At the age of 16, Kevin O’Neill began working in the publishing industry at a company called IPC. He was an office boy for a children’s humor comic called Buster. By the time he was 23, he was working as a colorist on British children’s comics such as Whizzer and Chips and on old Disney reprints. When he found out that IPC was coming out with a science fiction comic, he wanted in. The editor was a fellow called Pat Mills and that science fiction comic was 2000 AD.
O’Neill started out doing covers and pin-ups, including the image of Tharg which appeared on the cover of the first issue of 2000 AD . He eventually started drawing short strips, but it wasn’t until he started work on Ro-Busters, written by Pat Mills, in issue 88 that O’Neill started work on his first major ongoing comic. Ro-Busters proved to be very popular. It helped establish Kevin as a major 2000AD artist, and jump-started a long series of collaborations with Pat Mills. The next team-up for the duo resulted in Nemesis the Warlock, which was a massive hit among fans and critics alike.
O’Neill’s grotesque style won over legions of fans in through the 70s and early 80s, eventually coming to the attention of DC Comics. At first, he did short stories and fill-in issues for third-tier DC books, but his first noteworthy work was produced in 1986. It was a story for the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2, written by Alan Moore, which spawned considerable controversy.
The Comics Code Authority would not grant its approval for the book. DC offered to get the art changed, believing that scenes of a crucifixion were responsible for the Authority’s rejection. However, that was not the case. It was O’Neill’s style in general that they found objectionable. DC decided to print the comic anyway, without the Comics Code Authority stamp.
The mid-80s also bore witness to the birth of a Mills and O’Neill creation entitled Marshal Law, first published as a six issue mini-series for Epic Comics, then moved to Apocalypse Comics, before ending up with Dark Horse. It was a satire of the superhero genre, with over-the-top scenes of sex and violence which garnered, once again, criticism of Kevin’s art. Currently, Top Shelf Productions plans to publish Marshal Law in its entirety as the Marshal Law Omnibus later this year.
Additionally, during the early 90’s, Kevin worked on some short strips for Negative Burn, published by Caliber Comics.
In 1999, O’Neill teamed up with Alan Moore yet again, to produce the most famous of all his endeavors. It was a six issue series for America’s Best Comics, Alan’s imprint within the Wildstorm masthead, called The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This title was the inspiration for the 2003 20th Century Fox film bearing the same name. LOEG was followed by LOEG Vol. 2 (also published under the ABC imprint), LOEG: The Black Dossier (DC Comics) and LOEG: Century, 1910 (Top Shelf Productions/Knockabout Comics).