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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part IV (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.

Seventeen years is a long time in real life. It’s an eternity in comic book publishing.

Chris Claremont remained on Uncanny X-Men for seventeen years non-stop from 1975 through to 1991. Even Stan Lee only wrote The Amazing Spider-Man for a decade. It’s a phenomenal accomplishment, particularly in an industry where that sort of creative stability is uncommon.

Did Claremont have any idea at the time that he would be working on the title for that long? “I never thought I would stay on for seventeen years,” he freely admits. “I just never ran out of ideas. It was too much fun. They were my friends, I didn’t want to dump them and run away.

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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.

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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part II (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.

It’s hard to talk about Chris Claremont’s X-Men run without discussing his collaboration with fellow comic book superstar John Byrne. When Uncanny X-Men shifted from a bi-monthly schedule to a monthly schedule, John Byrne took over from Dave Cockrum as artist on the title.

Claremont and Byrne are responsible for one of the most celebrated creative runs in mainstream comics. In hindsight, the two seemed well suited. Both were born in the same year, and Byrne had also been born in England. Byrne’s family migrated to Canada when he was only eight years old.

“The point is that John and I had the advantage of originating out of the same cultural stew pot,” Claremont explains. “When I would throw in conceptual reference to something I’d seen in Eagle…”

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Ed Brubaker’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Divided We Stand (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Divided We Stand actually feels like the start of something interesting for Ed Brubaker’s run on Uncanny X-Men. It’s a story arc that heralds a bold new direction for Marvel’s merry mutants in the wake of Messiah Complex, taking the team out of their comfort zone and suggesting that Uncanny X-Men will be moving a little outside its comfort zone and trying something different. It’s a story arc that sees the team reflecting on the past and considering the future.

So, naturally, it is Ed Brubaker’s last solo arc on Uncanny X-Men.

A bad trip?

A bad trip?

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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part I (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.

Chris Claremont’s studio looks a lot like you might expect.

Joining me online for a conversation about his work, the webcam allows me a glimpse of Claremont’s working area. As befits the man who wrote Uncanny X-Men (along with quite a few spin-offs and tie-ins) for seventeen years, the place is overflowing – with what look like notes and sketches, stories and ideas.

Some of these many papers are filed away neatly into boxes, some are sorted into giant stacks, some threaten to break free and consume their creator whole. Much like Claremont’s imagination and energy, these pieces of paper seem infinite – far too much to be contained in the space afforded.

It isn’t only Claremont’s study that evokes his creative process. He talks in a style familiar to anybody who has ever read any of his work. Answering the onslaught of questions, Claremont remains articulate and clever – often answering with wry wit and a knowing smile.

Subjects mentioned in passing become vitally important later on. Stories go in directions you don’t expect. What starts as a joke ends with an honest insight; what begins as profound statement ends with a clever punchline.

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X-Men: The End – Book One: Dreamers & Demons (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Marvel went through a phase of publishing books based around “The End” of various iconic properties. These comics allowed creators to imagine telling the last possible story for a given character or corner of the Marvel universe. Creators like Garth Ennis or Peter David got to write stand-alone one-shot stories for The Punisher and The Incredible Hulk, respectively. Paul Jenkins wrote a six-issue miniseries Wolverine: The End, while Jim Starlin closed off the entire Marvel Universe with Marvel Universe: The End.

However, given the sprawling and expansive continuity of the X-Men franchise, it stands to reason that any attempt to tell the final X-Men story would have to be a rather epic tale. Writer Chris Claremont wrote Uncanny X-Men for well over a decade, so even asking him to close off his own threads and plot points would take up considerable space. However, X-Men: The End is an absolutely sprawling comic book saga that is spread across three miniseries and eighteen issues.

Blackbird down...

Blackbird down…

In a way, it feels like a touching coda for Claremont’s version of The X-Men. The writer defined the X-Men franchise, introducing many of the plot and character elements that readers would come to take for granted when reading an X-Men story. The End isn’t Claremont’s last X-Men story by any stretch – the writer still works on the franchise quite frequently in a variety of different roles, enjoying short runs and long runs.

However, The End does seem to serve as an epic farewell tour of the world that Claremont helped to build and define. As such, it’s fitting that the miniseries is somewhat clunky and awkward and epic and sprawling and melodramatic and overblown and absurd and unexpected. It is a capstone to Claremont’s gigantic X-Men epic, a closing statement and thoughtful summation to decades of work.

"X" marks the spot...

“X” marks the spot…

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Ed Brubaker’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – The Extremists (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

One of the things that is most striking about Ed Brubaker’s work on Uncanny X-Men is just how disjointed the whole thing is. Announcing his arrival on the franchise with the Deadly Genesis miniseries, it seemed like Brubaker was really planning on shaking things up. Like Brian Michael Bendis had done for The Avengers with Avengers Disassembled, Brubaker’s Deadly Genesis had attacked some of the foundations of the X-Men franchise.

Brubaker’s first arc on Uncanny X-Men did follow up on some of the threads from Deadly Genesis, but not the obvious ones. The Rise and Fall of the Shiar Empire was a twelve-issue story featuring a bunch of X-Men launching themselves into space to recover Gabriel Summers and become embroiled in a galactic power struggle. It was very far from what fans had come to expect from the franchise, and worlds apart from the tone of Deadly Genesis or House of M. It felt strangely disconnected from a book that should have been driving the franchise.

The writing's on the wall...

The writing’s on the wall…

His second story arc on the title, The Extremists comes towards the start of Brubaker’s second year on Uncanny X-Men, and it still feels decidedly uncertain. A five-issue story arc about terrorism and religion, The Extremists is incredibly engaged with contemporary American politics. It feels like an entirely different story from The Rise and Fall of the Shiar Empire, as if Brubaker has suddenly decided to alter the direction of his run.

The Extremists is a story that feels like an orphaned part of an X-Men epic that never quite developed, a small segment of a whole that doesn’t actually exist. It’s easy to imagine The Extremists as part of an untold post-9/11 Uncanny X-Men saga that may have spun off from Deadly Genesis and brought the comic into the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, with Brubaker’s run being pulled in multiple directions around it, it can’t help but feel a little hollow.

Cooking up a storm...

Cooking up a storm…

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