Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Remembering Swamp Thing Creator Len Wein

September 13, 2017 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Swamp Thing Len Wein

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! Thanos #10, Batman #30, and more!

Now, on with the show!

Last week we had fun Grading Marvel’s Secret Empire!! Here’s what some of you had to say:

Robert Lehto: “Barf? When I think about getting into modern comics they give me reasons not to.”

DrunkSuperman: “It was just crap all over i cant recall one book that made me say wow and all the upcoming stuff doesnt look any better”

JestersTear: “Reading that short description confirmed that my decision not to read this dumpster fire, even by torrenting it and reading it for free, was a good decision.”

Jeffrey: “I didn’t like Secret Empire or Hydra Cap using Mjolnir. The last major Marvel event I enjoyed reading was probably either Avengers Forever or Heroes Return if they count.”

Defective: “marvel’s Secret Empire was utter, vapid garbage. The whole event was terrible from start to finish. It was a poor man’s poor man’s bastardization of Inuyasha/Dragon Ball Z (GO COLLECT THE SHARDS to summon the Eternal Dragon!) and a poor, poor attempt at Injustice. Poor art, terrible writing, subpar plot, magic wanding the problem away and having Good Steve Rogers fight Bad Steve Rogers was fucking terrible.

It’s shit like this that makes me dislike and damn near hate marvel comic books. It didn’t help that Nick Spencer kept going to Twitter saying ‘THIS EVENT HAS NO POLITICAL MESSAGE TO IT’. Overpriced books for an uninteresting storyline. How anyone is a fan of this embarrassment is beyond me.”

Tranquilo Baby Tranquilo: “I have enjoyed Spencer on other books, but it was obviously after three issues that the tone of his Cap run was way off. I punched out at that point and obviously made the right decision.”

The Whole F’n Truth: “Give it another year…. we’ll be seeing another reboot at Marvel”

nWc: “So in the end it wasn’t really the real Cap all along and the “real Cap” came back in the final reel to restore his name and save the day??? Funny, I remember Marvel talking heads insisting that they weren’t going to do exactly this when everyone under the sun mocked them for knowing how it would all go.

Reminds me of Lost… fans figured out the “big reveal” in Season 2, the writers insisted they had a real plan, then lo and behold, the fans were right the whole time. Oh. And it sucked.”

Mark of Excellence: “Comics are similar to professional wrestling in the way certain moments often times exceed the story as a whole.

For me, SE had some great moments. I really enjoyed the issue with Pym Ultron. I liked most of the stuff with Black Widow. And of course it was very fun seeing what Cap would be capable of as a tyrant.

But ultimately the story was a letdown. Too many things were vague or silly. It annoys me the way writers seem to use the “it’s comics” excuse as a way to justify bad endings.”

Watryisgarbage_1: “I liked it. The ending, so far, there’s an Omega issue to come wasn’t great. But the way the heroes were overwhelmed was well done, especially if you read the Cap books before hand.

I can see why a lot of people didn’t like it – at least it wasn’t as bad as Civil War 2.”

Earl Chatterton: “I thought Secret Empire was good for the most part. It was especially fascinating when dealing with Deadpool, who’s in such a unique, dark place as a result of the book. I liked the central Secret Empire series (with awesome moments involving Black Widow and Punisher towards the end) although it did wrap up in underwhelming fashion. And I couldn’t quite buy into the idea that Hydra was big enough to actually take over America in terms of manpower. And there was too much public acceptance of a clearly fascist rule. That was tough to buy into.”

To read ALL the comments from last week’s column, CLICK HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we are…

Remembering Len Wein

I’ve been tempted to focus on a comic book writer or artist since I first started writing about comic books at 411mania.com but for some reason or another have never found the right way to approach it. Sadly, it took his death for me to talk about the great Len Wein.

Believe it or not, Mr. Wein has more of an impact on the comic book industry than you realize. From co-creating Swamp Thing and Wolverine to assisting in reviving the X-Men, Len’s reach was wide.

I should mention that he was co-created the Human Target, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus. Oh yes, and he was the editor for a pretty influential miniseries called Watchmen.

“Len Wein was one of the most welcoming people and legends in comics from the moment I joined DC eight years ago,” said Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment. “He wrote or edited almost every major DC character — there’s hardly a facet of DC’s world that Len didn’t touch. I, DC, and the industry will miss him and his talent very much. Our love and prayers go out to Christine, his family, and his fans.”

One just has to hop on social media to see the entire comic book industry has shared stories and memories of Len, many mentioning that you will never find someone saying a bad word about him.

Len was an innovator and while I grew up reading his books, I didn’t fully appreciate that until we became “friends” on Facebook. Almost weekly I was reminded just how much he impacted my reading with DC and Marvel. His posts were funny, insightful, and he would interact with fans; often answering the most moronic questions with patience. And yes, I sometimes asked those moronic questions.

Back in 2009, Chris 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]”.

Many of you may already know this but in case you don’t, back in 1975, Marvel comics was a much different company than it is today. It had stopped production on new stories for the X-Men and had been reprinting different stories from over the years. On the verge of cancellation due to low sales and little-to-no fan excitement, Marv Wolfman gave Len Wein and Dave Cockrum free reign to inject some excitement into a dead book. Giant Size X-Men #1 hit the stands and while it took a couple of months for sales figures to show it, people loved mutants and one of the biggest franchises in history was saved.

Perhaps Wein’s biggest impact is he was just an all-around good guy who, even with all his accomplishments, he was a fan first. Marvel Senior Vice President, Executive Editor Tom Brevoort said as much, “Len was one of the first fans to go pro, but he never lost the sensibility of a fan in all of his years in the industry. There was more calling to Len’s work than job—you could tell that he was just having the best time coming up with all of this crazy nonsense. He was also a sweetheart as a person, among the best-regarded creators of his time. His many creations—in particular but not limited to the All-New, All-Different X-Men—go without saying. I’d hazard a guess that no other creator of his era had originated or co-originated more characters and concepts that would later be turned into media projects. Heck, even the Human Target has had two (Two!) TV series!”

History will look back on Mr. Wein and remember him as a hell of a creator and a hell of a guy. We’re grateful for his influence on the industry.

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!