FW Presents – Written by Denny O’Neil

Shag, Rob, Chris, and Ryan discuss some excellent comic book stories written by the legendary Denny O'Neil.

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19 responses to “FW Presents – Written by Denny O’Neil

  1. “[When Denny left Power Man and Iron Fist] somebody replaced him, I don’t remember who.”

    That would be Kurt Freakin’ Busiek in his first regular comics work.

    1. I looked that up right after we recorded. I should’ve remembered, too, because this is on the shelf with my “to read” books:

      Power Man & Iron Fist Epic 3

  2. Great show, although a sad occasion.

    I’ve been working on-and-off for years on what is increasingly becoming a book length website on Green Arrow, and Denny O’Neil’s GL/GA run is smarter and better than most give it credit for. I think that the GL story that Chris covered was released shortly after the first revision to the Comics Code, a revision that allowed politicians to be villains. (Even though they had to be depicted as “bad apples”, the exception not the rule.)

    Even the somewhat racist cop in the beginning was a relatively new thing. In the early GL/GA issues, the villains were businessmen or if they were in politics (like in the JLA pollution story) they were unelected positions such as “City Manager” (and a hastlly promoted deputy manger in the JLA story.). In the issue immediately prior to John Stewart’s introduction, Black Hand was the elected mayor of a town. I think that must have been the month when the code’s changes filtered into the books. Everyone always points to the Speedy drug issues, but to me this is a much bigger deal.

    In Kevin Smith’s podcast interview with O’Neil he mentioned they’d tell him where the rules are he’d take the comics right to the edge. His frustrations with the Code is they kept changing the rules by whim of whichever Code official was looking at the book that month.

    I’ve been reading Denny O’Neil stories since childhood. I had the Tempo Books Batman edition that Chris mentioned.

    But one thing that gets left off the Denny O’Neil resume was something he wrote for Scholastic Books, which you could order through schools — the Super Comics. I got this along with various other Scholastic Books and treasured it:


    I remember this being the gateway drug to a lot of comics history — stuff like the Golden Age of comics and the creation of Earth-Two, the weird copyright issues with the Katzenjammer Kids and much more. O’Neil gave me an appreciation of how the medium evolved and how stories changed over time. It’s knowledge that helped far outside of comic books.

  3. I know everyone discusses O’Neil’s grounded work and his political views and I’ll get there.

    But for me, the most impressive thing is that in the early 70s DC put him in charge of revamping Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. Think about that, a single creator being put in charge of making significant changes to the Trinity. You guys talked about the depowering/jumpsuit of Wonder Woman. You talked of his return to the Dark Knight in Batman. But he also did ‘Kryptonite Nevermore’ in Superman, in which all Kryptonite on Earth is destroyed, Clark joins WGBS, and by the end of that story Superman is depowered by 1/3. Now I unabashedly love that story even if none of those changes lasted. But my social media avatar is the Sand Superman from that story.

    I will just remind you of the recent debacle when J Michael Straczynski got the reins on Superman and Wonder Woman recently. Indeed, can I start an FW ‘cursed be his name’ to be uttered any time JMS is mentioned?

    For me, despite the Batman stuff, the standout work for O’Neil is The Question reboot in the late 80s. I was in high school/college and that book with it’s Zen coolness and social commentary was just perfect for my adolescent mind. I ate it up. Seriously, that book is brilliant. If anyone here wants to cover that book at some point, count me in!

    1. I totally agree with you on his Question work. Not only did that stuff make me think as a kid, those stories are still making me think as a (supposed) adult!

  4. Fantastic picks gentlemen.
    I’ve of course never heard about the story in Vampirella until now, it certainly demonstrates O’Neill vast storytelling capabilities.
    I own both The Shadow graphic novel and The Daredevil issue.
    I’ve long been a fan of the old Shadow radio show and I picked up the Daredevil due to the Two-Gun Kid appearance. A fascinating story. Two heroes a hundred years apart, both attorneys in their civilian lives as well as masked vigilantes in their private lives, bringing justice when the courts can’t or won’t.
    And of course, Denny’s work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow is arguably only second to his work on Batman.
    A great tribute to a great creator. You guys did a wonderful job.

