Len Wein has passed away. He has gone to wherever we go when our bodies stop functioning. Why is this important? Len Wein, the man, was a driving force in comics beginning in the late 60s right up until September 10, 2017.
Len wrote some of the most memorable comic books of my youth. I am particularly fond of his run on Justice League of America. I came into it in the middle of his run with issue 106 “A Wolf in the Fold”. It introduced me to one of my favorite characters from my youth, Red Tornado.
Red Tornado was an android created by the mad scientist T. O. Morrow. The android’s purpose was to infiltrate and destroy the Justice League of America and their multiversal counterparts, the Justice Society of America. I identified with the detached alienated feelings of the Red Tornado. I was further drawn in by his entrapment as part of a scheme of which he wanted no part, but was the crucial element to it. The character wanted to be self-determinant.
Len was touching on themes (alienation, misunderstanding, persecution) which he would later plant in Marvel’s X-Men relaunch. Themes which were nurtured and cultivated by Chris Claremont, under Len’s early editorial guidance, that propelled the X-Men into popular culture superstardom.
Len moved on to be an editor for both of “the Big Two” superhero publishers, DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Books which he edited had a particular pace. It was a pace that never allowed an ongoing story to go further than four issues. It was a pace that was used widely into the early 1990s, before every story had to achieve the epic scope of critically acclaimed stories like DC Comics’ Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns or the nascent cash cow events like DC Comics’ Crisis On Infinite Earths or Marvel Comics’ Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars (aka Secret Wars).
Len Wein, the man, may have died, but the storytelling force of nature that was Len Wein has left indelible impressions across popular culture landscape of superheroes for ages to come. Thank you, Len Wein, for the stories, the dreams and the lessons which you have given us.