A Billion Dollars Worth Of Respect, by Dennis O’Neil

Dennis O'Neil

Dennis O'Neil was born in 1939, the same year that Batman first appeared in Detective Comics. It was thus perhaps fated that he would be so closely associated with the character, writing and editing the Dark Knight for more than 30 years. He's been an editor at Marvel and DC Comics. In addition to Batman, he's worked on Spider-Man, Daredevil, Iron Man, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, the Question, The Shadow and more. O'Neil has won every major award in the industry. His prose novels have been New York Times bestsellers. Denny lives in Rockland County with his wife, Marifran.

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6 Responses

  1. Caitlin Rosberg says:

    I don't think there's any responsibility on the part of a creator to anticipate what may happen in years, decades, centuries after he put pen to paper. I don't think it's really possible, nor is it fair. And, more importantly, how can we know that the needs and desires of people in the future are the same as people now? Look at how much, as you mentioned, the view of comic books has changed…the Golden Age, knocked down by Wertham…all the way to today, where most of the movies that actually cut a profit are in some way tied into the superhero phenomenon, and TV is riddled with hero-heavy stories.And while comic book readers, especially the very involved fans, have lived in relative freedom without attention to the mainstream, I don't see everyone in America picking up a Miller Batman and launching into the formerly underground art and literature, mostly because people don't want to read, they'd rather have someone else make it entertaining on a screen.Besides, the girls and women (myself included) still have the upward battle that male comic book readers have begun to win in struggling for respect and recognition.

  2. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    I had no idea you lived near the Palisades Center. We used to visit there frequently when we lived in New York. If you look, you will find my picutre on the wall at Cheeburger Cheeburger along all the other people who ate one of their One Pound Hamburgers. I believe I just finished digesting it last week.Growing up on Long Island, which I used to refer to as "a series of shopping malls connected by highway", I grew up with mall culture. In fact, the mall was the first place I began to evidence the first sign of old age, Noticing Where Things Didn't Used To Be. One store at Green Acres used to be S. Klein's, then it was a Korvettes, then Gimbels, then Sterns, and then I moved away so I have no idea what it is now. Nor do I know what became of the formerly HUGE Alexanders that used to sit on Sunrise Highway, completely blocking the view of the mall. The wife and I have considered visiting Long island, and checking out what's become of the malls we used to frequent is higher on our to-do list than visiting relatives.At Roosevelt Field, in an area of the shopping center formerly know as "La Petit Mall", there was once a plaque on a boulder that commemorated the spot that Lindbergh lifted off the runway to start his transatlantic flight. When that whole area of the mall was demolished for expansion, that memorial went as well. If I judge the location right, Lindbergh took off in what is now the middle of the Disney Store, right near Plush Mountain.In one of her performance pieces, Laurie Anderson tells a story about William F. Buckley. Buckley came to a town to advertise a lecture he was giving. He headed to the center of town, only to find out "The center of town was no longer IN the center of town, it had moved to the local shopping mall." I've always loved that quote.I can, however, assure you that this culture's ugliest and most opulent structures are not the shopping malls. Here in Bethlehem, PA, they just recently made slot machine gambling legal, and several casinos are building stately pleasure domes (one will be on the site of the legendary Bethlehem Steel plant, and will incorporate its motif and architecture into the design) that will put the Mall of America itself to shame. They will have entire floors that will be left empty, solely in anticipation that the next step is made and table gambling is made legal as well.And you need not worry about finding a way to make your work accessible to the next generations…the Cliffs Notes Corporation will do that for you.

