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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part III (of V)

All this week, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re publishing a serialised interview that we conducted with the wonderful Chris Claremont back in February for publication in a British comic book magazine. Many thanks to Mr. Claremont for taking the time to talk to us, and also to Adam Walsh for allowing us to publish this.

The heart of Chris Claremont’s storytelling is character.

In talking about the iconic X-Men characters he helped to shape and define, he’ll often use their first names. Even minor characters like Thunderbird get referenced using their proper names.

“People are not picking up the book to see the action,” Claremont explains. “People are picking up the book to see the characters.” For Claremont, one of the keys to writing Uncanny X-Men for so long was remaining true to the characters.

wolverinesavethetiger7

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Chris Claremont’s Run on Wolverine (Vol. 2) (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Although his extended run on Uncanny X-Men is one of the most renowned runs in comic book history, it’s easy to forget just how massively Claremont developed the X-Men franchise beyond that core book. He did, after all, launch spin-off titles like New Mutants or X-Calibur. The writer also shepherded the development of Wolverine outside the Uncanny X-Men book, producing the original Wolverine miniseries with Frank Miller, Kitty Pryde & Wolverine with Al Milgrom and even Save the Tiger in Marvel Comics Presents. Claremont also drafted nine of the first ten issues of Wolverine’s first on-going solo title and, while not the writer’s finest work by a significant stretch, it is a pulpy and entertaining read – one more firmly grounded in pop culture conventions than grim violence and anti-heroic nihilism. The issues are a light, fun collection of stories featuring the character, nothing more and nothing less.

A cut above the rest?

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Wolverine: Save the Tiger (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

In 2009, Marvel published a Wolverine Omnibus. I’m honestly surprised that it took the company that long to pull together a large volume of work featuring the character and dump it on the market. However, browsing the gigantic hardcover, I’m amazed at just how much Wolverine-related material Marvel published before the character got his own on-going series. There was the Claremont/Miller miniseries, Kitty Pryde & Wolverine, and seemingly numerous cameos and guest appearances in books outside the X-Men line. However, Save the Tiger, a ten-part story that opened the anthology series Marvel Comics Presents, occupies a crucial place in Wolverine lore. Written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by John Buscema, it reads as something of a dress rehearsal for the character’s seemingly inevitable on-going series.

No claws for concern…

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X-Men: Fatal Attractions (Review/Retrospective)

I’ll freely concede that I feel a bit conflicted when it comes to the X-Men comic books in the nineties. On the one hand, they were prone to nineties excesses, seemingly constantly in the midst of a sales-boasting crossover event, increasingly toyetic with steretypical portrayals and male and female anatomy. Also, to be entirely honest, they were never as exciting or creative as they had been when Claremont was directing the line – even his more esoteric efforts developed key themes and harboured a hint more ambition and sophistication than most of what followed.

However, I don’t want to give the impression I’m not fond of the X-Men in the nineties. That era, through the toys and the cartoon show, introduced me to the team. And, to be entirely fair, the books were very far ahead of the worst of what Marvel was publishing (as I’m currently reading The Crossing, I can vouch for that). I also have a certain amount of sympathy for a bunch of writers trying to find a direction for an entire line of books after a monumental and defining run by Chris Claremont. In many ways, Fatal Attractions reads like an attempt to draw a line in the sand under Claremont’s contributions to the franchise, and to boldly push forward with a modern take on the merry mutants.

It’s his magnetism, Charles…

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X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga – 30th Anniversary Edition (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Chris Claremont enjoyed the company of some of the most respected and renowned artists in comics while working on Uncanny X-Men. He had the pleasure of helping to establish talent like John Romita Jr., Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee, all modern giants working in the field. However, it’s hard to argue that Claremont ever worked in tighter synergy than he did with John Byrne. Byrne succeeded artist Dave Cockrum on the book, and helped Claremont helm several iconic and defining X-Men stories, delivering pay-off on years of set-up and radically reshaping notions of what a superhero comic could and could not do. Though the pair produced several genuine classics, The Dark Phoenix Saga stands as the artistic triumph of their run. One could make a compelling case that it’s Claremont’s finest X-Men story, or the finest X-Men story, or – if one weren’t feeling especially modest – perhaps the finest mainstream superhero story ever told.

Bird of prey…

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Chris Claremont & Frank Miller’s Wolverine (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

It’s almost hard to believe that Wolverine only earned his first solo miniseries in 1982. The character had first appeared as a foe in The Incredible Hulk in 1974, and was coopted in the X-Men with Len Wein’s Giant-Sized X-Men #1 a year later. During Chris Claremont’s celebrated Uncanny X-Men run, Wolverine emerged a hugely popular character. In fact, I think you could make the argument that Wolverine and Storm were the central protagonists of Claremont’s epic X-Men run. Still, given how ubiquitous the character has become in recent years, it’s impressive that it took so long for him to get a solo adventure. The four-part Wolverine miniseries, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Frank Miller, is generally regarded as one of the best miniseries that Marvel ever produced, and I think that it provided a lot of the momentum and characterisation that would sustain the character over three more decades of solo appearances.

Get some…

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X-Men by Jim Lee and Chris Claremont (and Whilce Portacio) Omnibus, Vol. 2 (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Gotta say this for the man — he knows how to make an exit.

– Archangel, X-Men #3 (Claremont’s last issue)

And so, this is the end. The end of Claremont’s quite simply epic run on the X-Men books. It’s amazing to look back on the writer’s output today, and simply try to consider the size of his contribution to the franchise. While he departed the books as they were at the height of their appeal (X-Men #1 famously being the best-selling comic book of all time), it’s hard to argue that X-Men ever would have reached that height without Claremont’s vision and style. While the writer undoubtedly had his weaknesses, I think his contributions to the medium are rather undervalued. While writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller reinvented comic books, I think that Claremont was an expert at incorporating those radical changes into his work, and a writer who managed to secure the support of his fans by giving the X-Men a sense of pop culture resonance that a lot of subsequent writers tried and failed to capture.

Through X-tremes…

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