Len Wenn

Len Wenn (1918 – 2003) wrote various stories for Jinty, as confirmed by Keith Robson in this comment. At present the list of his confirmed story titles is very minimal; if further information comes in we’d love to add to it in the future.

Len Wenn, from around 1973
Len Wenn, from around 1973

(with thanks to Keith Robson for the photo)

Len was the editor who launched the IPC girls’ comic Sally, which ran from 1969 to 1971; he subsequently edited the IPC boy’s humour comic Buster from 1971 to 1981. There are some references to Len, and to Keith Robson, in Dez Skinn’s article about his IPC Fleetway days here. Terry Magee also refers to Len Wenn and Mavis Miller holding script conferences in IPC during his time there (see subsequent additions to the Terry Magee interview): “Len and Mavis collaborated on scripts for June & School Friend and Sally. … Horace Boyten also used to join their script conferences before he retired in 1966.  Horace was a very nice chap, quiet and modest, the writer behind “The Silent Three”.  Len and Horace were very Amalgamated Press…easy-going kind of fellows.  Probably too gentle for the challenging changes ahead.”

In fact the two stories we have confirmation that he wrote are not only solid, memorable Jinty stories, they have a lot of bite to them. “Go On, Hate Me!” is a powerful grudge/revenge story that wraps up well; the shorter, to-the-point “The Birds” has strong horror elements that make it genuinely scary at points. If he was too gentle for the changes in the working environment as Terry suggests, he certainly could write to the spec of the newer breed of comic that was represented by Jinty, Tammy, Misty, and the like.

The idea of multiple collaborators within the editorial office working on script conferences is intriguing. Alison Christie has confirmed in her interview that she had very little editorial direction, which I assume would be because she had already proved herself as a trusted steady hand, capable of delivering solid stories to schedule. Were the in-house script conferences to determine the suggestions that might be made to other less trusted writers, or to propose girls-story takes on big hits from books and tv, or just to write their own content? There were so many pages to fill alongside the comics stories, from ‘hints & tips’ features or non-fiction articles, plus text stories, that this must have kept the editorial team pretty busy in any case. The collaborative aspect of story writing in those conferences was a gift that must have been limited to only specific cases, given that most freelance creators never met each other.

It seems that Len worked for IPC primarily rather than moving from DC Thomsons as so many others did. Alison Christie recalled in an email relating to life in the IPC offices:
“I was always wondering when any of [the titles] would be merged or axed. I appreciated working for IPC, they paid so much more than DC Thomson’s did. I had to join the NUJ, though – which Thomsons, being non-union, abhorred. I could do that, of course, as I was freelance. But some employees of DCs were in the NUJ, and held clandestine meetings in Dundee, which I attended. I didn’t realise until I’d read Keith’s interview that while working in IPC, he was able to freelance for other papers, including DCT’s. No way could I have done that while working in DCTs, or Keith either. There was the sword of Damocles hanging over you if you were found out and possible sacking would ensue.” So IPC paid better and was unionised, but then of course it also suffered from strike action, and from the pernicious policy of hatch-match-dispatch, at which point the creators, and presumably the editorial staff, could suddenly find themselves in the suds. Ending up as editor of long-running title Buster, Len will have been reasonably safe from these dangers, though one assumes the feelings in the office could run pretty high at those times.

11 thoughts on “Len Wenn

  1. Hi, everyone. Just to put things right, Sally was a Fleetway girls’ paper(Len and his like would never call it a comic pre-IPC). That’s a nice photo of Len, as I remember him – always with his pipe in mouth and he chuckled a lot, never swore or lost his temper. Only the once I saw him cross when an artist misinterpreted instructions
    for a serial episode for Sally just before its launch and he said, “The man’s a bloody fool!”
    Len had worked on Fleetway boys’ comics in the 1950’s – either The Sun or The
    Comet, knew artists like Geoff Campion and colleagues like the famous/infamous
    Sid Bicknell(Uncle Sid to some). Len was a very fair chap and encouraged me to write.
    He was a soldier in the North African desert in the Second World War, telling me some of his experiences such as having to dig trenches in the sand – with the danger of
    being buried alive, which he actually saw happen. He told me other things about
    the Fleetway crowd that I can’t repeat.
    I lost track with Len after I went freelance, but I’m real glad he survived on Buster
    and continued writing for Mavis on Jinty. They were a good team.
    As for their script conferences, they happened around every six weeks or so with just
    two writers on separate occasions – Frank Redpath(Lucky’s Livin Doll)and Jack
    Johnson(very talented writer and great bloke). I only ever was at one script conference, but didn’t contribute much as Mavis and Len were too good to keep up with!
    Fleetway was a friendly company, the opposite to the dreadful DC Thomson. I never
    worked there, but heard tales from those who did like John Wagner. DC Thomson
    was owned aand run by two old brothers who were right control freaks – no staff
    allowed to use the phones unless with permission. The two brothers didn’t talk to each other for years, communicating notes slipped under doors and so on. They lived
    in a mansion outside Dundee, one in the east wing and the other in the west wing.
    A weird story itself! Shiver me timbers!, as Captain Hurricane would say!

