Len Wein (June 12, 1948 - September 10, 2017) was an American comic book writer. He is best known for creating the DC Comics character Swamp Thing and the Marvel Comics character Wolverine.
In a 2003 interview, Len Wein recalled that he "was a very sick kid. While I was in the hospital at age seven, my dad brought me a stack of comic books to keep me occupied. And I was hooked. When my eighth grade art teacher, Mr. Smedley, told me he thought I had actual art talent, I decided to devote all my efforts in that direction in the hope that I might someday get into the comic biz.
Approximately once a month, as a teenager, Wein and his friend Marv Wolfman took DC Comics' weekly Thursday afternoon tour of the company's offices. Wolfman was active in fanzine culture, and together he and Wein produced a sample superhero stories to show to the DC editorial staff. At that point, Wein was more interested in becoming an artist than a writer. In a 2008 interview, Wein said his origins as an artist have helped him "describe art to an artist so that I can see it all in my own head," and claimed he "used to have artist, especially at DC, guys like Irv Novick and a few of the others, who would come into the office waiting for their next assignment and ask (editor) Julie Schwartz, "Do you have any Len Wein scripts lying around? He's always easy to draw."
Eventually, DC editor Joe Orlando hired both Wolfman and Wein as freelance writers. Wein's first professional comics story was "Eye of the Beholder" in DC's Teen Titans #18 (December 1968), for which he co-created with Wolfman, Red Star, the first official Russian superhero in the DC universe. Neal Adams was called upon to rewrite and redraw a Teen Titans story which had been written by Wein and Wolfman. The story, titled "Titans Fit the Battle of Jericho!", would have introduced DC's first African American superhero but was rejected by publisher Carmine Infantino. The revised story appeared in Teen Titans #20 (March - April 1969).
Later that year, Wein was writing anthological mystery stories for DC's The House of Secrets and Marvel's Tower of Shadows and Chmber of Darkness. He additionally began writing for DC's romance comic Secret Hearts and the company's toy-line tie-in Hot Wheels; Skywald Publications' horror-comics magazines Nightmare and Psycho and it's short-lived Western comic books The Bravados and The Sundance Kid; and Gold Key's Mod Wheels, Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, the toyline tie-in Microbots, and the TV-series tie-ins star Trek and The Twilight Zone.
DC and Marvel Comics
Wein's first superhero work for Marvel was a one-off story in Daredevil #71 (December 1970) co-written with staff writer/editor Roy Thomas. Wein later began scripting sporadic issues of such DC superhero titles as Adventure Comics (featuring Supergirl and Zatanna), the Flash, and Superman, while continuing to write anthological mysteries, along with well-reecieved stories from the semi-anthological occult title The Phantom Stranger #14 - 26 (August 1971 - September 1973).
Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson created the horror character Swamp Thing in House of Secrets #92 (July 1971). Over the next several decades, Swamp Thing would star in DC series and miniseries - including an initial 1972 - 76 series begun by Wein and Wrightson, and the mid-1980's Saga of the Swamp Thing, edited by Wein and featuring early work by writer Alan Moore - as well as two theatrical films, and a syndicated television series. Abigail Arcane, a major supporting character in the character's mythos was introduced by Wein and Wrightson in Swamp Thing #3 (February - March 1973). Wein wrote the second story featuring Man-Thing (written circa May 1971, published in June 1972), introducing Barbara Morse and the concept that "Whoever Knows Fear Burns at the Man-Thing's Touch", and later edited Steve Gerber's run on that title.
Wein wrote a well-regarded run of Justice League of America (issues #100 - 114) wherein, together with artist Dick Dillin, he reintroduced the Seven Soldiers of Victory in issues #100 - 102 and the Freedom fighters in issues #107 - 108. In the fall of 1972, Wein and writers Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart crafted a metafictional unofficial crossover spanning titles from both major comics companies. Each comic featured Englehart, Conway, and Wein, as well as Wein's first wife Glynis, interacting with Marvel or DC characters at the Rutland Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont. Beginning in Amazing Adventures #16 (by Englehart with art by Bob Brown and Frank McLaughlin), the story continued in Justice League of America #103 (by Wein, Dillin and Dick Giordano), and concluded in Thor #207 (by Conway and penciler John Buscema). As Englehart explained in 2010, "It certainly seemed like a radical concept and we knew that we had to be subtle (laughs) and each story had to stand on it's own, but we really worked it out. It's really worthwile to read those stories back to back to back - it didn't matter to us that one was at DC and two were at Marvel - I think it was us being creative, thinking what would be really cool to do." Libra, a supervillain created by Wein and Dillin in Justice League of America #111 (May - June 1974), would play a leading role in Grant Morrison's Final Crisis storyline in 2008.
Wein co-created the Human Target with artist Carmine Infantino and wrote the character's appearances as a backup feature in Action Comics, Detective Comics, and the Brave and the Bold.
He briefly wrote the Batman feature in Detective Comics and produced a storyline with artist Jim Aparo and in which Batman was framed for the murder of Talia al Ghul and battled Sterling Silversmith for the first time.
In the early 1970's, Wein began writing regularly for Marvel Comics. He succeeded Roy Thomas as editor-in-chief of the color-comics line in 1974, staying a little over a year before handing the reins to Wolfman. Remaining at Marvel as a writer, Wein had lengthy runs on Marvel Team-Up, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Fantastic Four, as well as shorter runs on such titles as The Defenders and Brother Voodoo. Wein co-created Wolverine, with artist John Romita Sr. and Herb Trimpe during his run on The Incredible Hulk. Wein's story "Between Hammer and Anvil" from The Incredible Hulk vol. 2 #182 (December 1974) was later cited in Tony Isabella's book 1,000 Comics You Must Read.
