Remembering Dennis O’Neil and his Importance in Comic Book History

On June 11th 2020 Comic Book legend Dennis O’Neil passed away at 81 years old. For the many Batman fans who do not know who Dennis O’Neil was. He will be remember for rejuvenating or bring back the dark knight detective Batman and his mythology in the comic books in the early 70s after the Adam West’s Batman show ended in 1968 that fans like myself are familiar with today and has seen his Batman influences in other medium such as Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s Batman the animated series in the early 90s. He co created Arkham Asylum, The League of Assassins, Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia Al Ghul. As Batman’s Editor in the 80’s and 90s he was involved in creating the infamous poll of killing off Jason Todd, who was second Robin at the time. He wrote many classic Batman stories for four generations. He was best known for co creating John Stewart Green Lantern with Neal Adams and their legendary comic book series run on the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series that starred Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen who travel around the United States and coming across many social issues that we still continue witness currently. Dennis O’Neil redefine Green Arrow by stripping him away from his playboy and billionaire life style and made him an urban legend.

In 1978 Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams illustrated the iconic Superman vs Muhammad Ali comic book issue. It is one of the most iconic illustrations in comic book history. Dennis O’Neil created many story runs with Frank Miller on the Amazing Spider-Man title, and his writing o Daredevil and Iron Man. At Marvel created will known characters such as Madame Web, and the villain Hydro Man in Spider-Mans mythology in comic books. in the Iron Man comic book title he co created the Iron Monger/Obadiah Stane who was the main villain in the first live action Iron Man movie staring Robert Downey Jr. Dennis O’Neil was credited for coming up the name of Transformers Autobots leader Optimus Prime.

BATMAN

See the source image
Detective Comics issue5 written by Dennis O’Neil and Art/Cover by Dick Giordano

Dennis O’Neil back in the 70s was asked from DC Editor to rejuvenate Batman after his campy colorful Batman show ended. Dennis O’Neil thought the best way to write Batman was to go back to how Batman was present originally by his co creator Bill Finger by writing Batman as a Dark Detective in a gritty Gotham city. He made Robin/Dick Grayson a college kid who moved out of Wayne Manner and living at a college compass as an excuse to write Batman as solo hero again and back to fight street crime. He focus a lot on Batman’s phycology and his impact on witness his parents murdered as an 8 year old boy which is one of the reasons he co created Leslie Thompkins as reminder of how human Batman is and what makes him motivated to do what he does every night. Detective Comics issue 457 present how human Batman is and a reminder the pain and angry he carries of remembering the murderer of his parents in Crime Alley. Like Alfred Pennyworth, Leslie Tompkins who made her debut in issue 457, become another important emotional character to Batman’s mythology and a connection to that dramatic night.

Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams reintroduce Joker as mass murdering psycho path who only wants to see the world burn starting in his Joker story called Joker’s Five Way Revenge. This was a one shot story in Batman issue 251 that made Joker a mass killing clown again and we continue to see today in all mediums. Pre Batman issue 251 Joker was known as prankster villain for almost 20 years because of the comic code and the rules in place in the comic book medium at the time. Issue 251 also introduce Arkham Asylum where the Joker goes to at the conclusion of the story. Dennis O’Neil is credit for bring back the clown prince of crime we all know today and to why the Joker is the greatest comic book villain of all time. Another great villain he added to Batman’s great rogue of villains is Ras Al Ghul and the League of Assassins with his daughter Talia Al Ghul.

Ra’s Al Ghul made his debut in Batman issue 232, however his daughter Talia Al Ghul made her debut a month earlier in Detective Comics issue 411. The story was called The Daughter of the Demon. Dennis O’Neil’s Batman story was used as a two part episode on Batman the animated series. Ras Al Ghul is viewed as one of Batman’s top 3 villains outside of the Joker. Ras Al Ghul is in many major stories in Batman’s history such as Bat and the Son, Resurrection, Death of Maidens, Contagion, Legacy, and Justice League’s Towers of Babel.

