Wandering Wolfman: A Celebration of Marv Wolfman
Comics writer and editor Marv Wolfman's name will forever be associated with one pivotal work: 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths. And that makes sense. It's the series that changed the face of the DC Universe for a quarter century, and remains the template for how that company carries out big events to this day.
But there's a lot more to Wolfman's career. Not only did Wolfman, born on this day in 1946, launch New Teen Titans; write a defining run on Tomb of Dracula; co-create characters including Bullseye, Tim Drake and Nova; and guide numerous comics-related projects in other media, Wolfman also played a major role in several creators' rights battles over the past 40 years.
Like many of his contemporaries, Wolfman entered the world of comics by being a vocal fan. He published his own horror fanzine, Stories of Suspense, which had the distinction of publishing one of Stephen King's earliest stories in 1965.
By 1968, Wolfman had moved up to writing for DC Comics, often working with longtime friend Len Wein. His work there included stories about the Teen Titans and Blackhawk, as well as stories for anthology series including Showcase and Weird Mystery Tales. In this period, Wolfman and Wein co-created characters including Destiny and Jonny Double, and Wolfman devised an origin for Donna Troy/Wonder Girl once editors realized that previous versions of Wonder Girl were a young Wonder Woman, not a separate character.
While working on DC's mystery magazines, Wolfman somewhat inadvertently became a pioneer in comics creator credits due to his Comics-Code-breaking last name. A Gerry Conway-written introduction to one of his stories referred to the writer as a "wandering Wolfman," and the Comics Code Authority, which banned mentions of horror creatures including wolfmen, objected. DC had to explain that Wolfman was the writer's name, and the authority demanded a credit as proof. Wolfman was credited, and other writers soon demanded they be credited as well.
After a short sting at Warren, Wolfman moved over to Marvel in 1972 to work as an editor, first overseeing the publisher's black-and-white magazine line. When editor-in-chief Roy Thomas stepped down, Wolfman took over the job for about a year, eventually handing over the reins to Gerry Conway. By 1976, Wolfman was serving as one of Marvel's most prolific writers, turning in a 63-issue run on Tomb of Dracula, where he co-created the character Blade. He also put in runs on Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Woman, where he gave the character the secret identity of Jessica Drew.
Wolfman chose not to renew his contract with Marvel in 1979, when, according to an interview in Titans Companion, "somebody I never should have hired... rose up through the ranks and became Editor-in Chief." Wolfman disputed the unnamed party's decision for writer/editors to continue editing their own work, so he made the jump back to DC, where he started a historic 130-issue run on New Teen Titans and New Titans, one of DC's biggest critical and commercial hits of the 1980s. Wolfman would write the 12-issue Crisis on Infinite Earths and script Adventures of Superman before a 1987 public dispute over a proposed ratings system ended his tenure as an editor there.
Even with that dispute, Wolfman continued writing Titans and helmed a run on Detective Comics and Batman that led to the creation of Tim Drake as Robin. The 1990s and 2000s brought other avenues, however. Wolfman worked as editor of the comics section of Disney Adventures magazine and wrote several Disney comics, including DuckTales. He returned to animation (after a short stint doing so in the 1980s), developing Transformers: Beast Machines for Fox Kids. He also wrote a number of novelizations of comic books and movies, including a Crisis on Infinite Earths adaptation/side story, Superman Returns and, most recently the Batman: Arkham Knight video game. He also consulted on the writing of Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.
Wolfman also continued to fight for his rights as a creator. In 1997, before the release of the Blade movie, Wolfman sued Marvel Characters Inc. for the rights to all the characters he had created for the company. He lost, but it was an early example of many creators' legal battles for character rights in the years to come.
In the later years of his career, Wolfman has consulted with writer Geoff Johns on the Titans series, turned in a Nightwing run, and worked on Teen Titans projects including a Raven solo series. He also wrote a seven-issue Night Force series focusing on the team that he co-created way back in 1982.
Though he's probably best known as the writer of Crisis on Infinite Earths and one of the men who made the Teen Titans cool in the 1980s, Wolfman's contributions to the comics industry --- as a writer, editor, and advocate for creator autonomy and credit --- run deep.
Happy birthday, Marv.