From Swamp Thing to Wolverine: The Wild Mind of Len Wein

As reported by Monkeys Fighting Robots’ very own Aric Sweeny, the world of comic books lost a seminal figure last weekend. On September 10th, 2017, Len Wein died. And although he co-created several enduring characters for both DC and Marvel during his life, his name might not sound familiar, so read on …

The Wild Mind of Len Wein: A Marvel-ous Makeover

Len Wein
Introducing Thunderbird!! Oh, and Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus as well …

In addition to co-creating fan favourite Wolverine with Roy Thomas, Herb Trimpe, and John Romita for Marvel in 1974, his and Dave Cockrum’s revamp of the X-Men in 1975, which revived Lee and Kirby’s mutant superhero team after five years on the shelf, introduced Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus. This new team and the new characters on it shaped the face of Marvel Comics in the late ’70s and continues to even now. That the X-Men film franchise, troubled as it is, focuses more on Wein and his creative partners’ characters than it does on Lee and Kirby’s original team from the ’60s is strong testimony against anyone who thinks otherwise.

The Wild Mind of Len Wein: Distinguished Creator

Probably Wein’s most notable achievement for DC, on top of co-creating Swamp Thing with Bernie Wrightson, was his deft editorial work on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s genre-redefining series Watchmen, and if you’ve read Watchmen you know how difficult that must have been.

Len Wein
“OK Al and Dave, how the Hell does this pirate ship thing relate back to the freaking superheroes again?!”

Other notable characters created by Wein for DC include Batman’s corporate liaison at Wayne Enterprises Lucius Fox, who also made it to the big screen, and the murderous Clayface III. Really, it’s difficult to overstate Wein’s influence on contemporary comic books. But luckily, you don’t have to take my word for it: Chris Claremont, who scripted the 1975 Wein/Cockrum reboot of the X-Men said it best,

“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].”

High praise indeed, and well deserved.

The Wild Mind of Len Wein: Beyond Comic Books

In addition to Wein’s work on comic books, which included work for both big publishers as well as Disney, Defiant, and Bongo Comics, he also wrote and edited for several animated TV shows. And although I never watched Phantom 2040 or Pocket Dragon Adventures, I watched the heck out of four other animated shows he worked on, the ’90s versions of Spider-Man, Batman, and X-Men, and the CGI epic ReBoot.

The Wild Mind of Len Wein: Read All About It

I was quite saddened to learn of the illustrious Mr. Wein’s death, but I’m comforted by the fact that his legacy thrives. Today’s average movie-goer or comic book reader might not know it, but they’re benefiting from Wein’s deft creative writing and editing — and, to think, he originally wanted to be an artist!

Sad as it is to lose a great talent like Len Wein, it’s good to reflect upon how much he shaped the medium he worked in. And happily, this brief article has only touched upon some of Wein’s most enduring work. There are plenty of great Len Wein stories out there, so get reading!

Michael Bedford
Michael Bedford
Under intense scrutiny by the Temporal Authorities, I was coerced into actualizing my capsule in this causality loop. Through no fault of my own, I am marooned on this dangerous yet lovely level-four civilization. Stranded here, I have spent most of my time learning what I can of the social norms and oddities of the Terran species, including how to properly use the term "Hipster" and how to perform a "perfect pour." Under the assumed name of "Michael Bedford," I have completed BA's with specialized honours in both theatre studies and philosophy, and am currently saving up for enough galactic credits to buy a new--or suitably used--temporal contextualizer ... for a friend.