Tuesday, August 17, 2010

X-Men 1-3, part 1

[Jason Powell has reached X-Men 1, 2, and 3 in his look at Claremont's X-Men run. Every time he says something about how many issues Claremont did, all I can think of his how many blogs Jason did.]

“Mutant Genesis”

(Part One of a Three-Part Blog)

Rather than talking about Claremont’s final three issues one at a time over the course of three blogs, I’ve decided it makes more sense to look at the three issues as a single arc, and simply break up the review into three parts.

1991’s X-Men #1 was, at the time, the best-selling comic-book ever. And I believe (someone jump in to correct me if I’m wrong) it still holds that record. Claremont describes this issue and the next two as his “severance package.” Considering how well those issues sold, and Marvel’s royalty system at the time, it must be said that that’s one incredible package.

Still, creatively, Claremont was far from satisfied with the work he turned in here. And indeed, the story is very much an epilogue. Magneto is the central character – appropriate, as Claremont’s version of Magneto qualifies as the writer’s finest single creation – but we saw the tragic, brilliant ending to this character’s journey in Uncanny X-Men 275. That was the true climax. Magneto even says, right in the opening sequence of “Rubicon,” that he has “no more cause.” But he is nonetheless persuaded by a new group of young acolytes to put on his costume and be the X-Men’s arch-enemy – one last time.
There are some clear parallels here. Claremont was done with the X-Men; yet Bob Harras and Jim Lee -- both avowed fans of the glory days of Claremont and John Byrne – coax Claremont into writing one more X-Men tale. So, having realized that there is no place for himself in the current state of the X-franchise, Claremont writes the story of how there is no place left in the world for Magneto.

It ends with the character’s death, which is an eminently appropriate way for Claremont to go out. As a one-dimensional Silver Age villain given extraordinary psychological depth and complexity by Claremont, Magneto is emblematic of the author’s achievement as the writer of X-Men. That Magnus departs when Claremont does is a truly poetic stroke.

Of course, the move was destined to be undone by subsequent X-writers, but such is the nature of the game. Claremont would eventually play the game from the other side, undoing Grant Morrison’s “death of Magneto” story with a carelessness that disheartened many Morrison fans.

In fact, in the present story, Claremont actually attempts to preclude too much future deconstruction of his definitive Magneto. In issue 2, the possibility is introduced that everything Magneto has done since his “resurrection” (read: since Claremont started writing him) was not his own choice; the heroic quest -- begun in Uncanny 150 only to fail tragically in Uncanny 275 – was all manipulated by Moira MacTaggert and Professor X. Note, though, that this possibility is introduced only so that Claremont can reject it. Moira’s long monologue in issue 3 reveals that, no, the attempts at manipulation were always doomed to fail: “The choices you made,” she tells Magneto, “were the ones [you] would have made, regardless.” It’s a fascinating attempt by Claremont to maintain the integrity of his noble Magneto, to gird that figure against any future reinterpretations. I’d argue that it was ultimately unnecessary. Comic-book writers will do whatever they want, and for anyone with eyes to see, Claremont’s Magneto will always stand as the quintessential version, the minutia of continuity be damned. (And speaking as a fan, I’ll always be grateful to Bryan Singer and Ian McKellen for making the noble Magneto the definitive version in the eyes of the mainstream audience as well.)

Along with Magnus’ death, the story comprising X-Men 1-3 contains several other noteworthy elements of finality. Although conceived by the creators as a new beginning – it would eventually be packaged under the umbrella title “Mutant Genesis” – the story’s deliberate allusions to other watershed moments in X-Men history make it a strong ending as well for Claremont’s run. (Years later, Claremont would confirm that he considers his run from (Uncanny) X-Men 94 to X-Men 3 to be “all one story.”)

The basic, straight-ahead “X-Men vs. Magneto” premise recalls the Silver Age X-Men 1, of course. In fact, the basic plot skeleton for “Mutant Genesis,” wherein the X-Men fly to Asteroid M to rescue their teammates, has a twin amongst one of the earliest Silver Age X-Men comics (issue 5, wherein Magneto captured the Angel). One team flying to rescue another is also the premise of Giant-Sized X-Men #1, which introduced the new team and was the last issue before Claremont became the writer.
The “Magneto Protocols” plot-thread, a ticking-clock that even the villain is aware of, recalls an element of Claremont’s very first issue, “The Doomsmith Scenario.” Part two of “Doomsmith” also ended with the death of a character – and, both in that story and in “Mutant Genesis,” Xavier taps into the thoughts of the man who dies.

