Comic Book Iconoclast And Icon Kevin O’Neill Passes (1953 – 2022)
by Olly MacNamee
It is with a heavy heart that I report on the passing of Kevin O’Neill. An artist many in the UK (and US) will have strong, indelible memories of from his days at 2000 AD co-creating and illustrating such classic strips as Nemesis the Warlock, A.B.C. Warriors, Ro-Jaws, co-creating Marshal Law with Pat Mills and, of course, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with Alan Moore. A man with a distinct, divisive but ultimately recognisable at style all of his own. A true visionary in his field who could never be restrained by tradition.
Kevin was born into a working-class family in post-WWII London and like. many of his generation was transfixed with The Beano, The Dandy and later, MAD Magazine.
O’Neill’s early career saw him working as an office-boy at IPC before freelancing and a return to IPC to become assistant art editor on 2000 AD. where he helped herald in the introduction of creators’ credits into the strips. From here he side-stepped effortlessly into providing art on comic strips such as Future Shocks, where Nemesis the Warlock first debuted.
Like many at the time O’Neill started working for American comics and DC Comics where he contributed to The Omega Men and Tales of the Green Lantern Corps. But it wasn’t long until he found himself – or rather his whole style of his illustration – at odds with the Comic Code Authority. DC Comics decided to print the “offending” strip anyway in Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2.
During this era he and Mills co-created the character Marshal Law for Epic Comics (an imprint of Marvel Comics back in the ’80s), who made Judge Dredd seem tame in comparison and allowed himself and Mills a channel through which to savagely satirise the whole American superhero genre time and time again.
In 1999 Mills once more teamed up with his frequent partner-in-crime, Alan Moore for the seminal The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen firstly for America’s Best Comics and then Knockabout Comics after he and Moore fell out with DC Comics.
There is some silver lining, no matter how small at this time, in knowing that the last volume of The League brought the curtain down the whole time-spanning saga.
From all of us here at comicon.com we send out condolences to Kevin’s surviving family at this tragic time. RIP, Kev. An uncompromising visionary throughout his illustrious career that had so many iconic moments and even more iconic characters.