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Len Wein, Influential Comic Book Writer, Dies at 69

The character proved both durable and adaptable, turning up over the years on television and in film. And Mr. Wein became an early example of a change that would wake up the somewhat predictable world of comics, one that made the stories deeper and more ambitious.

“For more than a decade, from the early ’70s to the mid-’80s, as both a writer and an editor, he really sat on the leading edge of what the comics medium could be as it was growing up,” Paul Levitz, author of “75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking,” said in an interview on Monday.

In 1975, Mr. Wein joined with the artist David Cockrum to relaunch Marvel Comics’ X-Men, the team of mutant superheroes created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Mr. Wein and Mr. Cockrum created new characters, including Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus.


Len Wein in an undated photograph.

DC Comics

Wolverine, who first appeared in an “Incredible Hulk” story Mr. Wein wrote, also joined the X-Men universe, which yielded not only many comics but also a profitable series of movies.

Mr. Wein was an editor for Marvel, DC and Disney Comics. He brought the British writer Alan Moore into the Swamp Thing series in the early 1980s, and in 1986 he was editor on the Watchmen series by Mr. Moore, the artist Dave Gibbons and the colorist John Higgins. That work, Mr. Levitz, said, was “arguably the most important comic published by a traditional comics publisher in the ’80s” and helped usher in the era of the graphic novel.

Mr. Wein and Ms. Valada were married in 1991. Mr. Wein’s previous marriage, to Glynis Oliver, a colorist who worked with him, ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a stepson, Michael Bieniewicz-Valada.

Ms. Valada said Mr. Wein had recently returned to writing Swamp Thing. But his favorite characters to write, she said, were two he did not create: Batman and the Incredible Hulk.

That suggests a fondness for tradition, but Mr. Wein in fact helped bring a younger, innovative sensibility to the art form. Years ago, barely in his 20s, he got a sense of the generational divide in the comic-book-making world of the time when he worked on the television-tie-in comics for “Star Trek” being published by Gold Key. The staff there, he once said at a panel discussion, was on the older side.

“I was the first guy to write the book who actually ever watched the show,” he said. “I sent all kinds of notes: ‘You know the backpacks? They don’t really need the backpacks. They want anything, they pick up the silly little phone things and call, and it gets teleported down.’ ”

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