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Waiting For Tommy
By Richard Johnston

If you're thirteen, reading comics, and Chris Claremont's X-Men isn't the best work of graphic fiction in the world, there's something wrong with you. Afterwards, that's debatable. But Chris has held onto a fair chunk of his audience and years after he made his name with the X-Men, he's ploughing his own trough on X-Treme X-Men, returning to the franchise after significant work for DC, Wildstorm, Broadway and more. Indeed his most prominent DC work, Sovereign Seven is reported to have had the most generous creator-owned contract in DC's publishing history.

And my wife, currently ploughing through Essential X-Men Vol 4 also asked me to offer her thanks. She's just discovered comics, and it's the Chris Claremont X-Men that has sucked her in. Sandman, Strangers In Paradise, Bone, Preacher, nope. Which meant *she* was able to point out bits in the second movie to me. "Is that Mastermind or Proteus?" "Look, that's the Phoenix". This was very annoying. I intend to get my own back with American Splendor.

Chris is a busy man these days (as tracking down these answers proved) but he found some time to answer... indeed in one case, to give an answer of Bryan Hitch length proportions [ED Note: check out that interview here].

Ladies and Gentlemen, the X-Gene himself, Chris Claremont.

RICHARD JOHNSTON: You're the main reason the X-Men franchise is the success it's become. You've nurtured and grown it - with the help of others, but you've been the mainstay on the book. And you currently write one of Marvel's best selling books, Xtreme X-Men. But it seems like the book's been pushed to the sidelines, your attention drawing artist Salvador Larroca pulled off (initially) against his will, and promotion is low. Yet you regularly bring in 70-80,000 readers for Marvel a month. Do you feel appreciated?

CHRIS CLAREMONT: Well, there's always room for improvement.

RICHARD: Alright, alright, is there anything in the argument that X-Treme X-Men is a sop handed to you by a corporation who want to exploit what you created for them at the hands of others, but without the support you might need?

 

X-MEN VISIONARIES TPB
CHRIS: I suspect the answer depends largely on one's perspective. Some people feel that's so; others don't. From Marvel's stand-point, and a business perspective, this has clearly turned out to be a win-win situation. They gain the benefit of what they have presented to the marketplace, and what the marketplace has accepted, as a revitalized, re-imagined Canon, chock-a-block with new creative staff, new ideas, radical concepts and the like. At the same time however they also produce a title which continues the through-line of character and Canonical history (and here I draw a major distinction between history and continuity, there is a difference) that goes directly back to Stan and Jack.
It's like producing "New Coke" and "Classic Coke", and having both be hugely successful. In Marvel's case, their primary X-related publishing program runs the gamut from Ultimate X-Men, through New and Uncanny to X-treme. In this way, they not only get the full roster of "A"-list characters front-and-center to the audience every month, they do so across a breadth of styles and directions that allow them to maximize their potential audience. If you don't like one particular style, one of the other books might provide an alternative. If you enjoy them all, so much the better. Either way, Marvel benefits.

From my own perspective, the responsibility remains the same, to produce work that has both creative and commercial value, that's worth the effort I take to write it and which provides satisfaction and enjoyment to the readers.

RICHARD: Okay, Chris, you have the floor. You're known for your continuity/history, specifically in the X-Men. I remember the X-Men Plot Dangler on the Internet -- which kept a running list of your yet-to-be-resolved subplots, set-ups, dangling storylines -- as it grew and grew. What do you see as the difference between continuity and history, what's the importance of that difference in your work as you see it, has it always been that was and finally, what exactly was Mister Sinister's plan involving the Summers family?

CHRIS: In practical terms, history is the Canon - the stories - going back to the first issue of a series. Continuity should be for us what it is in film and TV, a matter of making sure the look and behaviour of each issue is consistent. In equally practical terms, both definitions are fungible, subject to the determination of the editors and the policy of the publisher. As far as Sinister's plan, I think it was a lot more fun that anything I've seen about him since. But that's just my opinion.

RICHARD: Well, let's take one recent example. You killed off the character Psylocke fully expecting to be able to revive her. Joe Quesada's policy of no resurrections soon put pay to that. Is there any truth in the rumour, you're bringing back Betsy Braddock through some loophole?


ESSENTIAL WOLVERINE VOLUME I TPB

CHIRS: I'm the writer. That means traditionally, I'm always the last to know.

RICHARD: I am hearing more and more of that of late. Nevertheless, X-Treme X-Men pushes on, despite the way it's perceived to be treated by Marvel. Why do you believe X-Treme X-Men survived and X-Men: Hidden Years did not, both being products of the creators who produced what's considered the 'essential' X-Men stories? CHRIS: I don't know. I enjoyed Hidden Years quite a lot and was sorry to see it cancelled. I've been a fan of John's work since I first saw Rog-2000 and working with him will always be one of the hallmarks of my career.

The stories and series he's handled since we split up have always been on my "must-read" list, partly because he is superb at both story-telling and characterization but in large measure (for me) because of the breadth of his visual imagination. I keep hoping to see things I haven't seen before, creatures, cultures, spectacle, and over the course of years have rarely been disappointed. The most frustrating thing with John is that, invariably, the more I see, the hungrier I am for more.

RICHARD: You've been accused by John of lacking a filter - every idea that comes your way, even if treated as a joke, ends up in your books. What ideas have you rejected in your time?

CHRIS: John's probably right. I always figured that's what editors were for, to help filter out the dross. As for what I've rejected - well, it's an old writer's axiom that nothing's ever truly rejected. You simply file it away for future reference. Sooner or later, given half a chance (and even after being morphed totally beyond recognition), everything gets used.

Page: 1 | 2 Continued Here

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