Hey folks. Long time, no write. I thought that with the release of Logan (which was fucking incredible) this week, I’d post an interview I did with Wolverine’s creator, Len Wein. This is from almost four years ago, so it was more about DC than Marvel but I felt this was a good time to bring it back out since the original media outlet it was written for no longer exists. It’s short, succinct, and certainly a nice little feather in the cap for a young(er than I am now) aspiring “journalist”. I hope you enjoy it.
Thank you for your time, Len. Let’s get right to it, shall we? Of all of the amazing characters you have created, the biggest and most popular of all has to be Wolverine. Where did that come from and did you have any idea that you were coming up with something that would become so beloved?
God, by now I thought everyone knew this particular story. I was writing a book called Brother Voodoo for Marvel, where most of the characters had Caribbean accents. Marvel’s then-Editor-in-Chief, Roy Thomas, called me into his office, told me he was jealous of my ability to write different accents, and told me he wondered how I would write a Canadian accent. Roy told me he had a name, Wolverine, and asked me to create a character to go with it. I researched wolverines, discovered they were short, fearless, hairy animals with razor-sharp claws who would take on other animals many times their size, and the rest pretty much wrote itself. And, no, I had no idea. Anyone who tells you they knew how their character would be received by the public is lying to you.
The Canadian aspect is interesting in context of some of your other X-creations. You wrote maybe the most important Marvel book not written by Stan Lee in Giant X-Men #1. There, you introduced, Storm (who is now known as being from Kenya), the Russian Colossus, and the German Nightcrawler. Was there a conscious effort in making the X-Men more international? They were persecuted enough being mutants without having to deal with xenophobes.
The idea to make the revived X-Men into an international team originally came from upstairs. A number of Marvel books were selling very well overseas and the powers-that-be thought they might be able to sell this new title well overseas as well. Rumors of this revival was why I made Wolverine a Canadian mutant in the first place, to give whoever might write the X revival a Canadian character to work with. Never suspected that someone would eventually be me. Unfortunately, nobody ever told Dave Cockrum and myself WHICH foreign countries should be targeted, so we picked and chose on our own.
You also wrote and created Swamp Thing and have also written Man-Thing. How did the two experiences compare?
Well, DC paid me for one, ad Marvel for the other. Seriously, that’s difficult to answer. Despite basic physical similarities, they are two very different characters; Swamp Thing is pro-active by nature, Man-Thing very reactive. My big contribution to Man-Thing is the concept that “Whoever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch.” It was a way of getting around the fact that, in Gerry Conway’s first Man-Thing story, ANYTHING the monster touched burst into flame.
You recruited and subsequently edited Alan Moore’s run on Saga of the Swamp Thing, which was his first real game-changing work for DC. Were there any notes you felt you needed to give him? Did you feel apprehensive at all with the direction he was taking your character?
If I had had any apprehensions, I simply wouldn’t have allowed Alan to do what he did. Over all, I loved his work on the book.
You also edited him on Watchmen but left before it was finished. I’m sure you have answered this a million times but how did that come to pass?
Quite simple, really. I moved from New York to California and left my editing job at DC.
You recently wrote the Before Watchmen: Ozymandias miniseries. The first issue provides a lot of interesting back story. It seemed like the purpose was to fill in gaps and it did it really well. I had read elsewhere that Ozy’s plot reminded you of an Outer Limits episode. You say as much in that issue. Was this something you had ever mentioned to Moore?
Yep, from the very beginning. When he turned in the series overview, I told him the first 11 issues were terrific, but his ending made the entire series into a redo of the old Outer Limits episode, “The Architects of Fear.”
“Alan,” I said, “This has already been done.”
“Maybe so,” replied Alan, “But I haven’t done it.” The argument continued through the whole series from there.
I thought that was a cool way to weave that in your story since Ozymandias is a genius, he would naturally believe that he would succeed where others have failed.
I am a ridiculously huge Batman fan. Along with writing some truly incredible issues, you created Lucius Fox. Of all of the characters you’ve come up with, and one that would have been thought of as obscure, is played by Morgan Freeman and is an integral part of the greatest and most successful superhero movie franchise ever. How big of a deal is that for you?
That’s a tremendous deal for me, frankly. Oddly, Lucius has become probably my second most successful creation, after Wolverine and the New X-Men.
We’ll end with a couple of quick ones. Favorite character that you created and why..
Wolverine, because, with my health, I’d give anything to have his healing factor. (Note: Mr. Wein is still alive and well, even appearing in the film, X-Men: Days of Future Past)
With everything that you’ve worked on, is there anything in this business that you want to do but haven’t yet? Any book or character you’d like to write?
Until last year, probably only Doctor Who, but then I got to write him as well.
Thank you for time, sir. It’s been an honor to converse with you.