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Saturday, March 23, 2013 

Chris Claremont unimpressed with current direction of X-Men

CBR interviewed Chris Claremont, who's spend the last two years writing prose novels, and he explained why he's disappointed with how the series he originally spent at least 15 years writing isn't doing anything for him today:
Have you felt a responsibility, throughout the years and specifically when you were on X-Men, to create and empower characters that inspired teenagers who maybe thought they, too, were outcasts?

I wouldn't know if it was inspired. It wasn't a social responsibility sort of aspect. It was, "Who are these guys? Why are these guys? And what kind of people would fit in this reality?"

The other thing to bear in mind is that the overall perception of the canon was fundamentally different, and I mean fundamentally, in when I was writing the book to what it evolved into over the next twenty years. The X-Men, yes, they were mutants, they were feared and outcast by the world they were sworn to protect, but they were also a minority. The whole point was -- in the global population -- there were not more than, perhaps, a couple of hundred people with these powers. There might potentially be thousands, but we're talking about kids growing up. None of these powers or abilities are going to manifest until you hit adolescence, which means you had at least a thirteen year grace period before anything.

You know, if you had a character who was born with "X-Men" #1, in continuity, fifteen years would have to pass before they hit Kitty's threshold and became accessible to the team.

For me, the whole idea was that the number was small enough that they could be expunged if the world got determined about it. You know, that it was something that the Avengers, if they wanted, could deal with. That was what gave Magneto so much of his passion and focus. In terms of defending his people, they really were dancing along the edge of extinction and they really did need someone like him. The difference, and the reason that the school was so intent on remaining clandestine, was that if they were exposed, they could be destroyed.

Obviously, in Grant Morrison's ["New X-Men"] arc, that all changed. Suddenly mutants were a vast quantity in the human environment, even after "House of M" and Wanda saying, "No more mutants." The company has found itself -- [out] of necessity -- forced to find a way to repeal that edict.

Now, unfortunately for me as a reader, you have a situation where the X-Men are totally public, where they're now merging with all the other teams. The series, the concept, has lost its uniqueness. That which made it fundamentally different from the Fantastic Four, from the Avengers, from even the Defenders -- it's now just another group of committed superheroes. Some of them work with the Avengers, some of them work with the Fantastic Four, some of the Fantastic Four work with them. It's all one big, homogeneous agglomeration, which, for me as a reader, is not that interesting, sadly.
That's a good arguement. In the past decade, it's reached a point where the X-franchise has lost significance, both by being taken in poor, tasteless directions by Morrison, and by shoehorning them artificially into other teams to the point where they're rendered meaningless, even from a sci-fi perspective. When Beast was a member of the Avengers and Defenders, that was handled much more plausibly, and if he and other X-Men are to work as members of another team, it should be very sparingly and self-contained. That's what would make it work better. The way it's happening now, combined with the crossovers, is contrived and very obviously intended for sales gimmicks, like when Bendis put Wolverine into the Avengers when he was writing it.
Do you think that's something motivated by, I guess, marketing concerns and brand management? Is it something that's done to sell more of these event books, like AvX and so on?

That's an Axel [Alonso] question for, you know. He's Editor-in-Chief. You'll have to ask him. That's management; I'm not management.
It is what the interviewer asks. It's been pretty obvious for years.

Claremont also has something interesting to say about what's become of Cyclops:
With regard to the X-Men, the comics, if you never write another X-Men story, are you at peace with that, or is there something that you really want to say? Is there one more story that you really want to get out, or more than one more story?

Oh, there's always one more story; I mean that's the joy of being a writer.

When I'm asked what my favorite story is, my answer is always: "'[Uncanny] X-Men' #94 to 279, page 11, inclusive." Because to me, it's one story and we took a shot at sort of closing that circle when Marvel published "X-Men Forever." Mark Paniccia and I basically sat down and went nuts telling the stories, resolving the book as I was playing around with back in the day. It sort of went kind of crazy right off the bat, simply by killing off Logan.

