A few writers come to mind when thinking of the huge success the X-Men titles have had: Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Len Wein and Grant Morrison.
However, one writer stands out among the rest, the longest writer in X-Men history, Chris Claremont.
With his epic storylines in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Claremont helped create popular characters such as Gambit, Rogue, Phoenix and much more, as well as boost the title to the popularity it sits at now.
I had the opportunity to chat with him at the Calgary Comic Expo a few weeks ago.
It was intimidating to meet, let alone do an interview, with the writer who first got me interested in comics. However, my nerves calmed quickly when I realized how down to earth and friendly Claremont was. He was also intensely passionate about writing, especially when it came to working with the X-Men.
“I love the characters, I love the stories, I love the opportunity to play with any universe, it’s the same love affair I’ve always have with this book,” Claremont said.
Claremont left the X-Men titles in 1991, but returned in 2000 to write for Uncanny X-Men and X-Men briefly. In 2001 he became the writer for the X-Treme X-Men series as well as wrote for Uncanny X-Men again from 2004-2006.
More recently, Claremont has begun the series X-Men Forever, which has now been in production for almost a year. X-Men Forever, an alternate universe series, is a continuation of the three first issues of the X-Men series that Claremont ended with in the early ‘90s.
“It seemed like a sensible idea to pick up where I left off and finish the story in a sense because I left at an unexpected point back in the day and there were a tremendous amount of loose ends,” he said.
With a new perspective and the freedom to write the stories he couldn’t years ago, Claremont has had a great reception with X-Men Forever.
He said: “It’s like any other creative enterprise you’re always gambling on the market and hoping that the idea you have fits with the audience, it’s what they want to read, it’s what will excite them and bring them back eagerly for more and as I said, so far so good.”
Since I work at a comic book store I see first-hand how popular the series is; usually it is one of the first off the shelves, sometimes before I can snatch up my own copy.
The death of Wolverine and some awesome character twists– Kitty’s new claw addition being my personal favourite – prove that fans are loving the drastic changes to the original storyline, which Claremont says he enjoys coming up with.
“What one ends up living for is the unknown country, the stuff that isn’t out yet, the stories where I’m hoping to strike a new path, break new ground and throw an even hoarier cliché into the mix.”
Weirdly enough the X-Men Forever series will end at issue 24 coming out at the end of May, but will be re-launching at the beginning of June. Claremont reassured me that the storyline will continue as if the new issue 1 was actually issue 25 and said it’s really only for marketing reasons that it’s starting over.
While at the Calgary Comic Expo, I also had the opportunity to talk with Claremont’s wife Beth Fleisher, who said that Claremont had family in Calgary so it was great to hit the expo as well as see some familiar faces.
“It’s really beautiful here,” Fleisher said as she talked about the travelling escapades the two of them had going to Drumheller and Banff.
As for Claremont, he enjoyed connecting with fans at the expo when I wasn’t distracting him with my questions. He said revving up the enthusiasm in fans is an important part for the success of a comic as was “producing the best possible stories, visually and story wise.”
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