ANIMATED INSIGHTS BY SHANNON MUIR – Remembering Len Wein

Tuesdays, ANIMATED INSIGHTS BY SHANNON MUIR takes you inside Shannon’s latest reflections on writing, animation, and life in general.  To catch up on all posts, check out the Animated Insights portion of the website! This installment shares her thoughts on fellow animation writer Len Wein, who did that and so much more.

I knew Len’s works before I knew Len Wein, but didn’t know some of his most well-known works from comics and outside of his animation writing until later. Once I finally did meet him, though, I knew I’d gotten to know someone special. Besides his creativity, another thing I really admired about him was his ability to continue to overcome physical issue after the next, and still persevered with an optimistic spirit and kindness. Maybe that’s why it still seems surreal to me, that Len isn’t around anymore.

I find it moving that the first I actually got to know of Len’s work (not realizing Len’s influence yet) came through someone else that meant a great deal to me, and who I still miss to this day. While attending Eastern Washington University, I did directed studies in screenplay and television writing with the late David Terwische. I remember him telling me about another one of his students from back when he taught in Illinois before coming to work with us in Cheney, Washington, who’d become executive producer on a television series called SWAMP THING. I followed it off an on, mainly due to the connection between “Dr. Dave” (as we all called him) and his student, who was a writer and producer as I hoped to be. Len, of course, co-created SWAMP THING – but as I wasn’t as heavy into comics at that period in my life, I’d not made that connection.

Meanwhile, I’d come to know an animation writer and story editor named Christy Marx, who I’ve been honored to have as mentor and friend. I followed every show she worked on, and started to see a new writer (from my vantage) that showed up on the shows as a writer and story editor – Len Wein. I couldn’t figure out why I’d never heard of this guy before. I liked his writing.

Move forward to 1996. My first summer in Los Angeles, Christy Marx introduced me to her close friend Chris Valada at San Diego Comic-Con International after a WGA Animation Writers Caucus party I was too polite to crash but instead waited for Christy for some time just outside. Chris was, of course, Len Wein’s wife… but I still didn’t know that. It would be some time, even after I met Len, that my husband would have to explain the full extent of his resume to me, – but that was after I got to know Len as the person, not as the legend. I’m kind of grateful for that, actually.

I honestly can’t remember when I first met Len. but I’m guessing it was at Marv and Noel Wolfman’s Con after-party at their house. That whole experience, just weeks after I arrived in Los Angeles, I still remember vividly and yet it is still such a blur. I’d initially come to Los Angeles to house-sit for Larry DiTillio who couldn’t make the party and gave me his invite to Marv and Noel’s as part of the thank you for doing so; a very interesting experience as they’d never met me, but at least they knew my now-husband! I remember meeting Peter David for the first time, and watching Harlan Ellison arrive. It seems like the kind of event Len and Chris would have been at.

What I do know is that I did see Len many times over the last twenty plus years, whether at animation events or at Comic-Con. Sometimes we’d chat a bit with Len and Chris, sometimes just wave hello. Len made me smile every time I saw him walk into a room. I still can’t believe I’ll never see that smile in person again.

Even though he never hired me to work alongside him on any projects, I’m so glad I got to be a professional animation writer along someone like Len. People of that kindness and character are rare, and he will most definitely be missed by so many, including me.