In Memory of Len Wein (1948-2017)

Sunday night, I just got home from a fun afternoon at the movies and the comics shop only to discover that Len Wein passed away. I’d known that he’d had more than his share of health problems over the last few years and he underwent surgery just a few days ago, but this is still a blow. He was only 69, and that’s way too young to go. My condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time.

Len Wein

When I think of good comics, Len Wein is one of the first names that pops into my head. The mark he left on comics is immense. Anytime in the last 30 years when I heard that Len Wein was writing a comic, I automatically picked it up. It was just a no-brainer.

I started reading comics in the late 70s and early 80s, and Wein was already well-established in the field by then. In the early 70s he and Berni Wrightson produced Swamp Thing, one of the all-time great comic book runs, taking old monster movie tropes and updating them for a modern audience.

Swamp Thing Berni Wrightson

In Justice League of America, he added the Elongated Man and Red Tornado to the group, brought in the Phantom Stranger as an occasional guest star, started the Green Arrow/Hawkman feud, revived the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and created the Freedom Fighters:JLA 105 Elongated Man

JLA 106 Red Tornado

JLA 109 Hawkman Green Arrow

JLA Seven Soldiers of Victory

JLA Freedom Fighters

And of course, he co-created Wolverine and the All-New, All-Different X-Men.

Wolverine Hulk 181

Giant-Size X-Men 1

Yeah, Chris Claremont and John Byrne later took the team into the stratosphere, but can you imagine the shape of Marvel Comics today if Wein hadn’t gotten the ball rolling? Hell, would there even BE a Marvel Comics?

And for the record, I think that Wein’s African Goddess Storm is a million times more interesting than Claremont’s Modesty Blaise riff.

Storm Giant-Sized X-Men

In the late 70s, Wein took over writing Batman in Detective Comics right after the instant classic run by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin. While you’d usually expect an understandable dropoff in quality after a run like that, Len Wein immediately stepped up to the plate with another instant classic, the two-parter introducing Preston Payne, Clayface III. It was so good that when they reprinted the Englehart/Rogers stories in the first four issues of Shadow of the Batman, they included the Wein/Rogers Clayface story in the fifth issue.

Shadow of the Batman 5

He also brought Catwoman back into Batman’s life, revived the Calendar Man, and created the character of Lucius Fox.

But if I had to pick a personal favorite thing that Len Wein wrote, it would be The Untold Legend of Batman. This thing is a masterclass in comics writing and pure craft. Wein weaved together 40+ years of Batman origin stories into one seamless whole, expertly smoothing out discrepancies along the way. Which Alfred origin story was true? They BOTH were:

Wein also peppered in original scenes throughout, showing never-before-seen glimpses into Bruce Wayne’s life. One of my favorite scenes was set during Bruce Wayne’s college years, when he comes to the revelation that the law and justice aren’t always the same thing:

Untold Legend Batman 1 page 10 Untold Legend Batman 1 page 11

Or when he revealed that the Batmobile was built by Jack Edison, a stunt driver whose life was saved by Batman:

Untold Legend Batman Jack Edison Batmobile

Or this simply spectacular scene between Batman and Gordon, showing the origin of their friendship:

Untold Legend Batman Gordon

I have fond memories of the DC/Marvel crossover Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk, where Wein had two of his favorite characters come to blows, and Batman was at his most clever finding a way to defeat the Hulk and survive:

Batman Hulk

When Wein and Dave Gibbons took over Green Lantern in the mid-80s, they shook up the book by having Hal Jordan retire and be replaced by John Stewart, the guy who until then had only been an occasional guest star as Hal’s backup:

Green Lantern John Stewart

Hell, you want to know how inspired Len Wein was as a writer? Back in 1985, he wrote a stream of consciousness history of Arkham Asylum for the first volume of Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe.  If you read it, you’ll recognize the bare bones of Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum graphic novel in the first four paragraphs. Amadeus Arkham, his mother, “Mad Dog” Harkins, the death of Arkham’s wife and daughter, Arkham going insane and ending up incarcerated in the asylum he founded… it’s all in there, a quick little horror story with just enough detail to be memorable and evocative. Can you name any other other writer that could just toss four paragraphs off the top of his head that form the basis of a best-selling graphic novel? Who does that? That is some otherworldly inspiration right there.

