In an industry known for once-in-a-lifetime talents, local resident Denny O’Neil stands out. O’Neil’s groundbreaking storylines earned him visionary status in the world of Bronze Age comics—and when he died last June in Nyack, New York, the community mourned. Now, as his family auctions off his most prized possessions through ComicConnect.com, collectors have a unique opportunity to own a piece of his legacy.
“Denny is one of the greatest writers in comic history,” notes Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner of ComicConnect. “He not only left an indelible mark on both DC and Marvel, he brought comics into the Modern Age, introducing themes of social justice in the ‘60s.”
The Denny O’Neil estate auction opens Monday, February 8 at noon and ends on March 2 at 7pm. The remarkably personal collection includes leatherbound volumes of O’Neil’s creations, original drafts of his work, and a selection of rare collectibles.
One standout item: O’Neil’s copy of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, arguably the most valuable Bronze Age item in existence. Issued by DC Comics in 1978 in an attempt to expand its titles, only 35 copies of the two-volume ashcan edition were printed before DC cancelled the project.
“O’Neil created some of the most significant plots in comic history on these, making them of great interest to historians and creatives alike.” says Zurzolo.
“We’re honored that his family entrusted us with these important artifacts.”
O’Neil’s life and career are as interesting as his works. Born in St. Louis in 1939, he graduated from St. Louis University with a degree in English in 1960. He then joined the Navy—just in time to serve in the Naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Following his stint in the Navy, he became a newspaper columnist in Missouri, writing about the comic industry on slow news days. From there, he was improbably recruited by Roy Thomas—noted writer, editor, and eventual editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics.
In Manhattan, O’Neil was hired (and then fired) by Stan Lee. He served two tenures each at Marvel and DC, collaborating with luminaries like Steve Ditko, Curt Swan, Frank Miller, and Joe Quesada.
However, he is best-known for his game-changing Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman collaborations with artist Neal Adams. He was one of the first to tackle topical subjects like racism, drugs, and Vietnam, and helped reshape Wonder Woman as a feminist character. He worked on Justice League, Spider-Man, and Daredevil titles…is credited with naming Optimus Prime…and served as editor at both DC and Marvel. O’Neil also spearheaded the infamous “Death in the Family” story arc, where in readers were invited to call DC’s editorial office and vote to decide the fate of Jason Todd, the second Robin, after the character was left in death trap.
Beyond comics, O’Neil wrote several novels and teleplays, even teaching at School of Visual Arts New York City. A dedicated philanthropist, he served as advisor for the Hero Initiative—a nonprofit aiding comic industry creatives in need—and later in life, was helped in turn.
“Denny O’Neil was a Renaissance man whose contributions to the industry will be honored for years to come,” says Zurzolo. “For this reason, we anticipate that his will be one of our liveliest auctions in some time.”