It’s the dream of every comic book fan to one day achieve the seemingly impossible, to turn their love of comic books in to an actual career within the industry. Len Wein did that. Not only did his dream come true, but over the course of five decades in the industry he helped shape countless aspects of popular culture as we know it today. In the business, he did it all. From telling some of the greatest tales and working on some of the best characters, to creating his own who have become household names, he was a powerhouse. As a creative force in comic book, he was a giant.
Sadly, he’s also often been overlooked. While his name garnered instant recognition from long-time comic book readers whenever it was mentioned, to the average pop culture fan it meant little.
However, as with many creators, his work would be instantly recognisable even if his name wasn’t: He co-created Wolverine, Swamp Thing, the Human Target, Lucius Fox in the Batman series, and many other notable characters; he wrote all of those series and many more, including the Justice League of America, the X-Men, Thor and The Amazing Spider-Man; he also played a role in bringing British talent to DC in the 1980s, edited series like Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen and The New Teen Titans, and worked on a variety of television shows.
Through it all, he was always a fan, too. One example was his run of the DC Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) run in the mid-1980s. The Steve Ditko-created character had recently been acquired from Charlton Comics and had made his first DC appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but it was Len Wein and regular artist Paris Cullins who made the newcomer welcome. With a determination to honour Ditko’s work, Wein wrote entertaining adventures which continued the character’s heavily Spider-Man-inspired vibe.
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) September 10, 2017
Another wonderful example was how he helped pave the way for comic book crossovers by co-creating the first DC/Marvel crossovers in 1972 – unofficially. Joined by other creators and friends at both DC and Marvel, they created stories set during the real world Halloween comic book festival in Rutland. The heroes battled representations of those from their “rival” company, creating moments which satisfied countless comic book fans of all ages, including the creators who even featured in the stories themselves.
Wein’s love of comics began at the age of seven when he got hooked on comic books while recovering from an illness in hospital. That love of them led him – along with his friend Marv Wolfman – to attending regular tours of the DC Comics offices. With the dream of becoming an artist, he was eventually hired by the company… but as a writer. Yet his artistic background helped his writing, allowing him to create detailed scripts which were appreciated by the artists for being easier to bring to life.
— Mark Millar (@mrmarkmillar) September 10, 2017
Tributes have been posted online from people in the comic book industry and beyond. Neil Gaiman described Wein as his writing inspiration and one of the nicest people he ever met. Brian Michael Bendis said that Wein treated him with kindness when he started in the industry. Mark Millar wrote that Wein’s work gave him both a living as a writer and endless pleasure as a reader. JM DeMatteis said that his editor, mentor and friend was a huge talent with a huge heart. Joss Whedon credited him with co-kickstarting the modern comic book era with its most powerful metaphor. Kevin Smith described Len Wein as a legend. Hugh Jackman said he was blessed to have known him.
They knew him and loved him, and countless fans out there knew him and loved him too. Even more people know of his work and love that, although they may not have known his name. Len Wein achieved the dream of every comic book reader and was a true legend in the industry who will never be forgotten. To his family, friends and loved ones, we send our most sincere condolences for the immeasurable loss they have suffered.