Claremont’s run also, famously, began with thirteen X-Men. It ends with the exact same number. Eight of them are the exact same characters; and among the other five, a rather surprising number of correspondences can be found.
John Byrne espouses the philosophy that a writer can wreak all sorts of changes on a comic-book series during his time on it, so long as he “puts the toys back in the box” before moving on. While some elements of the “Mutant Genesis” re-boot are editorial mandates and/or the desires of plotter Jim Lee (e.g., the rebuilt mansion, Xavier back in a wheelchair), it must be said that Claremont did exactly what Byrne suggests. Despite a 17-year run containing massive, sweeping revisions of the status quo, the X-Men are, as of Claremont’s final issue, back where they started just before he arrived. For better or worse. (It turned out to be worse.)

44 comments:

Arthur said...

Good analysis Jason.

One thing I was always scratching my head over -- and I know, yeah, comic-book science and all that -- is how the Blue Team's brainwashing was supposed to work.

Magneto's villainy was supposedly because of the over-exertion of his powers, that playing with all those strong magnetic fields had warped the structure of his brain. Moira tried to limit Magneto's power to keep him sane. (And I like the way she tied that in as a way to save her son, the crazy/powerful Proteus, who was released as a result of the post-tampered Magneto.)

So... Moira did what? Increased the Blue Team's power so that they went crazy too? The problem is, they didn't seem any more powerful when they used their powers. Plus, that seems kind of an iffy way to join Magneto's side. I mean, just because they'd be crazy doesn't mean they'd be the right kind of crazy! They could have just gone on violent rages, or paced around their rooms delivering silver-age monologues to themselves, or even attacked Magneto. Not all violently insane people share the same world-view!

What is your opinion of Morrison's Magneto? Does it fit in with Claremont's version?

Art

Jeff said...

X-Men #1 was the first X-Men comic I bought (I was nine) and this arc is still one of my all-time favorites. I know it's a big, dumb action movie but it really is a great one. It's entertaining, Magneto gets an appropriately epic sendoff, the artwork is phenomenal and it brings back some great childhood memories for me. I can overlook the problems about how the brainwashing exactly works and some other little plot tics because it's fun. Reading this made me want to go back and explore all of the issues it was referencing and I've had a blast filling in all the pieces of the puzzle. In short, this storyline is everything I loved in comics as a kid and everytime I read it I see it through those eyes. I just can't help it, I love this storyline.

Ken Dynamo said...

so how did Marvel's royalty system, work at the time? 8 million copies at one hundred and fifty cents a pop is a lot of dough to whack up.

Shlomo said...

starting 8 = ?

original 5 - jean, beast, cyclops, angel, iceman
+ "All New, All..." - wolverine, storm, collusus... banshee?

+ new 5 = rogue, psylocke, jubilee, gambit... forge?

Peter Farago said...

Art - it doesn't make a lot of sense. I would have preferred an arc where the X-Men who had fought alongside Magneto (Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Colossus and Psylocke) back in the JRjr run took his side against X-Factor. That would've been an X-Men vs. X-Men battle worth seeing, although there's no way it could've been tied up in a neat little bow in time for #3.

I like Morrison's run a lot, but his version of Magneto is a straight-up character assassination.

Evan said...

We learn in the x-men vs avengers mini series that magneto has all sorts of mind control technology implanted in his helmet don't we? Claremont wrote that plot where he had magneto instruct the new mutants to get the helmit for him from that piece of asteroid m that had fallen so he could destroy it. This was right before or after his trial.

Chris said...

This WAS a big exciting arc that at the time took us all back to the glory days of, er, big exciting arcs. Unfortunately, the return of 'the good old days' didn't last long what with Claremont's departure.

I had stopped buying Uncanny right after the Fall of the Mutants. It got too dreary and depressing for me, several of my favorite characters were gone (or depressed), plus I never warmed up to the New Mutants and not following their book and other x-overs made it hard to follow Uncanny by itself. I hadn't looked at X-Men since then, until I heard all the hubbub about 'X-Men #1'. Reading this arc was weird because, other than not knowing what Genosha was, I couldn't tell that I'd missed anything in the intervening 50 or so issues! So I figured they'd hit the reset button in a pretty big way. Claremont was always a genius at making higher-level editorial demands feel like an organic part of the story (Scott's dropping of Maddie so that X-Factor could start was the exception that proved the rule - I don't think anyone could have salvaged that) and I was glad to see he hadn't lost his touch.

I didn't know Claremont was leaving until I read the last page of X-Men #3. Glad to see he went out in a blaze of Claremontian wordiness to match his best! The last few pages of X-Men #3 might as well be all text! Though I must admit, I find that final Xavier-Magnus conversation to be a lot of distant abstract rhetoric rather than anything heartfelt and human.

