RIP Len Wein

Writer, editor and comics creator Len Wein has passed away at the age of 69, which is far too soon. He leave behind a massive amount of not just important creations (Swamp Thing with Berni Wrightson and Wolverine with Herb Trimpe and John Romita Snr to name the two big ones) but some truly great comics work. For me, my first exposure to Wein was Justice League of America #100 and this great Nick Cardy cover.

Wein wrote the JLA from this issue to #114, and these remain some of my favourite superhero comics ever not just because they’re enormous fun, but for me, these were the first superhero comics I read that even had a hint of doing something more than just stringing together fight scenes. It remains a vastly underrated run.

His Marvel work in the 70’s helped entertain me massively, especially the joy filled fun that was Marvel Team-Up.

A nice fun run on Amazing Spider-Man,

And a long run on The Incredible Hulk which is where Wolverine first made his début.

It’s worth noting that if Wein hadn’t brought Wolverine into the new X-Men in Giant Size X-Men #1, the revamped X-Men might never have gotten off the ground and failed and Wolverine would be a minor character that once popped up in a few issues of the Hulk’s title.

Instead though, Wein made the masterstroke of sticking Wolverine into the X-Men and unleashed a massive fan-favourite for decades to come.

As an editor he’s responsible for helping Alan Moore and Gave Gibbons Watchmen into the world.

Overall Wein gave comics more than he’s probably appreciated for. Without him DC may never have hired Alan Moore in the first place and all that British talent DC mined from the 80’s to today. Wein changed the mainstream comics industry in the US and UK massively and his passing is a loss. Yes, we can dwell upon shite like Before Watchmen and later work, but let’s not dwell there and choose instead to remember his work for helping kids like me have some entertainment over the decades…

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What I thought of Captain America Annual #8

Written by Mark Gruenwald and drawn by Mike Zeck and John Beatty, this was the one-off annual of a title which then sold poorly at the time hence why this annual guest starred Wolverine who was then as massive as he is now.The fact the comics opens with Wolverine gives away the sales tactic here.

Wolverine in the 80’s was still a man of mystery. Everything that made the character so fresh and interesting hadn’t yet been flushed down the bog and a guest appearance would add serious numbers to sales.

In fact any casual reader at the time would have picked this up wondering where the hell Captain America is in his own comic but after half a dozen or so pages we finally get the titular hero turning up.

There’s a giant robot and dodgy dealings going on but really this is about when Cap will actually fight Wolverine, something Gruenwald teases out for as long as possible but thanks to CB radio Cap gets informed of events.

Eventually Cap and Wolverine meet, have a misunderstanding and a fight because this is superhero comics.

We also get a tease of the sound effect that launched 1000 memes however the fight carries on before the pair eventually realise they’ve got a common foe to fight.

After a while the robot escapes, Cap and Wolvie find out what’s going on and the robot comes back tougher than ever for the pair to fight.

Of course the goodies win after a touch of moral greyness. In fact this is a rollicking good bit of fun and an example of great 1980’s superhero comics so you’ve got some good fights, a good guest hero, Captain America being Cap, and a big robot that gets smashed up. Gruenwald does this well and as for Zeck and Beatty their art is fantastic stuff. Overall this is a wonderful snippet of a time when Marvel managed to make their comics fun, accessible and also good!

A quick word about Herb Trimpe

Two years ago today I started this blog. One of the very first blogs I wrote was about trying to get American comics in Glasgow during the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and in that blog I mentioned that the very first American comic I bought with my own money was a Herb Trimpe dawn issue of The Incredible Hulk.

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I loved that comic, but for reasons I don’t need to go into now I no longer have it. For the last couple of years I’ve been meaning to search it down to add to my collection, but I’ve never actually done it. Tonight I heard that Herb Trimpe died at the age of 75, and I’m gutted.

Trimpe never got the plaudits he should have, but for people of a certain age his portrayal of The Hulk is the definitive one, even more so than Jack Kirby’s. He drew The Hulk for what seemed forever, but I never tired of his work. Sure, he’d sometimes have some awful inkers, scripts and turn in the odd duff page, but as a superhero comics artist he was immense.  He’s also famous for being the co-creator of Wolverine.

For me, his best work after his run on The Hulk was a four-issue Machine Man mini series inked by Barry Smith published by Marvel Comics in the 1980’s, but he did so much that has mainly sailed into history. He also co-created Captain Britain in a mainly terrible run, and he drew Marvel’s Godzilla comic they published in the 70’s and 80’s, not to mention what is probably dozens, if not hundreds of fill in issues on dozens of Marvel’s comics.

So thanks for all the fun over the years. I hope now he gets the just credit for helping form the Marvel Universe that he should.

My top 20 Comic Book films-8-X Men 2

I did my top 20 horror and SF films last year, and found doing the lists to be more fun than expected, so in a massive bit of logic here’s my top 20 films adapted or inspired from comics. I need to point out I mean comics, not ‘superhero comics’ which is a lazy, and incorrect way to describe a wonderfully varied medium and it’d also cut out some bloody good films!

Previously, in this list at #20, X Men19The Crow18Heavy Metal, 17, Spider Man ,16The Avengers, 15Danger: Diabolik, 14The Dark Knight Trilogy , 13A History of Violence12Kick Ass , 11,Spider Man 2 , 10, Barbarella and 9, Batman Returns.

Next up is X Men 2, or X2, or the sequel to the first Bryan Singer X Men film.

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X Men 2 is pretty much the perfect modern superhero film. It’s got engaging characters, plot, subtexts, action, metaphors and lots of people in leather jumpsuits hitting and tabbing each other with their adamantium claws. It really is one of those rare cases where the sequel is not only as good as the first film, but actually totally surpasses it. Yes, it sometimes does get swamped by the amount of characters in it but most of the time all the various plot threads seem to be going somewhere rather than just hopelessly flailing around hoping that everything sorts itself up during it’s running time.

This is also the film where Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine clearly becomes the main character in these films which is obviously why producers decided to make an awful and a slightly less awful couple of Wolverine solo films, though the entire film hinges on Stryker, the character played by the always superb Brian Cox. Without him there’s no plot so in effect he becomes the film’s MacGuffin.

Singer puts a lot of work in this film to make it work as it’s own beast as opposed to a sequel, and what most expected at the time, a middle film in a trilogy that he’d complete. Sadly, Singer decided to go away and make Superman Returns and some worthless shite hack made a third film that’s not even worth wasting any more spite upon. I do look forward to Singer’s return with Days of Future Past if only to see if he’s remembered how to make a good film as he’s not done one since X Men 2. I can but hope….

Next up, who was the law again?