  5. This is a great tribute, gentlemen. And you all picked some great stories – of course, it’s not hard to find a great O’Neil story. A personal favorite of mine is the story in Amazing Spider-man Annual #14. That was during O’Neil’s brief – and oft-criticized – run on ASM, sandwiched between the Wolfman and Stern runs. There’s nothing special or ground-breaking about it: it’s just a thoroughly enjoyable annual, packed with action (with a guest appearance by Dr. Strange, as they deal with the joint threat of Dr. Doom and Dormammu!) and nice character moments from Peter Parker’s private life.
    As for the criticisms about the supposed heavy-handedness of some of O’Neil’s stories, esp. from GL/GA in the early 1970s – well, there may be some aspects that didn’t age well in terms of dialogue, but they are, unfortunately, just as relevant today as they were back then. So I say screw the critics.
    O’Neil was really one of the giants of comics over the course of his career. Thanks for a wonderful show, everybody.

  6. Thanks so much for your fine tribute to Denny. I can’t add anything except for my 1 encounter with the man himself. Several years ago I was invited to participate in a small comics symposium at a community college outside of Cleveland. Well, Denny was the keynote speaker. He couldn’t have been nicer to everyone & his lovely wife was by his side the entire time. I was lucky enough to share a lunch & dinner with him & the other guest speakers. I honestly don’t recall anything specific about our conversations other than he was thoughtful & interested in what everyone had to say. I think I was just too much in awe the entire time.

    He kindly signed my GL/GA hardcover. I’m sure he never thought of me or that symposium again but it was an honor I’ll always remember. It’s nice when a hero lives up to your expectations.

  7. Impressive Pod cast Most Impressive. I have the how to write comics book that O’Neil put out. It was pretty cool. As was his run on Bats. I was ok with his run on Spidey, but his villains fit better in DD. While Spidey is street level. DD fit better with it. Since he was pretty much a pulp character. I have his WW run… it was fine. The Bad came when O’Neil left and the artist started writing. And she became obsested with Shoes and cloths. It was there a bit just not as bad. And man once he left the artist had her cry… a lot. But, while he was there it was basically the Avengers …. The British version. But, with out Steed.

    Instead she’s hanging out with Lee Marven. Along with Her teacher I Ching . And once O’Neil left they had the Lee Marven stand in turn heel. But, that wasn’t O’Neil’s fault. He made Dr. Cyber or was it Michael Sekowsky was a great artist, but not a writer for WW. I think O’Neil’s run is more maligned from his finishing it. More than O’Neil’s. Ah Doctor Cyber was created by O’Neil. Not sure why the Lee Marven rip was named Jonny Double. Guess it fit the 70s pastiche. And the Avengers BBC thing he had going on.

    I never saw the Vamparila thing, but cool. Sounds decent enough. Geez O’Neil liked Pulp. I see why he got the Question. The Shadow looks cool. Ah a Pulp character of course he went for it. Looks like he did a good job here. I only read a few Shadow stories out of the Pulps , The Dynamite run and the old radio show that was put on CD. Still this looks cool. The DD story seems fine…

    I could say a lot here…but, as this is a O’Neil memorial. I’ll hold back this time. I will say I like John Stewart. More so in JLI and Mosaic than here, but he created a cool character. That people built on. While I don’t always agree with his Politics he was a cool writer. On to the old Afro American Man asking Hal what he’s done for the black man story. And EVS maybe being the first person to not like it. EVS isn’t Racist . Nor is that group he belongs to. That group has had other issues… but, nope not race problems. In fact they have different races in it including Afro American.

    Also … I remember SHG. I.E. Scott H. Garner being annoyed by that story years before EVS. Or at lest the first person being annoyed by this story. Pretty sure he’s not racist either. This story for very Soap Opera. And Yeah GL helped the whole planet. ANy way cool pod cast. Can’t wait to hear the next one. O’Neil was a great writer and will be missed.

