Dennis O’Neil: Alfred Bester’s Squinkas

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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2 Responses

  1. mike weber says:

    Some of Bester’s stories about his comics days were hilarious.

    Like when he realised that the editors were rewriting his gibberish.

    As he told it, you’re writing SF comics set on other worlds, or you’re writing jungle stories – the natives or the aliens have to say something, so you make up some gibberish for the balloons.

    But he noticed that the gibberish that was printed was not the gibberish he had written, even if nothing else had been changed. So he went to an editor – quite possibly the afore-mentioned Mr Schwartz – and asked what the hell was going on?

    And he got an answer along the lines of “I know you’re a smart-ass and I know you know all sorts of odd stuff and words in other languages, so, just to be sure that you’re not slipping in dirty words in obscure languages, I re-write anything you write that isn’t English.”

    As i heard Bester tell the story, he said to himself “Okay – I haven’t been, but now I will, and you won’t notice it till it’s too late.”*

    So he waited a while and then he wrote a story featuring an important character named “Mr Merkin”.


    *This is not unlike Dashiel Hammett slipping the word “gunsel” into “The Maltese Falcon”, his editors assuming it was an underworld term for a button man … and real criminals eventually adopting it that way.

    Or writers in John Campbell’s stable at “Astounding”/”ANALOG” slipping rude things into stories to give JWC’s maiden-lady secretary Kay Tarrant things to be offended by and change (it was a game both sides enjoyed) … including George O Smith referring to “the greatest invention since the original ball-bearing mousetrap” – a tomcat.


    BTW – does anyone know what kind of feud or general bad vibes there might have been between Bester and his fellow pulp/comics/SF writer Manly Wade Wellman”?

    I once was treated to the sight of Wellman strangling his cane and allowing as how “That SOB crosses the street when he sees me coming” at the mention of Bester…

    • mike weber says:

      I left off the punchline to the “mousetrap” story – Miss Tarrant failed to pick up on it and it was published.

      Last time i saw a reprint of the story – “Lost Art”, one of the “Venus Equilateral” stories – it was still there.