[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue analysis of Claremont's X-Men, continuing to school the hell out of us all.]
“I Want My X-Men”
Teamed once again with the artist of Ann Nocenti’s “Longshot” miniseries, Claremont uses the b-side of the 1988 annual to again revisit that story’s bizarre, quasi-satirical universe and its ruler -- the corpulent, superhuman media mogul Mojo. The story, despite its brevity, is as bloated as its antagonist with meta-fictional observations about the state of the X-Men franchise in 1988.
We open with Mojo recounting the ending of the previous year’s crossover, “Fall of the Mutants” – his long synopsis regularly interspersed with Charles Schultz-esque interjections of “AUGH!” Is Claremont making fun at his own convoluted storylines – or perhaps, many readers’ frustrated reactions to them?
More to the point, Claremont here is mocking the ongoing commercialization of the X-Men, casting Mojo as Marvel Comics (or its shareholders, perhaps) who are more concerned with the profit potential of the characters than they are with the actual stories. Matters become particularly blatant when Claremont pulls himself (along with Adams, Orzechowski, and – presumably – Bob Harras) into the storyline. The comic-book version of Claremont (unnamed, except as “Chris” in a jokey editorial caption one page later) berates Mojo/Marvel thusly: “I warned you – I said, go for quality, not quantity -- but nnnNOO, you just had to keep exploit —” [he’s cut off when Mojo magically shrinks Claremont’s head into that of a cartoon baby]. Three years before the fact, Claremont is correctly predicting this argument (X-Men as creative property vs. commercial one) coming to a “head,” and Claremont losing against his monolithically powerful opponent.
From there, we proceed to a sequence in which Mojo creates one X-Men spinoff after another. Note that in 1988, the amount of X-Men spinoffs could still be counted on one hand. Though the writing was on the wall, the franchise was still relatively contained, and would not proliferate to absurd levels until the 1990s, soon after Claremont quit in frustration. Though he portrays himself as martyr in “I Want My X-Men” (albeit a whiny one), the fact is that Claremont – with this story – correctly sees where the franchise is heading. In the images of Mojo as he magically whips up one spin-off team after another – throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks – we see the future of the X-Men: a franchise that has become the victim of its own “excess success.” Once the hottest thing in comics, the X-Men line is now a bloated parody of itself, as Marvel overstuffs the shelves with “... X-Men after X-Men. Mutants without end ... skinny X-Men, fat X-Men, giant X-Men, tiny X-Men, musical X-Men, dancing X-Men, X-Men fish, X-Men insects, chimps in X-men costumes, X-Men mimes ... midget X-Men, X-Men made of straw or brick or mint chocolate ice cream! Each group of X-Men more boring, more tiresome, more ... malodorous ... than the one before ...”
Claremont saw it coming, all along.