Chris Claremont says Hollywood's guilty for X-Men's decline
HS: When you returned to the X-Men were you reluctant to use that character then because you felt you had said everything you wanted to with him?The thing is, Magneto reverted to criminal activity prior to his departure - circa the time he'd launched the sans-adjective series in 1991 - so he may have to shoulder some blame himself for that. Speaking of which, that very spinoff series comes up when the movie-related issues do:
CC: The Magneto I was given at that point wasn’t my character. None of them were my characters at that point. My vision of the X-Men effectively ended with #279.
HS: When you started on X-Men the series was close to cancellation, and over the 16 years you wrote the book it became Marvel’s leading franchise. Your X-Men #1 from 1991 remains, I think, the highest selling American comic ever. But in the last few years the X-Men have faded a little and they are no longer the industry’s top sellers, what advice would you give Marvel to get them back on top?I once found telling clues that something touted as a big seller had tons and tons of copies left gathering dust in most of the stores. Either way, that doesn't add up to a well written story (I've read the first few issues of that series in a now out-of-print paperback, and it honestly wasn't such a great tale; just mediocre), and their failure to acknowledge that only makes their reference laughable. In fact, even before that, they weren't selling very huge. At the same time, the X-Men was far from on the brink of cancellation when Claremont took over the writing from Len Wein in 1976 after just a few stories.
CC: That has nothing to do with comic sales, that has everything to do with the fact that the film rights are controlled by a rival corporation.
I guarantee you that if 10 years ago, when Marvel was approached by Disney, if the X-Men film rights were owned by Marvel Studios and not Fox the X-Men would probably still be the paramount book in the canon. The reason for the emphasis on the other titles is because Marvel / Disney control the ancillary film rights whereas all the film rights for the FF- the Fantastic Four – and the X-Men are controlled by Fox who has no interest in the comic books.
So I think the corporate publishing attitude is: “why would we go out of our way to promote a title that will benefit a rival corporation’s films when we could take that same energy and enthusiasm and focus and do it for our own properties?”
Hence the rise of the Inhumans as the new equivalent of the mutants. I could wish for something else but it ain’t my 5 billion dollars.
Claremont may know plenty about what goes on behind the scenes, but Marvel's movie studio doesn't have much interest in the comic books either; just making film adaptations. Maybe the irony is that whatever interest they do have in the comics is just so their stable of hack writers can devise stories that'll serve for building a movie screenplay from, which only confirms the comics don't stand on their own even that much. After all, there's also the company wide crossovers that are ruining everything, right down to sales. But even more importantly, what's ruining superhero comics today is bad writers and editors who saddle whomever they hire with terrible mandates and other running orders on how to script the stories, which can include awful ideas.
HS: So you think that eventually those characters will come back up? That those characters are so compelling that eventually, if the rights issues are resolved, they will go back to being the top-sellers? Is it just a matter of promotion?Alonso is part and parcel of the problem. He's the reason why so many Marvel books boast some of the worst writing since the mid-90s. If visions like his and Joe Quesada's continue to prevail, there's no way the X-Men or any other Marvel casts can rise again.
CC: It’s not a matter of promotion, it’s purely a matter of ownership. If at some point Fox decides that the X-Men properties are no longer lucrative I’m sure that they will cut a deal with Disney. But I also expect that the deal they would want to cut would be extra-ordinarily expensive and Disney or Marvel might just as easily say “screw it” we love the X-Men but we are not going to hurt ourselves to get it because we have our other properties that we own that are doing far better. If you want to give it back or take a reasonable deal that’s one thing, if you’re just going to go crazy screw you.
Those are questions better posed to [Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Axel [Alonso] and the Marvel group than me, my opinion at this point is effectively as valid as any fan in this building.
Yes, the X-Men have been marginalized because the owners today don't want to benefit Fox studios' productions. But it's laughable because the comics aren't being benefited by the movies, so what's the point of lowering their profile when it hasn't made waves for a long time? The movies have proven capable of selling on their own, if written well.
Interestingly, he also told them:
HS: Are you still working for Marvel? Are you still employed by them?What kind of employment does he get, I wonder, if he's not writing any books for them anymore? I don't feel great about reminding this, but most of what he wrote after the mid-90s was disappointing, and it's obvious that if he did write series for them today, they wouldn't gobble up the sales charts, and nobody would care about the scripts, mainly because of how Quesada alienated many people within the course of a decade and continuing. All the same, if he really cares about superhero comics, he shouldn't maintain employment with Marvel at all costs, and should unambiguously criticize all thinks went wrong since he left. He may even have to admit he's partly to blame for the bad characterization given to creations like Gambit and Bishop, and criticize how Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza did a poor job that made things worse. How are good creations gone bad supposed to find their way back to good if nobody's got the courage to stress what went wrong along the way?
HS: Do you have any projects coming out?
CC: No. That’s – again, that’s a question for Axel. I am at their convenience.
HS: Are there Marvel characters that you would like to do something with?
CC: I have written every character they have got, one way or another. So I mean I’ve done pretty much all I was interested in doing. It’s a mutually agreeable relationship I suspect.