Legend comic book writer Grant Morrison added to Ra’s Al Ghul and Batman’s comic book history by introducing Damon Wayne who is the son of Batman and the grandson of Ra’s Al Ghul the Demon Head. Ra’s Al Ghul is a global terrorist, who wants to restart the earth and destroy current civilization. He is known to call Batman “Detective” instead of Batman or Bruce Wayne. He is a huge threat to destroy Batman and the Bat family outside of the Joker, from Batman’s rogue gallery.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow

Green Lantern/Green Arrow issue 87 written by Dennis O’Neil and art by Neal Adams.

Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adam collaborated on one of the most historic comic book run with their Green Lantern/Green Arrow title series. Their series showcase many things that is still wrong with the United States today and at the time in the 70s in their series. They brought many socialism topics that is still happening today. The most well known topic was Hal Jordan not helping the black community in his own planet and in his own country. The highlight of the story is a black American man calls out Hal Jordan for racial injustice by ignoring the black community while helping all of the different ethic communities and aliens from outer space. It was a very important issues of Green Lantern/Green Arrow because nothing like this was out there in any entertainment medium in the 70s. I highly recommend readers to read Green Lantern/Green Arrow issue 87. This issues is John Stewart’s debut and becomes a Green Lantern. John Stewart explains why he doesn’t need a domino mask like Hal Jordan. John Stewart shows the different amount of courage that Hal Jordan does not have with out having a green lantern ring. Some of the story set ups in the issue shows the same problems happening in the United States. Especially when John Stewart schools Hal Jordan about racism and how blind he is for not seeing what’s wrong with his country that Hal is so proud of.

Issue 85 and issue 86 of Green Lantern/Green Arrow focus on addiction to drugs and Roy Harper known as Speedy and Green Arrows long time partner who is revealed to be an addict. The story starts with Green Arrow and Green Lantern stopping drug dealers and people who are addicted to drugs. Hal and Oliver does not understand why people do this to themselves. It is revealed that Roy is addicted to heroin and has become a junkie. In issue 85 Roy explains why someone who is his age would get into drugs. From Roy’s narrative readers will get the insight to why Roy is using heroin. Issue 86 is where the heart of Dennis O’Neil’s story is at. His dialogue between Oliver and Roy is something families sees within their own family members who are addicted to drugs. Oliver who is Roy’s friend and mentor, has a hard time understanding why his partner and best friend would be addicted to drugs. I don’t want to spoil to much of this two part story but it is worth the read if you have the Green Lantern/Green Arrow trade paperback from Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams run. You can also find their run on the DC Universe app.

Marvel Comics

Dennis O’Neil wrote for Marvel Comics. He was best known for his writing on the Daredevil title. Unfortunately his run started after Frank Millers legendary run on Daredevil. His run is very underrated as he continue the gritty and darkness that Frank Miller began with his Daredevil run. Dennis O’Neil contribute to Iron Man’s story Demon in a Bottle story, and decision to have James Rhodes to become the new Iron Man while Tony Stark battle his demons with alcoholism. He did create the Iron Monger who was the big villain in Iron Mans first movie and popular character when Dennis wrote Iron Man at the time.

BATMAN EDITOR from Late 1980s to 2000s

Dennis O’Neil who was the editor of Batman from the late 80s into 2000s. Was involved in so many important moments in Batman’s comic book history. From the decision to have fans vote to kill off Jason Todd in Death in the Family, from Nightfall, No Mans Land, Azreal, Legacy, and Legends of The Dark Knight title. He was involved in a lot of great things in Batman’s history. His contribute for Batman will have Dennis O’Neil as one of Batman’s great mount Rushmore of writers. Another legend is gone but will never be forgotten. readers can find so many Batman and many DC Comics he’s written about. I highly recommend readers to check out his work. If you love Batman as a detective that he is and fights street crime. Batman fans can thank Dennis “Denny” O’Neil for bring him back to his main roots after Batman 66 series in the 60s.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Thank you Denny O’Neil for making Batman the detective we all love. Thank you for the fantastic Green Lantern/Green Arrow series you did with Neal Adams that put a spotlight on the things that is still wrong with the United States today.

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