[Jason Powell CONCLUDES his look at every issue of Claremont's 17 year X-Men run. I literally don't know what to say, other than thanks Jason. And thanks to everyone reading. You guys generated 2,826 comments on Jason's work and I know both he and I appreciate it. Even though at least a chunk of that was spambots and Jason taking the time to respond to basically every single person who commented, it is still goddamn tremendous.]
I’ve written so many words about Claremont at this point – and I know I’ve repeated myself a lot from entry to entry, far moreso than was necessary I’m sure – and the result is that a summary is probably not necessary. I think I’ve said all I wanted to say about Claremont at this point, despite the fact that he has a huge body of material outside of Uncanny, much of which is very, very good. And even within the X-sphere, there is stuff like The New Mutants, Excalibur, the Wolverine ongoing, which I didn’t talk about.
Still, I think I have done what I set out to do here. My feeling was and is that Claremont gets short shrift as a comics writer. This is someone who defined for more than one generation how to do mainstream superhero comics, particularly team books. From “New Teen Titans” on down through “Gen13,” his influence can be felt. (Claremont actually wrote a “Gen13” series in 2003 that wasn’t half bad. Well, okay, actually the second half was pretty bad. But the first half was good.)
The list of X-characters that Claremont created or co-created is rather amazing, and consider how many of these characters are still hugely important components of the franchise: Kitty Pryde, Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, Rogue, Mystique, Pyro, Sabretooth, Mr. Sinister, Forge, Jubilee, Gambit … plus Dani Moonstar, Wolfsbane, Sunspot, Cannonball, Cypher, Warlock, Magma, etc. Add to that all the characters for whom Claremont gave us the definitive incarnation, including Wolverine, Storm, Magneto, Nightcrawler … Also, it is Claremont who made Magneto a survivor of the Holocaust, who made Charles and Magnus into old friends, who created the Scott-Jean-Logan love triangle. These are contributions not just to the relatively insular world of comic-books, but to pop culture in general: So many elements of the Bryan Singer films (and even the Ratner one) are drawn from Claremont’s material.
A recent article on Singer – who was slated at the time to direct the upcoming “X-Men: First Class” film -- gave the director literally all of the credit for the opening scene of the first X-Men film: young Magneto in a concentration camp. The article makes no note of Claremont, although there is a sentence noting that Jeff Parker wrote a comicbook called “X-Men: First Class.” Parker gets name-checked for a title. The man who produced the material that set the entire tone for Singer’s take on the franchise? Not a mention. Meanwhile, jokey-joke internet pieces about the ten lamest comic-book characters, or whatever, will gleefully use Chris Claremont’s name as a punch-line in their entry on The Dazzler.
Via the work of Joss Whedon, Chris Claremont has impacted pop culture even beyond X-Men. The character of Buffy is an avowed Kitty Pryde analogue (based on Claremont’s characterization), an entire season of “Buffy” riffed on Claremont’s Dark Phoenix Saga, and Whedon’s “Firefly” has a heavy Claremont influence as well. (That show also has boasts a clear Kitty analogue as well, in the character Kaylee.)
Claremont’s use of women in “X-Men” was ahead of its time 30 years ago, and I feel that modern comics are still catching up. During his tenure, Claremont populated the X-universe with so many female characters that were well-realized in their own right, and not defined by how they related to their male counterparts. The females of Claremont’s X-Men were essential to that mythos, far moreso than in any other franchise. A great test of this is the film adaptations, which so often have to pare down the continuity to the core elements. For the first X-Men film, this gave us an ensemble including Storm, Jean Grey, Rogue and Mystique, all key players in the action – to be joined in the sequels by Kitty Pryde and Callisto. Contrast with the Spider-Man films, in which the only major female character is Mary Jane, whose job it is to get captured in the third act – every time. The third film added Gwen Stacy. Her purpose: To be a romantic foil for Spider-Man, just like Mary Jane.
Cartoon adaptations are just as telling. The X-Men cartoons again feature Rogue, Storm, Kitty Pryde and Mystique prominently, just for a start – again, as heroes fighting alongside the males. In Spider-Man, the women exist for no other reason than to be attracted to Peter Parker.
I don’t see much different in contemporary comics (though I confess I am hardly an expert). In team books, the males always outnumber the females. If it’s the opposite, usually there is some kind of gimmick involved, or it is a series aimed specifically at “girls.” Has anyone other than Claremont ever given us a mainstream super-team in which females outnumbered the males (and in which this wasn’t any kind of ironic twist or something that needed to be commented on, it simply WAS) … ?
And finally, there is the sheer length of the run, which Claremont never seems to get credit for. He wrote X-Men uninterrupted for 17 years. No one has duplicated that length of time on a mainstream superhero comic. Factor in all the X-related spinoff series, and you get something in the area of 380 comics, which far outweighs any other run in terms of quantity. Claremont has said that he considers everything from his first issue (Uncanny X-Men 94) to his last (X-Men 3) as one single story. On these terms, then, he even beats Dave Sim’s 300-chapter “novel.” Claremont’s “novel” is not only longer, but he also finished first. No one since Claremont has even come close to this.
For all that, the guy is mocked. As the world turns and the X-franchise continues to forge ahead -- and the time since Claremont’s original run ended becomes longer than the time he spent crafting it – less and less people seem to remember or care that he built the X-universe from only a few seeds. On comic-book message boards everywhere, idiots who think of themselves as die-hard X-Men fans decry Claremont’s work and diminish his contribution, apparently not realizing the irony that if Claremont hadn’t done what he did, they wouldn’t even BE die-hard X-Men fans.
With all the poison directed at Claremont on the net, I wanted to put something out there that redressed the balance somewhat. And an issue-by-issue look seemed to make the most sense, as it was a way to truly emulate the massiveness of Claremont’s accomplishment.
Now I’ve done that. At the end of the day, it doesn’t seem like enough. I still feel like the positive is outweighed by the negative regarding Claremont, particularly on the internet. But hey, I did my best.
Thanks to everyone who read and commented. It was heartening to read other people speaking positively about Claremont, and it was always particularly nice to be given new insights that made me appreciate his work even more. Thanks to Art, Dave, Neil S, Douglas, Nathan A., Scott, and all the other incredibly erudite and fantastic commentators, who really made this whole project come to life with their addendums, corrections, arguments and elucidations.
And my eternal gratitude to Geoff Klock for hosting this blog. Putting these writings here gave them a much larger audience than they’d have gotten had I posted them at my old Live Journal. More importantly, his deadline forced me to stick with this even at times when I started to think this was a gigantic fool’s errand. And his encouraging comments on the content itself were immensely gratifying, particularly given how much a fan I am of Geoff’s own writing. Thanks so much, Geoff!
And even though he’ll probably never read this or any other the other 230-plus (!) blog entries … Thank you, Chris Claremont, for the hundreds and hundreds of awesome superhero comics.
-- fin --