WonderCon: I Didn’t Know That About Len Wein…Also Phantom Stranger may end

by

Pam Auditore

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 Will Eisner Hall of Famer Len Wein walks with a beautifully crafted Giger Alien handled cane, wears his cap jauntily, and exudes a joy of life that entrances fans gathered around the DC booth to see him. As Chris Claremont said in 2009, “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] http://www.mania.com/legends-chris-claremont_article_114549.html.

Hoping to break into comics as an artist as a teen, Len wrote stories for his friend Marv Wolfman‘s comic fanzines, with both eventually being hired as free-lance writers for DC.  Len’s first published story was “Eye of the Beholder” for Teen Titans #18 (1968).  Thereafter, he went on to populate the modern mythological mind-scape as co-creator of Wolverine, Swamp Thing, Man-Thing, NightCrawler, Storm, Lucius Fox, etc.  You can listen to Len describe those early “fun, Wild West Days” of DC and Marvel and the Comics Industry in general here: http://www.nerdist.com/2014/03/the-mutant-season-120-len-wein/  A prolific writer, he’s also an accomplished raconteur, on a panel, in person or on a podcast i.e. the Nerdist Comic Writers Podcast–Comics Edition https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nerdist-writers-panel/id455020248?mt=2.

Len’s most recent Batman story can be found in the March 2014 issue #5 of Batman: Black and White.Batman#5 Outside of DC and MaBM_BLKWHT_5_4rvel, Len also did a Simpson’s Tree House of Horror for Bongo.Simpson's TreeHouse of Horrors

I  was able to get a few minutes of his time at the DC booth WonderCon 2014 to find out what else he was up to.

Before-Watchmen_Ozymandias_2PA:  The complete Before Watchmen: Ozymanaidias is out in hardback and trades, along with some of your Justice League and Justice Society stories.  So whatcha been writin’ lately?

LW: I’m in the middle of writing a full issue of Batman ’66 off a Harlan Ellison story with Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez on the art.  I just wrote an episode of  The Avengers animated series.  My episode of Ben 10 will air soon.  And I’m told they are planning on bringing back Beware the Batman back to Toonanmi, starting May 10th at 3 in the morning.  So set your DVRs! My episode will be either the first one they air, or if they start in order, the eleventh episode.

PA:  You’ve helped lay the much of the ground work for two Universes, DC and Marvel, so my question to you is what haven’t you done? What characters might you want a crack at?

LW:  It gets harder and harder…Two years ago at this Con (WonderCon), I met Joe Hill for the first time and I’ve been friends with his Dad (Stephen King) since we were both teenagers.  We went to dinner together and he asked me the same question.  At the time I said ‘nobody.’  But a few months later I was with some other friends and I was asked that question again and realized that there was someone.  When he asked, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘Exactly!’  As it turned out, they were able to make that happen and I have a story in the 2012 Dr. Who Annual.

PA:  And you are also working on the The Phantom Stranger? (The Phantom Stranger is a paranormal entity who aides individuals and heroes in the DCU taking the form of a cloaked man) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_Stranger

LW: I helped bring back back The Phantom Stranger  (created in the 50s) in the 70s hoping to work on the book. I just finished dialoguing the next issue of plot for the current Phantom Stranger with J.M. DeMatteis.  I was supposed to do a couple of upcoming issues which doesn’t look like its going to happen, since I think the book is not long for this world.

the-phanom-stranger trinity-of-sin-phantom-stranger-vol1-stranger-among-us-dccomics-new52-didio-anderson-tan-dematteis

PA:  I was also wondering if you would re-visit The Human Target again?

LW:  I did the recent comic mini-series and the television show (Mark Valley, Jackie Earle Haley Fox,2010).  He was really the first character I created but not the first published.  Yes, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Mark Valley Jackie Earle Hayley Human Targethuman-target-comic-book-2

PA:  Did you ever want to do a text only novel or short story?

LW:  I did an Elfquest short story and an Amazing Spiderman Pocket Novel with Marv Wolfman.

PA:  You also told me some stories about the Marvel days that I think would make great ‘Days of  Marvel Past’ stories.  Such as a time someone went crashing through a wall and went sliding down a long hallway to end up at the feet of Stan Lee.

LW:  A lot of people have said that to me.  I would love to do something like that!

PA:  You’ve done some acting recently.  I know you’ve done Improv.

LW:  I’m in the next X-men:Days of Future Past and an independent film called Savage Land.  I lead a very surreal life.  I’m the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.  I’ve go to do everything I’ve ever wanted.

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Hugh Jackman and Len Wein

Many Thanks to Nicole at DC for this opportunity!

Comments

  1. Darn it. Phantom Stranger had really been getting good, too! I hoped DC would give it more time. I think the combination of Didio starting the book out, and the bloated Blight storyline probably put those nails in its coffin. Sigh.

  2. Johnny Memeonic says:

    To be fair, the Wolverine that got famous and raked in the cash was created by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, and to a lesser extent Frank Miller. Len Wein’s original conception was for him to be a teenager and completely different character.

    Nightcrawler is also 90% Dave Cockrum since he was a pre-existing character Cockrum had originally intended for Legion of Super-Heroes. Cockrum’s notes on this are available in old prints (and maybe newer ones) of the first X-men Masterworks.

  3. RAGGEDT says:

    @Johnny Memeonic: Except the Wolverine that debuted in Hulk #180-182 (by Wein and Herb Trimpe) was most definitely NOT a teenager, so the change from that original conception occurred well before Claremont (or Cockrum) got their hands on him.

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