Len Wein, legendary comic-book writer who helped to create some of the greatest characters in comic-book history, died yesterday at the age of 69. There aren’t enough words to describe how much he means to the comic-book history and how groundbreaking his work has been, but I’m going to give it a shot.
Since 1968, when Wein was first hired to write an issue of Teen Titans, he has been writing stories for both Marvel and DC and leaving his unforgettable mark with the stories he told and the characters he helped create.
In 1971, with the help of legendary artist Bernie Wrightson, he created Swamp Thing (and this was fourteen years before Alan Moore - author of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell, and the not-as-celebrated-and-beloved crossover Watchmen Babies In V For Vacation - came on board to break new ground himself with the stories he would tell with the character):
In 1972, with the help of artist Carmine Infantino, he created Human Target, a private investigator and bodyguard who assumes the identities of clients targeted by assassins and other dangerous criminals, and that character would go on to have his own short-lived television series at least twice, once in 1992 starring Rick Springfield of “Jessie’s Girl” fame, and in 2010 on FOX starring Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earle Haley:
In 1974, with the help of artist John Romita Sr., he wrote issues #181 and #182 of The Incredible Hulk and created one of the greatest things to ever come from Canada (along with Robin Sparkles, Kiefer Sutherland, Alanis Morissette, and Orphan Black): Wolverine, whose popularity skyrocketed once he became a member of the X-Men:
In 1975, with the help of artist Dave Cockrum, he wrote Giant-Size X-Men #1…
…in which he not only introduced Wolverine as the newest member of the X-Men, he also introduced four other characters:
Thunderbird (whose membership with the X-Men and his life didn’t last very long, and who apparently became more popular in death than he was when he was alive)…
And last but never least, Storm:
In 1979, with the help of artist John Calnan, he began writing issues of Batman and created the character of Wayne Foundation executive Lucius Fox, who would be portrayed by Morgan Freeman in The Dark Knight Trilogy directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan…
And in 1986 and 1987, he served as co-editor with Barbara Kesel on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ groundbreaking, award-winning, and critically acclaimed comic-book miniseries Watchmen:
Not surprisingly, once news of Len Wein’s death became public knowledge, many people in the comic-book industry paid their respects via Twitter:
Len Wein. He wrote Swamp Thing, Phantom Stranger, & my favourite Batman stories. He showed 12 year old me that comics could be literature.— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) September 10, 2017
Len Wein was the editor who brought the British creators to DC. He was one of the nicest people I've met, in 30 years in comics.— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) September 10, 2017
He will be missed. And I will miss him.— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) September 10, 2017
One of the industry's best writers.— Fabian Nicieza (@FabianNicieza) September 10, 2017
One of the industry's best editors.
One of the industry's best people.
Rest In Peace Len Wein, co-creator as writer (while riding the subway in Queens) of the most romantic & beautiful comic book hero. pic.twitter.com/K9SywCa6ma— Aaron Stewart-Ahn (@somebadideas) September 11, 2017
This particular tweet is yet another reminder of how there are far too many writers and artists, then and now, who haven’t been properly compensated and recognized for all that they have done in the comic-book industry:
Len Wein made more money off of royalties for creating Lucius Fox than he ever did for creating WOLVER-freakin-INE. Very uncool.— ComicsShouldBeGood (@csbg) September 10, 2017
Len Wein, co-creator of WOLVERINE and SWAMP THING & more responsible for the x-men you love than he gets credit for. Thank you. #RIP— BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (@BRIANMBENDIS) September 10, 2017
Our old pal, Len Wein, caught the last train out. Much will be said of him; I'll just say I loved him. Godspeed.https://t.co/4DYfnWfTRS— Walter Simonson (@WalterSimonson) September 10, 2017
After my 1st Batman, I was struggling. Hated my stuff. Len wrote a note, said he loved the issue. Gave me the confidence to keep going.— Tom King (@TomKingTK) September 10, 2017
1st time I met Len I, dickishly, said, "You should be as famous as Stan Lee!" He responded, appropriately, "I am, you just don't know it."— Tom King (@TomKingTK) September 10, 2017
Co-created Wolverine & the new X-men. Co-kickstarted the modern comic book era with its most powerful metaphor. And more. RIP Len Wein. pic.twitter.com/TSiWChvfdI— Joss Whedon (@joss) September 10, 2017
Pia Guerra, artist who created the comic-book series Y: The Last Man with Brian K. Vaughan, also shared her appreciation of Len Wein and how one of his creations helped save her life when she really needed it most:
I will always remember Len Wein as being the man who created a character who saved my life. No, really.
Back in ‘99 i was at the mall and there was this large spiral staircase to the parkade. I was in a hurry and slipped on the top step. Little slip, my foot just skipped off the edge, so I reached out for the railing to catch myself but gravity had other ideas. The curve of the railing went off to the right and my fall was straight down. My hand missed. It was a very long way down. So I’m going down and it’s not really registering what’s happening until my thigh hits a step HARD. I snap out of it. This is bad. I’m thinking “shit, shit, I’m going to break something, I’m going to die from breaking my neck!” And then, I see it in my mind, it flashes clear as a bell. A panel of a comic book, Wolverine falling out of ten storey window…
And he’s yelling “GO LIMP!”
And that’s what I did. I went limp. Didn’t fight it, worked with the pull and allowed my body to roll and somersault all the way down. I flopped flat on the floor at the bottom. I could hear people screaming. I opened my eyes and a dozen heads peering down the stairwell. I didn’t move. I just assessed the damage. Aside from that sore spot on my thigh I was fine. People came up to me, asked me if I could sit up and I very calmly said “I think I’m okay but please call 911 just in case.” I explained that I had a steel implant on my spine and I wasnt going to move until a paramedic had a look. They arrived, helped me up and yeah, other than my thigh I was good. Went to the ER, doctors cleared me to go home.
So thank you Wolverine and thank you Len Wein.
And of course, Hugh Jackman, who became a household name as a result of playing one of Wein’s most famous creations, paid tribute to him as well:
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. pic.twitter.com/cFqL1uy0JV— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) September 11, 2017
May Len Wein rest in peace. And thank you so much for everything.