J said...

So this is the comic that got me reading comics. Obviously, I discovered Classic X-Men after this and started reading backwards but this is where it started for me. These three probably represent Jim Lee's best art on X-Men as well. X-Men 4-11 were a pretty big drop in art quality (I guess because he had so much lead time here).

Bringing all the X-Men back together was probably a good idea at the time. Having two teams was also a good idea. It's a shame it all went bad so quickly though.

I'm also pretty sure that this story was also the start of the "Magneto dies at the end of every storyline" trend that's continued for years.

Teebore said...

I've probably read this particular three issue arc more than any other. I was completely enamored of it back in the day, and still have a certain nostalgic fondness for it.

It's fascinating how this story works as both a new beginning and an epilogue.

I started reading X-Men shortly after these issues, so working backwards this was very much a new beginning for me, but I also loved the hints at the larger backstory. As I worked my way back through Claremont's run, I loved seeing things like the introduction of Genosha and the buildup of Magneto's character. After I became more familiarized with Claremont's work, the story then felt very much like an epilogue, a goodbye.

@Arthur: What I recall off the top of my head, is that in addition to limiting his power to prevent it from having him go crazy, she subjected him to a process (fancy brainwashing) to make him a better, less villainous person.

This leads Magneto to believe that all his actions as leader of the X-Men were brought on my Moira's tampering, but by the end of the story, she makes it clear that the more a subject's power is used, the quicker the brainwashing is wiped away. So basically, it never took, and Magneto's decisions were his own.

Because he forced Moira to subject the Blue Team to this same process, they were initially brainwashed into following him, but the more they used their powers, the weaker the conditioning became until, by the end of a powers-filled battle with the Gold Team, they were back to normal (you could argue this is why Wolverine seems to come to his sense first: his power is always kinda "on").

Dave Mullen said...

One of my favorite comic arcs to this day, a classic.
The art is Jim Lee's finest and as an overall product it oozes quality on every level but what sets it apart from the other X-Book launches at the time is the sheer quality of the writing and characterisation. Claremonts formula became an industry standard for team books forever after, even Harras aped it for his Avengers run, but I think this final arc was a way of presentation that became one of those successes that was used as a template for every Image comics team book and even DC - Morrisons JLA relaunch was very reminiscent for example and Busieks/Perez' Avengers relaunch.

To bow out on a book this good would have cemented Claremonts legend forevermore... it's a shame he had to return and somewhat tarnish it with something of significantly less quality.

http://i39.photobucket.com/albums/e154/Jordanite/x-men2poster.jpg

http://i39.photobucket.com/albums/e154/Jordanite/Excaliburbanner.jpg

http://i39.photobucket.com/albums/e154/Jordanite/Infernobanner.jpg

Jason said...

Art: “What is your opinion of Morrison's Magneto? Does it fit in with Claremont's version?”

Art, from what I understand, Morrison’s Magneto was an attempt at resurrecting the Silver Age, ranting-lunatic version. I get the impression that Morrison was a fan of Neal Adams’ Magneto (the Xorn reveal is Morrison’s avowed attempt at replicating the somewhat famous “clothes make the man” reveal at the end of Neal Adams’ X-Men #62.)

Even John Byrne, famously down on –everything- in contemporary comics, especially Morrison’s stuff, said that – from what he had heard – Morrison’s Magneto sounded very much in character. Byrne, famously, also much prefers the Silver Age Magneto and hates the “Holocaust survivor” ret-con.

So, the long answer is, based on everything I’ve heard, it sounds like Morrison’s Magneto is something I would not like. But, I really don’t know, as I only read a few pages of it. So, short answer is: No opinion. :)

Jeff, totally. I think a lot of people whose first issue of X-Men was Claremont-penned – whether this one or another – really felt an urge to go back and fill in the blanks. Claremont was very good at putting in teasers that made you want to look both forward and backward.

Ken, I wondered that as well. It must’ve been quite a payoff.

Jason said...

Shlomo, Beast isn’t in Giant-Sized X-Men #1, and Jubilee isn’t in X-Men 1-3.
Corresponding eight:
Jean
Cyclops
Angel
Iceman
Storm
Colossus
Wolverine
Banshee

Different five:
Rogue
Psylocke
Gambit
Forge
Beast

It occurred to me once that you can find some parallels amongst the differing five.

Rogue/Polaris – both kinda-sorta the daughters of two different leaders of two different “Brotherhoods of Evil Mutants.” And both villains in the storylines in which they first appeared.

Gambit/Havok – both energy wielders, both with romantic tension with Rogue and Polaris, respectively. And of course Gambit would later be rumored to be a Summers brother.

