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Friday, March 14, 2014 

Denny O'Neil admits he's disappointed at the grim turn comics have taken

The Lexington Herald-Leader interviewed O'Neil about his past career, from newspaper to comics writing, and at the end of the article, he adds himself to the list of veterans who regret the bleak, overly violent tone comics took since he'd left:
Eventually, the entire superhero genre took a turn for the nihilistic. O'Neil edited the Batman franchise at DC Comics in the late 1980s and oversaw controversial stories in which the Joker shot, crippled and sexually assaulted Batgirl and then murdered Robin, Batman's junior partner.

Today, DC and Marvel comics are full of graphically violent content, including rape and decapitation. It makes O'Neil wistful.

He says he always thought that superheroes could be used to tell sophisticated stories, but he never wanted kids pushed out of the audience.

"I am uncomfortable with how dark the characters have become,"
said O'Neil, now semi-retired. "I don't read every issue of the comics they're nice enough to send me for free, so my wife, Marifran, a teacher, used to give them out as prizes to second- and third-graders. Now she has to go through them and carefully pick out which ones are actually suitable for children."
I'm glad he cares. His work has many ups and downs, but he did make an effort to bring sophistication to comicdom, and was far more thought-provoking than the hack writers hanging around the Big Two today are offering. And when he scripted a story with serious mayhem, it was usually just where it fit, in titles like Batman, yet he managed to do it all with a modicum of intelligence. As editor of the Batbooks until 2000, Robin was one of the titles under his management, and shows he did consider younger readers a valid audience, even if parental guidance was needed.

Now if he could show the guts to say this at a major convention, I believe he'd be making an impact, though I realize there'd be callous, insular people out there too who'd shun him as a washed up old bag who "doesn't understand" what newer audiences supposedly want. If people like O'Neil and Roy Thomas could take the opportunity while it's still possible to protest where things are going now, they could be helping.

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I didn't care for the self-righteous leftist smugness of Green Lantern-Green Arrow during the "relevance" fad of the early 1970's. OTOH, Denny O' Neil and Neal Adams deserve much of the credit for returning Batman to his Dark Knight image, and regaining much of the character's lost popularity after the camp comedy fad passed. Unfortunately, a lot of subsequent writers and artists have gone over the top, especially without the Comics Code to restrain them. The current version of Batman seems crazier (and more of a menace to society) than the Joker and Riddler combined.
And I know what O' Neil means about his wife having to be careful when giving out comics to kids. I've donated comics to libraries and children's hospitals, but almost all of them were Archie or Disney comics from before 1995. More recent comics (even Archie) are just not kid-friendly.

Marvel and DC used to make stuff that was 'clean' enough for kids, but deep enough for adults. It takes talent and brains to do that, and there isn't enough of either in the industry today. Sometimes you'd run across some trash (Claremont or Baron occasionally) or obnoxious politicizing (Englehart, Gruenwald, Starlin on bad days), but nothing on the level that we started seeing in the 90s.

The article from the Herald-Leader makes a big factual error: Joker never sexually abused Barbara in Killing Joke. It was originally part of the script, but the editors deemed it going too far. But now we have leftist garbage like Saga with full frontal homosexual sex scenes out there, so who's to say what would happen if Killing Joke had been done today?

And on that note, I feel that the way the reboot restored Babs' legs through editorial meddling is an insult to the character, along with rendering one of the best Batman stories no longer canon.

There isn't a single comic being produced by the Big Two today that I would recommend to a kid. They've gone overboard with violence, gore, sexual situations and other things.

And I agree with John regarding Babs. DC claims they want "diversity," and yet they lost it by restoring her legs and throwing off her disability.

I will never read Saga because it's written by ultra-moonbat Brian K. Vaughn, who always puts that kind of garbage into his stories.

Oh, absolutely Carl. Oracle was one of the most prominent -- and positive -- examples of a physically handicapped comic character, and she was possibly even more of an asset to the Batman Family due to her hacking skills and her information. Her computer skills were on the same level as Batman's, which was impressive.

They could have easily had Cassandra Cain back as Batgirl (again, diversity -- she's Asian), but she's another "diverse" character who got lost in the New 52 shuffle (get it? 52 cards in a deck -- oh never mind). And with Gail Simone still on the new Batgirl title, DC is guaranteeing I will not read it until they boot her liberal butt.

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It's ironic that DC and Marvel bring in token gay and Muslim characters to promote "diversity," but they wipe out handicapped and Asian characters who could serve as positive role models.

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