Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Jim Shooter Victim Files: Len Wein

Len Wein, born in 1948, grew up in Levittown, New York. In his teens, he met the future comics writer Marv Wolfman through a comic-book letter column. The two quickly became best friends. They formed a comic-book fan club and frequently attended the office tours at DC Comics in the early to mid-1960s. A few years later, both broke into the field.

Wein got his start scripting stories for the DC horror-mystery titles edited by Joe Orlando. However, his first published scriptwriting effort, done in collaboration with Wolfman, and drawn by Bill Draut, was the story "Eye of the Beholder!" in Teen Titans #18. The issue, cover-dated December, went on sale on September 19, 1968. Wein was a prolific scriptwriter for DC during the next few years, and supplemented that work with scriptwriting for other publishers, including Marvel, Gold Key, and Warren. His most famous effort during this period was the Swamp Thing series he co-created with artist Bernie Wrightson.

In 1973, Wein began doing an increasing amount of work for Marvel. Chief among his assignments was being the regular scriptwriter for The Incredible Hulk series. Shortly after taking over the book, he co-created Marvel's Wolverine character with company art director John Romita. The character was introduced to readers in The Incredible Hulk #180 (October 1974) in a story illustrated by Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel. In early 1975, in collaboration with artist Dave Cockrum, he included the character in the story in Giant-Size X-Men #1, the first episode of the celebrated revamp of Marvel's X-Men title. The story was also the first appearance of the X-Men characters Storm, Colossus, and Nightcrawler.

In late 1974, Wein succeeded Roy Thomas as the company's editor-in-chief. He lasted approximately seven months in the job, which was then taken over by Marv Wolfman. Upon stepping down, he negotiated a writer-editor employment contract with the company. The contract stipulated that he was to write and edit four comic books a month. Wein continued working under this contract until late 1977.

At that time, Wein moved over to DC Comics, where he began scripting the Batman stories in Detective Comics.

Comics scriptwriter Doug Moench, a contemporary of Wein's, has alleged that Wein left Marvel because of conflicts with Jim Shooter, who was still the company's associate editor under editor-in-chief Archie Goodwin. From a 2006 interview with Tim Leong:

[Jim Shooter] was making life miserable for everybody [at] Marvel, including Chris Claremont, who bit his tongue and held his peace for the sake of his beloved X-Men. You [have] to remember: Roy Thomas had already quit, Marv Wolfman had quit, Len Wein had quit, [G]erry Conway had quit — I mean, the list went on and on and on and we haven’t even gotten to the artists.

Moench's claim has been repeated multiple times by comics bloggers and message-board commenters.

However, the only parts with any truth to them are the references to Thomas and Wolfman, who left Marvel after their contract-renewal negotiations reached impasses. In both cases, the obstacle was reportedly Shooter's refusal to allow them to continue editing the books they were scripting. Gerry Conway, who left for DC in 1976, did not quit because of conflicts with Shooter. In a 1981 interview with Rob Gustaveson, he said:

Jim was my assistant when I was editor at Marvel for about a month, and that's really been the extent of our relationship. When I worked there as a writer-editor, I really didn't have anything to do with Jim. (82)

While Shooter and Claremont had occasional disagreements during Shooter's eleven years in Marvel editorial, Claremont had a great deal of praise for Shooter after Marvel let him go in 1987. In The Comics Journal's news article about Shooter's termination, written by Kim Fryer, Claremont said, "[Shooter] wasn't the ogre that was thought. Things that were better [at Marvel] were better [because of] him" (16). He also expressed admiration for Shooter's editorial acumen and understanding of the comic-book marketplace.

As for Len Wein, he has never claimed he left because of conflicts with Shooter. In a 2000 interview with Chris Knowles, he provided this account of his departure:

At the time, I was writing Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, Mighty Thor, and Incredible Hulk, all at the same time, and I was getting too obsessed about the little day-to-day details of the job, and going crazy. At that point, DC was wooing me like crazy to come back and work for them, and Jenette Kahn made me incredible offers of all kinds of things that I could have if I came back. I was sort of resistant for a while, and then they finally offered me Batman--Detective Comics--right after Steve Englehart left, Marshall Rogers was continuing with the book, but they needed a new writer, and they offered me Batman, my all-time favorite character. I thought about it, and said, "Yeah, I'd like to do that," and so I gave them a tentative yes on the gig, and went to tell Stan [Marvel publisher Stan Lee] that I was taking over a book at DC as well. Stan didn't think it was right or fair, but I kind of explained that I just needed to do a little distancing if I was going to keep myself sane, and finally, with great reluctance, he said, "All right, fine. If you have to write Batman, then write Batman, but we don't want you to use your name on the book, because you're top writer on our four top titles. Use a pseudonym, and do what you've got to do, and we'll live with it." But he was clearly not happy. I called DC back, and said, "Okay, here's the deal: I can do the book, but Stan doesn't want me to use my name on the title. I have to use a pseudonym." Of course, DC was not happy, because what they wanted to do was promote me writing the Batman book. So, now I had pretty much what I wanted--the four top books at Marvel, and Batman at DC--and nobody was very happy.

