Creating Claremont - An Exclusive Interview with Mr. Chris Claremont

In an Exclusive Interview with X-Men Nation contributor, Jordan Lurie, Chris Claremont reflects on his impact on the X-Men's past, challenges he faces as a writer, geNext and what's in store for all of us in X-Men: Forever. Thanks to Mr. Claremont for graciously granting us the interview and opening up about Storm, The Dark Phoenix Saga, minorities in comics, his upcoming projects and more.

Writers work in many different ways. Some of the ideas you've put forward have had shock waves throughout X-Men continuity for years. Where do you draw inspiration from and how does it usually come to you?

This is the kind of question -- and working reality -- that every writer has to face, likely going back to the first time an ancient Greek put pen and ink to paper (or the reasonable analog back then). Inspiration comes from the most basic of places, the need to satisfy an itch inside our soul, a never-ending series of questions relating to the world around us and how we fit into it / make our way through it. One sees characters and the situations in their lives and one asks those most basic of creative questions: who, what, where, when, why and how? From those answers comes conflict; from that conflict, resolution. It is the he ongoing desire to create dynamic, exciting characters, and try to see what happens next in their lives. Hopefully, those characters, and the answers to their questions, will draw the readers enthusiastically through the story and inspire them to come back for more.
 
Are there any X-Men characters you find it more difficult to write for than others?

At this point for me the challenge comes from the fact that I've known them all for so long -- I've been a part of their lives and they of mine -- that it actually becomes quite hard to play favorites. For all instinct, or impulse, might point me in one direction, within very short order there are other characters popping up in my mind who are equally enticing, equally infuriating. Speaking specifically of the cast of "X-Men Forever," one character who's becoming more enticing is Sabretooth, in part because (at least as it relates to my conception of him) very little is actually known. At this specific point of his life, readers haven't really seen that much of him over the years, since the Sabes that's shown up most over the time is a less-endowed copy cloned from spare cells by Mr. Sinister. So he could prove an interesting challenge to me as a writer. “X-Men Forever” has you continuing a story you started almost two decades ago.

Without giving anything away, is there something different you're planning on doing with it now as opposed to ten years ago if it would've completed then?

In many respects, everything's different -- if for no other reason than the world the X-Men, and their readers, inhabit has likewise changed phenomenally over this last decade. For example, Russia -- as a nascent "democracy" -- is on the face of it a far more acceptable member of the global community than it appeared as a Communist dictatorship. China -- in the process of producing anywhere from 100,000 to 100,000,000 college graduate technocrats to rebuild its economy -- is a quantum leap removed from the 20th century cliché built around Chairman Mao. These are all new terrains to explore, hosts of potential characters and conflicts to play with. On a somewhat more prosaic basis, the simple fact that "Forever" is a standalone series. Being off on our own allows us to make real and lasting changes on the characters. Death is a reality of life for us; things will be happening to characters right off the bat which will not be retracted and/or "set right." Hopefully, that will also mean that suspense -- for both characters and stories, readers and avid fans -- will be equally intense.

 

How do you approach writing characters that you left nearly 20 years ago with none of the development or growth since?

 

Simple, I just pick up where I left off. I've always had my own vision of who they all are and where they'd go from when / where I left them. All that's needed is for me to put all that into play.

 

Will we be seeing any mutants introduced after your first departure from X-Men in “Forever”?

 

If you mean, mutants created by myself and other writers over the years since, I would have to say my goal at this point is to blaze some new paths, try some new possibilities. There are titles galore to showcase the lives of these other characters, my intent is to follow a different path. That said, the caveat is anything's possible. Stick around, wait & see.

 

Will any characters from X-Factor, X-Force or Excalibur at the time make appearances in “X-Men Forever”? Will human supporting characters such as Stevie Hunter and Moira MacTaggert have any place in the series?

 

Of course -- the only qualification being that, with all the primal changes that occur in the core cast's lives -- not to mention the core concept itself -- those characters may not be found in the same places readers might remember them from the old titles. On the other hand, characters who are currently dead in the "Uncanny" continuity, are alive in "Forever" -- as other who are currently alive and popular in 616 may not be in Dimension 161.

 

Possibly the most notable part of the preview art in “X-Men Forever” is the inclusion of Sabretooth with the team, without spoiling anything do you think that a ruthless killer like Victor could ever be redeemed, even with the X-Men?

 

I'm sure that some of the X-characters might feel that way. Charlie himself might feel that way, although I suspect Nick Fury would be less tolerant; on the other hand, someone who's military career dealt with black ops might not have a problem with using someone like Sabretooth. Sabretooth's own feelings may be completely different. He does have feelings, emotions, and is a rational being. The reader may not be used to thinking of him that way; it's my joy as a writer to bring him to three-dimensional life. You'll just have to wait and see.

X-Men Forever Illustration

“geNext” contains many children and grandchildren of characters you created, helped create and gave a voice to. Is there a different feeling that goes along with writing this book?

 

Obviously -- part due to characters, part due to the publishing program. "Forever" is an ongoing bi-weekly series, whereas "geNext" is a limited series, with each arc self-contained. The characters are younger than those in "Forever" and they're nowhere near as experienced. Consider them two different and contrasting visions of the same overall concept.

 

What can you tease about the future of the “geNext” kids in the current “United” miniseries?

 

Well, with the second issue on sale within the week, there's not a lot to tease about this arc. The team's in India. Within very short order they'll find themselves in conflict with no less than two major adversaries. And by the end of the arc there will be a major turning-point in the lives of more than one of them. Hopefully, we'll get a third arc wherein we can find out what happens next, which hopefully will help inspire readers to grab copies off the stands and get the series' sales up-up-up!

