Kevin O’Neill, a British comic book creator who collaborated with Alan Moore on such seminal works as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, has passed away, according to Entertainment Weekly. He was 69. O’Neill, a working-class child from southeast London, was originally inspired to pursue art by American imports of Mad Magazine and anthology comics like The Beano, which included Dennis the Menace among other comic strips. O’Neill said in an interview with True Brit, a history of British comics, “Those ink lines and squiggles indicated to me a vision of worlds more real, strong, and desired than the one I lived in.”
At age 16, O’Neill got his first comic business job as an administrative assistant for the kid-friendly comic Buster. He eventually became tired of writing for kids’ comics and started working on the brand-new science fiction anthology 2000 AD. In the early years of 2000 AD, which gained popularity with readers and is still published today, O’Neill served in both creative and editorial capacities. The two of its most well-known strips are Judge Dredd and Nemesis the Warlock, which O’Neill and author Pat Mills developed.
The first time O’Neill and Moore worked together was on an issue of DC’s superhero publication Tales of the Green Lantern Corps in 1986. The Comics Code Authority protested to the issue, and when DC asked why, the group—which has been in charge of assigning ratings to popular comics since the early 1950s moral panic—said they considered O’Neill’s artistic approach offensive. O’Neill, who had been banned from popular superhero comics, teamed up with Mills again for Marshal Law, a brutal parody of American culture and traditional superheroes that made excellent use of O’Neill’s gory, vibrant, and horrific artwork. “Never forget that the Comics Code Authority deemed Kevin O’Neill’s whole aesthetic offensive. That shows a true degree of bravery, “After hearing of O’Neill’s passing, author Kieron Gillen commented. “All of his Nemesis and Torquemada work, creating gothic mansions, lives in my thoughts.”
The Nemo Trilogy, a League offshoot, gave O’Neill a chance to flourish by emulating the monster-filled frozen wasteland of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness and the cyberpunk cityscape of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. In his review of the Nemo Trilogy for EW, Darren Franich lauded O’Neill for fusing “German cinematic expressionism and techno-futurism into an explosive wartime adventure.” Moore wrote caustic, heartbreaking farewells in each of their voices on the book’s closing pages. “Fortunately, owing to a vast audience of bright people, they were able to spend 20 years working together on the finest f—-ing comic in the world, before being tragically consumed by pasty neoconservative androids along with everything else that was ever any good,” the author’s message concludes.
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