Len Wein, a former Levittown resident who co-created the comic-book characters Wolverine and Swamp Thing and served as a Marvel Comics editor-in-chief, died Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 69.
“He has given the industry characters that will live on forever,” said his friend Mark Evanier, a television writer and comics historian. “This was a man of infinite good humor who loved comic books and loved people who loved comic books.”
Wein, of Los Angeles, had been undergoing dialysis and struggling with ill health for years. “There’s no official cause yet. His great big heart just gave out,” said his wife, photographer and attorney Christine Valada.
“Blessed to have known Len Wein,” tweeted Hugh Jackman, who played the gruff superhero Wolverine in several movies based on Marvel’s “X-Men” comics. “I first met him in 2008. I told him — from his heart, mind & hands came the greatest character in comics.”
Filmmaker Joss Whedon tweeted of Wein: “Co-created Wolverine & the new X-men. Co-kickstarted the modern comic book era with its most powerful metaphor” of discrimination against those born with mutant abilities that make them different.
Leonard Norman Wein was born in New York on June 12, 1948, and was raised in the Bronx until age 7, when his family moved to Levittown. He graduated from Division Avenue High School in Levittown in 1966, then received an art degree from Farmingdale State College, intending to become a comic-book illustrator. Veering into writing, he broke into the field with DC Comics’ “Teen Titans” No. 18 in 1968.
With artist Bernie Wrightson, who died in March, Wein in 1971 co-created Swamp Thing, a sensitive and intelligent muck-monster. The character went on to star in two movies, a TV series and an animated series.
Wolverine — co-created by Wein, editor Roy Thomas and Bellerose artist John Romita Sr. — debuted in “The Incredible Hulk” No. 180 (October 1974). The character became one of Marvel’s top heroes through the X-Men franchise, which Wein and others revived in 1975 from a moribund property. His first wife, Glynis Oliver, was a Marvel colorist who worked on some of his comics.
Less heralded, Wein also was editor of writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’ highly influential DC miniseries “Watchmen” (1986-87), which Time magazine called “a watershed in the evolution of a young medium.” It was adapted into a 2009 film.
Wein was Marvel’s editor-in-chief from 1974-75, a DC writer-editor afterward and editor-in-chief of Disney Comics from 1990-93. He then wrote for animated series including “ReBoot,” the “Ben 10” franchise and others, but he kept his hand in comics, continuing to write for DC as recently as last year.
He was inducted into the comics industry’s Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2008.
Wein is survived by Valada, whom he married in 1991, and stepson Michael Bieniewicz-Valada.