Interview: Chris Claremont on ‘X-Men Forever’, part 2
This is the second part of a very long interview with Chris Claremont that started on the topic of X-Men Forever and branched into a number of other areas. Part one of the interview is here, and we recommend reading it to get up to speed. Warning: plot points are discussed up to X-Men Forever #5 at least, do not read this interview if you want to be spoiled.
ComicMix: X-Men Forever– this isn’t just you taking your old X-Men script from 1991 and picking up where you left off.
Chris Claremont: No. The point is that I took my concepts from 1991 and sat down and looked at the team and rethought the whole thing. The difference is that the scripts in 1991 were a whole series of arcs that in more than a few cases had ended up being echoed, if not outright adapted, by subsequent writers.
CM: In the same vein, since your initial run on the X-Men, a lot of your work and your own style has been adapted in other places; for example, your creation of Kitty Pryde has been cited as an inspiration for Joss Whedon on Buffy. Let’s not even get started on what people have been drawing on for Heroes and Lost. So now that people know your tropes and it’s become mainstream, what’s next? How do you go beyond that now that the rest of the world is catching up with you?
CC: Well, theoretically the rule we’re running with is if I’ve done it before, I can’t do it here. One of the rules that Mark and I are using is to try as much as possible not to take a story in directions that people anticipate. We’ll see what happens. Part of it is the nature of the characters themselves. My original impulse was to excise Cyclops from the cast because I wanted to focus on someone else– and he just wouldn’t go! Every time I wrote him out, he’d write himself back in. Some part of my brain refused to accept that perception of the X-Men’s reality; its vision was that Cyclops is a key and essential character. There comes a point, as a writer, when you have to listen to that part of your instinct, to ask “why is is saying this?” And once you find the answer, go with it. I am throwing everything up in the air. There are major changes to the eight characters in the series…
CM: Those being Storm, Rogue, Nightcrawler–
CC: Let me start at the top. Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Beast, Kitty, Gambit, Rogue, Nick Fury, and two others to be named later.
CM: Nick Fury’s a mutant, or just showing up a lot?
CC: Nick Fury’s a member of the cast. He’s the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., but we don’t have a S.H.I.E.L.D. book, so we can use him. His rationale for being there is the X-Men are a critical facet of the world community, just because of the power that mutants represent, and they need a minder. That, plus concerns he’s about to have in terms of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, make it more convenient/essential for him to stay on scene with the X-Men to figure out what’s going on.
CM: Since you mention Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde…
CC: They were in Excalibur, yes; they are coming back to the X-Men.
CM: A lot of people have been asking that very question.
CC: The opening circumstances of the book, as seen in the preview, are that this is taking place subsequent to the memorial service for Magneto, where all the X-Men have gathered. There’s one panel on page four where you see the group shot of whole bunches of mutants out back. That explains what they’re all doing there.
CM: So you’ll have all of the X-Men there, you’ll have X-Force there, you’ll have Excalibur…
CC: Those who wish to honor Magneto. Some of them may decide they’re not coming. Anyway, things start to happen from that point on. Essentially, for issue 1, Charlie temporarily closes the school and sends everybody home. He gathers a core team of X-characters to go out after Fabian Cortez, who killed Magneto, to bring him in, and to turn him over to S.H.I.E.L.D. and end this disaster before it gets any worse. Fury is there, saying this: You’re living in a dream world. Magneto threatened the world, and some of you X-Men helped him–you were mind-controlled, but you helped him. The rest of you X-Men stopped him. What makes you think the world’s going to stand back and accept the fact that you guys are unaffiliated, independent operatives and let you go on from there? You represent far too much power.
CM: It almost sounds like you’re instigating Civil War early,
harkening back to the Mutant Registration Act that Senator Kelly had
been pushing all these years.
CC: Yep. I mean, what’s the point of having an idea if I can’t use it?
CM: That’s true!
CC: But the problem with excavating the tip of an iceberg is
what’s underneath. What the X-Men are about to discover– Beast,
primarily– is that all of the presumptions under which Charlie
gathered them together and turned them loose on the world, and all the
realities that they have based their existence on, are about to be
thrown totally out the window. As I’ve said at a number of conventions,
it all comes down to a simple question: Why are there no old mutants?
Why do mutants burn out? Harry Leland burned out. Pyro was burning out.
Magneto burned out.
CM: Right, and he had to get revived and de-aged. For that matter, so did Charlie, twice.
CC: And as Jean pointed out, six weeks ago Charlie could
walk. Now he’s back in a wheelchair, and we don’t know why. Is this an
accident? This was with a brand-new body–the brand-new, healthy Sh’iar
cloned body. He should have been good for a hundred years. What
happened? Hank’s about to find out, and that is going to totally change
the X-Men’s perception of themselves. It’s going to go a long way
towards answering everybody’s question not only why are there no old
mutants, but why Grant Morrison’s vision of fifteen million mutants is
CM: So it seems that unless you’re a mutant with some sort of
regenerative ability– Sabretooth, Wolverine, arguably Mystique–
you’re just burning out outright.
CC: It’s entirely possible. But that’s the thing–suddenly
this isn’t simply a battle against bad guys; it is a struggle for their
own survival. In the course of the first arc of stories, of our eight
core characters plus their adversaries, significant changes are going
to happen to one, two, three, four…five? Five of them, at least. And
these are not things that are going to be corrected a month from now,
or six months from now, or six years from now. This is their lives. Two
thirds of the team is going to be substantially different at the end of
the arc than at the beginning of the arc.
CM: Shifting gears entirely, X-Men Forever is coming out twice a month, I believe?
CC: Every two weeks.
CM: Who’s handling the artwork?
CC: Everybody we can get our hands on. Tom Grummett’s
penciling the first five issues, the first arc. Then Paul Smith and
Terry Austin will be doing issues six and ten, framing the second arc.
The arc itself is the responsibility of Steve Scott. After that, we’ll
CM: Is Tom Orzechowski lettering? There are a lot of
people who are asking who just don’t think your autographs are
authentic because your name doesn’t look like the way Orzechowski
CM: So Tom is coming back and lettering all of it?
CC: I hope so! Better be. If we get Glynnis to color
Paul’s issues, it would be perfect, but there you go. And I should say
that Paul’s issue thus far is brilliant.
And in traditional Claremont fashion… To Be Continued!