Comic Book Legend Dennis O’Neil Dead at 81: Revolutionized Batman and Many Other Comics

Written by Mike Rickard II

Legendary comic book scribe Dennis O’Neil, who wrote some of the most engaging superhero comic books at DC and Marvel passed away on June 11 at the age of 81 from natural causes. As noted by Games Radar:

O’Neil was best known for his work on Batman, which included writing Batman, Detective Comics, and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, as well as editing DC’s Batman titles from 1986 to 2000. He, editor Julius Schwartz, and artist Neal Adams are credited for guiding the Dark Knight back to his darker roots after a period of campiness brought on by the success of the 1960s Batman TV series.

Winner of numerous industry awards, Dennis O’Neil took superhero comic books to new heights in terms of social relevance and as an art form.

O’Neil’s contribution to the Batman mythos is incredible. Not only did he revitalize the Batman character, but he revitalized key villains such as the Joker and Two-Face while also creating one of Batman’s most iconic foes, Ra’s al Ghul. As editor of the Bat-books, he spearheaded a number of major storylines including the death of Robin (Jason Todd), Knightfall (the introduction of Bane), and No Man’s Land. As comics historians have noted, many of O’Neil’s stories were incorporated into Batman’s small-screen and silver screen incarnations.

O’Neil helped restore the Joker to his original murderous nature

However, while O’Neil’s contributions on Batman were so great they overshadowed his other work at times, his writing on titles such as Green Lantern and The Question at DC are considered iconic as well. His run on Green Lantern (a book which suffered from low sales at the time) saw O’Neil add Green Arrow to the book and featured “The Hard Traveling Heroes” dealing with a number of societal ills including police brutality, racism, and drug abuse (it’s perhaps best-known for a two-part issue in which Green Arrow discovers his sidekick is addicted to heroin). During the 1980s, he revamped the Question a short-lived superhero from the 60s and transformed him into a crime-fighting philosopher who battled social injustice in the fictional Hub City.

O’Neil’s work also included important contributions to DC and Marvel. As noted by Comic Book Resources:

Other notable titles O’Neil worked on include Superman, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, The Shadow, Captain Marvel, The Question, The Amazing Spider-Man and novelizations of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and he’s credited as the co-creator of Madame Web, Hydro-Man, Obadiah stane/Iron Monger, the Silver Centurian armor, Yuriko Oyama (the future Lady Deathstrike), Azrael and many more.

O’Neil’s creative mind was fueled by a passion for social justice. He knew how to challenge his readers’ worldview without hammering them over the head with a social message, all the while penning some of the most entertaining comic books at the time. Pro Sports Extra extends its condolences to Mr. O’Neil’s family and friends.

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About the author

Mike Rickard II

Retired bank robber and author of "Wrestling's Greatest Moments", "Laughing All the Way to the Bank Robbery, "Flunky: Pawns and Kings," and "Don't Call Me Bush Beans: The Legend of a Three-Legged Cat." Pro wrestling and hockey fan. Hired gun for several pro wrestling sites and a top 10 YouTube wrestling channel. Available in regular and extra-strength.