Newsarama reports legendary “Batman” writer and editor, Dennis “Denny” O’Neil, has died at the age of 81. According to his family, he passed away at home, from natural causes, on the night of June 11.
Dennis J. O’Neil was born in St. Louis, Missouri on May 3, 1939. He studied English literature, creative writing and philosophy at St. Louis University, and graduated in the early 1960s. He subsequently served in the US Navy and was involved in the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After he was discharged, O’Neil got a job at a newspaper in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, writing bi-weekly columns for the youth page, and reported on the revival in the comics industry during the slow summer months. It was this work that connected O’Neil with comic book writer, Roy Thomas. When Thomas started working at Marvel Comics, he recommended that O’Neil take the Marvel writing test too, and O’Neil started his career in the comic book industry.
With Marvel Comics rapidly expanding at the time, Stan Lee was no longer able to write all of the Marvel’s output on his own, meaning that O’Neil was quickly involved with several different stories and characters, such as Doctor Strange’s adventures in “Strange Tales.” However, the work at Marvel quickly ran out and O’Neil moved to Charlton Comics and started writing under the pseudonym Sergius O’Shaughnessy. His time at Charlton was with editor, Dick Giordano, who, in 1968, moved into an editorial position at DC Comics, taking a host of writers with him, O’Neil included.
O’Neil’s work at DC Comics varied hugely. He started work on “Beware the Creeper” with Steve Ditko before moving to “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League of America.” His run on “Wonder Woman,” alongside artist Mike Sekowsky, was controversial because they took the titular character’s powers away and took her out of the Amazon community, sending her on international adventures without her costume instead. “Justice League of America,” however, fared better through the introduction of socially and politically themed stories to the title.
With artist Neal Adams, he reshaped Green Arrow by stripping him of his wealth, and made him a co-star of “Green Lantern”: the seminal, socially conscious “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” run included the famous ‘Snowbirds Don’t Fly’ story, which revealed Speedy was addicted to heroin. He also brought the Batman back to his darker roots following his appearances in the 1960s Batman TV series: during his tenure on the title, he created Ra’s al Ghul and Talia al Ghul with Adams and Bob Brown, respectively.
In 1980, O’Neil returned to Marvel Comics. He started scripting “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and continued for a year, including two issues of “The Amazing Spider-Man Annual.” During his run on the title, he created Madame Web and Hydro-Man with artist John Romita Jr. He also scripted “The Invincible Iron Man” and “Daredevil” regularly. He is also credited as the person who named Optimus Prime as part of the original character concepts for “The Transformers.” During this time, his work went beyond writing as he served in an editorial capacity on titles such as “Alpha Flight” and “Moon Knight.”
O’Neil then returned to DC Comics and became the editor of the Batman titles in 1986, serving in the role until 2000, overseeing classic stories like “The Dark Knight Returns,” ‘Year One,’ ‘A Death in the Family,’ “The Killing Joke,” ‘Knightfall’ and ‘No Man’s Land.’ He wrote “The Question,” “Armageddon 2001,” and introduced Azrael with artist Joe Quesada in “Batman: Sword of Azrael.”
Throughout his comic book career O’Neil was honored with multiple awards, most notably the Inkpot Award in 1981. He continued to be involved with the comic book industry by serving as one of the directors of The Hero Initiative and its Disbursement Committee until his death. He also wrote several novels, including the novelizations of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and for television.
O’Neil was married to Marifran O’Neil until her death in 2017. He is survived by his son, Lawrence.