Len Wein, co-creator of Wolverine, dies at 69

Len Wein (1948-2017)

Len Wein, a comics fan turned comics professional, has died at 69, according to multiple posts on social meedia by comics professionals including Mark Millar and Kurt Busiek. .

Wein co-created the mutant character Wolverine while writing The Incredible Hulk for Marvel.

He also revived the X-Men in 1975, with a new cast, including Wolverine. (The X-Men originally were created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.)

Wolverine helped make Hugh Jackman a star, both through X-Men and Wolverine movies. Jackman’s most recent performance as the character was in this year’s Logan.

At DC Comics, Wein wrote a number of Batman stories. One highlight was a 1970s story, Moon of the Wolf, illustrated by Neal Adams and Dick Giorddano, in which Batman encounters a warewolf. It would later be adapted in the Batman: The Animated Series.

Growing up in the greater New York area, Wein and friend Marv Wolfman (who would also become a comics professional) would visit the prolific Jack Kirby at his home.

“We came over for mile and cookies on Saturdays,” Wein said in a documentary about Kirby. When they’d see Kirby at his drawing board, Wein said, “His hand was always moving, producing.”

Such experiences presumably explain why Wein went into the field.

After becoming a writer at Marvel, he was named editor-in-chief after Roy Thomas (who had succeeded Stan Lee) stepped down. It wasn’t an easy time for the company. “Wein struggled with the constant cycle of cancellations and launches,” Sean Howe wrote in his book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Wolfman took over.

Eventually, a number of people (Thomas, Wein, Wolfman and others) got deals where they were editors of the titles they wrote. In the late 1970s, these deals were ended and Jim Shooter was put in charge of Marvel’s titles.

Nevertheless, Wein stayed in the field for a long time. Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and director of the first two Avengers movie for Marvel, posted a tribute:

UPDATE (8:55 p.m. ET): Hugh Jackman posted a tribute to Len Wein on Twitter.

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Justice League’s soap opera

Justice League movie logo

Justice League, still almost three months from reaching audiences, has generated behind-the-scenes drama the past few months that may be tough for the film itself to match.

Examples:

–Director Zack Snyder took himself off post-production duties because of a family tragedy, the suicide of his 20-year-old daughter in March.

–Even before that, it became known that Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon to revise the story. Whedon previously directed the first two Avengers movies for rival Marvel Studios.

–Whedon took over directing of extensive reshoots, estimated by Variety at $25 million, beyond the normal level that occur after principal photography has ended.

–One of the movies stars, Henry Cavill as Superman, can’t shave the mustache he grew for the unfinished Mission: Impossible 6. So his reshoots will involve digitally erasing said mustache. Naturally, this led to people coming out of images of Cavill’s Superman with a mustache.

–In the midst of this, Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, wrote a guest column for TheWrap on Aug. 20 about the writer-director’s marital infidelities. “I want to let women know that he is not who he pretends to be,” she wrote. While this doesn’t affect the film, it’s not the kind of publicity a studio likes about an expensive project.

The thing is, Warner Bros. and its DC Comics unit are on a roll after Wonder Woman generated both good reviews and a global box office of more than $800 million.

Of course, if the movie is a hit most of this will end up as a footnote. In 1975, for example, everybody forgot production woes and cost overruns of Jaws.

Joss Whedon takes over post-production for Justice League

Justice League movie logo

Joss Whedon, who directed two Avengers movies for Marvel Studios, is overseeing Justice League during post-production, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That’s because director Zack Snyder and his wife, producer Deborah Snyder are taking time off to “deal with the sudden death of his daughter.”

The Snyders, according to THR, are focusing on “the healing of their family.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Stepping in to shepherd the movie through post and the shooting of some additional scenes will be Joss Whedon, the Avengers filmmaker and creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With Whedon’s help, the movie is still on track for its Nov. 17 release date.

Snyder’s daughter, Autumn Snyder, died by suicide in March at age 20. Her death has been kept private, with only a small inner circle aware of what happened, even as the movie was put on a two-week break for the Snyders to deal with the immediate effects of the tragedy.

Justice League is a follow-up to last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Justice League is the main super hero group of DC Comics. The league made its debut in 1959 (and was a successor to the 1940s Justice Society of America).

“The demands of this job are pretty intense,” Snyder told THR. “It is all consuming. And in the last two months I’ve come to the realization …I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me.”

