Interview With Dennis O'Neil
(February 1998)

Dennis (Denny) O'Neil was editor and writer on Daredevil and he currently oversees the Batman books at DC. He talks about his writing stint on the comic and what it was like to follow Frank Miller on the book.

Kuljit Mithra: After stints at Marvel, Charlton and then DC, you went back to Marvel in 1978 as editor. One of your titles was, of course, Daredevil, when Frank Miller was just starting. Did you feel his art or his writing was his strength on Daredevil?

Dennis O'Neil: Art. Another writer was doing the scripts when I took over the book. Frank asked if he could write a short backup story and, thinking that if he bombed I could always do an overnight rewrite, I said sure. He did well and I decided to chance letting him script the monthly book.

Mithra: How was that period for you, working with Frank Miller and Klaus Janson (and earlier with Roger McKenzie)? Did you, as editor, guide them or did you step back and let them decide what they wanted to do with the comic?

O'Neil: We talked a lot--sometimes two, three times a week. I suggested, urged, pointed and amplified, but the book was theirs, not mine. My job was to help them realize their vision.

Mithra: With issue 194, you took over from Frank Miller as writer. Were you at all hesitant about taking this job? I'm sure there was some pressure there for you.

O'Neil: Yeah, as hesitant as I'd be stepping center stage to play "O Susanna" on the harmonica after Glenn Gould had just finished knocking off a few Mozart concertos. Frank was a tough act to follow and I took the gig mostly because there didn't seem to be (m)any other viable candidates for it.

Mithra: On 6 or 7 issues, you worked with artist William Johnson. What did you think of his work, and do you know whatever became of him? I don't think I've seen any other work of his.

O'Neil: I thought his work was okay and yeah, what DID ever happen to him?

Mithra: How was it to work with David Mazzucchelli? He really became well known with 'Born Again', but I think some of his work with you was just as good.

O'Neil: David was my favorite DD artist and one of the very best collaborators I've ever had. I respect his decision to leave adventure comics and do his own thing, but I regret it, too. It's a real loss to us.

Mithra: In your issues, you introduced several characters. One of them was Micah Synn. What was he based on? How do you feel about that whole storyline?

O'Neil: Whillikers...I did that stuff so long ago, I barely remember the stories, much less their genesis. The arc you refer to may have been inspired by a book titled "The Mountain People," but I'd have to reread the issues to be sure and I'm not even sure in which of three possible places they are.

Mithra: Did you feel at the time that Daredevil needed another love interest? You created Glorianna O'Breen to take over this role in the comic.

O'Neil: Unlike Batman, DD seems to be a character for whom a lovelife is natural. We try to supply what's needed.

Mithra: Why did you feel the need to kill off Heather Glenn?

O'Neil: See answer above.

Mithra: How important do you think DD's supporting characters are to the comic?

O'Neil: Very. Which is true of most, if not all, adventure characters. Reasons are long and complicated...

Mithra: One of my favourite issues of yours was the Secret Wars II tie-in, where DD regains his sight for a day. Do you think Daredevil's strength as a comic is his blindness? Was it difficult at any time to write a DD story because of what the character was limited to?

O'Neil: Good questions. The blindness gimmick certainly helped to make him unique (at least in the Marvel universe) and that can only help. I never felt DD's "limitations" were a problem. On the contrary, I find characters with extreme superpowers a lot harder to write because you have to work so hard to get them into trouble.

Mithra: In issue #225, a Native American character is shown at the end, and he claims he has to save Daredevil from some future conflict. Since you left the title with #226, this story never came to be. What were your plans with this character? What was his name?

O'Neil: Don't remember his name. I think we were going to do a longish continuity with that guy, but someone vastly higher in the chain of command than either the editor or me squelched it.

Mithra: Which DD story of yours do you think was your best? worst?

O'Neil: Don't know about best and worse--again, I'd have to reread the material. Probably the most interesting, and the one in which we first realized that David was indeed stellar, was the western [#215].

Mithra: I've read that you had problems with Jim Shooter, the editor-in-chief of Marvel at that time, and you ultimately went back to DC where you have been since. You have written and edited both Batman and Daredevil. Which one has given you the best experience as a writer, and as editor?

O'Neil: Batman. I've always been far more comfortable here, where I have as much automony as anyone could reasonably ask for.

Mithra: Any chance of a sequel to the Daredevil/Batman one-shot?

O'Neil: Sure. Let the business guys do their thing and we'll be happy to do ours.

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(c) Kuljit Mithra 1998
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
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