Kevin O'Neill RIP

8 November 2022

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ⓒ Photo by Richard Burton, with thanks

Pic: Nick and Kev in the 2000AD offices in Tharg's Command Module at King's Reach Tower in front of a wall of thrill-power covers. In the early 80's.

Kevin O'Neill was a creative maestro.

We first met in the mid 70's when he was designing a magazine for one of the Interplanetary Societies. He was a quintessential fan and we shared many common interests in comics, movies - and, well, just about everything. 

Then in 1977 I was invited by Pat Mills to join 2000AD as the Chief Sub Editor (soon that became to mean Editor in all but title and pay) and I remade Kevin's acquaintance who by then was Assistant to Jan Shepheard the Art Editor). We were both learning our craft under Pat and Jan's tutelage when suddenly our Editor, Kelvin Gosnell, walked in and announced that due to the success of 2000AD he had been assigned a new launch, Starlord - and that the two of us were to be put in charge of 2000AD. It was about as close to ecstasy as the two of us could imagine that only months after joining the team we would be given this level of responsibility. And at the same time that Kelvin took over Starlord, he had also requested that Jan move across with him. 

So in our new roles of jointly running 2000AD we set about bringing change, with the support of Pat Mills who had by now become our main writer along with John Wagner. In addition to being a fine and unique artist, Kevin was also a great story guy and had an impeccible sense of design and story telling. We had both been brought up on DC and Marvel and decided that the characters in 2000AD could benefit immensely from longer storylines, greater depth of characterisation and longer page counts per issue.

ⓒ Photo by Richard Burton, with thanks

Pic: Brian Bolland, Nick Landau, Dave Gibbons and Kevin O'Neill reviewing artwork in 1978

On the creator front Kevin started to try to organise the return of artwork for artists which in my new role I was able to sign off and we both discussed how we could credit writers and artists, a practice banned at IPC at the time. I remember one day Kevin bursting into the office with a page of artwork with his newly designed credit badge with his hand lettered Art and Script Robot credits which actually  named the creators of the strips. We placed them on the opening page of every strip and my job was to convince the Managing Editor who reviewed every page, to approve the badged pages and convince him that these were simply created by Tharg's minions. As I recall we also managed to get Kelvin to buy into this explaining that should there be any trouble we would take the heat. A few years earlier in the US Neal Adams had been fighting for creator rights at DC and these were the more limited contributions we could make. 

In retrospect IPC gave us (the team had now been expanded to include Colin Wyatt and Roy Preston, both incredibly talented individuals who supported us) a lot of latitude as we were bringing home the bacon. But eventually all good things had to come to an end - and Kevin began the next phase of his career as a freelance artist.

For 2000AD he drew and co-created Nemesis along with Pat Mills, for Epic Comics Marshall Law an anti-superhero comic, for DC he drew Metalzoic and some very memorable Green Lantern back-ups, became the only artist I believe ever to have been banned by the Comics Code Authority not because of his subject matter, but because of his style. But his piece de resistence was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which he co-created with Alan Moore. 

Kevin was a quiet but extremely passionate individual who was a unique visionary both as an artist and creative editor. He supported his friends and the creative community to the hilt and I had two brilliant years working with him.

-- Nick.

ⓒ Nick Landau