Not everyone — not even rabid fans of superhero lore — realizes that by the early 70s, The X-Men were toast.
Due to craptacular sales, Marvel discontinued the mutants’ monthly adventures in 1970. Professor Charles Xavier, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Iceman, Beast, and Magneto appeared destined to be barely remembered as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s failed attempt to copy DC’s Doom Patrol.
But in 1975, Marvel’s erstwhile editor-in-chief Len Wein gave the X-thing one more try, and penned a relaunch titled Giant-Sized X-Men #1. Wein figured X-Men made a spiffy vehicle to showcase a grumpy, be-clawed scrapper he dreamed up the previous year with the help of John Romita Sr. Alongside Wolverine, Wein filled out the rest of a completely fresh, nationally-disparate X-crew with Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus, all rendered by artist Dave Cockrum.
Wein handed the reigns of X-Men over to wide-eyed twentysomething unknown Marvel employee Chris Claremont not long thereafter. Claremont went on to write The Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, and innumerable other timeless X-Men tales, turning the formerly B-list title into a genre institution.
Sixty nine-year-old Len Wein passed away on Sunday. Though he was nowhere near as famous as Stan Lee, Frank Miller, or even Chris Claremont is today, if we butterfly effect Wein’s career out of history, the entire pop culture landscape changes. Without Wein, Claremont’s multi-decade run on X-Men never happens. Fox never bothers making the 2000 X-Men movie, which means X-Men doesn’t help launch the superhero movie explosion that’s still going strong 17 years later. Hugh Jackman probably isn’t a movie star. Chris Evans might not be a movie star either.
And before he got around to X-Men, Wein co-created Swamp Thing in 1971. Much in the way he did with Chris Claremont, he tossed the character over to a then-up-and-coming creator named Alan Moore, who wound up turning the title into his breakout vehicle. Even Wes Craven racked up a payday with his Swamp Thing film adaptation in 1982, meaning Wein’s impact on cinema extends beyond The Ol’ Canucklehead and his colorful cohort.
Midnight Pulp hereby pours one out in Len Wein’s honor, and blasts the X-Men Animated Series theme song in solemn reverence.