Forge/Thunderbird – both Native American

Psylocke/Sunfire – both Asian (I know, I know … )

Beast/Nightcrawler – both blue ‘n’ furry

Jason said...

Peter: “I would have preferred an arc where the X-Men who had fought alongside Magneto (Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Colossus and Psylocke) back in the JRjr run took his side against X-Factor. That would've been an X-Men vs. X-Men battle worth seeing,”

Hot damn! That woulda been sweet.

Evan: “We learn in the x-men vs avengers mini series that magneto has all sorts of mind control technology implanted in his helmet don't we? Claremont wrote that plot where he had magneto instruct the new mutants to get the helmit for him from that piece of asteroid m that had fallen so he could destroy it. This was right before or after his trial.”

Well, yes and no. Claremont didn’t write X-Men vs. Avengers. That series was set after the Claremont-penned “Trial of Magneto.” Roger Stern wrote it, and it was basically Stern’s attempt to turn Magneto back into a villain (he’s of the same view as Byrne and Morrison, believing Magneto should be a straight-up, unsympathetic bastard). At the last second, someone put a halt to Stern’s plans, so the last issue of X Men vs. Avengers is written by Bob Harras, and it completely changes the ending.

At any rate, Claremont had nothing to do with it, and also the mind-control macguffin in Magneto’s helmet was explicitly stated as not being something Magneto had ever used before. And in the last issue, he destroys the machinery. This is not to say he couldn’t have rebuilt it for the storyline in X-Men 1-3, but there is nothing in the text to suggest any connection.

neilshyminsky said...

"1991’s X-Men #1 was, at the time, the best-selling comic-book ever. And I believe (someone jump in to correct me if I’m wrong) it still holds that record."

Fyi, since there was no system in place to measure sales back in 1991, the estimates on sales vary from as low as 3 million to as high as 8. The best-selling comics at this time were routinely in the 500k range, so i suspect someone just multiplied it by the number of variants to get the low-end estimate; i have no idea where the high-end estimate comes from. Spider-Man #1 and Spawn #1 were reportedly in the 2-4 million range.

Jason said...

J: “I'm also pretty sure that this story was also the start of the "Magneto dies at the end of every storyline" trend that's continued for years.”

I saw it more as Claremont just continuing the tradition that every X-writer kills Magneto off at the end of his run. (A tradition that continued beyond him as well.) Granted, Stan Lee didn’t, but after that:

Roy Thomas killed him off in Avengers 53 (which was a crossover with the last couple X-Men issues that he plotted for his first run). Arnold Drake saw Magneto seeming to get buried under a collapsing building two issues before his last. Roy Thomas came back and did a second run with Neal Adams, and their penultimate collaboration saw Magneto seeming to die in the Savage Land.

Then Claremont did it as well! And I think maybe so did Lobdell ? And obviously Morrison did. (Ironically, Claremont’s ret-conning of Morrison’s Magneto into an imposter had a precursor: Roy Thomas did the same thing to Arnold Drake’s Magneto back in the 60s. As I noted before: Don’t mess around with Magneto and expect it to stick, especially if you used to write Doom Patrol.

Tee: “you could argue this is why Wolverine seems to come to his sense first: his power is always kinda "on").”

Tee, I wondered about that, ‘cause – why did Cyclops seem to take the longest to come to his senses? His power is always on as well! I’d love to think this was some kind of last jab by Claremont at the rat-bastard Cyclops had become: Not only does he stay evil the longest, he also seems to enjoy it the most, and at the end of the fight, the person he’s blasting over and over … is his girlfriend! It’d be funny to think of it as one final meta-commentary, but I’m sure that’s really pushing it. (Alternate theory is that Cyclops had figured out that Jean actually had cheated on her a couple weeks ago with Wolverine – which we now know thanks to Claremont’s “X-Men Forever Annual.”)

Dave: “The art is Jim Lee's finest and as an overall product it oozes quality on every level but what sets it apart from the other X-Book launches at the time is the sheer quality of the writing and characterisation.”

Dave, glad I’m not the only one who thinks so, especially after Chris Sims’ recently doing a second evisceration of X-Men #1 on Comics Alliance. (Actually it’s pretty much exactly the same as his first dissection of it, on the isb a few years earlier.) But then, the Comics Alliance seem to automatically become assholes when it comes to Claremont talk.

Great to see all these comments, guys! Sorry, there were too many to respond to all in one response, so I broke it up.

(If anyone's interested, today's performance of "Invader? I Hardly Know Her" went really well!

Jason said...

Neil,

Thanks for that. That does explain why it's so hard to pin down an exact figure.

