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Another Sadness

I've been trying for several days to write something about the death of Len Wein.

It's been hard. The words stick in my throat. Len was not just a professional colleague, as Jerry Pournelle was. Len was a friend. An old, dear friend. He lived in LA and I lived in Santa Fe, so we never saw each other more than a few times a year, but I cherished all the time I spent with him and his wife, Chris Valada. I don't have a bad memory of Len, and I doubt that anyone does. He was a sweet, kind, funny man, and a joy to be around, to share a meal with (even though he always refused to "eat anything that looked like itself").

Len and I went way way back. We were both there when comics fandom was being born, and we met for the first time in a place called the Workingman's Circle, at the 1964 New York Comicon. The first comicon... and Len Wein was one of the kids who made it happen, one of the organizers, while I was the first fan to send in $1.50 for a membership. We were both in high school at the time. Many years later, at a San Diego Comicon with its 150,000 members, I turned to Len and sad, "See what you did?" He just laughed and replied, "Who knew?"

You don't need me to tell you about his career, his professional accomplishments, his creations. If you don't know who Len Wein is, you've never read a comic book. He created Wolverine, the New X-Men, Swamp Thing, the Human Target, Lucius Fox, and, oh, about five hundred other characters. Maybe a thousand. Most of those were created under the old work-made-for-hire contracts so common in the comics industry when Len stared out, so he had no ownership of any of them, and made very little, if anything, from all the movies and TV shows that featured them. (Lucius Fox was the exception to that, since he was created later, under a contract that gave the creator more rights, In one of the little ironies of life in the comics biz, Len made more money from Lucius Fox than he ever saw from Wolverine). If it had been me, it would have made me incredibly bitter to see my creations making billions while I got some loose change, but Len never bitched about it. He knew the rules when he signed the contracts, he would always say. And he loved seeing his creations on the big and little screens. There was no bitterness in the man, and no anger that I ever saw.

He loved comics, and he loved life, and I'm just one of the many who loved him.

((Comments allowed, but only about Len)).

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
spankingfemme
Sep. 15th, 2017 01:50 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, George. It's never easy to lose a close friend.

The 1st comicon! That is something epic! What a legacy he's left. The lack of bitterness just makes him a far greater man.
mikzey
Sep. 15th, 2017 04:53 am (UTC)

Where would we be without Wolverine ? We need Anti-Heroes to show us everything isn't as black and white, good and bad as we think as kids. Wolverine helped show me that and for that I'm grateful to Len.

octopus_garden
Sep. 15th, 2017 04:58 am (UTC)
Len's passing....
This was a sad day for all of us fanboys, and when we look at the body of Len's work, it's just staggering.

