Harlan Ellison has a much longer post on the house fire at the residence of Len Wein and Christine Valada…I’ve posted it in the jump since it is quite long and Harlan’s site has nothing resembling permalinks.

The short version is that an old electric heater in the bathroom apparently sparked and set fire to a pile of papers. Len and Michael were in the house asleep. Len woke up, managed to wake up Michael, and both escaped. Their dog, Sheba, was used to hiding in the bathroom, and evidently confused, went in and perished.

The house is badly damaged, and many, many irreplaceable possessions were destroyed. Len and Chris, as evidenced by Facebook postings, are as okay as could be expected under the circumstances but are mourning the loss of their pet. They did have insurance, of course, and will have temporary housing for up to six months while the house is rebuilt.

As Harlan and others have said, there is NOTHING WE CAN DO for Len, Chris, and Michael now…eventually we can help replace some of the stuff that can be replaced. I do urge everyone to keep posting well wishes here…I know they will be appreciated whenever they have a chance to read them.

Many people are posting this morning that Fox should do something to help and recognize Len — as the creator of the character — with the Wolverine movie. It would definitely be a good karmic effort, so let’s see how it unfolds.

More from Mark Evanier here and here. The official police report is here.

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.


  1. Mr. Wein, I’m just a fan who wanted to send out his thoughts, prayers, and positive vibes. I’m glad to hear you and your family are okay and sorry to hear about the loss of your dog.

  2. As someone who is both an animal lover and a comics fan let me just say that this sounds like an absolute nightmare that no one should have to go through. My heart goes out to the Wein family. And RIP Sheba.

  3. I am grateful that Len and his family are safe. I am sad about their dog. Thank you Len for all the wonderful comics you have written over the years.

  4. A big heart full of prayers to Mr. Wein and his family. Very, very sorry to hear about this and so sorry to hear about the loss of their beloved dog. Thanks for the update Heidi. Hoping soon they let people know what we can do to assist whether it be donations, helping to replace property — whatever.


  5. One of the wolverine line in the movie trailer is: “Become the animal”. Well, Marvel can “become the human” by making a gesture for one of the men responsible for them being still in business today.

  6. Unless California homeowners insurance is vastly different from Florida insurance, the Weins don’t have up to six months for temporary housing. In Florida we have a set dollar amount for “loss of use” which is a percentage of the insurable value of the house. That relatively small dollar amount not only has to pay for a temporary home, but for any personal expenses beyond their normal expenses (eating out, for instance, when it costs more than their normal grocery bill). So, one thing that could be done for the Weins would be proving them an inexpensive place to live while their home is being repaired.

    The other thing to consider is, if the damage to their home was severe enough, their insurance company might just pay the total limit of their policy to them and their mortgage company (if they have one) and be done with the situation. If that happens, they may have to find a new permanent home, and that’s something else our community can help them with.

    Helping them meet their basic needs is more important than replacing “stuff,” so when the time comes to donate money or anything else, let’s make it count.

  7. LAFDTalk (Los Angeles Fire Department) on Twitter posted the following:

    @ComicList Though we stopped the fire quickly & spared much damage, we’re sorry more couldn’t be done for Mr. Wein’s precious collection

    You’ve got to love the Internet.

  8. Y’know, Wolverine was actually created by some kid for a FOOM “create a marvel villain” contest. Somewhere between FOOM 3-8, I think. The Wolverine entry wasn’t the winner… it was pretty crude. It predated Hulk 181 tho.