Arkham Asylum Who's Who

One of Wein’s more recent works that I loved was the special Batman ’66: The Lost Episode, where he and José Luis García-López adapted an unused treatment that Harlan Ellison wrote for the Adam West Batman series into comic book form, featuring a Batman ’66 version of Two-Face:

Batman 66 Lost Episode

And that’s to say nothing of his accomplishments as an editor. Among the books he had a hand in at DC were The New Teen Titans (DC’s #1 bestseller), Batman (where he oversaw the introduction of Jason Todd), Who’s Who, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Saga of the Swamp Thing, and Watchmen — which he quit halfway through because he thought that Alan Moore could do better than ripping off the ending of an old Older Limits episode.

Outer Limits Architects of Fear

That’s right — Len Wein called out ALAN FUCKING MOORE at the height of his fame for hacking out the ending of one of the most acclaimed comics of all time, and he was damn right, too. Notice how most every attempt to adapt Watchmen into another medium changes the ending.

Watchmen Ending
Len Wein: Anti-Squid Aliens since 1986.

And think for a minute about Wein letting Alan Moore take over Swamp Thing in the first place. This was a character that Wein co-created, and he was cool with letting Moore re-think him from the ground up, up to and including saying that he was never a man transformed into a monster, but instead a plant that just thought it was a man transformed into a monster.

Swamp Thing Anatomy Lesson

That’s a pretty radical revamp, and I can’t imagine many other comic creators letting someone else waltz in and alter their character that drastically. Wein wasn’t only cool with it, he hired Moore for the gig in the first place. That’s the mark of a great editor.

Len Wein also edited what is probably my favorite comic book of all time: Justice League of America #200.

JLA 200

I got to write about JLA #200 for BACK ISSUE a couple years ago, and it was a great thrill to have Wein answer a few questions about it via email. I’m just sorry I never got to meet him face to face so I could have him sign my copy.

But if you really want to know what a great writer and editor Wein was, all you have to do was read a few interviews with him. He thought this stuff through. Here’s an excerpt from Peter Sanderson’s interview with Wein in The X-Men Companion I, where he criticizes Chris Claremont’s decision to give Colossus a cosmonaut brother:

Colossus cosmonaut

“When Chris gave him a cosmonaut brother, I wanted to strangle him. Suddenly he was not ordinary any more, and what made him work was that he was ordinary, despite his powers. If his brother’s a cosmonaut, then the KGB had to be checking out that family, there’s no way he could have been living simply in the collective. I had him out in Siberia almost on purpose. No one ever noticed him. The townspeople didn’t bother, he was good to them, and they all lived out there. The government didn’t know he existed. But a cosmonaut brother, they can’t possibly not know he existed. He really turned everything around by doing that. That’s the problem. Writers can have a great idea for a story without thinking of all the ramifications.”

And here’s Wein’s criticism of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing plots, from his interview with Jon B. Cooke in Comic Book Creator #6: Swampmen:

“I feel Alan has problems in his works, sometimes, and I started to realize after I left the book and Karen Berger took over at that, every story was structured exactly the same way. […] With three acts. First act: Fascinating menace rears its head, all the pieces are put into play. Second act: The menace demonstrates how monstrous it is. (Think about the three-part Floronic Man story, for example, in the second act, where he’s devastating humanity.) The Third act: Swamp Thing gets wind of the problem, shows up and defeats the menace with one word or action. Literally every story was set up that way. In the case of the Floronic Man, where Swamp Thing finally shows up, and the Floronic Man is going, ‘Well, we’re going to destroy all the meat. Just the vegetables will rule the world,’ Swamp Thing goes, ‘Well, good. If you kill all the animals, who creates the carbon dioxide we need to live on?’ The villain says, ‘Oh, sh*t,’ and it all falls apart, literally. [laughter]

Swamp Thing Floronic Man

“In one sentence, he has no questions asked, it’s Crapper City, and that goes on with most of the stories. If you look through them, you’ll discover that each one is essentially structured the same way. So I started to get a little tired of that. But Alan’s wordcraft is never less than extraordinary. Even if every plot’s identical, the words never are. They’re breathtaking.”

