This past weekend I was privileged enough to be press again at Long Beach Comic Con with my awesome mom, Annie, once again acting as my photographer.
Last time, I interviewed one of the most influential people in comics, Marv Wolfman (amongst many others). But my schedule didn't allow me to interview Len Wein, the man who made the X-Men what it is today, created Swamp Thing and so many other characters people love to this day. I rectified that in Saturday, when I was able to sit down with Mr. Wein and talk about comics, the Simpsons, westerns and Stephen King.
As I walked away, professional on the outside and fangirling on the inside, he called me back to tell me how much he enjoyed doing my interview after years of getting the same form questions. To have someone both my mother and I grew up reading take a minute to compliment me, it meant more than I could say. I'm still in awe of it.
Over a year ago when i started this blog, I never imagined that I'd be interviewing some of my idols in comics and literature. And never did I imagine that someone like Mr. Wein would give such a nice compliment.
I'm so grateful!
1. Your first professional story was in 1968 with Marv Wolfman, on the Teen Titans title for DC Comics. Are you pleased that, nearly 50 years later, that title is stillgoing strong?
Absolutely! I mean, it’s gone through many, many, many, many different incarnations over the years, but I think the conceot of the teen sidekicks having their own lives and their own adventures is a strong one and it works well.
2. You’ve written many differt genres of comics, from superheroes to romance. If you had to choose, which genre is your favorite and why?
Weirdly enough, I think it might be westerns! I love writing wwesterns. I did a numver of them early in my career. I just did one a year or two ago for a collection called Outlaw Territory. I did it on speck--I’d get paid only if it makes money. And I didn't care! I just wanted to write a western story again. It was fun!
It used to be one of the most popular genres in conics and television, and no almost nobody bothers anymore and I don’t know why! I love those. I still watch them on like MeTV and Antenna TV. I watch The Rebel and whatever other shows come on. I have a complete collection of the DVDs of Have Gun Will Travel, which is my all time favorite western.
3. Chris Claremont has rightly said that X-Men would not be what it is today if not for your contributions to it. How does it feel to see your “babies” on the big screen today?
I’m thrilled! I will never lose, nor have I ever lost the fanboy “oh wow” factor. Every time one of my own books comes out and I hold it in my hands I still go, “Oh, wow, look at this! I did this!” So yeah, I’m still a fanboy geek. And I love what they’ve done with most of my comics.
4. When you were a child dreaming of creating comics, would you ever have imagined that you’d be in the Eisner Hall Of Fame?
No. I’ve been saying for the last several years that if I could go back and tell my fifteen-year-old self what my life was going to turn into, I would never have believed me! I mean, the people wh are my friends, the reach I have had in other people’s lives… Every convention I do, somebody comes up to me and says, “I just want to thank you. You’re the reason I started reading comics.” And it just tears me apart, to have had that effect on other people who I’ll never meet. It’s impossible to describe that feeling.
5. You’ve written the Futurama and Simpsons comics. What do you personally think of the comics-on-TV trend?
I’m thrilled about it. The Simpsons and Futurama was a challenge to me. Basically at one of the comic cons in San Diego, Bill Morrison, the editor of Bongo comics who published the Simpsons, came up and said, “I want you to do a story for the Trio Sahara.” And I said, “Are you kidding me? Why do you want to waste your time?" He goes, “It would be a very funny story.” So he suggedted I do a Swamp Thing takeoff. And I looked across the room and Bernie Wrightson was sitting there and I said, “Yo, Bernie, you want to do Swamp Thing again?” And he said, “Uh, what?” I said, “As the Simpsons?” And he said, “Yes. Let’s do that!” And I t was the most amazing Bernie job I’ve ever seen! It was truly a Bernie Wrightson art job and asolutely Marvel/Simpsons. It was crazy! But I started doing a bunch of stories for them after that. And I could write the Simpsons! I didn't know. I had fun.
6. That actually brings me to the next question. What brought about the creation of Swamp Thing?
It is the single character of those I have created where I can't remember for the life of me how I came up with it! [Laughs.] I was on the sunway coming to the offie from Long Island where I lived and by the time I got to the office the idea was there and I pitched it to Joe Orlando and Joe loved it. So I got the assignment and Bernie and I got together at a friend’s party and he said, “I just broke up with my girlfriend. I’m feeling terrible.” And I said, “I just wrote a story that might make you feel better!” And he read it and said, “I want to draw ths!” And that’s how that started.
7. Of all the characters you’ve created and worked on, is there any character you haven’t written yet but would like to have the chance to?
Actually, this is the third time in several years that someone has asked me that! The first time somebody asked me that question my answer was, “You know, I think I've written every character I’ve ever wanted to.” And then, about a week after that nterview, I said, “Damn, there is one character that I'd love to write.”
The following year, I was at WonderCon in Anaheim and I was having dinner with Joe Hill, the horror writer and son of my old friend Stephen King. He asked me the exact same question!
He and a number of his friends took my wife and I out to dinner because we had never met before, and he asked me exactly, “Is there any character you’ve never written hat you'd like to write?” And I said, “Yes, I realized there is one.” And he said, “Who?” And I said, “Exactly!” And he said, “Huh?” I said, "I’ve never written Doctor Who! I would kill to write Doctor Who!" And the three guys sitting at the table looked at me wide-eyed and said, “Are you serious?” I said, “Yes, why?” They said, “We can make that happen! We’re the editors of the Doctor Who comic!” And so I wrote a Doctor Who story!
8. Actually, I did have another quesrion a little further down, but i’ll ask you now since you brought him up: Stephen King has had his novels turned into comics and has even written a comic. Would you like to collaborate with him on a comic or novel?
Either! I've known Stephen since we were both in our teens. Marv Wolfman published his [King's] first story in his fanzine. The only time Steve and I have worked together was when I was editing the Batman books. We ran into each other at a party and I was doing the four hundreth issue of Batman and I said, “Hey, what are you doing, Steve?” And he said, “I’m crazy busy!” “Oh, too bad. I was going to ask you to write the introduction to Batman #400.” He said, “Seriously?” I said, “Yeah!” He said, “Man, I woukd love to do that...and I can't! My editor would kill me. I've got a book that’s due.” And he went back and forth for five minutes, having this argument with himself. “Oh man, I really want to, but he’d kill me. ...But I really want to.” Finally he said, “No, realistically and practically, I cannot do it. I’ll do it!” And he did! He wrote the introduction for me! [Laughs.]
9. You originally started out in comics as an artist. Why did you switch to writing?
That’s what they hired me to do! I submitted some stuff to DC and they thought he art was good but needed work. It wasn't;t quite ready. But they liked the writing, and it was the one with Marv Wolfman and he had done most of the writing! And Joe Orlando, who had gone over the samples, said "I’m doing these two new books called House of Mystery amd House of Secrets. Can you submit some story ideas? I’d love to see it.” So I submitted three or four story ideas and he liked one and I’ve been a writer ever since.
10. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with thee things that may surprise them about you?
I am a huge fan of musical theater. ...And I’m straight! [Laughs.] I am a trivia freak. Every thursday night some of my friends and I go out and we play trivia at a local bar...just to keep me occupied! And my wife is a Jeopardy champion, and was in the tournament of champions on Jeopardy.
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