Although since I first wrote this blog a few months ago and its posting today, THIS happened: http://marvel.com/news/all.13386.sdcc_2010~colon~_marvel_breaks_into_guinness

So, twould appear that, yes, X-Men #1 still holds the record! And how!

Anonymous said...

I finally catch up, and Jason's already at Claremont's last issue.

Jason, thanks so much for doing these reviews. I was a diehard X-Men fan for about five years, loving the Classic X-Men issues and reading my Asgardian Wars tpb over and over. But during 1994, a few things happened simultaneously. The extent of the post-Claremont decline finally dawned on me at the same time that the cynical 90s commercial excesses were in full swing and that I became a teenager. That confluence of events was enough to get me to drop comics practically cold turkey. Other than reading Watchmen in an undergrad course and picking up a very few trades that penetrated the popular conscious (such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), I largely ignored comics for a decade and a half.

A couple years back, I finally got around to reading Kavalier & Clay and decided it was time for a critical reappraisal of comics. Had there been something in those comics I had read time and again or were they just another example of misspent youth? I turned to the trusty interwebs and was surprised by the extent of serious comics criticism. Yet while paeans to Grant Morrison were ubiquitous, there wasn't much about Claremont (and what there was wasn't very nice). The Claremont internet presence seemed to consist of cracks about "focused totality" and "nigh invulnerable when I'm blasting."

Then about a year ago, I stumbled across your reviews. I was so impressed by them that I had my parents dig out my Asgardian Wars, Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past trades and ship them to me. I enjoyed reading those alongside your corresponding summaries so much (especially the dialogues between you and Doug M re DPS), that I set out to read Claremont's entire run alongside your reviews. So I ended up purchasing the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus, the two Vignettes tpbs with the John Bolton back-ups, the Wolverine Omnibus, the X-Men vs. FF hardcover, a DVD-ROM of Uncanny and other things I'm probably forgetting all so I could fully appreciate your reviews.

My only disappointments are (1) that the reviews are coming to an end, (2) that Claremont himself never showed up in the comments (I kept hoping that would happen) and (3) that you seem to have abandoned the idea of turning these reviews into a book. I'd love to read them alongside some complementary pieces where you took a more longitudinal approach to Claremont's run. For example, one of the things that jumped out at me when I was reading these reviews in relatively quick succession was all the entry and exit points Claremont offered to readers. How many times in the comments did someone mention that an issue was their first (and got them hooked), yet that issue seems like such a random starting point when you are familiar with the entire run (this was certainly the case with me)? Also, think about all the different thematically satisfying exit points people identified. Someone mentioned that for him, the story of Uncanny was the story of Scott Summers, and Scott's departure following his marriage to Madelyne providing a thematically satisfying conclusion. Others mentioned 200, Fall of the Mutants and Inferno as satisfying "walking away" points. I think Claremont's run contains lessons generally applicable to serial storytelling in Claremont's run, and I've really enjoyed reading you draw them out. (You've also convinced me of the majesty of Tom Orzechowski's letters). But I'd love to read more. I hope you're still planning to give us your list of 20 favorite issues

May your musical take NYC by storm.

-- Mike

Anonymous said...

Anyway, moving on to X-Men #1 specifically, I can't help but read these last issues with an eye for metacommentary by Claremont. For instance, when Beast says "Words are but the accents to action" in the panel where he is leaping from the Blackbird with Gambit on his back, is that Claremont's commentary on Harras' view of the importance of the writer relative to the artist? When Wolverine says, "We can figure out the backstory after we take him down," is that Claremont's commentary on the tendency of the Image generation of artists to throw out swarms of "cool"-looking characters without any thought to motivation or character development?

-- Mike

Jason said...

"For instance, when Beast says "Words are but the accents to action" in the panel where he is leaping from the Blackbird with Gambit on his back, is that Claremont's commentary on Harras' view of the importance of the writer relative to the artist? When Wolverine says, "We can figure out the backstory after we take him down," is that Claremont's commentary on the tendency of the Image generation of artists to throw out swarms of "cool"-looking characters without any thought to motivation or character development?"

***Good questions on both. I seem to recall that both those lines made my critic-senses tingle, but I never quite explored the notion. I think your reads on them make a lot of sense. Someone else (who no longer posts here, I don't think) pointed out the villain being named "Fabian" too, which might allude to Fabian Nicieza, scripter on X-Force, and on the issue of Uncanny that Claremont quit rather than finish.

I think I talk more about that stuff in Part 2 or 3 of this blog entry. Stay tuned! :)

As for your larger comment: Wow. That's amazing. It's the kind of thing a critic really hopes to hear. (It's like blurb at the back of Ian MacDonald's Beatles book, "Revolution in the Head." I think the blurb is from Nick Hornby: "After reading this book, I went out and bought a bunch of Beatles CDs so I could listen to them properly for the first time in my life."

