow, (with many stories also drawn by Adams) a socially conscious, left-wing creation that effectively took over Green Lantern's book to use him as a foil and straw man in sounding out the political concepts that would define that work. O'Neil went on to write Green Lantern for the balance of the 1970s, leaving the title in 1980 to return to Marvel Comics.

O'Neil's 1970s run on the Batman titles is perhaps his best-known endeavor, getting back to the character's darker roots after a period dominated by the campiness of the 1960s TV show, emphasizing Batman's detective skills, and introducing new villains such as his own creation Ra's al Ghul. During this period, O'Neil frequently teamed up with his regular collaborator Adams (with Giordano often assisting on inks) on a number of memorable issues of both Batman and Detective Comics.

Return to MarvelEdit

Upon O'Neil's return to Marvel Comics in 1980, he took on the scripting chores for Amazing Spider-Man, which he did for two years. He was the regular scripter for Iron Man from 1982-1986, and Daredevil, from 1983–1985. O'Neil's run on Daredevil ostensibly bridged the gap between when Frank Miller left the title and then returned for a memorable short run with David Mazzucchelli as artist.

Other WorkEdit

O'Neil has written several novels, comics, short stories, reviews and teleplays, including the novelizations of the movies Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Under the pseudonym Jim Dennis, O'Neil scripted a series of novels about a kung fu character named Richard Dragon, and later adapted those novels to comic book form for DC.

O'Neil wrote a weekly column for ComicMix until October 2008.

EditingEdit

MarvelEdit

Joining Marvel's editorial staff in 1980, O'Neil edited Daredevil during Frank Miller's run as writer/artist, which is one of the most memorable takes on the character. In the early-to-mid 1980s, O'Neil edited such Marvel titles as Alpha Flight, Power Man/Iron Fist, G.I. Joe, and Moon Knight.

According to Bob Budiansky, O'Neil came up with the name for the Transformer Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots.

DCEdit

In 1986 O'Neil moved over to DC as an editor, eventually becoming group editor for the company's Batman titles. Speaking about his role in the death of character Jason Todd, O'Neil remarked:

It changed my mind about what I do for a living. Superman and Batman have been in continuous publication for over half a century, and it's never been true of any fictional construct before. These characters have a lot more weight than the hero of a popular sitcom that lasts maybe four years. They have become postindustrial folklore, and part of this job is to be the custodian of folk figures. Everybody on Earth knows Batman and Robin.

TeachingEdit

O'Neil spent several years in the late nineties teaching Writing for the Comics at Manhattan's School of Visual Arts, sometimes sharing duties with fellow comic book writer John Ostrander.

Personal LifeEdit

O'Neil is the father of writer/director/producer Lawrence O'Neil, best known for the 1997 David Schwimmer vehicle, Breast Men.

AwardsEdit

O'Neil work has won him a great deal of recognition in the comics industry, including the Shazam Awards for Best Continuing Feature Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Best Individual Story for "No Evil Shall Escape My Sight" in Green Lantern #76 (with Neal Adams), for Best Writer (Dramatic Division) in 1970 for Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, and other titles, and Best Individual Story for "Snowbirds Don't Fly" in Green Lantern #85 (with Neal Adams) in 1971.

As A CharacterEdit

In The Batman Adventures — the first DC Comics spinoff of Batman: The Animated Series — O'Neil appears as The Perfesser, one of a screwball trio of incompetent super-villains that also includes The Mastermind (a caricature of Mike Carlin) and Mr. Nice (a caricature of Archie Goodwin). The Perfesser is depicted as a tall, pipe-smoking genius who often gets lost in his own thoughts, and who regularly forgets to give his criminal friends crucial information in planning their heists. (For example, after carefully planning a hotel robbery, the trio arrives at the hotel's location to find a vacant lot. The Perfesser then remembers that the hotel was torn down several years ago.)

BibliographyEdit

Charlton ComicsEdit

DC ComicsEdit

Marvel ComicsEdit

Graphic NovelsEdit

  • Justice, Inc - 1975
  • The Shadow "1941" - with Michael W.Kaluta, Russ Heath 1988
  • 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

NovellasEdit

NovelsEdit

  • The Bite of Monsters – Belmont, 1971
  • Dragon’s FistsRichard 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 Knightfall1994
  • The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics - 2001
  • Green Lantern Hero’s Quest2005
  • Batman Begins2005
  • DC Universe: Helltown - 2006
  • The Dark Knight - 2008

Non-fictionEdit

  • The DC Comics Guide To Writing Comics, Watson-Guptill, May 2001
  • Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers, and Heroes in Gotham City, SmartPop series, Benbella Books, March 2008 (editor)

Essays, Reviews, and InterviewsEdit

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