  8. Great episode. I really must find Denny O’Neil’s Question work, it strikes me as a good fit for him… while Denny did those few famous issues of Superman that Anj rightly enjoyed, he basically seems supremely uninterested in non-street levels heroes, the kind I prefer (Hal Jordan became the fall guy to be lectured to in his own book!). His Batman stuff was indeed great, though the good things he did on Daredevil were wiped out by his romanticisation of the IRA as ‘freedom fighters’ (see also the friendly old Irish bombmaker chum of groovy Diana Prince… just so wrongheaded).

    Still, he gave us some real gems over the years – his Shazam stories were a particular delight, and the goons he came up with for Chronos in Super Friends were a hoot. The main thing I love about Denny’s work is that he’s a true wordsmith, able to transmit his passion on to the page. Rest in peace.

  9. Well done on a great tribute to a great writer. Hearing these stories and your memories of Dennis O’Neil pretty much sum up my feelings for him and you all did an excellent job showcasing his work.
    Even though I don’t have the best memory for writers/artists, I do remember that, if I ever saw a book by O’Neil, I knew right away that it would be a book that would make me think. I knew that the themes would be more adult than I was used to in my other comics but I also knew that it was important to read them. I’ve seen it oft mentioned that perhaps his stories were too heavy-handed, but I think it was necessarily so and meant to be more a slap to the face to get people to sit up and understand the problems that society was/is facing. And since his main demographic were kids, sometimes subtle just isn’t going to do it.
    As Anj mentioned above, I would recommend his Question work. I remember some of those early issues being amazing, crazy, and thoughtful. I’m not the sort of person to say, “They don’t make ’em like they used to!” but, in this case, they don’t make ’em like that Question comic!
    Which makes me think, who do you guys think is the next Dennis O’Neil? Is there a writer today that you could equate to what O’Neil was trying to do with his writing? I’m not sure this is even close, but, for me, Matt Fraction on Sex Criminals is making a very thoughtful book on mental and sexual health wrapped up in penis jokes. Hmmmmmm, maybe that’s not the best example.
    He will be sorely missed. Thank you for a great tribute. Keep up the great work!

    1. I nominate David F. Walker, writer of Occupy Avengers (among other works). People call O’Neil’s writing heavy-handed, but I think that was only true in the early seventies, and it may be true that it was necessary at the time. By the late seventies, he’d already improved at making his point with more showing than telling. Walker is the same way, and like O’Neil’s work, they’re fun comics. Mary Poppins was right about that spoonful of sugar thing.

  10. I enjoyed Denny O’Neil’s work on dozens of characters and books, but my two favorite works of his were probably the lead story of Detective comics #483 (“The Curse of Crime Alley”) and the Superman / Muhammad Ali match-up. I also own his guide to writing comics, which makes for enjoyable learning.

    I would have loved to share a couple meals with him, as Chuck did. In the interviews I’ve read, Denny came across as thoughtful and humble. The characters he wrote were sometimes quick to pass judgment on those they disagreed with. That doesn’t seem to have reflected him as a person, however. He was able to respect, work alongside, and even befriend people with differing views. I respect that very much. Thanks for doing this tribute.

  11. Excellent show. I first read Denny O’Neil stories in the Greatest Joker and Greatest Batman stories with “The Joker’s Five Way Revenge”, “Half a Life” and so on. It was around that time I started collecting Batman comics in earnest so it was Denny’s stint as editor which coincided with my Batman collecting and his stewardship was amazing in the 90s. I later read his GL/GA runs, his JLA work through the Showcase Presents volumes and later on his Question run, which was excellent in my opinion. His run on Azrael, a character he created, was quite good and doing a 100 issue run on a new character is extremely impressive. Finally, of course, he was immortalised in the Batman Adventures comics as the Perfesser! It was interesting to hear about his Marvel work which I am not familiar with, and to hear how his writing shone there as well. A wonderful tribute to a fine writer and editor.

  12. Great discussion, fellas! Denny O’Neil’s reputation in comics stems from some very important, and key moments, in a handful of titles, but as you ably demonstrated, his range was tremendous! Both as a writer and editor he was a steady, and steadying, presence during his tenures at DC and Marvel.
    Allen, that book you linked to must have been offered by Scholastic after my time, because I would have bought that in an instant!

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