I'm quite honored that you were inspired to go out and buy ... a LOT of stuff ... 'cause of these blogs. Thanks! (What did you think of the John Bolton "Vignettes" trades, btw? Man, I love those comics.)

Thanks for the well-wishes regarding the musical!

And as for the 20 favorites ... did I never post that? Geoff, guess I'm writing one more blog for you ...

Arthur said...

Jason: "Someone else (who no longer posts here, I don't think) pointed out the villain being named "Fabian" too, which might allude to Fabian Nicieza, scripter on X-Force, and on the issue of Uncanny that Claremont quit rather than finish."

That was me, and I still post here! Or is this your way of telling me to go away? *sniff*

Art

Jason said...

Sorry, Art! Another guy, who posts as Nathan Adler, also made the comment.

Nathan doesn't post here anymore, though we are still in e-mail content.

No disrespect intended, Sir Arthur!

J said...

Jason,

I think Lobdell killed Magneto twice. He had Xavier mindwipe him and then his space station explode once and I think there was a crossover where Wolverine wounds him fatally (I want to say Eve of Destruction?). Not to mention he also "dies" during the Byrne Magneto issues. He might have the highest death/appearance ratio in Marvel comics history.

Anonymous said...

Love the Vignettes trades, or rather the Claremont-Bolton collaborations contained in them (the production values of the trades are a bit of a disappointment, not fully reproducing the subtle aspects of Bolton's work in the original printings). The stories have an economy to them that stands out in Claremont's run, and I was surprised at how much of Magneto's development took place in those stories.

The Bolton collaborations made me appreciate how much Claremont seems to write to the strengths of his artist. (I say "seems" because I'm not sure how much of this is due to the Marvel Method and the co-plotting duties of Byrne and Lee.) For an archetypal superhero art team like Byrne and Austin, Claremont provided soaring heroics. For Silvestri and Green, who could do both sexy and slapstick, Claremont wrote pop-sexy-humorous X-Men. Or compare the two halves of Asgardian Wars - Paul Smith gets a story where half the characters are regular people and most of the action is interpersonal interaction, while Art Adams gets the fantastical setting of Asgard. And with Bolton, his most naturalistic collaborator, Claremont produces his most human stories. I think you can scientifically prove that Claremont, Lee and Williams produced the coolest comic a 10-year-old could ever read in Uncanny #277, but if Lee and Williams were the art team for the "silent story" featuring Jean Grey it would have been a disaster. Of Claremont's significant collaborators, that story only works with Bolton. (Or maybe Paul Smith. Maybe.)

-- Mike

Jason said...

J, Magneto dies in the Byrne Magneto issues? How do you mean? We see him escape the volcano base, believing the X-Men are dead, and the last time we see him before Byrne leaves is the small cameo in X-Men 125.

Mike, glad to hear you liked the Vignettes trades. You're right, the paper quality doesn't quite do Bolton many favors. Re: writing to the artist vs. Marvel Method, there is -- I learned from Patrick Meaney's interviews -- a third aspect to this: The editor, who in at least one case, hand-picked an artist because their style seemed suited to what Claremont was talking about wanting to do. So there's that dynamic as well.

Anonymous said...

Mike's point about CC's relationship to his artists is brilliant. I wonder if it is the man or the method?

I'll dissent when it comes to the quality of X-Men #1-3. Even at 13, these seemed like lousy comics to me. In retrospect, we see many of the worst qualities of CC and the X-franchise on display: it's a mind-control story, just one month after another mind-control story (Muir Isle Saga), both involving X-Men fighting X-Men. (And the preceding Claremont/Lee arc was also X-Men vs. X-Men, albeit with Skrulls instead of mind control.) The Acolytes are the most generic team CC had yet created -- though one can forgive him for investing little effort in them, given the circumstances. The Delgado mystery seems more like a miscommunication somewhere down the line between CC, Lee, and Harras. And while Magneto would suffer greater indignities to come, already the character Claremont developed is dead -- even on a bad day, the New Mutants' headmaster would not brainwash the X-Men and try to get them to kill their teammates.

Jason's commentary makes me think, though, that perhaps the ludicrous device of having half the X-Men turn evil is CC's metacomment on editorial's decision to turn Mags evil again. I wonder ...

Dan

lue lyron said...

A real pleasure, Jason. You are such a good gentleman, too.

I love how many of your most salient comments are always plays off the other commenters, in addition to your insightful reviews. They are so much more than a synopsis.

