Len Wein passed away today.

To me, Len was a friendly acquaintance, a guy who always had a quick smile that made it seem like he was happy to see me when we’d run into each other at the movies or whatever. But then, he always had that smile for everyone. He was that kind of guy.

For the world at large, though, he was a comics writer, and a very important one at that. Ever hear of Swamp Thing, that character who had two movies and two TV shows? Len co-created that. (In comics, we’re careful to wield “co-creator” for writers who do not draw; the artists behind Swamp Thing, Bernie Wrightson, died this year as well.) Ever hear of Wolverine? Yeah, that was Len, too – as were many of the characters you think of as X-Men (Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler.) And you could have watched either of the two TV series based on Len’s Human Target without realizing that it came from comics.

But why am I mentioning him here, on a Peanuts-related blog? Because Len was the writer who looked at Snoopy’s “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” novel, and realized that it was really a story for the Dark Knight – i.e., the Batman. Working with amazing artist Walter Simonson, Len used the words of Snoopy’s novel as the sole text of “Once Upon a Time,” a memorable two-page tale that appeared in issue 500 of Detective Comics, the series in which the Batman first appeared. “I basically did it just to prove that I could,” Len would later explain.

In his days, he proved that he could do so much. I’m glad he was around.