Comics Culture

RIP Comic Icon Len Wein, 1948 – 2017

I really should have this posted yesterday, given the time sensitive issue this article is dealing with, but as Len Wein was one of my idols, I found myself a bit choked up and unable to get the words down that would do him justice until just recently. So, to say that the death of Len Wein hit me a bit hard is kind of an understatement.

Len Wein was a legend and an icon in the comic book industry. An accomplished and acclaimed writer, his works are amongst the most coveted and sought after by the hardcore comic book collectors out there. His writing style and stories helped bring variation to the industry and added depth to the super hero mythos; no matter what book he touched, he brought legitimacy and his touch of gold to each title he worked on.

However, and this is no knock on Len Wein’s other works, I will always remember him as the co-creator of two of my favorite comic book characters of all time: Wolverine and Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing (co-created by Bernie Wrightson) was a new take on both the horror/monster character type in comics and he has primarily been featured as a hero protecting the balance of nature (a concept later known as “The Green”) from human threats. Wolverine (co-created by John Romita, Sr.) changed the way super heroes were presented at the time and was a forerunner in the concept of the “anti-hero” in Marvel Comics.

Both characters had a huge influence on me as both a comic book fan and a person in general. I tried to emulate what I saw was the best character traits of both characters into my personal life (and even tried to channel Wolverine when I was younger and confronted by my first bully). I looked up to these two characters because they spoke to me as a young comic book fan. They made a huge impression on me as to what comic books were – and by extension what heroes were.

Art by Tom Hodges

But Swamp Thing and Wolverine were not his only contributions to the comic book medium. Len Wein would also co-create the character Abby Holland (with Wrightson) for DC Comics as well as Mockingbird (with Neal Adams), Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus (alongside Dave Cockrum) for Marvel. And that is not even taking into consideration his time as a writer and editor at both DC and Marvel for long and illustrious runs.

A long-time fan of Len Wein, I finally had the chance to meet and chat with him thanks to a mutual friend, Sara Katz-Scher (who I could only imagine the grief she is feeling right now as she had a close and very personal relationship with him) at a local comic book convention some time ago. He was very humble, very friendly, and made me feel as though I was talking with an old friend. He was very much the kind person I always imagined him to be – and we all know that sometimes the people we look up to as heroes and role models don’t always fit that persona: but Len Wein did. He was nothing but a solid man, a professional, and very intelligent and entertaining person as you could ever meet.

Sadly, I only ever got to talk to him a handful of times after that initial meeting, but I sure am glad I got to meet him. His death is a shock to the comic book world and one to the entire geek/pop culture community. His creations will keep his name alive for years and years to come as more and more people learn about him through them, but the sadness I feel with his passing was just too much to bear yesterday.

Rest in peace, Len Wein; you will be missed.
June 12, 1948 – September 10, 2017

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