PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite Early, Lesser-Known LEN WEIN STORIES

A BIRTHDAY SALUTE: The celebrated Mr. K pays tribute to a colleague and late friend, born 75 years ago…


I confess.

I stole mercilessly from Len Wein. Later on, I assumed his identity in the credit boxes of some issues of Green Lantern. I’m guilty, I tell you! Lock me up and throw away the keys!

OK, I didn’t so much steal from Len (June 12, 1948 – September 10, 2017) as I did borrow shamelessly from him as inspiration and influence when I was a wannabe and neophyte comic book writer. And the times posing as “Len Wein” weren’t for identity theft but as a ghostwriter to help the real Len out of some deadline crunches. And, while it was just another job—I’d ghosted and/or done credited fill-ins on numerous stories for various writers in the past, always for pay, of course—it was a chance to (a) practice literary mimicry, a game I enjoy, and (b) see how Len would take what I’d given him, based on a discussion or a brief paragraph or two he’d given me of the beats he needed to hit in the story, and tweak it just-so to make it work in ways I hadn’t seen.

First appearance of Swamp Thing. Art by Bernie Wrightson.

I’m sure you know the high points of his multiple award-winning, 50-year career: co-creator of Swamp Thing, Wolverine, the Human Target, Lucius Fox, and many others, writer of The X-Men, Phantom Stranger, Justice League of America, Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, Batman, and too many others to mention, as well as stints as an editor for DC, Marvel and Disney. As one of the first fans to squeeze through the closed (or slightly ajar) doors of DC Comics and turn pro, Len and his friend and writing partner Marv Wolfman, were inspirations to me during those above-mentioned wannabe writer years. I’ve already written about my earliest encounters with Len on my website. (I also used an anecdote in A Comic Moment With… column elsewhere on 13th Dimension.)

Rather than hitting those high points, I’m going to dig deeper into his career, a portrait of the artist as a young artist, mining the first three or so years of his work for some of those early stories that made me notice him and want to write like him. Len’s (and co-writer Marv’s) first sale was famously to editor Dick Giordano, Teen Titans #18 (November/December 1968), but I’m going to lead off instead with the more obscure, first published tale, for this, MY 13 FAVORITE EARLY, LESSER-KNOWN LEN WEIN STORIES:

The Adventures of Jerry Lewis #109 (DC, November/December 1968). If you know anything about me at all you know I was both thrilled and jealous to discover Len’s first published work was a Jerry Lewis story. Art by Bob Oksner.

Secret Hearts #149 (DC, January 1971). One of many anthology titles where young and beginning writers could learn and practice their craft. It didn’t hurt that the newbies saw how talented veterans like Win Mortimer (here inked by John Rosenberger) interpreted their scripts.

Chamber of Darkness #6 (Marvel, August 1970). Artists Sal Buscema and Syd Shores joined Len (literally in Sal’s case) for this Marvel horror anthology story, although because of the Comics Code, we called them “mystery” stories.

Hot Wheels #4 (DC, September/October 1970). Two words: Alex Toth. Three more words: Lucky newbie bastard!

Blazing Six Guns #1 (Skywald, February 1971). Len applied his talent to other genres for other publishers, here with some delightfully purple pulp prose and the equally delightful Dick Ayers. I never met John Tartaglione but I’m sure he was also a delight.

Detective Comics #408 (DC, February 1971). I’m pretty sure this was Len’s first Batman story (co-written with sometimes collaborator Wolfman) but I’m too lazy to do any more research. By Neal Adams and Giordano, no less. (Dan adds: Yes. It was his first.)

The Witching Hour #13 (DC, February/March 1971). A humorous “mystery” story that stuck with me for its title and the art of Jose Delbo.

Creatures on the Loose #11 (Marvel, May 1971). Another artist bent over his drawing board. Different artist, different reason, and art by Herb Trimpe.

The Flash #208 (DC, August 1971). Somewhere, I have this page, torn from the comic, signed by Len at my first convention in 1971.

Creatures on the Loose #13 (Marvel, September 1971). Don’t get me wrong. It’s a swell story by Len but having a genuine EC Comics legend like Reed Crandall draw it elevates any tale!

World’s Finest #207 (DC, November 1971). Old school Julie Schwartz-edited goodness (“Ya gotta shock the reader and make them hafta turn the page!”) and art by Dick Dillin and Joe Giella.

House of Secrets #95 (DC, December 1971-January 1972). Sue me. I’m a Jack Sparling fan.

Weird War Tales #3 (DC, January/February 1972). And last but not least, another Wein-Wolfman joint, this one for editor Joe Kubert, the beautifully crafted “The Pool,” with art by Russ Heath.


— How Six LEN WEIN BATMAN Comics Changed My Life. Click here.

— Legendary LEN WEIN: How BATMAN ’66 ‘Quite Literally Saved My Life.’ Click here.

PAUL KUPPERBERG was a Silver Age fan who grew up to become a Bronze Age comic book creator, writer of Superman, the Doom Patrol, and Green Lantern, creator of Arion Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate, and Takion, and slayer of Aquababy, Archie, and Vigilante. He is the Harvey and Eisner Award nominated writer of Archie Comics’ Life with Archie, and his YA novel Kevin was nominated for a GLAAD media award and won a Scribe Award from the IAMTW. Now, as a Post-Modern Age gray eminence, Paul spends a lot of time looking back in his columns for 13th Dimension and in books such as Direct Conversations: Talks with Fellow DC Comics Bronze Age Creators and Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators in Their own Words, available, along with a whole bunch of other books he’s written, by clicking the links below.



Author: Dan Greenfield

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1 Comment

  1. Great post. I’m going to have to look up these comics.
    One of my all time favorite Spider-man comics is issue 151 “Skirmish beneath the Streets !” I freaking love that issue! I still reread it all the time. I think it was Lens first issue as writer.
    bought it off a spinner rack when I was 7. It was my second Spider-man comic I ever bought (the first was issue 141).

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