In Memoriam: Comics Editor and Writer Len Wein

I’m sorry to learn of the passing of legendary American comic editor and writer Len Wein, who has died shortly after hospitalisation for surgery.

Len Wein. Photo: DC Comics
Photo: DC Comics
Among his many credits, Len was the creator of legendary DC Comics characters Swamp Thing (with artist Berni Wrightson) and the Human Target (with Carmine Infantino). For Marvel, he co-created Wolverine (with artist John Romita, Sr) and New X-Men (with artist Dave Cockrum).

A New Yorker by birth in 1948, Len’s career in comics began aged 20, progressing to become, at various times, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, Disney, and Top Cow Comics, and Senior Editor at DC. He is noted for long runs writing almost every major character.

In 2010, Len wrote Legacies, a first-person history of the then-DCU and in 2012 participated in the Before Watchmen project, writing the Crimson Corsair and Ozymandias mini-series.

He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2008.

Len also worked in TV, story editing the award-winning War Planets: Shadow Raiders and scripting episodes of shows such as Batman: The Animated Series, Hypernauts, Conan, Hulk, Reboot, Beast Wars and more.

Artist and writer Walt Simonson says he and partner Louise are “deeply saddened” to learn of Len’s death.

“An old pal from my earliest days in comics, we had a chance to work together on Marvel’s Thor in the late 1970s and enjoyed it immensely. We all did a two-page “Once Upon a Time” Batman story, based on Charles Schulz’s Snoopy writing – Len’s idea.

His lasting legacy in comics will likely be the characters he co-created, Swamp Thing and Wolverine, but he made contributions to the field in various capacities including his writing and editing.”

“Without Len Wein, no Wolverine, no Hugh Jackman, no Berni Wrightson Swamp Thing, no Alan Moore/Steve Bisette Swamp Thing… no Watchmen,” notes editor, writer and publisher Richard Starkings. “An immense creative force in comics, Swamp Thing was the first DC comic that made me turn my ahead away from Marvel. I saw Len often at West Coast shows and he was always smiling, always friendly. Too young. My thoughts go out to his family.”

“I am absolutely gutted,” comments British artist, writer and publisher Tim Perkins, who recalls Len stayed with him at his New York apartment during his time in New York working for Jim Shooter’s Defiant Comics. “He had been ill on and off for several years, but I thought he was better recently… I will miss our chats.”

“Len Wein was one of the most welcoming people and legends in comics from the moment I joined DC eight years ago,” said Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment. “He wrote or edited almost every major DC character – there’s hardly a facet of DC’s world that Len didn’t touch. I, DC, and the industry will miss him and his talent very much. Our love and prayers go out to Christine, his family, and his fans.”

“Not every writer can be a good editor,” said Geoff Johns, president and CCO of DC Entertainment. “But Len deserves equal credit for both talents. He helped to revitalize the entire DC Universe.”

Perhaps the most moving tribute comes from longtime friend and fellow DC staffer Paul Levitz, who posted a eulogy to his Facebook Page.

“Len was a relentlessly positive force in comics,” he writes. “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. 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.

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.

“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.”

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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