Sharp guy.

Heck, Wein even had a great sense of humor about himself, as proven by his reteaming with Bernie Wrightson for a Simpsons story called “Squish Thing,” parodying their original Swamp Thing story:

Squish Thing

I’m sure there’s a lot more books and stories I could name, but I’m rambling now and I ought to wrap this up. I was a big fan of Len Wein, and I wish I could’ve met him in person to tell him that. If you want to discover more Len Wein works, I recommend that you follow any of the Amazon links in this piece. You’ll get some great reads and you’ll send a little money the AJS’s way. It’s a win-win.
Rest In Peace, Len Wein. Thanks for everything.

30 Comments

  1. frasersherman

    Thinking back to the discussion in another thread about how I didn’t always have great taste in comics as a kid. But I did know that Wein’s JLA run was head and shoulders over Mike Friedrich’s previous stories and most of the couple of years that came after.
    And a resounding Yes! on the merits of Untold Legend.

  2. tomfitz1

    I seem to remember reading somewhere where Len Wein had issues with THE WATCHMEN ending, something about it mirroring the OUTER LIMITS tv episode. I couldn’t remember the specifics but I believed the article mentioned Len quitting THE WATCHMEN.

    And yes, Zack Snyder did switched the ending in the movie. At least, he left out the Octopussy. Say what you will about that movie, I enjoyed it. 🙂

    Save for the SWAMP THING, never really got to read much of Len’s works. Maybe DC will compile a collection of his stories (if they haven’t already).

  3. Greg Burgas

    Wein was full of shit, though, because the ending of Watchmen is awesome. Moore had to do something to “break the wheel” (to use Game of Thrones terminology), and an alien invasion was just that. Anything conventional wouldn’t have done it. And anyone who gets mad at Moore for ripping off old television shows when they’re ripping off Charles Schulz to write a (admittedly, great) Batman strip should shut it.

    Plus, early Moore stories on Swamp Thing might have followed that trend, although having Swamp Thing appeal to the “villains'” intellect rather than just punching them was excellent, but that’s the nature of plotting. Wein didn’t come up with new ways to tell stories – his Swamp Thing stories are fairly standard horror stories, propped up by great art. And after Moore took Swamp Thing off-planet, his stories became much more experimental, plot-wise. Did Wein even read “Loving the Alien”?

    Wein was, by all accounts, a great dude, and his contribution to comics and pop culture cannot be underestimated. But he couldn’t hold a candle to Moore in the writing arena, and his complaints about Moore read like sour grapes because Moore was destroying the paradigms that Wein had grown up in.

    1. I feel like I should clarify what I wrote above, because I feel it’s been slightly misconstrued.

      As I recall from the Wein interview where he talked about the WATCHMEN ending (and I’m afraid I no longer recall exactly WHERE I read this, or else I’d look it up and quote it directly), Wein’s objection to the ending was less about the Deus Ex Machina nature of it (although that’s undeniably there) than about the fact that Moore was ripping off the ending of “The Architects of Fear” without any attribution. That’s why the episode gets a shout-out in the last issue.

      And for the record, I agree that the fake threat that Ozymandias worked up HAD to be an extraterrestrial, because it’s the only thing that had a CHANCE of working. That’s why I dislike the use of Doctor Manhattan in the movie. Even though the hoax was supposedly Doctor Manhattan attacking several cities around the world, I don’t see it unifying the world, because DM had been associated with the U.S. for 25 years at that point. The other countries would just assume that the U.S. was still behind it all, somehow. So I personally consider the comic’s ending to be better than the movie’s, although it still has its flaws.

