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.


1976: Daredevil provides a lesson in media literacy

Cover to Daredevil No. 137

Cover to Daredevil No. 137

It’s no secret there’s a lot of emotion concerning this year’s U.S. presidential election. The contest has spurred commentary about the need for media consumers to be on the watch for fake news websites and to be careful before what they share on social media

The thing is this concern isn’t new. Forty years ago, the Daredevil comic book waded into this territory during a run of stories scripted by Marv Wolfman, who  was also the editor in chief of Marvel Comics at the time.

The story line first surfaced as a sub plot in Daredevil No. 129, published in the fall of 1975 and penciled by Bob Brown. Matt Murdock and his then-girlfriend Heather Glenn are watching TV news. A newscaster resembling Walter Cronkite comes on with a story about a photo showing John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy apparently alive.

Two issues later, No. 131,  we see a man chained to a console being forced to prepare “another broadcast.” At the start of issue 133, the man (clearly a scientist) is killed by an old DD foe, the Jester. Over the next few issues, the device involved is revealed to be capable of editing real videos into convincing fakes.

All of this reaches a conclusion in issue No. 137, published in 1976 and drawn by John Buscema, subbing for Brown. Toward the end, Our Hero is interviewed by a television newscaster. The device is now in the hands of the authorities. But DD has a word of advice for viewers.

“I can’t voucher for the accuracy of TV news reporting, Wally, but at least the news won’t be altered by criminals,” Daredevil says. “Though, I think all people should learn to get their news from many sources — TV, radio, newspapers, magazines — to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. A well-informed public is the best weapon against blatant lies — from wherever they originate.”

Of course, in the 21st century, there are many additional digital media. Also, traditional media outlets are questioned about their ethics, accuracy, etc. Still, the notion that people need to be well read is perhaps more important now than when this comic book story line was first published.