    • Elayne Riggs says:

      I'll have to look for your photo, Vin – I'm at the Palisades Center all the time, mostly at East eating conveyor-belt sushi…

  3. Russ Rogers says:

    I don't think Comics Artists have a responsibility to make art that is "Classroom Friendly." Heck, "Catcher in the Rye" isn't that "Classroom Friendly." My mother taught "To Kill a Mockingbird" for years and years. Great book, but it revolves around a rape trial and the word "Nigger" is used a lot. Great book, not "Classroom Friendly," it takes a bit of extra work on the part of the teacher and the class to read it. Comics Artists don't need to censor themselves in order to fit into some notion of what a future classroom might expect in it's curriculum.You are right. Comics are finally mainstream. They have moved away from the stigma of being relegated to "Pulp Fiction," easily disposable. They are now highly collectible, not just for nostalgic value, but also for their recognized literary, artistic, academic and social value. So YES, comic artists have the POWER of speaking to more than just an ephemeral passing audience of pamphlet readers, they are writing to generations, writing for the ages. But with great power comes great responsibility. If you want what you are writing to be saved, treasured and studied, in short considered more than just trash … you had better create art that is worthy of being saved, treasured and studied. I'm not saying that everything has to be highbrow or censored. I'm talking about QUALITY. A person should approach creation (of anything) with the INTENTION of creating something good, the INTENTION of doing their best work should be there. SO if you are creating PORN or POP or SCHLOCK, make sure it's the BEST porn, pop or schlock you can make. There is nothing inherently wrong with being "lowbrow" as long as you aren't pandering and making lazy, formulaic lowbrow crap. "Animal House" is a GREAT movie. It's certainly not highbrow, but it's still well written, acted and, I would argue, culturally significant.Jazz is still alive, vibrant, but it's moved from being a popular form to a studied form. Too much Jazz is produced for "Jazz Lovers," people with a knowledge of the complexities of the form. That's not entirely a bad thing, unless you are trying to be a working Jazz Musician. [There's a joke: "What's the difference between a frog driving a car and a Trombone Player driving a car? … The frog might be on his way to a gig!"] Comics may find themselves in a similar position. As comics become more academically and culturally accepted, more and more comics might be produced for a dwindling, insular fan base of "Comics Lovers." Batman was still #1 at the boxoffice this weekend, pulling in $43.8 million to the Mummy's $42.5. But those numbers are academic. The Mummy, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, are all "High Concept" adventure films. Why isn't "The Mummy" considered a comic book moive? There is a Mummy Comic Book! The fact it, they are all Comic Book Movies, even if the comic book came after the movie. There are more Star Wars, Alien and Predator stories in comics than in the movies or novels! The same goes for Star Trek When do we start to consider those comic books. Indiana Jones, The Mummy and Star Wars are closer to Batman than Ghost World, Road to Perdition or A History of Violence. And frankly THAT is exciting. It means that comics have not only been embraced as an art from by Hollywood and the general public, it means that comic books have expanded and embraced more genres than just high concept fantasy, sci-fi, horror or funny animal cartoons.

  4. Gerry Alanguilan says:

    Hello Denny!I'm not entirely convinced that the enormous success of comic book movies automatically means an increased respect for comics. In the many reviews that I have read, comics are still referred to as "kids stuff", and that it took a visionary film director to elevate the material to what we see on screen. Never mind that a lot of that material that wowed people, specially with regard to the recent Batman movies, all came from the comic books themselves. A lot of people still seem to be quite hesitant to attribute any intelligence and depth to the medium, even when informed of the fact. Even in a Bryan Singer X-Men movie, characters can utter things like, "what did you want me to war, spandex?" ( or something similar) as if denigrating the source, delineating a line between it and the "inferior" comics.

  5. Torsten Adair says:

    Well, when I first caught the comicbook bug, I would walk to the nearest shopping center (Westroads, in Omaha, at one time the Eighth largest), wherein I would haunt the B.Dalton's, Waldenbooks, and a local magazine-only chain called Read All About It to buy my Marvel Comics. (This was in the mid-1980s, when Marvel sponsored those spinner racks to feature their albums.) Later, there, I watched Howard the Duck one summer day, and attended the Midnight screening of Batman: The Movie. I think that Watchmen might be comics' 2001: A Space Odyssey. If the movie is well reviewed, I think that the general perception of superhero comics will change. Of course, it took some 40 years for Science Fiction to become mainstream. "The Plot Against America" is alternative history, and "The Road" is post-apocalyptic fiction, yet you find it on Oprah. Also, congratulations, Prof. O'Neil! Your adaptation of Dark Knight made the New York Times bestseller list!