      As to the SWAMP THING criticisms, perhaps it wasn’t clear because I was quoting Wein slightly out of context, but he wasn’t so much criticizing Swamp Thing’s passive nature in defeating his enemies as he was criticizing the repetitiveness of Moore’s plot structures on his early SOTST run. And yes, you see that same basic structure in the Floronic Man story, the Demon/Monkey King story, and the Nukeface Papers (a story that Wein rejected & was not published until Karen Berger took over as editor). That’s a lot.

      I agree that Moore broke out of that plotting pattern after Wein left the book, so perhaps his criticism stuck.

      1. Greg Burgas

        John: Oh, okay. Yeah, I can see Wein getting mad about Moore ripping something off without attribution. I didn’t realize that’s what he was mad about. And I totally agree with you about the movie ending versus the book ending, for exactly the reasons you give!

        I guess I don’t mind Swamp Thing’s passivity, mainly because (except for the Floronic Man story), he kind of stumbles across things and isn’t quite sure what’s going on. Moore obviously wanted to write horror stories but had to stick Swamp Thing in there somewhere, so he made the character somewhat passive, and I don’t mind, because it ties into the whole thing about him not being human. He’s still thinking like a human, but his nature is slowly shifting to where he can’t care as much, because he’s not human. I find it fascinating.

        I would love to think that Wein’s criticism stuck and Moore changed the way he plotted things because of that, but Moore has always seemed like kind of a dick (well, when it comes to criticism, not when it comes to creators’ rights), so I doubt he listened to Wein! 🙂

      2. The problem with using Dr. Manhattan as the mcguffin is that the story starts with him being the problem in the first place. Global tensions are escalating because the US has Dr. Manhattan, the ultimate weapon; he is in large part the cause of the strife that Oxymandias is trying to solve. Framing him for a bunch of cancer deaths to drive him away from earth was a smart move, getting him out of the way, but painting him as the culprit in a series of major terrorist attacks serves only to further antagonize the rest of the world. Instead of saying “we must unite to face this threat,” the world will instead say “we told you he was a problem” and then the missiles fly.

        But then I hate the Watchmen movie with the fire of a thousand suns. It is a textbook case of how to completely screw up a film adaptation in every possible way.

          1. Yeah, there might be a column in rewatching the WATCHMEN movie. I did shell out for the big four hour director’s cut a few years back, because I liked it more than not. I haven’t watched the movie since MAN OF STEEL and BvS, though, so it might be interesting to revisit in light of those.

            So I could take that bullet, Jim. I’ll catch it in my palms and freak out Silk Spectre when I do it. 🙂

          2. M-Wolverine

            I too have the super duper extended cute, cartoons and all, but have never had time to watch it (I can’t even get through the Lord of the Rings movies anymore). But it’d be a great excuse to finally see it. Could go a back. And forth column like the previews. I

        1. Jeff Nettleton

          Preach on, brother. Without watching the thing again, I can start with completely missing the entire subtext (hell, the outer layer, as well) of Moore’s writing. Rorschach comes off as the hero, when Moore makes it quite clear he is bat-guano insane and his black and white world view is untenable. Then again, Snyder is supposed to be a Rand cheerleader, which dovetails with Ditko; so, i can see how he would miss the point. Next, add that Adrian Veidt was played with all of the subtlety of Snidely Whiplash, thereby telegraphing he was the villain from the start. Night Owl is supposed to be overweight and impotent, because of the loss of his costumed identity, which brought this repressed man to life, yet the actor is buff and the costume looks like Batman, not middle-aged, pudgy schlub. The mystery is completely lost and the social satire non-existent. I haven’t even gotten into the technical side of things.

          I liked one thing in the film: the historical montage. That was a nice minute or two of footage; the rest…..meh! Jackie Earl Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are good, within the limits of the material they were given, and Billy Cruddup has moments (marred by how that character is mishandled in the storytelling) and that’s about it.

