Kevin O'Neill, co-creator of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Marshall Law and Cinema Purgatorio, died last week, aged 69, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer some time ago. He began working in comics at the age of 16 for UK publisher IPC, working as office help for the weekly British comic Buster, before publishing his own fanzine Just Imagine: The Journal of Film and Television Special Effects.
Photo by Luigi Novi, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.He moved into colouring IPC titles and Disney comic books before moving to the new start-up series 2000AD. He created the look for the comics' fictional editor Tharg, and began drawing short stories before making his name on the Ro-Busters strip with Pat Mills before creating the character Nemesis The Warlock for the comic book.
He also began working for DC Comics on The Omega Men, as well as Alan Moore's stories for the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual in 1986 which saw the Comics Code Authority object to O'Neill's entire style of artwork, and refused to pass it. The comic was published without the Code.
After creating the creator-owned graphic novel Metalzoic at DC, Mills and O'Neill created a new anti-superhero take on Judge Dredd for Marvel's Epic Comics called Marshal Law, then took the characters to launch Apocalypse Comics' British weekly series Toxic! before moving them to Dark House. He also co-wrote the novel Serial Killer with Pat Mills.
But it was 1999 that saw Kevin O'Neill begin work on his most famous co-creation, with Alan Moore on their first six-issue series for America's Best Comics published by Wildstorm, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, made into a movie in 2003.
He continued to work with Moore on more League volumes, contributed to Alan Moore's Dodgem Logic magazine and co-created the anthology magazine and lead strip Cinema Purgatorio from Bleeding Cool's publisher Avatar Press. He also contributed to Alan Moore and the late Steve Moore's Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic for Top Shelf and Knockabout, to be published next year.
Kevin O'Neill was a regular face in the British comic books scene, at conventions and comic shops, and generally a genial chap to all and sundry. For these reasons, and for his vast body of comic book work, creating characters that will last many lifetimes, he will be sorely missed. Here are a few tributes to the man:
Tom King: Kevin O'Neill was an absolute masterclass story teller and comic composer. His art was beautifully horrific and horrifically beautiful. Probably not a day goes by that I don't think of the Invisible Man putting on his costume. How in KO's hands the simple becomes enthralling. RIP
Chris Weston: I'm saddened to hear about the passing of Kevin O'Neill, one of the most unique, original, subversive and inventive artists in the comic book industry. A true giant. RIP, sir.
Chris Burnham: RIP to the great Kevin O'Neill! One of the best to ever do it.
Andy Diggle: Absolutely gutted to hear we've lost the great Kevin O'Neill. A passionate advocate for creator rights, a visionary artist, and an inspiration. x
Kieron Gillen: Hugely saddened by Kevin O'Neill's passing. One of the absolute greats. Only met once, and he was as charming as the edifices of ornate gleeful horror he produced were berserk. I love all his periods, but the frenzy of the 1980s stuff was something else… Never forget: Kevin O'Neill's whole style was considered objectionable by the Comics Code Authority. That's a real level of heroism. All his Nemesis and Torquemada work lives in my head, building gothic palaces.
David Brothers: one of my pandemic projects was reading as much of Kevin O'Neill's work as I could, from 2000AD stuff to Marshal Law to everything he did with Alan Moore that I could find. He could draw anything, and the run of covers for League: Tempest is a good example
Fraser Campbell: Devastating news, an irreplaceable loss to comics. To describe Kevin O'Neill as a great is to come nowhere close to communicating his influence and the years of joy he's brought comic fans the World over. I can't believe he's gone.
Colin Smith: Kevin O'Neill is dead, alas. R.I.P. My sincerest condolences to his family & friends. An absolute titan of comics. A unique & remarkable storyteller: brilliant, insightful, playful, macabre, tender, hilarious, terrifying and, always, profoundly humane. How he will be missed… Whoever is in the very front rank of comics creators, they stand right next to Kevin O'Neill. He really was that astonishingly good. Time after time after time,for decade upon decade, he was the most reliably brilliant artist. A great storyteller has left the building. Hats off
Jimmy Palmiotti: What a huge loss to comics and the world of art. Kevin was just a brilliant storyteller and such an influence on a generation of artists. Rest in Peace.
Al Ewing: Awful news re: the passing of Kevin O'Neill, a titan of comic art and craft. A generation of comics lovers felt his influence and can recognise his work from a mile away, logos and all. And he earned the ultimate accolade in his lifetime – banned outright by the Comics Code. RIP.
Antony Johnston: Oh, this is very sad. Kevin was notorious as the man whose entire art style was banned by the Comics Code Authority (!) and responsible for some of the most iconic works of the past half-century.
Phillip Hester: Think you're a bad ass? Let me know when *your drawing style itself* is banned by the Comics Code. We needed Kevin O'Neill so badly.
Christos Gage: Oh no…it seems we've lost the great Kevin O'Neill. I can think of no better creative legacy than being the only artist whose work was banned by the Comics Code regardless of content. LOEG, Nemesis, GL, so much more. Sincere condolences to his loved ones and countless fans.
Rob McCallum: Absolutely gutted to hear of Kevin O'Neill's passing. His art is unlike anything else. Chaos, fun, wit and so much life. Always will be a favourite. I got to meet him socially a few times. Was very young and too shy to say much to him but he did this for me.
Bryan Hitch: Awful news. Kev was a lovely bloke and an inspiration creative voice, especially in my teens when I rediscovered his amazing nemesis art.
Top Shelf Productions: We are heartbroken at this news. Kevin O'Neill's talent was monumental and his imagination was truly extraordinary. He could draw anything, in any style, yet always be unmistakably himself. We join the global comics community in mourning his loss and treasuring his memory.
Gosh Comics: It's with a great deal of sadness that we have learned of the passing of Kevin O'Neill last week after a long illness. We had worked a lot with Kevin over the past two decades and had the highest personal and professional regard for him, and of course the impact he has had on the comics landscape cannot be overstated.