REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT — BY A HEAVYWEIGHT: The late O’Neil was born 83 years ago…
UPDATED 5/3/22: Neal Adams, comics’ greatest artist, has died at the age of 80. In June 2020, Adams wrote this moving tribute to his former collaborator Denny O’Neil, who had just died the day before. O’Neil, as it happens, was born on this date in 1939, so this seemed like the perfect time to re-present the column. For more Adams coverage, click here. — Dan
Two truths: Denny O’Neil, who has died at the age of 81, is my all-time favorite comics writer. Neal Adams is my all-time favorite comics artist.
In my mind, they will always be the Lennon and McCartney of DC Comics. The very top.
As much as I love the work that these two giants have done, as much as their work has profoundly affected me, I couldn’t personally do O’Neil justice on my own. It would be impossible.
But Adams, of course, could and he’s written the following appreciation. This is a 13th Dimension EXCLUSIVE that I couldn’t possibly be more proud to publish. — Dan
REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT: DENNY O’NEIL
By NEAL ADAMS
My other creator half has finished his work and now, has left us.
Everyone asks, “Did we work closely together?”
“Were we friends?”
We didn’t have to be either. We worked together… apart, and he was totally professional. I trusted him to do the best damn job he could do, and he never let me down.
But Denny O’Neil meant more to me than that or that others could understand.
Many comic book writers come from being comic book fans. Not Denny. Denny was a news writer often on the night beat. His eyes saw reality and he wrote that into his work.
I come from the real world.
Sure we both read comic books, but superheroes are far from the real world. They are fantasy, mostly.
Look at the work we did. Green Arrow, Batman… no “superheroes”, but heroes. Green Lantern, a superhero but like Stan Lee’s characters… flawed. He’s a test pilot… a real-life hero. Would you test a jet? I wouldn’t.
So, Denny wrote comics of characters that emerged from reality.
That being so, why would I need to ever question such a writer? And I never did.
Denny made me shine because he gave me reality in a fantasy genre.
Were we alike?
No, Denny was a passionate, Irish writer. I am a Sasquatch, bumbling around, crashing through walls and upsetting every applecart in the hall.
Were we friends?
In our way… the best of friends. Professional friends.
Years ago, Denny had a heart attack in a restaurant. It shook him. We talked… then… a lot, about the concept that he must change many things in his life. I promised him if he resolved to make changes he would live a long, happy life.
He married a wonderful woman. An old flame who watched over the new Denny. It was good.
Then, as life would have it, she died. And now… would he still be alive if she didn’t die?
Life doesn’t have easy answers. For me, dammit, I’m glad he was there to help me do the work, by doing his half.
He changed comics for the better.
— DENNY O’NEIL DEAD at 81. Click here.
— DENNY O’NEIL Discusses His Greatest BATMAN Stories. Click here.