          Maugghhhh……choking on my own bile………

          1. M-Wolverine

            Watchmen is difficult to translate because there are really no good people in it. So it’s hard to say who the “hero” is, because there’s not one. Rorschach is definitely the protagonist, and definitely the hook to the story, because he’s the Wolverine/Punisher/Clint Eastwood character that was so popular then. But Moore takes the character to his realistic extreme, and he’s not a good person. But then the most seemingly upright and admirable character is the bad guy. I guess it’s open to interpretation on whether his plan would ever work, and if he’s the hero, but the end of the story is an endorsement of Rorschach’s viewpoint, if not actually his methods or ideology. He’s kind of the Archie Bunker character of it, where he’s kind of awful but the most likable of all these screw ups too.

            I guess in some ways, the guy who is presented at the worst person, the Comedian, might be actually be the best, because he’s honest, and really just sees everyone, and the world they’re in, for the shitty things they are. He gets “the joke.”

            But then anything is better than the movie’s Oxy, who is the one big miscast, and the unexplainable decision to give him a German accent. Beyond the pointed out glowing arrow saying “bad guy here” I’m not even sure how that idea comes up. Where in the text does anyone get the idea that he speaks that way? If anything it’s the antithesis to the character, because even if born that way he would have scrubbed his speech of it to make himself more All-American appealing. (Especially coming in the early years after WWII).

            The end…doesn’t work. But while some twist on an alien invasion might work, I’m just not sure how plopping a alien squid vagina on screen would sell to the mass audiences, or if it would get laughed out of the theater. It might have a chance today, after we’ve had acceptance of Ego, the Living Planet, but even that was mostly Kurt Russell. Not sure how you make that work.

            I’m torn on the movie. I actually enjoyed it, but I haven’t watched it all for a long time. I don’t think it’s great. I think it might be close to the best Watchmen we can get, at least in that format. The actors are good. I think it’s not the most creative, but aping it panel by panel is about the only way to go without having fanboys go nuts. Everyone says “turn it into a movie” but all the previously greenlit altered versions sounded really awful. I’m not a huge fan of Snyder’s work, but Watchmen is probably one of his better jobs.

            It might just not be possible to turn it into a movie. The HBO style TV series/limited series might be able to do the nuance justice. Or maybe not. Just like Len Wein could write comics, some comic stories might just not be ready made to turn into films. They’re comic books about comic books for the format that is comic books.

          2. Jeff Nettleton

            While Rorschach is a protagonist, I think he was presented in a way that suggested Snyder sided with his viewpoint, while Moore held him up as a madman, who cannot see the real world because he can’t see the grey tones. He is mentally damaged from years of abuse.

            Really, I never felt Veidt was particularly well developed in the comic. It almost feels like Moore neglected him to keep you from picking up on the clues that are there, until later in the story, when Veidt takes more of a center stage, and starts creating a context for those clues . Moore engages in a lot of misdirection, via Rorschach’s journal and his prejudices revealed within, and in the endpaper materials. When I first read the comics (I heard about it late and picked up issue 9 from the stands and the previous 8 from the back issue bins), I was convinced pretty early on that the killer was Hooded Justice, having faked his own death, since there was no body found, misinterpreting the bit about the circus performer found dead. I was thinking traditional comic logic: no body, not dead, coming back. Moore tells you up front its Veidt, via symbols and names in the background; but, unless you are really, really observant, you have to read later issues to understand that he is telling you, symbolically. It’s like hieroglyphic writing; it is meaningless until you find the Rosetta Stone. When the series finsihed, I read back through all 12 issues and suddenly saw the things that I had been missing, in the backrgound and at various points in the panels.

            To me, an adaptation, even a mini-series, was never going to work the same way, since it is a different medium. Comics are static and allow you to linger over the imagery, which gives you a ton of information to absorb. Film and TV are constantly moving, so you can only absorb a small portion, without freeze frame. They couldn’t apply the symmetry of Rorschach’s story, nor really convey the time distortion of Dr Manhattan’s.

            One, I hate the movie’s cliched darkness, which is the visual cliche for these things. Mature must mean darkly lit, wet, and muted. Bah! Superman was brightly lit, lively, and mature. The make-up for Nixon was pantomime bad. They might have as well dug up an old Rich Little impression.