    1. Thanks for this, Terry! Can you tell any more details about the script conferences themselves – if writers weren’t normally present, then what was the aim of them – did Mavis and Len use them to write their own stories, or to decide general ideas that they would send on to freelance writers, or what?

      Len sounds like a nice person to have worked with.

      1. Sally was the first comic to
        merge with Tammy. It was an odd merge, an older comic merging with a new one in its first year. It is surmised that this is because Sally readership took a serious nosedive after a strike while the fledgling Tammy was doing well.

      2. My pleasure, shipmate(still talking as Captain Hurricane whose letter I used to write in Battle comic for some years)!
        I was only the one time in a script conference and that was In Mavis Miller’s office
        along with Len Wenn and the author Jack Johnson(might have been John Johnson). They discussed ideas and plots for Jack’s stories for June & School Friend. I think he wrote three of them every week. They were plans for something like next 6 weeks’ episodes. It was the same for Frank Redpath and Lucky’s Living Doll(the most popular number one in June & School Friend).
        I used to hear them talking quite loudly and excitedly with lots of laughs through the wall of the office next-door. I was sub-editor sharing the office with Art
        Editor Colin Parker(we could see the Scales of Justice statue of the Old Bailey
        from our window). In the next office along was other sub-editor Jackie Davis,
        who was engaged to Colin(they eventually married)and art assistant Roger
        Prickett. Colin went on to become Art Editor on the Daily Express. His elder brother, Jack Parker, was Editor of Look & Learn. Very talented people.
        Fleetway(basically still the former Amalgamated Press,) was packed with
        gifted journalists, authors, artists, both staff and freelance. It was positive-thinking and forward-looking, which is why John Purdy was able to bring in new people like Gerry Finley-Day and Pat Mills with new ideas. Although it was done surreptitiously and that didn’t go down well at Fleetway. I was there and I
        saw it happen!

  2. To continue: Other authors for June & School Friend were freelance and hardly ever came in to the editorial offices and sometimes never, as was the same for artists.
    Although Scott Goodall, freelance author, was often there, thumping away on a Bluebird typewriter at any spare desk going. They were referred to as authors in the Fleetway days, not writers, and the word ‘comic’ wasn’t used. They were girls’ papers or juvenile publications, sounding more adult and serious.. Knockout and Buster were comics, due to their humorous strips. Freelances were also paid in guineas, not
    plain pounds, We were paid salaries, not wages, with accounts in Coutts Bank of the Strand, the Queen’s bank and very posh..Fleetway could be snooty copared to D C Thomson, who seemed more down-to-earth although weird as I eventually discovered. Fleetway/IPC artists were better, more arty and often really fantastic.
    Features on June & School Friend were written by Robin May, who also wrote a lot
    for Look & Learn.
    There were no restrictions on freelancing for publications. I wrote Tarzan and The
    Saint for TV Tornado while subbing on June & School Friend. Fleetway and IPC were
    always trendy, being in the centre of London where it was all happening(or supposed to be happening!) There were lots of women’s magazines in the building like
    Woman, Woman’s Own, Options, Woman’s Weekly and others I can’t remember, plus cool mags like Rave and Fab 208, so we’d often see famous pop stars like Marianne Faithful, The Beatles, Adam Faith and so on. It was glamorous!

  3. EXTRA: Mavis Miller didn’t write any stories or features, she concentrated on the editing. Len Wenn didn;t write anything for June & School Friend. Maybe he did for his new paper Sally. Just remembered: staff member Cecil Graveney used to write Bessie Bunter and Sindy(toy doll). Cecil was old Amalgamated Press, in his late 50s or early 60s then. Mavis in her 30s and Len in his 40s(I think – I’m terrible at telling ages).
    One artist who occasionally drew illustrations for features was in his 80s. A jolly chap with a big smile who reminded me of Father Christmas. I regret not remembering his name. When you think about it, he must have been drawing for Amalgamated Press
    in the 1920s and have known people who were at the very start of ‘comics’ in the
    1890s. His artistic style was still very 1920s. A real link with the past and great to meet him.
    Of course, there were dark sides to Fleetway/IPC. Not sure if I want to go into that!

    1. Wow, Terry, thanks for all this! What a great peek backstage. I can totally see that if you were writing a number of stories every week, and you were in-house and able to get input from others, it would really be useful for you. Thanks also for all the rest, like clarifying that Mavis didn’t write any of the stories or features.

      I might copy these comments and make them into a separate post so that they are more visible to readers and findable in the future, if that’s ok?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s