Tag Archives: Denny O’Neil

Today’s Super Comic — Batman #232 (1971)

How to introduce a new Batman villain? Hide him in plain sight.

Ra’s al Ghul gets a distinctive introduction in Batman #232, an issue Batman: The Animated Series adapted over twenty years later.

Robin the Boy Hostage is kidnapped. Then a mysterious man moseys on into the Batcave, claiming that his daughter Talia—whom Batman had recently met—has apparently been kidnapped by the same people.

It opens up a unique Bat-villain dynamic from the start. In a (by comic book standards) subdued bit of macho posturing, this guy has deduced Batman’s secret identity before ever meeting him and immediately brandishes this knowledge as his “hello.” And then he proceeds to lead him around the globe so Batman can find a kidnapper who’s standing right next to him the whole time. But Batman’s one step ahead of him…because he’s Batman.

The whole thing is a test, which brings us to the next reason Ra’s isn’t like all the other bad guys. Batman isn’t just a potential enemy—he’s a potential son-in-law and successor.

We don’t learn everything about Ra’s in his debut issue, but we don’t need to be inundated with all details at once. Slow introductions are often better; we can appreciate the various facets as they slowly emerge. So much more interesting than an info-dump, and it saves surprises for future issues.

For now, we get a clear sense that Ra’s is cunning, resourceful, and used to getting his way. A successful hook. Objectively successful in hindsight, given that he’s been a major foe ever since and Liam Neeson played him in a movie11.

Also, this issue is written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Neal Adams—two of the people responsible for rescuing Batman from his campy phase. That was one trap he couldn’t escape on his own.

Writer: Dennis O’Neil

Penciler: Neal Adams

Inker: Dick Giordano

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batman: Tales of the Demon (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86 (1971)

green_lantern_vol_2_85DC Comics brought Green Lantern down to Earth in the early 1970s. GL partnered with Green Arrow, initially playing the role of Hal’s conscience, and the duo fought the most fearsome super-villain of all time—social problems!

Few mad scientists or bug-eyed monsters were in the mix during Green Lantern/Green Arrow, but the green guys instead tackled issues ranging from racism to pollution, as well as drugs in #85 and 86. It was a DC series different from any that had come before, one much more grounded than the usual imaginative sci-fi fare the publisher specialized in during those days. And for a little over a year, it worked because of the other team-up the title featured—writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams, two of the best in the business at the time, who excelled with down-to-earth takes on superheroes.

These comics aren’t subtle—they’re downright preachy at times—but they’ve got good messages for kids and adults alike. The drug storyline is not only a warning to stay away from drugs, but also a warning that the person you least expect can become hooked on them. In this case, Green Arrow’s former sidekick, Speedy, reveals he’s been using, and with the help of Black Canary, he strives to kick the habit. And this forces Green Arrow to confront the possibility that he may have failed in his most important duty—being the boy’s guardian.

Before this series, DC superheroes had seldom seemed so fallible or human.

Writer: Dennis O’Neil

Artist: Neal Adams

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Green Lantern/Green Arrow vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Daredevil #223 (1985)

Daredevil_Vol_1_223Ironically and impressively, Daredevil #223 ties into a company-wide crossover and stands on its own as a superb done-in-one story.

Secret Wars II was a mixed bag on the whole. The main premise involved the omnipotent Beyonder visiting Earth to learn about humanity. And being all-powerful, he could pop into a seemingly limitless number of Marvel titles throughout 1985.

The Daredevil tie-in gets the reader up to speed in a single page, wasting no time with any irrelevant details. The Beyonder had used his god-like powers to conquer the world, but that proved unsatisfactory. So now he wants to take over the world legally. Step one: employing the services of Nelson & Murdock, Attorneys at Law. And he pays Matt an invaluable retainer—the restoration of his sight while leaving his other super-senses intact.

So Matt enjoys one amazing day taking in the sights of New York City with his girlfriend Gloria, and the experience leads to a decision that reminds us what an incredibly ethical character Daredevil is (well, other than the whole secret identity thing, of course). The man holds himself up to high standards, as a superhero should.

A great quick read that holds up remarkably well, even despite being saddled with a crossover.

Writers: Denny O’Neil and Jim Shooter

Penciler: David Mazzuchelli

Inker: Kim DeMulder

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up