            Really, the artiface of the whole thing just took me out of the story. Nothing in it seemed real, including the people. That’s why I hate the overuse of CGI. Practical sets and props have weight and it is conveyed in the actor’s performance. That’s why it works better in something like Lord of the Rings, where it is used to enhance practical objects and performers, not replace them. The eye knows.

            Sitting through it the first time, the film felt very Right Wing, to me, in a way the comic didn’t.

            When Terry Gilliam threw up his hands, he said he could only due it justice with an 8-10 hour mini-series ad that is probably right. Personally, I think tv works better than film for conveying comic book storytelling, since the episodic progression more closely mirrors the pacing of the printed stories. Film can capture the epic moments better, but, tv can do the same, with the right budget and creative people (look at Game of Thrones, which captures a filmic quality to battles and other large scale scenes).

            I’m just glad Joel Silver didn’t get his way and present us with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr Manhattan. The mind boggles.

          3. M-Wolverine

            Hmm, a lot of it is colored in our own viewpoints. I don’t know that I was the movie as a big right wing swing vs. the comic, though I would certainly guess Snyder vs. Moore could be seen that way. Maybe it’s just that the movie got more of the surface stuff, because I think a lot of the Rorschach love existed in the comic too. He was the solo man against it all, the Punisher bad ass, the guy who had never gave up, and got all the cool lines. On the surface he was the hero to a lot in the comic. Certainly what you got of more in the comic was those Racist Uncle moments where you went awww, he’s so cool…wait…DUDE, that’s not right!

            Moore does play a bit concealing with his characterization to hide his reveal for sure. I mean, flash back Veidt is so whitebread he’s basically the Golden Age Superman, not Lex Luthor. And I too had my money on Hooded Justice!

            A regular Snyder problem is the darkness. Though this one isn’t his worst offender. At least there’s color splashing out of the dark here. What he did to Superman….

            I’m with you on practical effects. Debate anything else you want about the movie, but I can’t find many who think the return to that in The Force Awakens wasn’t a big improvement after the prequel trilogy. The mix was mostly well done. (Cargo beast aside).

            I don’t know that there’s the money for it to start. Walking Dead was on the cheap for a few seasons before it started breaking ratings records and Mad Men (which wasn’t) stopped getting all the money. I bet when I go back and watch early Game of Thrones it looks a lot less like spectacle TV. There was the big battle where Tyrion gets his scar that they basically gloss over for $$$. It wasn’t till it became a huge hit that it got the real bucks to do things, and even now they have to have less episodes to put the money into each episode’s enhanced spectacle.

            So if they’re convinced Watchmen is going to be huge, it could be done on TV. I’m just not sure they’ll get the money to do it right off the bat. But that’s why movies don’t adapt whole storylines from the comics, but just distill their essence (when done right). Or just adapt the old Silver Age stories that took place in an issue or two anyway. And when shortening more modern stories, they’re usually doing the story a favor. Does anyone like Civil War the comic more than Civil War the movie, as loosely as that was based?

            The main thing I get out of this is that there was a time you could get Watchmen (original) comics in the back issue bin. Though I’m guessing I probably got in after issue 1 and while I wasn’t combing through the bins, I was probably getting the other issues in the stacks behind the current issue on the racks. Good times.

  4. M-Wolverine

    I don’t think I need to go over all the great things he did as they are pointed out here. I’ll simply say that while we properly honor the Moore’s, the Miller’s, heck the Stan Lee’s of the world, we don’t understand the particular talent it takes to just write good comic book/superhero stories. Not “elevating” or commenting on the genre. But just make stories that fit the medium and work. There’s a reason so many novelists or film makers come and write crappy comics; because their skills are different. Wein knew how to write comic books and all the format entails.

