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Len Wein Talks Returning to the Swamp (Thing), Charging Up the Metal Men

Nearly four decades since he last wrote the character, comic book author Len Wein has returned from whence he came: the murky swamps of the DC Universe. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Debuting in early 2016, "Swamp Thing" sees Wein finally returning to the character he co-created alongside Bernie Wrightson in the early '70s. The upcoming miniseries is one of a number of DC Comics projects that feature the original creators once again in the metaphorical driver's seat of the characters they created, with Gerry Conway returning to "Firestorm," Marv Wolfman writing "Raven" and more.

Along with "Swamp Thing," Wein is also penning a "Metal Men" miniseries. And while he didn't create those characters as well, it's a team the author has been hoping to tackle for a long while.

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Wein spoke with CBR News at Comic-Con International in San Diego about returning to the world of the Swamp Thing and why the DCU is the best place for the character to exist, how the Metal Men making him cry as a young boy also made him a fan for life, and his desire to one day work in the realm of Ridley Scott's "Alien."

CBR News: You're the co-creator of Swamp Thing, and here you are returning to your creation after quite a few years. Is it exciting coming back?

Len Wein: More than I can begin to tell you. It's the character that sort of made my reputation, so it's fun, after 40 years, to come back and play in the mucky swamp again.

It's an interesting thing -- you created the character with Bernie Wrightson, and over the years, other writers come in and do stories with him, help shape him into what he is today. Is it sort of like, you had a child, it was raised by a few foster families ,and now it's back home with you?

I just wrote an introduction to Scott Snyder's "Swamp Thing" collection, and that's exactly how I described it!

How much have those other writers influenced what you'll be doing? Are you going into the series blank slate-style?

I will take him to places he has been and places he has not been. I will use the best of what everyone else did, and I'm going to ignore the worst.

[Laughs] Since you probably won't say which ones you hate, which runs have you enjoyed the most?

Well, I mean, Alan [Moore's] certainly seminal as much as mine, and I will take a lot of things he did. Others, as you so mentioned, I would graciously not like to mention. I guess you'll see how it evolves as it evolves.

Moore's run introduced the idea that Swamp Thing isn't actually Alec Holland. Now, that's changed a bit over the years. In your run, who is the Swamp Thing?

The punchline of the first six-issue arc is the Phantom Stranger saying to him, "Who do you think you are?" And his response is, "I'm Doctor Alec Holland." That sort of tells you everything you need to know. [Laughs]

How much will you be exploring the Green and Swamp Thing's place as protector of the Green?

That plays into a bunch of it. The Green makes him an offer in the very first issue. We explore what that means if he decides to take that offer, and what will happen if doesn't, which would lead to other worse situations.

Can you talk about what villains you plan on bringing into the series?

Arcane, for certain. How could I do this and not use Arcane? The Floronic Man will be in there. There're some others, as well.

In the past, we've seen him interacting with other characters from the DCU, then he was at Vertigo and separate, and now he's back. How much is your series going to play into the greater DC Universe?

A lot of what we're going to be doing in the first six issues is exploring the DC Universe's supernatural realm. The Phantom Stranger is going to be in it. Etrigan is going to be in it. We want to play with that and see how he relates to that world, as well as to the DCU proper, because that's where he always belonged. When he moved out of DC to Vertigo, he lost a lot of what made him fascinating because he was such a counterpoint to all the DC characters. I am thrilled! I couldn't be more excited!

I always loved writing the Phantom Stranger. That's when I first started getting a reputation many, many years ago. It was one of the very first regular books I did, so I'm very much looking forward to using him. And I love Etrigan. I've always been a big Jack Kirby fan.

Is Etrigan going to speak in rhyme?

That's always the fun with the character.

Is it? I feel like it's be difficult to write dialogue like that.

I used to write poetry in college, actually, and I do rhyming verse as opposed to blank verse. It worked out well.

You're also working on Metal Men, which you haven't every really worked on those characters before.

I've used them once or twice. They have a short cameo in "DC Legacies" -- I think that may be the only place I got to use them, but I adore them. I absolutely do. When there was no Metal Men book, back when I was writing "Superman" in the '70s, I brought Chemo in as a Superman villain, figuring that was someone he could actually smack back and forth -- a physical threat to Superman.

I couldn't be more excited. I've wanted to write the Metal Men my entire career. It was the first comic book I read as a kid that made my cry.

Really?

It was the very first Metal Men story, and they all died at the end. It broke my heart as a kid.

Are you going to surprise everyone and immediately do that in your first issue?

No. [Laughs] I think that's something to be used very sparingly.

What is it about the characters that speaks to you on that level?

They're so primary. There's a wonderful scene in the very first story where Doc Will Magnus unveils them to the world and they all describe themselves. [While doing character voices]: "I'm Iron, I'm like this." "I'm Lead, I'm... like... this..." "I'm Mercury, damn it!" They all have such p-p-perfect personalities. And I love that.

Are you planning on introducing some new elements to the mix, or are you sticking pretty close to the classic set up?

There will be some other metals involved in this story. Much of what we're doing with this miniseries is exploring the place for artificial intelligence in the DCU and what it means. Are artificial intelligence human beings? Are they just machines? There's a lot that goes on relating to that.

Are you using Doctor T.O. Morrow in your story?

Yes. Thomas Oscar Morrow. [Laughs] He's not the villain, but -- Chemo will be in there and there will be other Metal Men and Amazo. A lot of the [DCU's] other artificial intelligence.

I can't help but notice your cane has a Xenomorph from the "Alien" franchise on it!

Yeah! It's one of my favorite things.

Would you ever do a story in that world?

Oh, I would love to. Every once in a while, I realize there are still things I haven't written. And every time I get the opportunity to do it, I take it. I did a "Doctor Who" story a few years ago, and I, personally, have wanted to play with that character for a long time. So if I had a shot at a Xenomorph story, I would absolutely take it.

"Swamp Thing" and "Metal Men" arrive in stores in early 2016

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