Dennis “Denny” O’Neil, a revered figure in the comic industry for his work at both DC and Marvel, has passed away at the age of 81.
Newsarama confirmed a report from O’Neil’s family that Denny died in his home of natural causes on the evening of June 11. DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee first announced O’Neil’s passing on Twitter, where he lauded him for his incredible work in the industry as well as the mentorship he provided to so many.
to wider respectability & acceptance as an artform. Through his work & mentorship, he influenced generations of writers & artists. I was so starstruck meeting Denny for the first time, but he was just the kindest. Our condolences to his family & many fans around the world. 2/
— Jim Lee (@JimLee) June 12, 2020
After getting his start at Marvel, Denny O’Neil became best known for his work in the 1970s on Batman, where he took the character back to his darker/grittier roots following the campy Adam West television series. He was involved in the creation of a number of the Dark Knight’s modern villains, including Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, and Azrael. His work on both Joker and Two-Face is considered one of the key influences for the characters’ modern depictions.
O’Neil’s work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow received widespread media attention outside of comics due to his willingness to explore issues of progressivism and social justice. While this is something we see quite a bit of now, O’Neil was definitely at the forefront of using superheroes to explore the modern societal issues back in the 1970s. It was during this run that O’Neil and Neal Adams co-created John Stewart, the first black superhero to appear in DC Comics.
Near the end of his time at DC, O’Neil co-wrote the famous Superman vs. Muhammed Ali comic with artist Neal Adams.
After returning to Marvel comics in 1980, Denny O’Neil continued to make his mark on industry. His run on Iron Man saw Tony Stark battle alcoholism, had Jim Rhodes/War Machine take over the Iron Man mantle for a while, and introduced the classic villain Iron Monger.
On the editing side of things, he made the decision to put Frank Miller as both the writer and artist for Daredevil and edited Miller’s run. I think we all know what a great decision that turned out to be.
Denny O’Neil also spent several years teaching Writing for the Comics at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts and was the recipient of numerous awards, including an Inkpot Award in 1981 for his many contributions to the comic industry.
I never met the man personally, but every Denny O’Neil story I’ve heard involves some form of him offering keen insight, much needed kindness, or a combination of both. And while his incredible contributions to the creative side of comics are well-known, I hadn’t realized how ahead of his time he was about exploring social issues within the medium until looking over his entire body work for this piece
We definitely lost a legend today. Rest In Power, Denny O’Neil.