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Friday, June 12, 2020

RIP Dennis (Denny) O'Neil

Dennis “Denny” O’Neil, best known for writing and editing Batman comic books, died on June 11 of natural causes. He was 81.

O’Neil wrote “Batman,” “Detective Comics” and “Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight” in addition to serving as an editor for DC’s Batman-related comic books from 1986 until 2000. Along with editor Julius Schwartz and artist Neal Adams, O’Neil helped to bring Batman back to his original, more ominous persona after the 1960s “Batman” TV series had a campier take on the superhero.

Teaming up with artist Neal Adams, O’Neil also reinvigorated the characters of Green Arrow and Green Lantern by pairing them up as best friends and “hard-traveling heroes” who traversed the United States together righting wrongs while exploring complex issues of politics and social justice in the 1970s – one of the first comic book runs to tackle these issues in such a way.

My greatest memory of Denny is the story from Green Lantern/Green Arrow 76 (April 1970) -- "No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!" Written by Denny O'Neil. Art by Neal Adams. In the story an elderly black man accosts the white superhero Green Lantern for being insufficiently attentive to the concerns of people of color. This very powerful image is still with me to this very day! He told the stories we needed to hear. He will be missed.

O’Neil was born on May 3, 1939 in St. Louis, Mo. and graduated from St. Louis University, where he studied English literature, creative writing and philosophy. He began his career in comics in the early 1960s as Stan Lee’s assistant at Marvel and briefly worked at Charlton Comics before he was hired at DC Comics in 1968.

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