Len Wein, comics writer and co-creator of Wolverine and Swamp Thing, died on September 10, 2017. He was 69 years old.
Throughout his illustrious career, Wein made significant contributions to both DC and Marvel. He helped to revive the X-Men team, including co-creating Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus, and was the editor for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen.
“Len was a relentlessly positive force in comics. As a fan, he was there from the beginning, coining the term ‘comicon’ the first time the tribe gathered in public. As a writer, he contributed new ideas to every project, even in an era when the deals for talent in the field gave no incentive to do so. As an editor, he guided work that has endured for decades. As an artist, he had a momentary career, but used his gifts for decades afterwards to design costumes, rough out logos, and guide new talents,” Paul Levitz, former publisher and president of DC Comics, said.
“And through it all, he took joy in the stories themselves, the artwork, even the nuance of a well-placed balloon, and shared both his pleasure and his knowledge generously. His characters will long survive him, children of a restless imagination who captured the attention of the world and made fortunes for others,” he said.
“Most of all, Len took a childish glee in being loved, in his stories being remembered, and the work itself. He gloated endlessly at the idea that he could travel across the country, and in any state, have a friend (or a dozen) who he could call on in an emergency. Battling pain and illness for his entire life, he never let it affect his optimism or attitude, or keep him from writing or gathering friends around him as soon as he left a hospital bed,” Levitz said. “There are few talents that shape a generation. Len was that to his own generation of comics professionals, and to a generation of readers. He was a rare gift to us all.”
“Len Wein was a seriously knowledgeable comics fan who turned into a seriously knowledgeable comic book professional. With notable tenures at both Marvel and DC as a writer and as an editor, including a brief stint as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, he delivered great characters and stories that will continue to thrill readers and inspire new generations of creators. While many will rightly speak of him co-creating Swamp Thing and Wolverine, his writing on such titles as Amazing Spider-Man or his editorial skills on Watchmen or New Teen Titans, I’ll always remember selling him copies of Dick Tracy and having great conversations with him,” said Steve Geppi, President and Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Comic Distributors. “My heart goes out to his wife, Christine Valada, his family, friends and his legion of fans. He will remain as unforgettable as the tales he told.”
“Blessed to have known Len Wein. I first met him in 2008. I told him - from his heart, mind & hands came the greatest character in comics,” Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman wrote on Twitter.
Wein was born on June 12, 1948 in New York City. While being hospitalized as a kid, his father brought him comic books for entertainment and Wein was hooked. When he was in eighth grade, his art teacher told him that he had talent, so Wein devoted his time and effort to developing that talent so that he could get into the comics industry. During his teen years, he and his friend Marv Wolfman worked on sample superhero stories to show the DC editorial staff while they toured the DC office.
DC Editor Joe Orlando hired Wein and Wolfman as freelance writers. His first professional job was the story “Eye of the Beholder” in Teen Titans #18 (December 1968). In that issue, he and Wolfman co-created Red Star, the first official Russian superhero in DC. Later that same year, Wein wrote for DC’s House of Secrets and Marvel’s Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness. Then he started writing on DC’s Secret Hearts romance comic, Skywald Publications’ horror magazines Nightmare and Psycho, and Gold Key’s Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery and TV series tie-ins for Star Trek and The Twilight Zone.
In 1970 he did his first superhero work at Marvel on Daredevil #71. Later he wrote for DC’s Adventure Comics, Superman, and The Flash as well as the anthology series The Phantom Stranger.
Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson co-created Swamp Thing in House of Secrets #92 in 1971. They worked on the initial run of Swamp Thing’s title from ’72 to ’76, then in the mid-’80s he edited Saga of the Swamp Thing, along with two films and a TV series.
He wrote a popular run of Justice League of America #110-114 with Dick Dillin on the art, reintroducing the Seven Soldiers of Victory and the Freedom Fighters. In ’72 Wein and writers Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart created an unofficial crossover with titles and characters from both DC and Marvel. He co-created Human Target with Carmine Infantino, writing appearances in Action Comics, Detective Comics, and The Brave and the Bold.
In the early ’70s he regularly wrote for Marvel and served as editor-in-chief of the color comics line in ’74 for about a year. He wrote long runs of Marvel Team-Up, Amazing Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Fantastic Four.
Also that year he co-created one of Marvel’s most popular characters. Wein and artists John Romita Sr. and Herb Trimpe co-created Wolverine for a cameo in Incredible Hulk #180 and full first appearance in #181. A year later he and Dave Cockrum revived the X-Men, reformatting it as Giant Size X-Men #1.
In the late ’70s he returned to DC as a writer and editor. He wrote for Batman, creating Wayne Foundation executive Lucius Fox, co-created the third version of Clayface with artist Marshall Rogers, and wrote the first Batman miniseries in ’80, The Untold Legend of the Batman. His editing duties included Camelot 3000, New Teen Titans, All-Star Squadron, and Who’s Who in the DC Universe.
Next he was editor-in-chief of Disney Comics in the early ’90s. Then Wein wrote and was a story editor for animated shows like X-Men, Batman, Spider-Man, Street Fighter, Pocket Dragon Adventures, and others. In the 2000s he was recurring panelist on the LA stage revival of the game show What’s My Line? and wrote for Cartoon Network Ben 10 shows and Marvel Super Hero Squad. In 2012 he worked on the Before Watchmen miniseries, writing the Ozymandias miniseries.
Most recently he had signed up for a return to Swamp Thing at DC.
Throughout his career Wein won several awards, including a Shazam for Best Writer, Inkpot Award, Comics Buyer’s Guide Fan Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2008.