Tribute: Len Wein Has Passed Away

Frequently, but not every day, I tune in, and watch the S.F., comics, gaming, technology, Comic Cons, Cosplay, film, television, video games, gadgets, current events, & all things genre-topic….evening, daily TV talk show, ‘Inner Space,’ on Canada’s S.F. – genred ‘The Space Channel.’ Which, in my area, is channel 47.

The Inner Space program is hosted, each evening, by regular male hosts Ajay Fry, Teddy Wilson, and female host, Morgan Hoffman.

Inner Space is very similar to the American show, ‘Entertainment Tonight’, but it leans far
more heavily, towards comics & science fiction, (in) comics, movies, and TV series — than just entertainment, in general.

Many, many years ago, I used to watch a previous Canadian daily (evenings) show, with the exact same subject matter and format – also starring Ajay Fry, and Teddy Wilson, but not Morgan Hoffman.
That daily, evening TV show was called ‘The Anti-Gravity Room.’

The Anti-Gravity Room eventually morphed into the program, ‘Inner Space.’

Most times that I hear, sadly, of a comic book professional’s passing away – despite the fact that I read the newspapers, daily, — is online; and often, on Facebook.

Since, information, there, is updated much more frequently, of course, than in newspapers.

Not this time. Last evening, I was watching Inner Space, when one of the hosts (Ajay Fry, I believe) – briefly talked about, and flashed a photo on the screen – of a certain comic book professional writer. Who, he said, had sadly, just passed away.

He didn’t say which comics pro it was, but I recognized Len Wein’s face, immediately, and felt saddened, by it.
Then, the program went to commercials.

‘Damn’, I thought. ‘Double Damn!’

I immediately sighed, sadly, for his passing, and made a mental note, to write a bio for Len Wein, for First Comics

When the program resumed, after a few spotlights on other things – finally, the host said a few things (a single line), about the just-passed Len Wein.

For example, the fact that Len Wein co-created both the Canadian (in American Marvel Comics) superhero, Wolverine, and DC Comics’ Swamp Thing.

‘No kidding, eh?’ I thought.

Because that was the (extent) of the blurb about Len Wein, on last night’s Inner Space segment. A single one-liner.

I caught myself thinking, ‘Wow. Is that all you can think to say, about this monumental talent, who’s been a writer and editor, in American comic book, for forty-six years-?’

And so, let me tell you more about the sadly, just-passed away Len Wein.

Len Wein was born Leonard Norman Wein, on June the 12th of 1948, and he passed away on Sunday, September 10th, of 2017.

Len Wein was instrumental in reviving Marvel’s X-Men comic book superhero team series and franchise, in the mid-1970’s, with mostly all new characters, including Colossus (from the then, still-Soviet Union), Nightcrawler (from West Germany), Storm (from Kenya), and the Native American Indian, Thunderbird, (whose character was tragically killed, almost immediately.)

As Cyclops, team leader, lamented, sadly, following his team mate, Thunderbird’s death — “It comes with the uniform.”

Other characters on the team included, initially, older characters Jean Gray, (later called Phoenix), The Angel, Banshee (from Ireland), Sunfire (from Japan), Beast, Iceman, Havok, and Polaris.
The team’s leader, as mentioned, was Cyclops, just as he was the leader of the previous team of X-Men.

The well – suited artist on the team was the since – late, Dave Cockrum. Who, like Len Wein himself, was a phenomenal talent! When it came to art, Dave Cockrum put the ‘zing’ into everything he penciled and inked! The late Dave Cockrum also created ‘The Futurians’-!

Eventually, Dave Cockrum moved on from The All-New X-men, and Canadian fan-favorite artist, John Byrne, replaced Mr. Cockrum, as artist, on the title.

Whereas, after a short time, Chris Claremont replaced Len Wein, as the writer.

But it needs to be seriously noted that ‘The All-New X-Men’ comics series, back then,
was the brainchild of Len Wein, writer, and the series was physically-imagined by the dynamic artistic talents of Dave Cockrum!
Immediately, The All-New X-Men title was a runaway Mega Hit, Sales Wise, from the get-go! Previously, it hadn’t been.

The All-New X-Men debuted in Giant Size X-Men # 1, in 1975, followed by The All-New X-Men # 94, picking up the series by the numbering following the last issue that had been published, several years before, with the ‘Old’ X-Men team of characters.

By the following issue, new character Thunderbird had died heroically, in battle, and most of the rest of the supporting team, including Angel, Sunfire, Beast, Iceman, Havok, and Polaris – had moved on, leaving the team. This left mostly the NEW characters, with a few ‘old’ stalwarts, from the previous series. But we all know that comic book characters mostly never, ever age. Right?

Disappointingly, in the USA Today online article that ran today, about Len Wein’s having passed on, two days ago — accompanying the article is a photo, not of Len Wein, but rather, a photo of actor Hugh Jackman, the actor who played Len Wein’s creation, Wolverine, in numerous X-Men and Wolverine movies.
In my view, Len Wein deserved better than this.

Back in the early 1970’s, Len Wein and his friend Marv Wolfman visited, together, often, the DC Comics offices, on consecutive Thursday afternoons, to join in weekly scheduled tours of the DC offices.

