Following the death of legendary comics writer and editor Dennis "Denny" O'Neil this week, fans, professionals, and even comics publishers have expressed an outpouring of love and grief rarely seen for a single comic book creator. O'Neil, who created characters for Marvel and DC who have gone on to success on film and TV, injected humanity and a sense of decency into his characters, while tackling uncomfortable realities that many superhero comics of the time would have avoided. He also provided DC guidance for years, in the form of serving as the Batman group editor through a period of huge success and upheaval for the character in the late '80s and '90s.
"RIP Denny O'Neil — one of visionary architects of DC Comics who helped revive Batman in the 1970s and remains my favorite Green Lantern writer to date," current DC publisher Jim Lee added on Twitter. "Through his editing and writing, Denny was one of the earliest writers whose work and focus on social issues pushed comics 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."
O'Neil never lost his love for comics, and worked to pass his knowledge along to a new generation -- first by writing a book, The DC Guide To Writing Comics, and later by teaching a Writing for the Comics course at Manhattan's School of Visual Arts, a role he shared with Suicide Squad co-creator John Ostrander.
During his career, O'Neil won numerous comics-industry awards, and was recognized by The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in 2018 and the city of Phoenix, Arizona, in 2019 -- in both cases for his contribution to both comics and American culture. O'Neil passed away at home as a result of natural causes, according to his family. His final published work will be an installment in the Joker 80th anniversary special that was just released by DC.
You can see a number of tributes from his friends and colleagues -- mostly provided directly to ComicBook.com, but some taken from social media and noted as such -- below. This story will be updated throughout the weekend as more tributes come in.
Kurt Busiek, veteran Marvel and DC writer
Denny was the first editor to trust me with a regular book, back when I was just starting out. I can’t say I ever knew him well, but I have enormous respect and admiration for how he changed the face of comics by raising the bar. As a writer, as an editor, he left his mark on comics, in ways that have enriched the form and influenced countless creators.
Thanks for everything, sir.prevnext
Dan Jurgens, creator of Booster Gold and best-selling Superman writer/artist
One of the first writers whose work I perceived as being different and started to follow was Denny O’Neil. I first took notice of Denny’s work in Detective Comics #395’s "The Secret of the Waiting Graves" and started looking for his work elsewhere. Even then, I could see that his work had an individual flair that was different from many other writers. By the time he wrote the immortal Green Lantern #76, I was hooked for good. If Denny wrote it, I’d buy it. Look back through his library of work and you’ll find an incredible number of stories that are regarded as everlasting classics. Read them, and you’ll see how talented he was.
Working with Denny was a true privilege. I was fortunate to draw from his scripts and also to work for him while he was editing at DC. His script technique was really a textbook on how to create comics and his approach as an editor was professorial in terms of constructing story. (Of course, it should be noted that among Denny’s many accomplishments was his appearance in THE BATMAN ADVENTURES as “The Perfesser”, a suitably named villain that teamed up with “The Mastermind” and “Mr. Nice”, who were counterparts for Mike Carlin and Archie Goodwin.)
We tend to use terms like “legendary” far too easily, but Denny O’Neil was exactly that. His contributions to our medium will outlast us all and he will be forever recognized as one of the greatest writers to grace our pages.prevnext
Marc Guggenheim, executive producer, Arrow
"2020 just keeps taking from us. Today, it’s the man who created the modern day incarnation of Batman," Arrow co-creator Marc Guggenheim told ComicBook.com. "A legendary writer. A titan among titans. It's impossible to overstate his contributions to comics, and it's equally impossible not to see their effects in every page DC and Marvel publish. And, of course, it goes without saying that there is no Arrow if there were no Denny O'Neil. Rest in peace."prevnext
J.M. DeMatteis, comics, TV, and film writer
"This is incredibly sad news. Denny was a superb writer, masterful editor, one of the smartest people in the business and a truly good guy. When I started in comics, there were certain editors who had my respect the instant I walked in the room, simply because of who they were, what they'd accomplished. Denny O'Neil was one of those editors. How fortunate I was to learn from one of the very best. Although I can't claim close friendship, I worked with Denny multiple times over the years, and I admired him both as a creative force, who had a massive impact on the world of comic books, and a human being. What a loss."prevnext
Darick Robertson, Co-creator of The Boys and Happy!
"Denny's work was groundbreaking. He paved the way for serious topics to be confronted in mainstream superhero titles. His work with Neal Adams and Denys Cowan was integral to my growth as an artist. His vision of the DCU shaped my own horizons of what could be done with the medium. A true legend in this business and a brilliant writer."prevnext
Erik Larsen, Image Comics Co-Founder
I don’t have any great Denny O’Neil stories.