I haven't had this story on hand and read it since 1995, but your descriptions and analysis never fail to evoke the original pages, and sometimes, help me create pages I've never known.
As always I really enjoy the fond remembrances. Now, a blog post thread itself is the subject of some of my own remembrances.

P.S. Hope you caught the Ocean Doot writer/ editor credit on ASM 171 in my Nova thread, LOL I know you're such a Wein fan.
Congratulations.

What next, Geoff?

Teebore said...

@Jason: why did Cyclops seem to take the longest to come to his senses? His power is always on as well!

Good point! I hadn't considered that. I've always figured that Cyclops took the longest to snap out of it because it's in his nature to be devoted (putting aside the Maddie Pryor debacle, of course). Of all the X-Men, he's the one most committed to the Xavier and his goals; when Cyclops commits to something, he goes ALL IN.

So maybe with the brainwashing effectively transferring that intense devotion from Xavier to Magneto, it took him longer to snap out of it, even with his powers eroding the brainwash.

(Yes, this diehard Cyclops fan has thought way too hard about some of this stuff. If only I could think away the editorial edict that created X-Factor...).

By the by, good luck with the musical! I know little about it besides the name, but you deserve much success for the name alone!

neilshyminsky said...

Mike wrote: "is that Claremont's commentary on the tendency of the Image generation of artists to throw out swarms of "cool"-looking characters without any thought to motivation or character development?"

I would say 'absolutely'.

And there's at least one more example in the first issue, which is worth noting because unlike your examples it's not ironic, slightly disingenuous, or meta. When the X-Men are training at the beginning of the issue, Psylocke says something to the effect of 'awfully nice of Cyclops to program robots that even i can disable' as she jabs a robot and its head pops off.

Claremont could have just let it be - he didn't need to explain why Wolverine and Psylocke are dispatching them with equal ease. But it's a clear and sincere illustration of his frustration with Lee-as-storyteller and the now secondary role that he occupies.

And taken with those other examples? Claremont's annoyance is visibly growing, and he's evidently less concerned with it showing.

Jason said...

Lue: Thanks for the kind words, Lue! As always, both here and on the WAN, you are a true mensch!

Tee, your Cyclops theory is much kinder to the character than mine! :) I think I'm sticking by my "X-Men Forever"-informed opinion, for now, even though it is totally retroactive. Before blasting Jean over and over, Cyclops actually says to her, "Is my kiss as much fun as Wolverine's?" Oh snap!





Sidebar:My word verification, no joke: "Undork." Oh, if only I could, WV. If only I could.

Shlomo said...

A thought:
i understand that claremont having to "return his toys to the shelf" is due to corporate needs. However, i think its interesting that this bending of the narrative, mirrors a theme that some writers actually do choose.

We kindof sigh when we think of how things could have been different if claremont could have done whatever he wanted. Yet, it occurred to me to compare this ending with that of sopranos. Soprano's creator essentially returned his protagonists to their status quo as well, and for him this was the "artistic" choice.

It kind of flips the narrative on its head. Scott Summers had to leave his wife because of editorial-reasons, but perhaps also because just like mafioso, superheroes cant leave the life. But more appropriately, magneto really is the villain that cant shake off the draw to follow his villainous impulses.

So... thinking as I write:
magneto = tony soprano?

Jason said...

I've never seen The Sopranos, but that is an interesting read, and I think there is definitely something there. Superheroes try to get out, but like Al Pacino, keep getting pulled back in.

As for Magneto specifically, my thesis regarding his "full circle" journey is in the blogs for issues 274 and 275.

Arthur said...

At the risk of derailing these heady discussions: Jason, do you have any plans to save these blog posts somewhere? I ask because apparently Paul O'Brien let the X-Axis domain expire, so now there's nowhere to read those wonderful reviews. I have no idea if he's planning to bring them back someday or what, but for now, they're gone. I'd hate to see the same thing happen to your reviews.

Art

Jason said...

Arthur,

Good question. Don't know the answer! A lot of the documents would be saved to my e-mail account, from when I mailed them to Geoff. But of course that doesn't include any comments -- and oftentimes the comments by others are far more insightful than the blogs that spawned them ...

Teebore said...

@Art: Regarding Paul O'Brien's old X-Axis sight, somebody made a complete archive of it. You can find it here.

You'll need Winzip or some kind of file extractor to open the .rar file, but after that, it's as good as having the site still active.

As for the longevity of Jason's reviews, since a book seems out of the question, I'm honestly thinking of printing them out, comments and all, and binding them together into my own crude book, just for my own reference.

neilshyminsky said...

Jason is definitely right about the need to include some comment threads - some really great stuff comes out of them.