    I will add on the Watchmen thing that I’ve seen how it’s not so much a rip of of the Outer Limits (since the plan doesn’t work and the story isn’t really about that). But I have seen people say how the idea isn’t new anyway, because it’s been told many ways, including by Kirby.

    http://www.comicsbeat.com/did-watchmen-steal-from-the-outer-limits-or-from-jack-kirby/

    None of which should be shocking. Moore is one of the strangest artists ever, because his whole career is taking other people’s ideas and putting super original twists on them. Unoriginally original? He creates practically nothing from nothing, but creates super memorable work that often surpasses the original material.

    There are creators in various medium heavily influenced by others, and often latching onto previous work. But even they usually try to create something new that just feels or looks like something else. Moore rarely tries that, happily adapting (and heavily changing, for better or for worse) the materials of others and turning it into something unique, but not truly new. I can’t really think of anyone else like him.

    1. frasersherman

      And even before that, Theodore Sturgeon had a story with the same concept. It’s common enough, Fritz Leiber parodied it one story (the protagonist eventually realizes his tactics are somewhat questionable).
      The late Marion Zimmer Bradley had a great essay once about the difference between ripping off someone’s work and coming up with an original twist (she admitted to doing both).
      I think Swampie’s battle with amped up Arcane fits the pattern Len was talking about too—Arcane is demonically unstoppable, then Swamp Thing walks into a swamp, turns around and punches him out, game over. Which fit into the larger story Moore was telling but I remember on first run it didn’t make a lot of sense.
      American Gothic, I thought (and still do) fell apart at the end. Moore’s philosophical musings about Good and Evil were too empty to make the payoff work (and Scott Snyder was right to point out later that plants aren’t at all passive and contemplative — in their own world, they’re cutthroat).
      A lot of the post-Wein Phantom Stranger stories suffer from the “write a horror story, squeeze the lead character in” that Greg talks about above, and it never worked. It’s to Moore’s credit he was able to make that approach interesting instead of me grumbling “Why don’t you stick that crap in House of Secrets or something?”

      1. M-Wolverine

        Ha, yes. I think Moore must live in a flat with no yard or garden. Because one only need see how weeds and vines act towards other plants. And Poison Ivy isn’t just a Batman villain.

        Plus just go to any abandon area and see how fast the vegetation takes back over. History and Discovery channels had a few good parallel specials on the world after man, and most of our constructions would only last decades and some of our biggest constructions would be gone after hundreds of years. It would be an amazingly short transition to the world looking like we’d never been here, mainly due to how aggressive plant life is. (And weather). All that would be left in the long term is our flag and footprints and stuff left on the moon. Assuming a meteor didn’t hit the area and wipe it out.

        Here, some examples at 19:45

        https://youtu.be/GyEUyqfrScU

        There’s more out there, but I’ve already geeked this out in a way OT direction.

  5. “There’s a reason so many novelists or film makers come and write crappy comics; because their skills are different. Wein knew how to write comic books and all the format entails.”

    Agreed. I’ve seen several novelists and screenwriters write comics and utterly stink up the joint. It’s definitely a specialized skill, and Wein certainly knew his medium.

    Heck, I remember Sam Hamm commenting that comics were TOUGHER than screenwriting after he did a three-part DETECTIVE COMICS story culminating in #600, because he had limitations that don’t exist in screenwriting, like a strict page count and having to be conscious of what panels ended a page.

    1. And remembering that a two-page spread can’t start on an odd-numbered page (odd pages are on the right, even ones on the left), and that big splash pages should always be on an odd-numbered page, and that a big reveal should be on an even-numbered page, and to remember just how little text can actually fit in a given panel while still leaving room for the drawings, and how to leave some of the storytelling to the pictures without redundantly explaining the action in the caption.

  6. Jeff Nettleton

    Len was a damn good writer and an excellent editor. Thankfully, I was of a generation that got to witness his talent in both areas. I got to read more than a bit of his Batman, quite a bit of his Justice League, and a lot of his Marvel stuff, over the years, and it was always entertaining, at its worst (and his worst was still darn good). I got to read Swamp Thing a bit later, when it was reprinted. It’s standard monster fare, but well executed monster stuff. Moore had more interesting ideas; but, Len knew how to graft an excellent horror story, in a slightly more traditional vein.

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