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From the Cyber Den
An online column by comics legend Denny O'Neil

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FROM THE CYBERDEN for 11/01/2004

Well, I'm back again. Sort of.

I've been writing these informal essays, on and off, for over 20 years, first as space filler for the back cover of Moon Knight, when I was editing the title for Marvel, and later for the books I edited at DC. I wasn't doing a solo act. Mark Gruenwald gave himself a similar column in his books at Marvel and I don't think it's coincidental that Mark and I usually did well in the Comics Buyers Guides's annual fan polls. Our little in-print chats gave us an identity beyond our titles--put a "face" to names even if readers couldn't actually see that face.

Of course, neither of us invented the trick of communicating directly with our audiences. We learned that, as we learned so many things, from Stan Lee, whose "Bullpen Bulletins" page and, later, "Stan's Soapbox" gave a generation of comics readers a sense that they knew the folks who were providing their entertainment.

Even Stan had predecessors, though none of them wrote so personally or personably as he did. They were all the editors, most notably Julie Schwartz and the often-neglected Murray Boltinoff, who printed replies to readers's letters, both in comics and in the science fiction magazines that were comics's direct forebears. If these were signed at all, it was usually with some variation of the impersonal "Editor," but faithful readers could, I think, form some opinion of the man behind the italics.

Our columns--Stan's, Mark's, mine, and those of all the semi-anonymous editorial toilers who preceded us--did more than allow us to flash our personas. We used them to give readers little glimpses at how the stories we worked on came to be. This, of course, was before the comics websites and the many, many others sources of industry gossip and general chitchat. We offered a glimpse; we did not behave like a semi-soused partygoer--back the readers into a corner and blather endless minutiae. I mean, we only had a couple of hundred words, at most.

That may have been a good thing. Mounds of insider info is maybe a mixed blessing. Do you really want to go backstage at the magic show? See the wires that make the pretty lady levitate and watch the rabbit be snuck from under the magician's coattail? I'm occasionally privy to insider gossip from tv- and movie-land and while I can't resist listening to it, it does sometimes get in the way of my enjoying the show. Knowing that X actor hated Y director during the shoot colors my perception of good ol' X's performance. Sorry, can't help it. I'd bet the car payment, if not the mortgage money, that I'm not the only guy on the planet so influenced.

In the end, what's important--knowing all the secrets or becoming absorbed in a story? Well, rest assured that you'll get no such dirt here, by golly, mostly because whoever lives on Pluto is not further out of the loop than I am. But I would like to share some musing with you and use the privilege of this space to reach out to a community that has been important to me for over 40 years.

See you soon.

-- Denny

The First >> 11/01/2004 | 12/01/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Denny O'Neil Message Board.

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