Denny O’Neil passes away at 81

The prolific writer, editor and teacher died from natural causes June 11.

Writer, editor and teacher Denny O’Neil has passed away at the age of 81. According to Newsarama, O’Neil died of natural causes in his home last night.

O’Neil was one of the most prolific writers of Batman, having written more than 200 issues featuring the character. His work appeared in Batman, Detective Comics and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight. In the 1970s, he was credited with bringing Batman back to his darker roots, following the campy Batman TV show of the 1960s. He co-created Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Leslie Thompkins and Azrael, and also edited the Batman titles from 1986 through 2000.

His collaborations with Neal Adams over the years produced some of the best and well-known comics of the times, including their run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, which tackled social issues like drug addiction and racism.

Tom Bondurant wrote about their run back in 2017: O’Neil and Adams then put it all together in April 1970’s “Green Lantern” #76, as Ollie lectured Hal Jordan about how his pokey old Silver Age morality wasn’t good enough for the new decade. With a question heard ’round the comics world, an anonymous African-American citizen then asked GL whether — with his “blue skin” bosses and all his heroics on behalf of “orange skins” and “purple skins” — he’d ever done anything for the “black skins.” At that moment Hal represented the Establishment and Ollie the Revolution; and O’Neil and Adams wanted Hal with the Revolution.

O’Neil’s career at DC also included writing titles like Beware the Creeper, Wonder Woman, Justice League of America, The Shadow and Superman. He also wrote the Superman vs. Muhammad Ali special:

And revitalized the old Charlton character, the Question, along with Denys Cowan:

While he’s arguably best known for his DC work, O’Neil also worked for Marvel over the years as well. He started writing for them in the 1960s, working on titles like Strange Tales, Millie the Model, Rawhide Kid and X-Men. He would return to the publisher in 1980, writing titles like Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man and Daredevil.

He also worked there as an editor, where he hired Frank Miller to write and draw Daredevil in the 1980s. While there, he helped write the original concept treatment for the Transformers, and is credited with naming Optimus Prime. He edited other titles like Power Man and Iron Fist, Alpha Flight and G.I. Joe while at Marvel.

O’Neil also at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts and was on the Hero Initiative’s Board of Directors.

Many creators expressed their appreciation for O’Neil on social media today:

DC Comics has also released a statement on O’Neil’s death. “Denny was an amazingly talented writer and editor,” said Bob Harras, Editor-In-Chief, DC. “More than that, he was a beloved member of the DC family, and he will be sorely missed.” 

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