There are always more stories to tell, there are always more things to play with regarding the characters. But the reality is, the X-Men that are being presented now have evolved significantly from the ones that I walked away from in 1991. I mean, the presentation of them is, some of them are older; they've been through whole stages of life that are different. Quite a few have died, quite a few have been maimed, the casualty list seems rather heartless to my way of thinking.

But comic book deaths don't matter anymore. They just come back, right?

Well, that's not the reality Dave, John, Paul, Walter and I were playing with back in the day. The whole point of killing Jean was not that it was, "Holy cow, we've killed Jean Grey!" It was, "Holy cow, we've killed Jean Grey -- and this is reality. The dead don't come back to life!"

That's why Rachel came into the world, because we needed a red head, we needed a telepath, we needed a link with Jean, but she wasn't ever coming back. That was why, when John and Roger Stern and company proposed the resurrection in "X-Factor," I countered to it. The pitch I made to Jim Shooter was that we utilize her older sister, Sarah. For me, as a writer, that was a far more intriguing reality, because we'd introduce a Grey back into the team, but we would introduce a Grey who was a mutant, who hated the idea of being a mutant, who hated the idea of being an X-Man, yet accepted the responsibility. More importantly, she was uninvolved with any of the four guys.

There was no, "I am the center of Scott's life," which made her totally accessible emotionally to Bobby and Warren and Hank, and it allowed Scott to continue, unvarnished, with his relationship with Madeline. I mean, on one level, I was looking at it and thinking, "If you bring back Jean and Scott dumps his wife and his newborn baby, to go back and embrace his old girlfriend... ew, icky, disaster for the boy." And so I made the pitch and Jim actually thought it was a good pitch. He thought it was a great character, he was happy for me to use the character anywhere else if I wanted to, but he had fully embraced, for commercial reasons, the resurrection story that the other guys had pitched and that was that.

And as anyone who's read comic books the last twenty years has noticed, that has become an unfortunate defining element of the whole X-canon. It's like Scott has been damaged goods ever since, and for all I know that could be the rationale for why he's now, as I understand it, a villain.

Therein you see, with that last line, how far the series has evolved from the way I was looking at it, the way I was presenting it. You know, the old rule is, you can't really go back to the way things were, because everything evolves, like it or not. And quite frankly, it's more fun to do projects and work, over which I can fully invest my emotions and my talent without having to worry about being blindsided -- for better or worse -- by powers above my pay grade.
I think there's a pretty good argument in there, most noticably with the idea that Scott would dump Madeline right along with his son. Even if Jean were brought back, that doesn't mean they had to automatically reunite the two at the expense of a new family, and, one could easily argue that Jean was robbed of the chance to get a more personal direction; why should she just be known as the girlfriend of Scott? And why should all these steps just be done for the purpose of selling toy merchandise (I assume that's what's he's hinting at)? I can see what he's getting at with that.

If, as he suggests, the editors are using the past directions he either conceived or the editorial decisions he had to go by as a justification for turning Cyclops into a kind of villain, that is very sad. Whatever steps happened in the past, that's no justification for just turning a hero into a villain. But that's unfortunately the new fad in the mainstream.

As interesting as his arguments are, I don't know if it makes him qualified to write the X-franchise again, since even before he left the series by 1992, he was sadly beginning to slip with some elements, and when he came back in 2000, he blew it. X-treme X-Men was also lacking serious direction. What's needed first are editors and publishers who could clear away much of the crummier storylines published during the 90s, and particularly post-2000. Then, restore a stand-alone direction that still acknowledges it's part of the MCU, but allows a writer who could understand the better aspects of Claremont's writing to maintain their own freedom of writing without having to cope with the likelihood of being forced into a company wide crossover.

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Isn't Claremont oversimplifying what had happened with the Madeline situation? As for him coming back, there's only so much BDSM, Mind-Control, Peace and War speech, whimsy and ickiness my brain can take.

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