Longtime X-Men writer Chris Claremont has added his voice to the chorus of remembrances of legendary writer and editor Len Wein, whom he characterized as “among the best of his generation — our generation.” A former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics and the co-creator of Wolverine and Swamp Thing, Wein passed away Sunday at age 69.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Claremont recalled working as associate editor at Marvel in the early 1970s under Wein, who revived a flagging franchise with artist Dave Cockrum with Giant-Size X-Men #1. Claremont succeeded him as writer with Uncanny X-Men #94, beginning his 17-year tenure on the title.
“I just kind of eavesdropped as he and Dave started structuring out and building Giant-Size #1,” Claremont said. “As they were structuring out the story, I was listening from outside the office, and then kind of wandered in. Just listening to them bouncing ideas back and forth was fun. And then I had the ridiculous good fortune of, Len ran into a problem at the end of the story: how to get rid of the bad guy, Krakoa, the Living Island? I came up with an idea that he used. That was that, as far as I was concerned; I’d just watch him and Dave have fun on Giant-Size X-Men for the foreseeable future, and the next thing that happened was that Marvel decided they didn’t want to proceed with a giant-size quarterly. They wanted a bi-monthly regular-sized comic — and also, that coincided with Len deciding that he’d had enough with being editor-in-chief, and that he wanted to move on as a writer. [He] ended up with his pick of the top four books of the Marvel line… Len knew he had to give something up, and X-Men was it. He didn’t even get the chance to ask anyone, I basically tackled him and said I wanted it. Len, to his inestimable credit and probably his equal frustration, said yes.”
Despite the immense popularity of superhero films, it’s rare that the creators themselves receive much recognition outside of the comic book industry. However, as Claremont explained, Wein’s legacy in regard to one of his most popular creations, Wolverine, actually transcended the medium.
“The nicest thing, at the premiere of the first Wolverine film: Len was the guest of Hugh Jackman,” Claremont said, “and Hugh got up to make a speech before the film started and said, ‘I’m here, and my career exists because of this man,’ and introduced Len. ‘He created Wolverine, and Wolverine was the horse I rode in on.’ That was an incredibly cool moment for Hugh Jackman to say this to him in public, in front of everybody — this was a big premiere — and for Len to get the attention and applause he deserves from people in a related industry where people respect and admire and benefit from his work. I think, and hope, there’s an opportunity for that to happen more often. The heartbreaking thing is that he won’t be around to see it.”
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