Thirty years ago Hugh Daniel O’Neill was described as, “an innovator, a creator and a professional troublemaker” in a Forward to a collection of Odd Bodkins.
For seven years his Odd Bodkins cartoons ran daily in The San Francisco Chronicle and in 350 other newspapers throughout the world. At its peak, the strip had a readership of fifty million.
When he was hired at age 21 —the youngest cartoonist ever hired by a national syndicate— he was given three simple rules: no religion, no politics and no sex in the strip. He did his best to comply — he kept sex out of Odd Bodkins
His characters began to discuss metaphysics and deliberately offend the powers that be. The strip was dropped by the papers in 1966; editors thought he was going too far out, and assumed that no one could possibly make any sense out of these mad scribblings.
No sooner had the deed been done, when thousands of readers demanded Odd Bodkins’ return to the comic pages. Fans jammed the switchboard and sent letters demanding the reinstatement of Fred Bird, Hugh, Were-Chicken, Norton Motorcycle, and the rest of the Bodkins world.
Again the strip was restored, and again the editors grew itchy because by this time it was a very different strip than the one they had originally bought. It was loaded with thought-arrows that delivered a secret message to America long before the underground commix, before Yippee, before Woodstock.
One of O’Neill’s great contributions to the expanding scope of comics was his use of powerful images in Americana. An artist who deals in mythology, he exhumed the mythic heroes from their museum cases and used them as living forces.
Dan O’Neill himself is an American myth. He was born April 21, 1942, the fourth generation of O’Neills in America. His father was a fighter pilot, a captain in the Navy, and Dan was raised in seventeen states in fourteen years.
O’Neill refuses to be a revolutionary. After all, one has to learn to live with contradictions. Whatever the war revolution or uprising, he can usually be found at the local pub talking with the rebels, quaffing brew, and playing his banjo. “If the revolution isn’t fun, I don’t want to go,” he says. Rebels tend to protect him from other rebels, for he is prone to making outrageous statements to friend and foe alike. O’Neill could be the only man who is in favor of a violent revolution only if no one gets hurt.
Dan O’Neill elected to our Board of Directors in June, 2002, responded, “This is a sideways…when I first read the Forward, I thought I should write a Backward…to deny everything in the Forward…but a Backward seems Retrograde…so this is a sideways…
Sideways is where you go when you don’t want to go Backward and you can’t go Forward. I’m still denying everything but accepting it all…let me make that perfectly clear.”
Welcome to the Sixteen to One family, Dan.