According to the entertainment news website, “Snyder, after screening a rough cut of Justice League for fellow filmmakers and friends, wanted to add additional scenes, so he brought Whedon on board to write them.

“But as he prepared to shoot the scenes in England, Snyder realized it was not the time to leave home.”

REVIEW: The sequel that doesn’t seem like a sequel

Iron Man's Hulkbuster armor vs. the Hulk, a highlight of Avengers: Age of Ultron

Concept art of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor vs. the Hulk, a highlight of Avengers: Age of Ultron

Director Joss Whedon, in his farewell to Marvel movies, has come up with a rarity: a sequel that doesn’t seem like a sequel.

Avengers: Age of Ultron, while not a perfect film, achieves something unusual. It’s a sequel that’s more introspective (at least for a time) than the 2012 original Marvel’s The Avengers, that Whedon directed and co-wrote. There’s a substantial attempt at demonstrating what makes its main characters tick that’s deeper than what came before.

It’s rare these days where there’s a “written and directed by” credit, but that’s what Whedon has here. It’s even more rare in genre movies not to mention a studio (Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel) that isn’t known as a haven for “auteur” filmmakers.

Still, the movie is all that and more. Whedon successfully walks a tightrope. He successfully balances commercial concerns (the 2012 movie had worldwide ticket sales of $1.5 billion), throws more than a few bones to the hard-core Marvel Comics fan base (including Tony Stark’s “Hulkbuster” armor, a popular bit from late 1970s comic books) to giving his main actors plenty of material to work with.

Concerning the latter point, the introspection occurs relatively early in the movie, something even more surprising. The super hero group encounters a set of brother-sister twins, who’ve been experimented upon by the evil organization Hydra. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) can mess with the minds of people.

Whedon uses that as a device to explore the personalities of his main cast (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner).

Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (Downey Jr. and Ruffalo) have been working on something they believe can result in good. As it turns out, they’ve crossed into Dr. Frankenstein territory (and Whedon provides a couple of references for those not familiar with that story). As a result, Ultron (James Spader) is born, a robot with artificial intelligence who decides humans should be exterminated.

Since 2008, Marvel Studios has been on an amazing run of movies that have been highly successful (and then some) at the box office. At the same time, those movies haven’t been paint-by-the-numbers. That’s especially true with Whedon’s second Avengers movie. He shakes things up (though not too much).

Whedon has indicated that after five-plus years of living with the Avengers he wants to movie on to developing projects featuring his own characters. That’s very understandable. Nevertheless, he has set a high bar for his successors.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo will helm a two-part Avengers movie due for release in 2018 and 2019. They’ve already directed one Captain America movie and are about to begin filming another featuring a Cap/Iron Man clash.

Yet, Whedon has demonstrated what can be accomplished in a genre film. Sam Mendes, director of the 007 film Skyfall and the currently filming SPECTRE, has been using Christopher Nolan’s Batman films as a guide to making James Bond movies. It’s too bad he didn’t get a chance check out Whedon’s work on the two Avengers movies as well.

Avengers: Age of Ultron has flaws. It’s a bit long and gets exhausting at times. For all that, it’s worth a look. GRADE: A-Minus.

ABC orders SHIELD pilot, Deadline reports

Jim Steranko’s cover for Strange Tales No. 167


ABC has ordered a SHIELD pilot to be co-written by Joss Whedon, the Deadline entertainment news Web site reported.

An excerpt:

The project is based on Marvel’s peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D (which stands for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate or Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) found in both the Marvel comic book and feature film universes, including the blockbuster 2012 movie The Avengers, in which S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury, recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and Thor to stop Thor’s adoptive brother Loki from subjugating Earth.

S.H.I.E.L.D. will be written by Whedon and frequent collaborators, his brother Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Joss Whedon also is set to direct the pilot, schedule permitting.

SHIELD (which originally stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division) debuted in 1965 in a story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Strange Tales No. 135. In that initial effort, Nick Fury is recruited to be SHIELD’s director. Lee and Kirby first created Fury in 1963 as the lead in a World War II comic book, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. It was established in a Fantastic Four story that Fury survived the war and was in the CIA.

Fury and SHIELD reached their peak of popularity in stories written and drawn by Jim Steranko. Steranko guided Fury into his own title in 1968 but departed after doing four of the first five issues.

The ABC pilot isn’t SHIELD’s first foray into television. David Hasselhoff starred in the title role in a 1998 TV movie, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.