The comics industry lost a legendary creator when Len Wein recently passed away.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, Wein co-created some of the most amazing and lasting characters in the industry. Let’s take a look at some of the legend’s biggest influences in comics and the characters he created that are still mesmerizing readers today.
It’s hard to argue that Wein’s most famous creation was anything but his contribution to Canada’s first superhero, Wolverine.
Together with John Romita, Sr., who was at the time the art director for Marvel, and Herb Trimpe who brought the vision to life in the pages - and don’t forget that Romita and Trimpe tag teamed the cover to create one of the most recognizable illustrations in Marvel history - Wein created Wolverine who made his first full appearance in “Incredible Hulk” #181.
From those pages of “Incredible Hulk,” Wein took Wolverine to the pages of “X-Men.”
The original team had been floundering to the point that Marvel was reprinting old issues of the comic. Wein then teamed with Dave Cockrum to add Wolverine to the all-new, all-different X-Men in “Giant-Size X-Men” #1. While Wolverine was making his second full appearance, Wein gave him some backup as he debuted Storm, Colossus, and Nightcrawler as part of the revamped team. It was an immediate success, and that still remains the most popular incarnation of the X-Men.
Wein liked to spread his talents as he also created one of DC Comics’ mainstays, Swamp Thing, way back in 1971.
In the pages of “House of Secrets” #92, Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson put together a standalone horror story starring the green monster himself. A year later, the character had his own solo comic series.
While Wein may have helped create the “defender of the green,” it was Alan Moore who wrote the character’s most iconic storylines. However, it was Wein who picked Moore to take over writing duties on the title. Speaking of Alan Moore, Wein helped edit his epic “Watchmen,” which is now being developed into an HBO series not to mention the characters from Watchmen are being integrated into the mainstream DC Universe. Again, it’s more evidence of Wein’s influence, whether direct or indirect.
Although I’m not the biggest fan of the Netflix “Luke Cage” series (it lost me when Diamondback showed up in the final act, but I digress), I found myself emotionally invested in Cornell Stokes’ storyline. Other fans of the television version of Cottonmouth can thank Len Wein for that.
Cottonmouth debuted in “Power Man” #18 and was written by Wein and drawn by George Tuska. Although the character was originally imagined much differently than how he was featured in “Luke Cage,” (he wore a very ‘70s purple and gold snake costume) it was Wein who laid the foundation for that intriguing adaptation of Cottonmouth.
CLAYFACE (Preston Payne)
While working at DC in 1978, Len Wein was writing “Detective Comics.” In issue #477, Wein reimagined a new Clayface for the bronze age of Batman. Originally, Clayface was a Bob Kane/Bill Finger creation who debuted in the 1950s. By the time, Wein came onto the title, he created a new character, Preston Payne, who took up the mantle of Clayface for its third incarnation.
Len Wein may be gone, but he will be remembered for his creations for a long time to come. So the next time you pick up a comic with one of his characters, take a moment to embrace the legacy the man left for his fans.
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