In 1970, Denny O'Neil, a scriptwriter for DC Comics based in New York City, rose to fame in pop culture due to his revolutionary works, such as GREEN LANTERN, JUSTICE LEAGUE, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN, and BAT LASH. During his tour, the 31-year-old returned to his hometown St. Louis, Missouri, and engaged in a lengthy chat with a group of comic book enthusiasts - one of which was a 15-year-old Walt Jaschek, the author.
The topic of THE DENNY O'NEIL TAPES is Denny's revamps of DC characters, and how they connect to popular culture. Discussion covers his views on art, collaborations, heroism, and the future of comics. First published in 1970, through GRAFAN, this interview was read by less than 100 people and has never been reprinted until now.
As an additional bonus, author Walt Jaschek presents readers with scans of the original, typewritten script for GREEN LANTERN #63 ("This is the Way the World Ends", 1968) which he received as a gift from the writer after the interview. Also included are select pages from the published issue so that readers may compare the script with the edited-in-pencil version made by DC Comics' Julius Schwartz, as well as a first-hand peek at the creative process of these outstanding creative minds.
With additional comic pages of Denny’s work from that era sprinkled through the interview to give to context, and a postscript inclusion of his complete Wikipedia bio, the book is a small but worthy salute to the late, Missouri-born comics storytelling master
Here are some of Denny’s quotes from the tapes.
ON ADDRESSING SOCIAL ISSUES IN COMICS
“I’m reacting. We’re all reacting. I’m desperately worried about pollution, for example. I’ve got a four-year-old son who might not live to be my age, unless we do something about this. ... I don’t know that it’s we want to “preach.” ... There used to be a time when comic never got into anything at all. The difference now is that if you have a story you want to tell about some social problem, and you can still make it an entertaining comic book, you can do it.”
ON REVAMPING BATMAN AND SUPERMAN
“I think both Batman and Superman have accumulated a lot of unnecessary trimming over the years. They were characters who were equivalent to those automobiles Chrysler used to put out, with tail fins that shoot out as high as the Tower of Pisa, and 15 tons of chrome – not functional, too much there to work with. We looked at Superman and Batman from way back, the first issues, and we’ve tried to decide what made these characters popular in the first place.”
ON ARTIST NEAL ADAMS
“The reason my stuff looks better when Neal is doing it is because Neal is a heck of a good artist and involves himself totally. ... It’s more visual because Neal is more visual, and he cares more. I wish that I could distill Neal Adams and put him in a hypo and stick him in every artist in the business. It’s unreasonable to expect that all of them would have his talent, but I’d be satisfied if all of them cared as much as he does.”
ON WRITING “BAT LASH”
“It was a chance to do something that only comics can do and the medium has never done. Wil Eisner came close with The Spirit to the sort of thing we were trying to do, but we were trying to go one step past The Spirit. The book was written basically humorously, but we all had very serious ideas about who Bat Lash was..."
ON THE FATE OF THE COMICS INDUSTRY
“We may be on a real Ragnarök trip..."
Don’t worry: there were also a lot of laughs in the interview, too, with the affable writer by his fans.
Denny died in 2022 after a long, award-winning career as writer and editor, but his influence lives on. This book is a snapshot of his early ascendency.