Kevin O’Neill, League of Extraordinary Gentleman Co-Creator, Dies

Kevin O’Neill, the legendary British comic book artist who was already a comic book institution from his work on Nemesis the Warlock and Marshall Law in the 1980s before he launched his most famous project, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in 1999 with Alan Moore, has passed away at the age of 69.


O’Neill first went to work for International Publishing Company (IPC) when he was a teenager as an office boy, but he slowly began to work in the art departments of various children’s magazines for IPC, but that wasn’t the direction he saw his art career going, so when he learned that IPC was launched a science fiction themed comic book anthology, 2000 ADhe soon found work on that series (even contributing artwork to the cover of the very first issue of the series).

Initially, he just did spot illustrations, like illustrating the occasional text story, His first full story for the company was a Judge Dredd story for the 1977 Judge Dredd Summer Special. O’Neill signed his story, becoming one of the first 2000 AD creators to actually get credit for their work. O’Neill’s first regular feature, though, did not occur until 1978’s 2000 AD Prog 88, when he and writer Pat Mills brought the Ro-Busters to 2000 AD (O’Neill had designed the characters for Starlord magazine, a sister magazine to 2000 ADbut he did not draw the feature until it came to 2000 AD).

Mills was a very experimental writer, and in 1980, he did a series of stories inspired by rock songs, and one of them, “Terror Tube,” introduced a character known as Nemesis the Warlock…

Warlock perfectly matched O’Neill’s propensity for grotesque characters and situations. The character was soon one of 2000 AD‘s most popular characters, almost to the same level as Judge Dredd. The new attention brought more scrutiny to O’Neill’s intentionally over-the-top depiction of violence in the strip. Now one of the most popular artists on the series, O’Neill left the anthology as a regular contributor to go freelance (he would still return to do occasional stories, including more Nemesis the Warlock tales, officially leaving the book period after wrapping up Nemesis the Warlock in 2000).

O’Neill first collaborated with the legendary comic book writer, Alan Moore (another British comic book creator who had begun to work in American comics), on a backup story in an issue of the DC science fiction series Omega Men. The pair then did a story for the 1986 Green Lantern Corps Annual. This proved controversial story, as O’Neill later revealed that the Comics Code Authority specifically objected to O’Neill’s art style period. “I was working on an Alan Moore story. The CCA objected – not to the actual story but to the style that it was drawn in,” O’Neill said. “I had aliens being crucified and stuff like that. My editor asked if we could run it with a code sticker if we toned down the crucifixion. They said there was NOTHING they could do to the artwork that would help. I loved that! loved the idea that these old grannies were sitting in an office in New York poring over every comic page.

The Annual simply ran without the Comics Code. O’Neill never drew another Comics Code-approved book in his career. In 1987, O’Neill reunited with his Nemesis the Warlock collaborator, Pat Mills, to launch a brand-new creator-owned collaboration for Epic Comics called Marshal Lawa satirical take on superheroes, where the title character, Marshal Law, would hunt down rogue superheroes (basically a way for Mills and O’Neill to violently kill parodies of famous superheroes).

After leaving Epic, O’Neill and Mills would continue doing new Marshal Law Comics for various publishers well into the 1990s.

In 1999, Alan Moore launched a new comic book line, America’s Best Comics, at Wildstorm Studios for Image. A number of the titles were work-for-hire for Wildstorm, but one of the titles, League of Extraordinary Gentlemenwas creator-owned, and it was this project that Moore chose O’Neill to create with him.

The series was about a Victorian “superhero” team made up of famous characters from Victorian-era novels, like The Invisible Man and Dracula. The series soon expanded into an extended look at popular culture throughout the centuries that Moore and O’Neill worked on for Wildstorm and then Top Shelf for the next 20 years before Alan Moore retired from comic book writing (the pair also did Cinema Purgatorio for Avatar). O’Neill joked that when Moore retired, he effectively retired O’Neill, as well, as he only wanted to work with Moore.

However, he ultimately agreed to do some more stories for Pat Mills, and then some work with writer Garth Ennis. Recently, Ennis resurrected an old humor character that O’Neill had created for 2000 AD in the late 1970s called Bongo. their collaboration, Bonjo From Beyond the Stars, will come out in 2000 AD next month. O’Neill had been dealing with a long illness before his passing. He will be greatly missed by the entire comic book community.

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