Back then, Mr. Wein was leaning towards becoming a comics artist, instead of as a comic book writer!
DC’s Joe Orlando eventually hired BOTH Len Wein AND Marv Wolfman, as freelance comic book writers. I surmise that this must have been a dream come true, to both of them!

Len Wein’s very first published comic book script/-story was ‘Eye of The Beholder’, in DC’s Teen Titans # 18, Dec 1968. In this first published script by Wein, he co-created the Russian superhero, Red Star. I bought this issue new, when it came out, and I still recall this character. I was eight years old, at the time.
Red Star was DC Comics’ first-ever Russian superhero!

The following story, co-written by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, which they submitted to DC Comics, was entitled ‘Titans Fit The Battle For Jericho.’ It would have debuted DC Comics’ first black superhero! However, this story was rejected by DC’s Carmine Infantino. Infantino instead had comics artist legend Neal Adams re-write and re-draw the story. The revised story bowed in Teen Titans # 20, April 1969. Len Wein and Marv Wolfman must have been felt a degree of some pathos and irony, over the rewrite of their story!

In the same year, Mr. Wein wrote mystery stories of the anthology type, in the ‘House of Secrets’ title. As well as writing Marvel’s Tower of Shadows, and Chamber of Darkness titles.
He even wielded his pen, writing the romance DC title, Secret Hearts, Hot Wheels (based on the well-known toy line), the Skywald company’s titles: Nightmare, Psycho, Skywald’s two western series, Bravados, and The Sundance Kid, and even Gold Key’s Mod Wheels, Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery, Microbots (based on toys), and Star Trek and Twilight Zone.

Over at Marvel, Len Wein co-wrote (with Marvel editor/writer Roy Thomas), an issue of Daredevil, # 71, Dec. 1970.

Wein’s later comics work ran the gamut from Adventure Comics, (Supergirl, Zatanna), The Flash, Superman, The Phantom Stranger, Justice Machine, (at a different publisher), Action Comics (The Human Target, The Atom), Aquaman, Eclipso, Deadman, Elongated Man, Plastic Man, and El Diablo (in All Star Western # 11, 1972), a character inspired by Zorro!

Mr. Wein also wrote numerous issues and title series about Batman, as well as Blue Beetle, Brave and The Bold, Watchmen one-shots, Green Lantern, and Heroes Against Hunger – a one-shot, interestingly, the financial proceeds of which went towards famine relief, in Africa!

Len Wein’s writing credits include almost an endless list of titles, starting with each letter of the alphabet!

For television, Len Wein wrote the following animated series: Action Man, Avengers: United They Stand, Batman The Animated Series, Beware The Batman, Godzilla The Series, and Spider-Man The Animated Series.

Len Wein co-created the DC feature Christopher Chance, The Human Target, which debuted in Action Comics in the early 1970’s, with Carmine Infantino – a series that became more than one – (much later) television series!

Len Wein followed Roy Thomas as Editor-in-Chief of the colour line of Marvel Comics, in 1974, which he did for a year. He then handed the job and title over to his friend, Marv Wolfman, to return to writing, his main passion.

In 2009, Marvel Comics X-Men writer 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]”

Len Win’s first wife was Glynis Olver. She was a Marvel Comics colourist, who, for several years, did colouring of the X-Men comics titles.

Later, they divorced, and Mr. Wein married Christine Valadis, who was a photographer and an attorney, in 1991.

Sadly, Len Wein’s house burned down on April 6th, 2009, in California.

Most all of which they owned was lost, including his comics’ Shazam Award.

He and his wife also lost their dog, Sheba, to the fire.

Starting on October 26, 2009, his wife, Christine Valada, appeared on the Alex Trebek’s Jeopardy program, and WON, becoming a four-time Champion, winning over $60,000.00 U.S.-!

After the fire, in April of that year, I would say this was only fitting!

Len Wein underwent triple-bypass heart surgery on February 10th of 2015.

He rallied and finally passed away, as mentioned, two and a half years later, on Sunday, Sept 10th, of 2017. He was sixty-nine years of age.

Co-creator of The Swamp Thing, The Swamp Thing was featured in numerous, long-running DC Comic book series, from 1972, up to the present day.

The Swamp Thing first appeared in DC’s House of Secrets # 92.

Len Wein had won Shazam Awards for Best Writer (Dramatic) for Swamp Thing, and for Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic) for ‘Dark Genesis,’ from Swamp Thing # 1, along with the since late Bernie Wrightson, in 1972.

Additionally, Len Wein won in the same category, in 1973.

Len Wein, still later, won The Shazam Award jointly, along with since late artist Bernie Wrightson, that same year, for Best Continuing Feature, (once again), for Swamp Thing!

Then, in 1974, Wein and Bernie Wrightson won the Shazam Award for Best Continuing Feature, yet again-!

Mr. Wein won a Comic Fan Art Award for Favourite Pro Writer, in 1974, and an Inkpot
Award, in 1977.
In the year 1982, Len Wein won the Comic Buyer’s Guide Fan Award, as Best Editor.

He was Nominated, in 1998, for the Bram Stoker Award, given by the Horror Writers Association, for the one-shot story The Dreaming: Trial and Error, from DC’s Vertigo comics line.

Len Wein was inducted into the Will Eisner’s Comic Book Hall of Fame, in 2008.

— By Phil Latter

Note: Parts of this Len Wein Tribute Obit were gleaned from Len Wein’s Wikipedia entry, on the internet.

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