 

How is novel writing different than comic book writing? Do both mediums creatively fulfill you?

 

First and foremost, when I write novels (both graphic and prose) these days, they're books and characters that I own -- which actually makes a world of difference. The end result is essentially all mine, concept and execution. With graphic material, even if it's creator owned, the writer's vision of woven together with the visual storytelling and visual presentation of the artist -- for example, myself and Phil Briones on Wanderers, a historical fantasy trilogy being published by Panini's Fusion imprint. It's a synergy. Each has its benefits and its liabilities, each is fun.

 

How do you feel your style of writing changed or evolved since you started?

 

Hopefully it's improved. My use of language has both broadened and also become more focused, so that I'm able to convey thoughts and actions -- and motivations -- more evocatively and yet also more economically than before. For example, one of the facets of "Forever" is a personal desire to put as much distance as I can between my current output and the various "Claremont Clichés" that appeared to have grown up over the years. It's an ongoing process for me as a creator. I am not treading water, but moving forward.

 

X-Men Forever Art featuring ALL the X-MenNocturne's stroke stood out as a particularly dramatic and real moment in “New Excalibur”. Why did you choose her character to have this happen to as opposed to any others?

 

I chose Nocturne in part because I liked her as a character -- in comics, in drama, the worst things invariably seem to happen to those characters the writer feels strongest towards -- but also because she is the most physical of the team, both in terms of her actual abilities and her manner of expressing them, and herself. Also, being from another dimension, cut-off from the "Exiles," she had no one to turn to but her new friends. As for how I approached the story, it was a matter of dealing with the conflict and the situation as honestly and realistically as possible. Ideally, the whole story would have run for better than a year rather than the two issues alloted to it -- but the series went into play (with new editors, a reoriented publishing future and ultimately the decision to shift me full-time over to "Exiles") as the crucial issues were being penciled and the original plans had be truncated. Life in comics is never dull.

 

Many of your fans credit the opening of their eyes and minds to other cultures and communities to reading your books as a child. Some would even say your inclusion of minorities and various spiritualities makes you a visionary. What is your response to that? Was it a deliberate move on your part to include realistic depictions of minorities?

 

My reason -- it seemed a perfect logical / natural thing to do. Where's the fun in writing if one can't explore the world and all its cultures? Can't visit India, do the next best thing and write about it, and in the process learn as much about the country and its multiple cultures as possible. On one level, the decision was totally deliberate -- but I also have to say that it was totally natural. It most likely flows from my own experience as an immigrant, and the view of the wider world my European roots have given me.

 

Is there an issue of a comic or a story line that you are most proud of? Is there one you wish you would've told differently?

 

If you're talking about "X-Men" I suppose my answer -- traditional but still accurate - would have to be #'s 94-279, inclusive, plus Annuals, Special Editions, Graphic Novels and the like. Wish I'd done differently? Gotten along better with Jim and Bob back in the day. Who knows what might have happened to sales back then had we stuck together? On the other hand, if you're talking about stuff other than the "X-Men", I'd have to say the (prose) book I'm working on now, and the one in the pipeline after that. The past isn't for me to judge, that's the readers' prerogative. My focus, my challenge, is always on what comes next.

 

At the time you were working on the Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past, did you have any idea that they would have the impact it did - not only throughout X-Men but the comic book genre as a whole?

 

None whatsoever.

 

You're also credited for bringing Storm to the forefront of Marvel Comics and for her ascension as an African-American Superhero Icon. What was it about her that drew you to her character?

 

Ororo's a great character, both in terms of who she is and the irresistibly dynamic visual presentation of her by her creator Dave Cockrum. Was back then, still is today and I suspect will be long after I'm off the series. And hopefully, the readers will be intrigued -- and might possibly come to like -- what's in store for her in "Forever."

 

What were your thoughts on the recent Wolverine film? You were arguably the most influential writer of Logan, well defining his character, why do you believe he is the most universally popular X-man and strong enough to carry his own film as opposed to other mutants?

 

I thought the movie was great. Len Wein (Wolvie's creator) loved it, I loved it. Logan's strength as a character derives, to me, in large measure from his fundamental internal conflict: a man at odds with a primal inner beast, struggling to find a place for himself in the world. He's torn between two divergent worlds, the one wherein Sabretooth lives, that sees himself as predator and humans as prey -- and the one that's all around Logan, filled with "normal" people struggling to live "normal" lives. Fundamental dichotomy, and his ongoing attempts to resolve the conflict provide much of the primal conflict for the man and the story. For a more detailed, ongoing answer, you'll just have to read the "Forever" series.

 

What, in your opinion do you think is the reason why the X-Men have become a world wide phenomenon and a multi-million dollar franchise?

 

Superb concepts, part Stan & Jack, and Len & Dave. Dynamite execution, wherein you add me and John Byrne to the list, plus the host of superb artists who followed (one of them being Paul Smith, who'll be handling issues 6 & 10 of "X-Men Forever" along with inker Terry Austin). And an ongoing, long-term focus that was in large measure supported and encouraged by editors, Archie Goodwin, Louise Simonson and Ann Nocenti. For a few fateful years literally all the right elements came together for these characters and this series and the result was truly magic. Perhaps it's impossible to recreate that effect; on the other hand, it'll be fun to try...

 

Stranger things have happened.

Last modified on Sunday, 29 December 2013 00:59