In 1975, he and artist Dave Cockrum revived the Stan Lee / Jack Kirby mutant-hero team the X-Men after a half-decade's hiatus, reformatting the membership in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975). Among the characters the duo created for the series were Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, and Thunderbird. Whin plotted the early "new X-Men" stories with artist Cockrum. These issues were then scripted as Uncanny X-Men #94 and 95 by Chris Claremont, who subsequently developed the title into one of Marvel's leading franchises.
In 2009, Claremont said, "The history of modern comics would be incredibly different if you took Wein's contributions out of the mix. The fact he doesn't get credit for it half the time is disgraceful. We owe a lot of what we are - certainly on the X-Men - to Len and to Dave (Cockrum).
Return to DC
At the end of the 1970's, following a dispute with Marvel management, Wein returned to DC as a writer and an editor.
He scripted Batman and collaborated on Green Lantern with artist Dave Gibbons and Mark Farmer. On his first issue of Batman, #307 (January 1979), he created Wayne Foundation executive Lucius Fox. With artist Marshall Rogers, Wein co-created the third version of the supervillain Clayface (Preston Payne) in Detective Comics #478 (January - August 1978). He wrote The Untold Legend of the Batman, the first Batman miniseries, in 1980 and the following year wrote a DC-Marvel crossover between Batman and the Hulk in DC Special Series #27 (Fall 1981). Pandora Pan was a proposed series by Wein and artist Ross Andru which was to have been published in 1982 but other commitments prevented Wein from writing it and the project was cancelled. As editor, he worked on the first twelve issue limited series Camelot 3000, and such successful series as The New Teen Titans, All-Star Squadron, Batman and the Outsiders, Who's Who in the DC Universe, and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' acclaimed and highly influential Watchmen. In 1986, he wrote a revival of the Blue Beetleand dialogued the miniseries Legends over the plots of John Ostrander. The following year, Wein scripted the reboot Wonder Woman series over penciller George Perez's plots. With artist Steve Erwin, wein co-created the superhero Gunfire.
Following his second stint at DC and a move to the West Coast, Wein served as editor-in-chief of Disney Comics for three years in the early 1990's. After leaving Disney, Wein began writing and story editing such animated television series as X-Men: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Street Fighter, ExoSquad, Phantom 2040, Godzilla, Pocket Dragon Adventures, ReBoot and War Planets: Shadow Raiders. In 2001, he and Wolfman wrote the screenplay Gene Pool for the production company Helkon, and later wrote a prequel to the screenplay for a one-shot comic book for IDW Publishing.
Wein collaborated with writer Kurt Busiek and artist Kelley Jones on the four-issue miniseries Conan: The Book of Thoth for Dark Horse Comics. He has scripted the comic series The Victorian for Penny-Farthing Press and has written comic-book stories for Bongo Comics' TV series tie-ins The Simpsons and Futurama.
From 2005 to 2008, Wein appeared as a recurring panelist on the Los Angeles-based revival of the TV game show What's My Line? He has written episodes of the Cartoon Network animated series Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Ben 10: Omniverse and the Marvel Super Hero Squad.
Wein has been interviewed for commentary tracks on comic-related DVDs, including Justice League: The New Frontier film, the live action Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men films, the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film, the Watchmen film, the Swamp thing TV-series sets, the Human Target first season TV series, and the July 2008 History channel specials Batman Unmasked and Batman Tech.
He wrote the storyline for the Watchmen video game, The End is Nigh, which serves as a backstory to both the comic and the film adaptation.
Wein returned to comics writing for DC in the late 2000's, where he collaborated in the DC comics nostalgic event DC Retroactive writing stories for the one-shot specials Batman - The 70's (September 2011) drawn by Tom Mandrake and Green Lantern - The 80's (October 2011) drawn by Joe Staton. The hardcover collection of his 10-issue DC Universe: Legacies was published in August 2011. In 2012, Wein worked on the Before Watchmen project, writing the mini-series Ozymandias with art by Jae Lee and the serialized feature "Curse of the crimson Corsair" with art by Watchmen coloristJohn Higgins. The hardcover collection of the Ozymandias storyline spent several weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List in 2013. He and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez produced a comics adaptation in 2015 of a Two-Face story written by Harlan Ellison orginally intended for the 1960's Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
Wein is of Jewish ancestry. Wein's first wife was Glynis Oliver, a comics colorist who spent years on the X-Men titles. His second wife is Christine Valada, a photographer and attorney.
On April 6, 2009 Wein's California home burned down with considerable loss of property and mementos, including his Shazam Awards. He and his wife also lost their dog, Sheba, to the fire.
Beginning October 26, 2009, Valada appeared on and won the television game show Jeopardy!, becoming a four-time champion with winnings of over $60,000. She indicated on the show that she would use the money to recover or replace much of the artwork and books the couple lost in the fire.
Wein underwent triple bypass heart surgery on February 10, 2015.
Len Wein underwent quintuple bypass heart surgery on February 10, 2015. He died September 10, 2017.
- Len Wein wrote the first draft of The Alien Costume, Part III but his script was rejected.