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Len Wein, Comic Book Writer and Wolverine Co-Creator, Dead at 69

One-time Marvel editor-in-chief co-created Swamp Thing for DC and was editor on ‘Watchmen’

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Len Wein, the comic book legend who co-created characters like Swamp Thing and X-Men's Wolverine, died Sunday at the age of 69.

Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

Len Wein, the comic book legend who co-created characters like Swamp Thing and X-Men’s Wolverine, died Sunday at the age of 69.

No cause of death was provided, but Wein’s wife Christine Valada tweeted two days earlier that Wein underwent an unspecified surgery.

“Len Wein will be remembered for the bold heart with which he infused his stories and characters, as well as his drive to seek out new horizons in his writing,” Marvel Comics said in a statement. “It’s no stretch to say that a comic fan of the 1970s would be hard-pressed to gaze at selection of comics on the rack in that era and not see Wein’s unique championing on their favorite characters — as well as brand-new heroes and villains from his incredible imagination.”

While working at DC Comics in the early 1970s, Wein, who served primarily as a writer, co-created Swamp Thing alongside Bernie Wrightson, the famed artist who died in March 2017. The character spawned a Wes Craven-directed film, a live-action TV series and an animated series.

While at Marvel in 1975, Wein and artist Dave Cockrum teamed up for the issue Giant-Size X-Men #1, which resurrected the X-Men line with a few newly created mutants like Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Wolverine, the latter Wein co-created with artist John Romita Sr.

“It’s one of my favorite stories to tell. Wolverine came out of my writing an entirely different book. I was writing a book called “Brother Voodoo” for Marvel at the time, which was set in the Caribbean. I like writing accents; I like to write so you can sort of hear the voice,” Wein told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. 

“Then the editor-in-chief at Marvel, Roy Thomas, called me into his office and said, ‘You know, I hate you.’ I said, ‘Thank you so much!’ He said, ‘No, seriously, you write these great accents and I can’t do accents.’ He said, ‘I’d love to see how you would write a Canadian accent. I have the name.’ The name was Wolverine. He said, ‘Come up with a Canadian character called Wolverine.’ So, I went and researched wolverines and discovered they were short, really hairy, feisty animals with razor-sharp claws who are utterly fearless and would take on animals 10 times their size. I went, well, that’s the easiest character I’ve ever created.”

The character, who first appeared in a guest role in a 1974 issue of The Incredible Hulk, would become one of the marquee stars and centerpieces of Marvel’s revival thanks to the mutant’s huge big-screen presence: Hugh Jackman portrayed Wolverine in eight films, most recently 2017’s Logan.

“Blessed to have known Len Wein. I first met him in 2008. I told him – from his heart, mind & hands came the greatest character in comics,” Jackman tweeted following news of Wein’s death.

Many in the comic book community also paid tribute to Wein on social media. “Len Wein. He wrote Swamp Thing, Phantom Stranger, & my favourite Batman stories. He showed 12 year old me that comics could be literature,” Neil Gaiman wrote. “Len Wein was the editor who brought the British creators to DC. He was one of the nicest people I’ve met, in 30 years in comics.”

As an editor, Wein oversaw the publication of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, often considered a high-water mark for the genre. Wein also briefly held the role of Marvel editor-in-chief and, in later years, wrote for Batman: The Animated Series.

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