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The word "legend" is bandied about far too much in today's world, but in the case of Denny O'Neil--who passed away this week at the age of 81--it fits perfectly. 

A truly superb comic book writer, a dedicated editor and--by all accounts--a much-loved mentor, Denny was the driving force behind DC Comics in the 1970s. If you're old enough to remember those halcyon days in comics, fans were witness to the two industry giants waging a friendly war.


Marvel had Stan Lee and Roy Thomas writing wonderful tales of otherworldly derring-do for such titles as Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Avengers, The X-Men and The Hulk. Over at DC, you had Gardner Fox and Denny O'Neil penning more "realistic" super-hero fare with Superman, Batman, Justice League of America and Green Lantern.


And Denny--who started his comic book career with Marvel in the early 1960s before moving on to Charlton Comics (where I began my writing career) for a short stint before moving on to fame at DC in the late '60s--set the four-color world on its collective ear with his stories that dealt with the issues of those turbulent times.


Along with stellar artist Neal Adams and standout inker Dick Giordano, Denny revolutionized the Batman titles, returning The Dark Knight to his roots as a gritty detective and rescuing the character from the campy downward spiral fostered by the Adam West TV series.

Denny created the iconic villain Ra's al Ghul for The Batman, arguably the Caped Crusader's most dangerous adversary (with the exception of the Joker). I vividly recall that Denny always had Ra's refer to The Batman not by his familiar name, but simply as "Detective". A small touch, perhaps, but perfect and so memorable.


And, at the same time, Denny scripted the comic book he will always be associated with by fans of my age group: Green Lantern/Green Arrow. I will never understand why or how he had the idea to team up a moderately successful science-fiction hero with an almost-forgotten, second-banana hero who never had his own title before.


Again working with the incredible pencils of Neal Adams, Denny reworked both characters and forged a comic for the ages. The award-winning title changed the face of comics with stories of social consciousness, racial tensions and drug abuse. Comics had never seen tales like these before. And Denny was a master at telling them.


Denny returned to Marvel in 1980 to take over the editorial reins on Daredevil. All he did there was to put the Man Without Fear into the hands of a young writer/artist named Frank Miller. The rest, as they say, is history.


Denny would again return to the halls of DC in 1986, where he would remain until his retirement, editing the Batman family of titles. Not that he ever really retired. In the latter stages of his remarkable career, Denny taught (what else?) writing for comics at the School for Visual Arts. Oh, to have been a student in that classroom!


In a previous Hyper Space column, I chose Denny as one of my five favorite comic book writers of all time. For all the reasons listed above--and far too many others for me to go into here--he remains in that pantheon of heroes. God, he will be missed! But his legacy will always be with us. As long as people--young and old--read comics. 


Read a comic book today...for Denny. I'd like to think he'll be reading right over your shoulder.


Peace,

Thomas A. Tuna

Managing Editor

  • Hyper Epics

At this point in time, everyone in the country (and around the globe) has been isolated and quarantined far too long. The COVID-19 crisis has threatened our health, disrupted our lifestyles and generally turned the world upside-down.

Not to diminish the importance of the pandemic, but maybe--just maybe--there has been a way to cope with this right under our noses all along. I can't think of a better way to occupy my downtime--stuck in my house and trying to maintain my "social distance"--then catching up on my reading. And what better place to start than with the four-color fantasy of comic books?

Now, I may be slightly biased--having been an avid comic book fan for more than a half-century and a comics professional since the 1970s--but nothing beats spending a few quiet hours with a stack of comics or (in the case of Hyper Epics) with a laptop, scrolling through a few of our three-page masterpieces.

Think about it. I'd be willing to wager than most of us--men, women and the occasional ET who may be reading this--have fond memories of thumbing through well-worn copies of our favorite comic books.

I can't be the only one here who read and re-read comics as a youngster until the covers were ready for fall off. And that was, usually, when our well-intentioned mothers insisted we toss them.

I vividly recall, lo these many decades later, when my mom threw out an old issue of Wonder Woman while I was at school. It was a classic comic from the '50s that had committed only one fatal crime: it had lost its cover and so, in my mom's eyes, had lost its value. I think I may have cried that night. I wasn't finished re-reading that comic yet.

Maybe this is the perfect time to combat the evils of this pandemic with the inherent goodness of comic books. Or, at least, with the joy of reading our little Epics on a computer screen.

Try it out today. Read one (or more) of our original stories. And then try to tell me you don't feel better for it. The real world can wait. The world of the imagination is calling.

Enjoy.

Peace,

Thomas A. Tuna

Managing Editor

  • Hyper Epics


I don't know of any comic book fan who didn't want to try their hand at a script or create a new super-hero (or a sympathetic villain). And while starting the process is not as easy as it may appear, it's not terribly difficult if you have the desire, a working background of the medium and a modicum of writing and storytelling talent.


There's no way to condense everything you should know about starting a comic book script in one article, but the following are a few steps to get you pointed in the right direction if you're driven to enter the wonderfully creative world of illustrated fiction.


1) To start with, it really helps if you're a true fan--someone who has bought, read and collected comics of all genres. You should know your stuff--backgrounds of heroes and villains, origin stories, supporting characters and where their adventures have taken them through the years. Do your research and love what you're writing about. It really helps.


2) Be prepared to tell a good story. Writers in any field aren't just wordsmiths who know the proper punctuation and grammar (but make sure you do), but they're comfortable with and capable of telling an interesting story. You may have created a terrific new hero or villain, but if you don't place him in a viable story line that will grip the reader, you haven't closed the deal.


3) Write a detailed plot outline of the entire script. I'm not going to get into what it takes to sell your story to a publisher (maybe another day), but a busy editor won't spend much time on your idea if you don't give him a well-written and well-thought-out plot. That's the meat you need before you sit down with dessert.


4) Speaking of dessert, the next step gets you closer to the sweets. Break down your plot outline into a page-by-page working draft of what will become your script. How many pages? If you're interested in the anthology-type of horror comic, a rule of thumb is stick with 10 pages or less. The best guide is: Write until the story is finished. If you really know your subject matter and where you're going with your plot, you'll know when to wrap it up.


5) Now's the time for the completed, polished (proofread and double-checked) script. Break down each page of your full outline into individual panels, complete with dialogue and captions. This part of the process can be the most fun--putting words into the mouths of your characters and writing crisp, expository captions. Remember to ALWAYS write your captions in the present tense. Comics is a "now" medium. Keep it real; keep it happening.


Again, all this hinges on your writing skills and being able to string together several words without tripping over them.


And loving telling a good story with powerful action words. Have fun; that's the key.


Maybe I'll see you in the funny papers!


Thomas A. Tuna

Managing Editor

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