Len Wein, creator of X-Men staples like Wolverine, Storm, and Nightcrawler, survived a house fire that destroyed about half of his home, as well as original art from WOLVERINE and GIANT-SIZED X-MEN worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Author Harlan Ellison posted this today on his web site:
EXTREMELY BAD NEWS
Len Wein called this morning. More than half of his house burned down earlier today. Len and Chris Valada and Chris’s son, Michael, got out okay, but their beloved dog, Sheba, ran back inside and is gone. In addition to both bedrooms, the bathroom, and much of the office, what was burned first was the original art for the first Wolverine story, the cover of GIANT X-MEN #1 and other art pieces worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Susan and I will be over there as soon as I pick up my car today, and as soon as I’ve met the dental appointment we have scheduled. This is a major catastrophe for one of my oldest and closest friends. Like your Host, Len is a lifetime freelancer and, even though he remains a star of the comics world, even though he created Wolverine and Storm–among other characters–he goes from day to day earning a freelancer’s living, as do I…and these are frightening economic times for those of us out there, to paraphrase Arthur Miller, “on a few words and a shoeshine.”
At the very least, I’m relieved that Len and his family are alive and well. We at Blog@ are wishing for nothing but the best for this seminal X-creator, and will keep you posted on any additional happenings on his part.
At his website, Mark Evanier described the scene:
Harlan Ellison was over there wielding a shovel and he described the loss to me a little while ago on the phone. It sounds pretty total. To those who ask, “What can we do?” the answer seems to be “not much right now,” though Len and Chris must know they have a lot of friends they can turn to. At some point down the line though, when they’re settled into new digs or a rebuilding of the old digs, I’d like to see if we can restore some of Len’s book collection — particularly copies of things he worked on.
Another update from Ellison after the jump…
Debacle. Nothing left of the master bedroom. Open to the sky. Len is a genuine hero: Chris was at work when a power surge apparently went through the electrical system of the house, shorting out a wall heater that had been in place in the bathroom since the house was built…an appurtenance no one even paid any attention to: it was invisible, like a countertop. But it sparked, caught fire, and the fire caught on towels, curtains, bathroom mat, magazines on the hamper, clothes, and raced up the walls and across the ceiling, into the hall, and into the bedroom where Len lay asleep. Michael, Chris’s son, was dead asleep in the loft of the small bedroom.
Len woke and managed to duck under the flames that were crowning. He found pants and got to Michael and dragged him awake, and they rushed out of the house. Sheba ran with them, but then, she wanted to hide, and hiding was what she did in the bathroom, so she ran back inside, was trapped in the flaming bathroom, and was overcome by smoke, and then incinerated.
I don’t feel like going through any more. This site has become WEIN CENTRAL, and here is the answer to ALL of you:
There is NOTHING you can do for Len and Chris NOW.
Their insurance company–along with four fire trucks and DWP and the police and many friends–have been there all day. Susan and I got home about 7:40 PM, and I spoke to Len about an hour ago. They’re okay, more or less, if you can call cudgeled into stunned immobility “okay.” They are just the way you or I would be if we’d lost everything.
The insurance will help them rebuild or buy a new house, but after the loss of Sheba, the worst part is that everything Len had accumulated in a lifetime, from books to comics, to original art to his Shazam Awards (which were melted off the wall) to the complete set of DC library hardcovers that were caught in a heat so ferocious they melted into a 40-book block…spines bright and sharp and all one plastic-melted millstone. What you can do for the creator of SWAMP THING and WOLVERINE, if you are so moved, is NOTHING at the moment. Don’t bother them with well-intentioned commiserations that will only distract them. At the moment they are staunchly trying to pull it all together.
Later…SOON…but LATER…you can help enormously when Len presents a cogent list of those items that are replaceable–many were unique and are gone forever, and that’s that, so he’ll come to terms with it in time–but lots of it is around, some more rare than other, but possible. Hang back; just chill till Len lets us all know what he needs. I’ll post it here, it’ll be on Neil Gaiman’s site, and Peter David’s, and Mark Evanier’s and on and on.
Give it a rest for a month or so, kids. Let them alone, and I’ll do my best to keep you informed. But don’t waste your mud with sad’n’sorrowful platitudes. It will only distract.
Needless to say, I’ve told them there were about 40 phone calls and posts here. They are too stunned to be grateful, but just so you know I passed the good tidings along.
UPDATE: 4-8-09: New updates from Evanier:
I just spoke to Len, who seems to be in a lot better humor than most of us would be if we’d lost our homes to fire. He has okayed me to begin collecting donations of comics on which he worked. All the copies he had were either burned or hosed down by firefighters…
Several folks have already e-mailed me that they have Len Wein comics they’d like to send to Len Wein. This is good. Hold onto them for a few more days. I’m setting up a web page with all the info on where to send them and what we need. When it’s up, I’ll ask you all to spread the word throughout the comic community.