I met Denny O'Neil a few times at very conventions and found him to be a pleasant, amiable gentleman. I came close to working with him at one point—he called me up because an artist pulled a vanishing act and they needed a warm body on Batman but I couldn’t fit it into my schedule.
I grew up with Denny’s work, as did every kid in my generation. His work was legendary and his runs on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow had a huge impact on everybody in the industry. One of the earliest comic books I owned was SHAZAM #1, which Denny wrote. My dad was a huge Captain Marvel fan and he excitedly brought it home for us kids. I even used Denny’s name as part of the secret identity of one of may first superheroes, Powerhouse (Denny Atlas). The Dragon himself was essentially a Batman ripoff with a few elements pinched from Captain Marvel. Denny’s Batman and Captain Marvel were huge for me.
I knew Denny struggled with alcoholism, and he took it upon himself to really show the depths of the disease during his tenure on Iron Man, where he laid out the full hellish experience in tortuous detail. It was his willingness to lay himself bare which made much of his work ring so true and resonate so much. It’s a painful run to read.
As a guy living removed from the East Coast scene in the Fed Ex era I didn't have much contact with the major publishers. My only contact was at the occasional shows and dinners thereafter. Every encounter was pleasant, to be sure, and Denny was one to express himself with a lot of fire and enthusiasm when he got going but, as with everybody else -- there was never a lot of time to sit around and chew the fat. We were all busy creating. There was never enough time to really connect. The best we could do is through our work, and in that regard, I knew Denny O'Neil about as well as I've known anybody, and I can visit him any time I sit down with a good book.
Here’s to you, Denny. You may be gone but you never really left. You will live forever in our hearts.prevnext
Cameron DeOrdio, Archie and Dynamite Comics writer
Denny O'Neil's passing is an incredible loss. I never got to meet him personally, but I can say I am a better person for having read his Green Lantern/Green Arrow run as a kid. Something that's really special about O'Neil's work is that he understood that he was doing that -- that he was talking to and molding the worldviews of people like me with the comics he made. He got that heroes mean something, that superhero stories are an opportunity to say in clear-cut terms "this is what we should stand for; this is what we should stand against; this is what MATTERS" without being boringly didactic. He used art as a tool for empathy and justice. He was an inspiration.prevnext
Dan DiDio, longtime DC editor and publisher [via Facebook]
Very sorry to hear about the passing of Denny O'Neil. Denny was one of true legends of the industry and responsible for so many great and important stories in comic book history.
For me, he will always be the one who gave a voice Batman, leading his creative vision as both writer and editor for decades, and letting his own sense of morality shine through the character. I had the chance to work with Denny briefly when I first joined DC and had the honor of representing DC when Denny received a Westchester County Lifetime Achievement Award.
Denny gave soul and gravitas to DC Comics and the industry. May he Rest In Peace.prevnext
Mike Grell, Creator of The Warlord and frequent O'Neil collaborator
I'm still in shock from the news that Denny O'Neil has passed away. We were friends for almost fifty years and his death is a gut-punch that still has me reeling. He gave me my whole career, starting when I first read Green Lantern/Green Arrow when I was in Saigon in 1970. His writing woke me up to what comics could really be and started me on this path.
Meeting him for the first time was an absolute thrill, and working with him was an ongoing education. I learned more about good writing by drawing the stories Denny wrote than all the English lit classes put together. Everything I've done can be traced back to Denny's influence.
I was honored to have the opportunity to work with him one last time for the Green Lantern 70th Anniversary book on a short story featuring Green Arrow that he wrote especially for me. I noticed that, in the last panel, he wrote the words: THE END.
Right now all I can think of is how fortunate I was to have had him for a mentor, collaborator and friend.
He was my hero.prevnext
Reginald Hudlin, comic book writer and former head of BET [via Twitter]
"When I was a kid, we went to New York. I convinced my parents to take me to the DC offices. The staff generously gave me a tour, but were bummed that Dennis was not the office, since he was from my hometown of St. Louis. I never got to meet him. But boy I read his work."prevnext
Christos Gage, comics and TV writer [via Twitter]
"One of the all time great comic book writers and editors. His runs with Neal Adams on Batman and Green Lantern would've been enough to assure legendary status, but they're just the tip of the iceberg. Condolences to his family and loved ones."prevnext
Gerry Conway, creator of The Punisher and veteran writer and editor [via Twitter]
"I'm heartbroken. Denny was my mentor, my big brother, and my friend during my earliest years in comics. His influence on my personal growth as a human being can't be overstated. Our field has lost a giant."prev
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