Can't it all be moved over to its own blogger.com page, though? Including both the text of the review and the most pertinent comments? And then the sidebar can be a complete list of clickable reviews. That seems easiest, to me, anyway.

Kevin said...

@Teebore:

I've been considering doing the exact same thing to be honest. The comments are essential; there have been some amazing teasing out of ideas and themes. If an actual book is out of the question, that is certainly the next best thing. If only I knew someone who worked at a small publisher or bindery; I imagine it would be possible (obviously, with Jason's permission/involvement) to create a small print run to be distributed to people from the blog who have contributed or were interested in having a reference guide. This is really the only serious consideration of Claremont's opus, and it would be awesome to have it sitting on a shelf somewhere.

Geoff Klock said...

http://blog2print.sharedbook.com/blogworld/printmyblog/index.html

These guys can turn the blog into a print book. Could be interesting, Jason, if you did this and sold it to people.

Also -- the Claremont pieces can be seen on their own here:

http://geoffklock.blogspot.com/search/label/Claremont

That will isolate them, so you don't have to search through other stuff to get at them.

Anonymous said...

I'd buy a copy!

~Wolf

lue lyron said...

Invader? I Hardly Even Knew Her!

Glad the audience enjoyed your show! Any future plans outside of the Festival?

Geoff, that was nice of you to bring up the book link, this is a good Claremont History X. With permission, some of these comments and that interplay would be intriguing as well, as the seminal sidebar conversations here are well-written.

Maybe Jason can undork and put his land lady at ease...

Anonymous said...

Neil beat me to it, but the scene in which Prylocke comments on how nice Cyclops was to make the robots weak enough for her to destroy with her human strength was my first indication that comic book creating wasn't as smooth a process as the credits led me to believe. The idea that metal robots could be destroyed (not just turned off) by an ordinary human was so ridiculous, it had to be the writer covering for the artist's error in judgment.

X-Men 3, X-Man vs. X-Man, was extra cool when I was 13. After reading the previous 2 storylines (Uncanny 273-280 & X-Factor 69-70), it seemed like the X-Men were The Team That Always Fights Each Other. The added (cheap) layer of melodrama appealed to me at that age, as a fight amongst friends had way more resonance than a fight with super-villains.

While I've grown more fond of Claremont since reading this blog, the later Uncanny issues plus X-Men 1-3 may be the basis of a valid criticism: Claremont repeats a limited range of motifs. For 3 stories in a row, the X-Men go to a distant land, get mind-controlled (or replaced by impostors), fight each other, then beat the Big Bad. When he came back to the Neo/ Slavers stories in 2000, the X-Men ended up fighting each other in the climax of the 1st story. It seemed like Claremont was up to his old tricks again. Jim Lee & other artists bear some of the responsibility, of course, but there's a repetitiveness to the overall structure of a run of stories.

Still, I ate it up as a young adolescent, and responded to the better crafted aspects of the stories (especially the Magneto arc). 1991 was so exciting, with the new beginnings for X-Men, X-Force, Excalibur, X-Factor, & Uncanny. It was the perfect time to be a kid reading comics.

- Mike Loughlin

Jason said...

"Claremont repeats a limited range of motifs."

Seems to be true these days, from what I've seen, but I don't think it was true in the 80s. There were repeated motifs, for sure, but I didn't see a limited range.

Mikey said...

Hi Jason (and all),

I haven't read too much Claremont but did keep an eye on these posts and just wanted to say well done!

I can't say I've read all of them with the detail of others here (both issues and posts - some day...), but I can appreciate it's a heck of an effort and achievement.

Mikey

Jason said...

Thanks, Mikey! That is much appreciated.

dschonbe said...

I'm a couple weeks behind due to vacation and overload at work.

Not much to add here, but it'd be interesting to know how much of Claremont's thematic repetition was due to an intended audience ranging from adolesence to early teens. How long did Claremont think his typical audience member would stick with him? He certainly made nods to the people that stuck with him throughout the entire run (as Jason has pointed out so well), but I'd imagine any good writer for a serial narrative expecting new readers (in the 8-10 years of age category) at any time would need a good amount of repetition. Realistically, at the time Claremont ought to have expected a roughly 90% turnover in audience every 5 years, I'd bet.

Writers today write for the trade, and generally don't stick around long enough on a single title for the issue to come up. What other writer spent so long on a single title to face the challenges Claremont did. I can't think of anything Morrison did for much more than 60-70 issues.

Anyone more familiar with Bendis, how much thematic and motif repetition is present? How about Sims on Cerebus?

Oh well, hopefully this isn't too late to not get read.

-Dan S.