He lived a lot longer than a lot of his fans thought he would, and of course, his creations will out live all of us. He was just a real mensch, and I hate that he's gone.
Chris Huggins
Sep. 15th, 2017 09:28 am (UTC)
I confess to not knowing his name when you first mentioned it. But despite not being a die hard fan, naturally I regonise his wonderful creations. My wife will too, and probably my mother (neither of which have read a comic book). His influence on this world has gone beyond his name, like most great creators, and those who have experienced his work will be forever changed by it.
silverwhistle
Sep. 15th, 2017 11:03 am (UTC)
So sorry to hear this. It's been a tough year for many of us, in terms of losing friends and family members, so please accept my heartfelt best wishes and sympathies.
Ann Seeber
Sep. 15th, 2017 12:54 pm (UTC)
It's like the end of an era
Sad to hear of his passing. Today also marked the submission of the film Logan for Oscar contention. Wolverine is 10 steps above "just a comic book" Mr. Wein will be missed. *sad*
Patricia Gail Gyenes
Sep. 15th, 2017 03:26 pm (UTC)
condolences
Losing a friend is hard. Energy always only mutates though and I find that a comfort. I hope you have thoughts and memories that comfort you.
Ray Feighery
Sep. 15th, 2017 03:48 pm (UTC)
I'll miss his presence at Cons. While he would frequently sit quiet for a time the second he started talking the whole room would light up!
Back in the spinner rack days we didn't get a head's up when something new was coming out. I had been reading the X-Men reprints when I suddenly saw Giant Sized X-Men #1. I vividly remember picking it up and my first thought was "What's Wolverine doing on here and who are these other people?" Then I read it...3 times in a row!
it's a rare opportunity to meet someone who's work you admire and have them not only meet but exceed those expectations. Len (And you as well George) was one of those people.
He will be missed.
Nathan Newman
Sep. 15th, 2017 06:02 pm (UTC)
Mr. Martin, I hope there is some consolation in knowing your friend's work and characters have inspired and entertained generations of fans. Through his creations he left an undeniable and positive impact on not just American culture, but popular culture across so much of the globe. That is a legacy that so few can claim. One that will carry his memory a very long way for a very long time. But I know he was more than his work. His passing cuts deepest in those closest to him. Fans lost an icon, but his friends and family lost an irreplaceable piece of their hearts. And for that I am truly sorry. Your post spoke volumes of Mr. Wein's character. He is lucky to have a friend like you commemorate his life so fondly.
sdschaffer
Sep. 15th, 2017 06:18 pm (UTC)
Reading about those old comic book contracts that gave the creators zero rights over their creations always leaves me feeling slightly irritated. It seems so grossly unfair that any system exists that can result in you producing work loved by millions and getting barely a penny for it.

My condolences on your loss. I obviously never knew the man, but I knew his creations well.
Dan Koifman
Sep. 15th, 2017 11:19 pm (UTC)
My deepest sympathies for your loss.

What a ride from the first Comicon. I grew up reading Wolverine stories and I am forever grateful to Len for his gift.

The late great philosopher Alan Watts really speaks to me when dealing with loss. He was a teacher all the way to the end. https://imgur.com/a/B9a7p
iroberts007
Sep. 16th, 2017 06:56 am (UTC)
Mr. Wein
Ya, I've been a comics fan for decades now and his name comes up again and again.
missmatchedeyes
Sep. 17th, 2017 11:57 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry for the loss of the your friend, George.
ladyeuthanasia
Sep. 17th, 2017 09:50 pm (UTC)

It's been such a hard, horrible week. You would have appreciated Chris' tribute to Len at the gravesite. "As Len is famous for saying, 'No one in comics is ever really dead unless you can see the body.'" She then looked expectantly at the closed coffin. We all laughed.

Anyway, here's what I wrote about him and what his friendship meant to me:

https://mariaalexander.net/2017/09/15/lens-left-us-bereft-us/

Much love to you, George.
ladyeuthanasia
Sep. 17th, 2017 09:53 pm (UTC)

It's been a hard, horrible week. You would have appreciated what Chris said at the gravesite, especially when she quoted Len. "As Len once famously said, 'No one in comics is ever really dead unless you can see the body -- " She looked expectantly at the closed coffin, and we laughed. " -- and usually not even then!" When she looked back once more at the coffin, we laughed harder. Just perfect, you know?

Much love to you, George.
sheccid187
Sep. 19th, 2017 04:50 am (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear about such an inmense loss, I'm not a comic book fan and I didn't know who he was, so it's a surprise for me to find out about his life and his accomplishments from someone who so obviously admired and loved him. I'm sorry
delkytlar
Sep. 19th, 2017 02:00 pm (UTC)
My condolences, George.

Len and Christine welcomed me to my first WorldCon (1996, I believe) as a pro. Chris and I were together on my first panel together (who knew a lawyer and contracts director would be scheduled together), and they took me under their wings. They introduced me to other pros. Invited me to some of the big parties, about which I knew nothing, despite years of going to cons as a fan. They were fun, witty and smart, and I have always appreciated the kindness they showed me. There was nothing fake about it - there was nothing I could have done to enhance either of their careers. They were just two very fine human beings.

I'm sorry to say that I lost touch with them over the years, but always think of them very fondly.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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