It is a dark Sunday for the comics world, as legendary comic creator Len Wein passed away.
One of the earliest gifts Wein gave to mainstream comics was in July 1971 with the character Swamp Thing, which he co-created with Bernie Wrightson in The House of Secrets #92. Wein and Wrightson would create a Swamp Thing series that ran from 1972 to 1976, and Wein would later be the editor on the Saga of the Swamp Thing in the 1980s, which featured some of the earliest work by Alan Moore.
From 1971 to 1972 for Gold Key Comics, Wein penned eight issues of the classic Star Trek Comics, Issues #9-16, including stories like "The Legacy of Lazarus" and "The Brain Shockers."
In December 1972, Christopher Chance appeared in Action Comics #419, which Wein wrote and Carmine Infantino drew. Chance is a private investigator who assumes the identity of his clients targeted by deadly assassins and criminals. Chance would be one of two characters who would go on to be The Human Target, which would later be launched as a Vertigo series and eventually a television series on the Fox network.
For Marvel, Wein’s biggest contribution came in late 1974 inside the pages of Incredible Hulk #180-182, when he along with artists Herb Trimpe and John Romita Sr. introduced Wolverine, everyone’s favorite cigar-smoking Canuck with adamantium claws and the mutant healing factor. Along with artist Dave Cockrum, Wein shook up Uncanny X-Men in May of 1975 with the issue Giant Size X-Men #1, where he introduced a number of mutants, including Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Thunderbird, giving that title a new renaissance of stories.
Wein continued a magnificent, golden run on comics throughout his career, even though he bounced between the duties of writer and the undervalued role of editor, being a guiding influence on The New Teen Titans, Batman and the Outsiders, and Who’s Who in the DC Universe, among many. The pinnacle of his work as an editor was reuniting with Moore and artist Dave Gibbons in 1986 on the legendary superhero deconstruction Watchmen.
Some other notable runs in Wein’s career include Justice League of America #100-114, Wonder Woman with George Perez, The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up, Thor and Fantastic Four. Other highlights include creating the popular Batman supporting character Lucious Fox, the third Clayface, and DC superhero Gunfire.
But Wein’s work goes well beyond the four-color pages of comics. In the 1990s, Wein was the editor-in-chief of Disney Comics, and later wrote for animated television series including Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man, X-Men, ReBoot, at least three versions of Ben: 10, and Marvel Super Hero Squad. Many of Wein's creations crossed media, and here is his reaction after seeing Logan in the theaters in March.
Wein was a major player in mainstream comics and popular culture for five decades, winning the Shazam Award for Swamp Thing in 1973, a Comic Fan Art Award in 1974, and an Inkpot Award in 1977, and he was inducted to the Will Eisner Comic Book Fall of Fame in 2008.
Below is a sample of the reaction to Wein’s passing by the comics industry.
The exact cause of death is unknown, but he had been experiencing a number of health issues. In recent weeks, Wein’s widow, Christine Valada, gave health updates to his fans through his Twitter about recovering from at least three surgeries between August 30 and September 7, and many more earlier over the last two years, including a new heart valve in August of 2016 after quintuple bypass heart surgery in February of 2015. SYFY WIRE sends sincere condolences to his widow, family, and friends.