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Len Wein, a comic book legend who co-created Wolverine and Swamp Thing, has died at 69

You might have not heard of Len Wein. But you definitely know the superheroes he helped create. 

2013 Summer TCA Tour - Day 14 Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

When it comes to mainstream pop culture, comic book writer, editor, and creator Len Wein — who died this weekend at the age of 69 — doesn’t have the same name recognition as Stan Lee or Jack Kirby. But he should.

Throughout his long career (Wein’s first comic was published in 1968), Wein touched myriad lives through his work on some of the industry’s most iconic characters and stories. Wein had a hand in co-creating characters like DC Comics’ Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, and Nightcrawler. He also co-edited The Watchmen, an iconic comic book tome.

"Len Wein was one of the most welcoming people and legends in comics from the moment I joined DC eight years ago," Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment, said in a statement. "He wrote or edited almost every major DC character — there’s hardly a facet of DC’s world that Len didn’t touch. I, DC and the industry will miss him and his talent very much.”

Wein played a large role in laying the foundation of the modern-day superhero story — a story about superpowered beings with otherworldly abilities, but one that’s also layered with political, economic, and civil metaphor and allegory.

For example, in 1975, Wein co-created Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus for Marvel, introducing them in Giant Size X-Men no. 1, drawn by artist Dave Cockrum. The characters invigorated the series and cemented the fundamental credo of the X-Men: that even though they were heroes, they were despised and hated by society because they were different.

In remembrance of Wein, Marvel said in a statement:

We are deeply saddened to hear of Len Wein’s passing, and send our deepest condolences to his friends and family. Len’s contributions to the Marvel Universe as writer, editor, and member of the Marvel family will never be forgotten. He will be missed.

Superhero stories today still reflect Wein’s influence. And so many of his characters live on and will continue his legacy of shaping new realities for readers of all ages.