Rather than have everybody unhappy with me, [I thought] that maybe it was simply time to take a clean break, take the deal DC was offering, and use my own name, and give myself a chance to sort of refresh my batteries and take on the other projects! So, I finally said that was the thing to do, I had gotten too obsessively involved in my Marvel books, and I came back that Monday and basically sat there with Stan and said, "Look, I want to use my own name on the Batman books, and if that means I've got to go, then I will leave." It took Stan so many years to understand my feelings, it was like, "I gave you what you wanted, I said you could write Batman! Why are you leaving?" I just felt I needed it for my own mental sanity at the time. (110)

Kim Thompson talked to Wein for his 1980 The Comics Journal news article about Roy Thomas leaving Marvel. According to Thompson, Wein said that "Lee angrily assured him that he would never work for Marvel again" (12).

The claim that Len Wein left Marvel because of Jim Shooter is just another of Doug Moench's many false or uncorroborated accusations about Shooter and his time in Marvel editorial.

Len Wein would not work on Marvel characters again until 1981, when he scripted the DC-published Batman Vs. The Incredible Hulk company crossover book. The creative personnel on the book had to be approved by Marvel. Jim Shooter authorized Wein scripting the title. It is not known if Stan Lee, who was no longer involved with the comic-book side of Marvel's business, was consulted. In 2011, Shooter wrote on his blog that Wein "was the natural choice to write the book," citing Wein's experience writing both of the title characters. He was very happy with how the book turned out, calling it "Great stuff."

While continuing to work for DC as a scriptwriter, Wein became an editor for the company in late 1979. He held that position until 1986. His most notable accomplishment was hiring British talent to work on DC titles, including scriptwriter Alan Moore and artists Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons. He also edited Moore and Gibbons' Watchmen, DC's most acclaimed publication ever, and its most commercially successful acquisition since the 1930s.

Between 1986 and 1990, Wein mostly worked as a scriptwriter for DC. He also did occasional scriptwriting during this time for Marvel, Eclipse, and Comico.

In 1990, Wein was hired as editor-in-chief of the Disney comics line. He left the position in 1992. Since then, he has divided his time between comic-book and animation scriptwriting.

Works Consulted

Cooke, Jon B. "An Illegitimate Son of Superman: Talking with Swamp Thing Co-Creator Len Wein." Comic Book Artist. Spring 1999 (). 81-83, 97. Rpt. in Comic Book Artist Collection, Vol. 2. Ed. Jon B. Cooke. Raleigh: TwoMorrows. 2002. 85-87, 139.

Fryer, Kim. "Jim Shooter Fired." The Comics Journal. Jul. 1987 (116). 13-14.

Knowles, Chris. "Road to Independence: The Great Marvel Exodus." Comic Book Artist. Feb. 2000 (7). 112-115. Rpt. in Comic Book Artist Collection, Vol. 3. Ed. Jon B. Cooke. Raleigh: TwoMorrows. 2005. 110-113.

Leong, Tim. "Moon Knight: Doug Moench Vs. Charlie Huston." 1 Apr. 2006. Link.

Shooter, Jim. "The Secret Origin and Gooey Death of the Marvel/DC Crossovers--Part Four." 21 Jul. 2011. Link.

Thompson, Kim. "Roy Thomas Leaves Marvel." The Comics Journal. Jun. 1980 (56). 9-12.

Related posts:
  • The Jim Shooter "Victim" Files
           -- Introduction
           -- Tony Isabella
           -- Steve Englehart
           -- Gerry Conway
           -- Mary Skrenes


  1. The series title is for the most part ironic. The goal is to discuss anyone and everyone at Marvel whom Shooter allegedly made leave the company or otherwise mistreated. Many of the alleged "victims" were nothing of the sort. More often than not, the allegations are either unfair, untrue, or grossly blown out of proportion.

    I recommend reading the series introduction, linked to above.

  2. Glad to see the return of this series.

  3. Well you have to add Kirby in this victim series and his fight over artwork.

    1. I may do a post on the original art situation, but I doubt it would be a "Victim Files" piece. Kirby's argument wasn't with Shooter; it was with Marvel president James Galton and the company's attorneys. The matter was outside Shooter's purview.

  4. Any chance you will write a piece on John Byrne and his qualms with Shooter?