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Interview: A conversation with comics legend Chris Claremont

The Longbox Theory

It’s often said that kids simply don’t read as much, that readership is going down and comics are doing poorly because there are too many other things pulling their attention…
That’s bullshit!

I agree, because one can clearly point to the phenomena of the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson books…
Exactly! The answer to that equation is, give them something to read! Give them something to care about! Give them a reason to come back! Give them something that has relevance to their lives, that are people that they like…[deep sigh] If you’re gonna do stories where you’re attracting young readers into it, then why are the characters all in their fucking thirties?!

Following on from that: What do you think of yet another Marvel reboot? What’s your opinion of the SJW pushback the publisher faced when they tried to diversify the cast of characters—after all, you’re a writer known for pushing a very diverse cast of characters out there?

Well, to be honest, I think putting Iron Man‘s armor on a different person is practical, but Steve Rogers is Captain America. End of story. He’s been Captain America for a hundred years, in practical terms. If you want to create a new character, that appeals to a new generation of new kids—then do it! My whole argument when I was doing X-Men, over the course of those 17 years, you pick up issue 100, you’ll have one group of heroes—you pick up issue 200, you’ll have another group.

Scott Summers married Madelyne Pryor. Baby Nathan (Cable) would follow...and land in the upcoming Deadpool film

Scott Summers married Madelyne Pryor. Baby Nathan (Cable) would follow…and land in the upcoming Deadpool film

From my point of view, as a creator, the reason we did the Scott/Madelyne story [note: Scott Summers aka Cyclops married Madelyne Pryor in issue #175 of The Uncanny X-Men], was to bury Jean [Grey] once and for all and have him move on in life.

And to demonstrate to the audience, that there is a) life after X-men, but b) you can have a happy ending and Reed and Sue [Richards, of the Fantastic Four] aren’t the only grown up couple in the Marvel Universe. Scott and Madelyne were gonna go off with their son, live happily ever after, and be available to come back for special events—they would be the X-Universe paradigm of real life.

And my counter argument when X-Factor came up was, “Don’t bring back Jean. If you bring back Jean, you destroy Scott as a character.” Which is what happened. Wouldn’t it be much more effective, to bring back Scott, with his wife and his son, into the life—and Madelyne doesn’t want him there, Scott feels obliged because of Xavier’s teaching to be there…Wow! Conflict! Wouldn’t that be great? So you bring Jean’s sister, to be “the Grey” in the group, and you make her power be the ability to catalyze mutants temporarily so that X-Factor could see what they were up against and deal with it and that would give you your TV show description for what’s happening every week—but more importantly, she’s unattached! So wham-o! There you go! Bobby, Hank and Warren [Drake, McCoy and Worthington, aka Iceman, Beast and Angel of the X-Men] now have something to do! You find a way to do things organically. Do things that are relevant!

I think actually the new Ms.Marvel was a kick ass attempt to go in that direction. A girl who is Muslim, in the modern superhero age. I tried it back in ’02, when I was revamping Gen-13 for Wildstorm—that was all derived from post 9/11. One of the characters was black, but her parents worked for the Bush White House, they’re conservatives. So, playing against tropes. But the most important thing was that we had a young, Islamic, middle class, Brooklyn kid dealing with the fact that 2003 was not a great time to be a Muslim in America!

My issue, and it might seem picayune, with what Jason Aaron was doing with Thor was that Jane Foster took the name. We can debate her taking the hammer—does he lose all his powers because he doesn’t have the hammer or not, how exactly is she actually worthy—but Thor’s his name, not a role. Don’t call her Thor, let her be something else.
Right! But what really pissed me off is that she was dying! What kinda dumbass thing is that?! Sorry! [Laughs] I’m sorry, this is Asgard for god’s sake! Between Asgard, and Wakanda, and the Skrulls and Reed and everybody else—you can’t find a way? C’mon, gimme a break! No, but look, she could team up with Ororo [Storm of X-Men fame] and they could be the Lady Thor Squad! [Laughs]

Claremont teamed with Frank Miller to tell a landmark solo Wolverine story...with lots of ninjas

Claremont teamed with Frank Miller to tell a landmark solo Wolverine story…with lots of ninjas

I have no problem with giving Jane Foster the powers of an Asgardian—I did it with Dani Moonstar in New Mutants—the question is, “What happens next?” Does her becoming the Goddess of Thunder mean she functions primarily on earth? Does she commute like Thor between earth and Asgard? Where does she fit into the pantheon up there? That comes under the same rubric of a story I pitched back in the day where I wanted to kill off Wolverine, and have him come back as the master assassin of The Hand. But it would have meant having him off the board for a year setting it up. And that totally screwed up Larry [Hama] and Marc Silvestri‘s Wolverine series—so I got told I couldn’t do it. And then three years after I got fired, they did it anyway. There are always ways to do a really cool story—the trick is that it’s gotta actually be a really cool story.

If you’ve got an idea, if you’ve got a really cool character, and something that you’re committed to, then get the right team, put them out there, give them a decent shot and see what happens. You never know. I mean, Stan’s creation of Spider-man was a hiccup! [Laughs] The FF was like, “We gotta do something.” And he and Jack [Kirby] were the right people at the right place at the right time. That’s how this works.

Who knows if Len [Wein, original writer and creator of the new X-Men] hadn’t quit, if he and Dave [Cockrum, original penciler on the new X-Men] had carried on with his vision of the X-Men, who knows what would have happened? Imagine all the characters I created for the X-Men if I’d never created them—where would Marvel be today? [Laughs]

Where would Fox be? [Laughs]
You know, that’s a whole other…would there have even been a Fox deal? But that’s also like me wondering, if only Stan had not started pitching Spider-man when he and I were sitting down with Jim Cameron, and Jim Cameron was pitching us Kathryn Bigelow to direct the X-Men—just imagine in 1989, a Kathryn Bigelow X-Men, with my casting, so with Angela Bassett as Storm!

On the other hand, she [Bigelow] did Hurt Locker instead, so who’s gonna complain? And quite frankly the X movies that came out anyway are equally worthy of respect in their own right…I mean, Days of Future Past was everything I could have hoped for—except maybe another hour [Laughs]

Look for Part Two of our interview with Chris Claremont tomorrow, Friday March 16th.

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  1. Nick Feratu

    March 15, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    I love how blunt Claremont is in his assessments. The man is a huge talent and I hope he’s able to live comfortably (ie: financially stable, etc) considering the great works he’s done in his career. X-Men is still my favorite after all these years thanks to his contributions.

  2. Blue Eyed Guy

    March 15, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    The 80s and early 90s were such a great and exciting time for the X-Men. It was a fun time to be reading. That’s what’s missing today: Fun. Claremont gets it. I applaud him for staying on that title for as long as he did and keeping every issue in continuity (another thing sorely missing in comics today).

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