Last weekend Len Wein, one of my favorite Bronze Age comics writers, died. For a list of his accomplishments, this Atomic Junk Shop post is pretty good. I’ll take a few paragraphs to talk about my personal reaction to his work.
While I don’t think it was the first story by Wein I read, the Nick Cardy-illustrated cover above marks when I became a fan. When I started reading comics again after moving to the US, my old favorite Justice League of America was one of the first I bought (curiously I picked up Teen Titans, which I didn’t like anywhere near as much, several months earlier). At the time Mike Friedrich was the writer and while I enjoyed them, I think there was something missing. I didn’t really sense what until I read JLA #100 as Mr. Wein took over.
Len Wein’s superhero work never pushed the envelope as much as Steve Englehart’s (another writer of roughly the same period). It was simply good, well-told, entertaining stories. Pacing, humor, character bits, action scenes, they all came together and worked.
The three part #100-2 arc involved the Justice League and Justice Society joining forces to save the JSA’s Earth-2 from apocalypse. To do that, they had to find the Seven Soldiers of Victory, who’d been scattered through time battling a creature called the Nebula Man. Seven teams set out across time for seven adventures. Throwing in a Golden Age team I’d never heard of was icing on the cake for me (this was long before even the most obscure heroes could be found on the Internet somewhere).
Among the pleasures of Wein’s two-year run were guest appearances by the Phantom Stranger and the supervillain Eclipso; the introduction of the Freedom Fighters; establishing Green Arrow and Hawkman as frenemies; and the lonely android Red Tornado exploring humanity (not a new concept, but well done).
I can’t say Len Wein made me a comics fan. I already was. But his stories were among the ones I most looked forward to, and that’s pretty cool.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Wein.
Below, one of Jose Garcia-Lopez’ covers for Wein’s Untold Legend of the Batman.
Rights to both covers remain with the current holder.