Today, June 12, it was confirmed that legendary comic book writer Denny O’Neil passed away at 81. Reports from O’Neil’s family state that ONeil passed away peacefully in his home of natural causes.

For those, not familiar O’Neil’s contribution to comics CAN NOT be understated. In the early 70’s he redefined comics and reinvented several key DC characters. He was one of the premiere writers who helped comics break away from the safe and sanitized version they had been stuck in throughout the ’60s due to the comics code authority.

Reinventing Batman

He helped While many attribute Frank Miller for reinventing Batman. It was in fact O’Neil who pulled the character away from that of a campy joke and back to roots as a dark, brooding, paranoid roots. He created many memorable characters such as Ra’s Al Ghul, Tala, Lezzlie Tompkins, and Azreal. He helped to reinvent characters like Two-Face and Joker from the non-threatening goofballs the 60’s presented them as. Into the dark twisted psychopaths, we know today. Perhaps one of the best examples of his influence on Batman, and the dramatic shift he brought about, is Death in the Family. He not only wrote the death of Jason Todd. But also the fallout of Batman dealing with the trama.

Jason Todd’s death in Death in the Family
O’Neil shows Batman dealing with the harsh reality of the death of a loved one

Tackling Real-World Issues

O’Neil’s influence was not limited to simply Batman. He challenged comics to tackle real issues such as race and drug use. In 1971 he wrote the infamous story that revealed Green Arrow’s sidekick was a heroin addict. Drawing attention to the growing problem of drug use among teens, and showing that even heroes were not among fallowing so low.

Denny O’Neil’s legendary story in which Speedy is revealed to be a drug addict

O’Neil is also the man responsible for transforming Green Arrow into a far-left libertarian. He built a strong friendship between him and Green Lantern during his Green Arrow/Green Lantern run. As well as having Arrow force Lantern to face the racial divide in America.

Denny O’Neil writes as Green Arrow forced Green Lantern to confront racial injustice

O’Neil also wrote the iconic Superman vs Muhammad Ali one-shot. DC’s 2001 Armageddon, and DC’s Question.

O’Neil at Marvel

O’Neil’s influence is not limited to DC, however. Like most writers, he also worked for Marvel. Working on Spiderman, Daredevil, Iron-Man, X-Men, and Marvels Transformers. Tackling the same kinds of fo stories. In addition to creating characters like Madame Web and Hydro-Man. O’Neil also writes the fallout for ‘Demon in a Bottle’. Writing Tony having to overcome his addiction.

Denny O’Neil writes as Tony tries to overcome his alcoholism

O’Neil’s Other Works

O’Neil wrote several novels, comics, short stories, reviews, and teleplays. Including the novelizations of the films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. He wrote episodes of Logan’s Run, Superboy, Batman: The Animated Series, and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. He also taught at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts and wrote the instructional book The DC Guide to Writing Comics.


O’Neil was not afraid to push the envelope when it came to his writing. He was one of the premiere writers of the 70s and 80s who showed comics could tacking real-world issues and display characters as full three-dimensional characters.
He was the key speaker The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library’s “Comic Books and Social Justice” weekend in 2018.
The city of Phoenix AZ proclaimed May 25, 2019 “Dennis O’Neil Day”. In recognition of his impact in the comic industry and American society in general.