According to a report in the Contra Costa Times, the fire that devastated Len Wein and Christine Valada’s home yesterday was caused by “combustible items left next to an electric wall heater.”
Writer Harlan Ellison shared more details on his website, saying “… 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.”
Writer Harlan Ellison posted on his website that more than half of Justice League writer Len Wein’s home burned down today:
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.”
Our best wishes go out to Wein and his family. We’ll share any details on how folks can help if/when they become available.
Len Wein is becoming something of a go-to writer for DC Comics’ superhero flashbacks. After retelling the origin of Libra (a character he created for May/June 1974’s Justice League of America vol. 1 #111) in the recent Final Crisis Secret Files, last week’s comics featured two similarly-styled issues written by the comics veteran. Justice League of America vol. 2 #29, drawn by ChrisCross, was a condensed version of three 1972 issues which introduced Starbreaker, the cosmic vampire*; and it prefaces next month’s new Starbreaker story. Meanwhile, Superman/Batman Annual #3, penciled by Chris Batista and inked by Mick Gray and Jack Jadson, continued the S/B Annuals’ pattern of backwards-looking tales by revising the origin of the Composite Superman.