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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 10/21/2005

This Morning's New York Times

This morning's New York Times had a major article on the new collection of Winsor McCay's classic, early comic strip Little Nemo. And a few days ago, the same august journal ran a major piece on the reorganization of the DC Universe.

Today, my friendly FedEx man left a package on the front porch; it contained a hardcover collection of Dr. Strange stories from 30 years ago, some of which I wrote.

The Times wasn't running stories about comics when the Doc Strange stuff first appeared. A few other papers were, but mostly, comics were not respectable yet--literature for morons.

The form hasn't changed. Oh, the creative techniques are a bit different, and the kinds of stories comics tell, and certainly the printing's not the same: gone, alas, are those behemoth presses somewhere in the midwest that churned out the comics I read as a kid and the first ones I wrote as...well, maybe "adult" wouldn't be exactly the right word. Let's use "grownup." (I was at least medium-tall and I wasn't living in my native city and I could vote.) But comics were always an art form, as a few--but a very few--establishment types realized decades earlier.

Jazz was once considered by many to be lowlife music. mean cinema did not quite qualify as art when I was in college.

Now--ye gads--they're teaching comic books in big, brand-name universities. The New York Times, in reporting on comics, has conferred the Establishment Imprimatur on the form. Comics are getting the kind of recognition that, a while back, was belatedly accorded, to hell with it--movies! And jazz.

For me, this respectability is a mixed blessing. I was pretty comfortable working in a kind of publishing that was, in the opinion of many of my parents' generation, pretty damn disreputable. I didn't exactly know who I was, back then, but I did know that Authority and I did not get along, and I don't think I quite understood what the Establishment might want from me. So--I stumbled into an arena that was pretty much ignored by the arbiters of respectability and found, if not a home, at least a place to be--to do what I wanted to do, which was write. It gave me something to be interested in--at times, to be absorbed by--and a lot of other perks, like travel, meeting interesting people, and telling stories to a lot of people at once. I took those things as they came and I hope I'm properly grateful for them.

But, respectability? That, I didn't expect. It sort of snuck up on us. We looked one day, and there it was. I didn't exactly open my arms in welcome. But I guess it's okay: Respectability has been in the house for quite a while now, and it hasn't bitten anyone yet.


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