It’s not every day that one meets a comics legend. In fact, he’s the only comics legend I’ve ever met. I once saw Stan Lee from a distance, but that’s not the same thing. Len Wein created Swamp Thing, for Christ’s sake.
It was shocking how short his line was. There were only two people in front of me, which surprised the hell out of me. This is the guy who edited the WATCHMEN when Alan Moore was writing it, and this was how much people cared to meet him? Every year I see Brian Azzarello doing a signing, it always surprises me that very few people line up to meet him, and he’s the best American writer in the industry right now. (Ed Brubaker is a very close second.) And now I see Len Wein in a similar situation?
When I got up to meet him, there seemed to be something off about him. It took me a moment to realize that he was actually sick, and he was doing his best to put on a good show for his fans. His hands shook a lot, and every smile he wore seemed strained and painful, but he was trying to tough it out for his fans.
That’s truly amazing. Most of these guys get the sniffles, and they cancel their appearances. Wein is a hell of a guy for doing this.
One of the things I brought with me was a reprint of HOUSE OF SECRETS #92, which was the first appearance of Swamp Thing. I apologized to him for bringing a mere reprint, but getting the real thing was a bit expensive these days. He waved a dismissive hand and said, “The story’s the same, no matter the edition.” And he’s right. Some truths are eternal.
Sadly, when I got home, I noticed that the autograph on that issue got smudged. It’s still legible, but it kind of disappointed me. It happened because after he’d signed my books, I noticed his line had grown a bit when my back was turned. In my hurry to get out of the next fan’s way, I didn’t wait long enough for the ink to dry.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if his signature is on it. The story is the important thing, whether it has his handwriting on it or not. Len Wein is a wise man, and I hope you all get the chance to meet him someday.