The interview starts out with Jon Salwen, host of the Outhouse Podcast introducing his co-hosts, Jude Terror and Gheru, and also introducing a man who needs no introduction, the legendary creator with what is arguably the greatest single comic run of all time, Chris Claremont...
The Outhouse: Hello Chris
Chris Claremont: Hello
OH: How are you today? I thank you for being on with us - I'm sure you do thousands of interviews, being who you are, and we're just extraordinarily happy to have you on today.
CC: My pleasure. The phone call that preceded you was me going nuts with an editor, so an absolutely typical, ordinary day. We were arguing over an upcoming issue of X-Men.
OH: Wow, well we're gonna get into X-Men Forever, that is the main topic that we wanna talk about today, and maybe if you could give us a little bit of info on New Mutants Forever and the Wanderers, we would love to hear about those projects.
First everybody knows you from the Uncanny days, and we'd just like to ask a couple of questions about that era, if you don't mind.
CC: Yeah, it's sort of like talking to Paul McCartney and saying, “you know that first band you were with? Those three guys from what's that town in England?”
OH: Yeah it's gonna be more like "How did you like Liverpool as opposed to the Beatles,” but first of all, I've never really heard how you came about this, but how did it come about that you were given Uncanny X-Men. Uncanny X-Men hadn't been published in several years, and you came in and took over...
CC: Well, it wasn't so obliquely simple. What happened was, it had been an ongoing publication until the spring of '69. Roy Thomas and Neal Adams did the legendary run, and unfortunately, in those days, we didn't get sales figures until about nine, ten months after the book saw print.
So by the time Marvel realized that they had a potential success on their hands, or at least a modest hit, Neal and Roy had moved on to other projects. So it was like, well, what do we do? We'll put it into reprint for a while and let it sit and see what we can muddle up. So it sat that way for about four or five years, and then, in 74, Roy, who was by then Editor in Chief, was talking with Len Wein about cobbling together a new variation on the concept, and what they were talking about was to break from the traditional structure and come up with a more international oriented crew.
Back then Marvel had vague ambitions to see about expanding its potential audience base out of the United States and into Europe. So, it was thought to try for some overseas characters to entice overseas readers and make it a distinct difference from the Avengers or any other superhero group that was running around. So Len sat down with Dave Cockrum.
They put together a cast of new characters and characters that Dave had been playing with for years, one of them being Storm and another being Nightcrawler. By the time this all came together, Roy had moved on from being Editor in Chief and Len had taken over as Editor in Chief. I was on board at this point as I guess what you would consider an associate editor of what was then considered Marvel.
We were a much more limited structure than today. I mean, now you have Editor in Chief, and then you have five or six mega editors, and then you have editors, and then you have assistant editors. Back then, it was Len, and it was me, and we ran forty-six books, and we had a couple of proof readers,
Eventually people such as Roger Stern kept coming in, but those were the happy go lucky days. It was a much leaner, we like to think not so mean machine. So, Len and Dave were putting together the first issue. While they were doing it, I was sort of hanging outside because the office... There was sort of a bullpen, and then Len's office had a door, and my desk was right outside his door, so that way he could yell outside and demand attention whenever he would need it.
OH: Is that were J. Jonah Jameson came from?
CC: The old paradigms. We moved to a larger office since those earlier days, but essentially, back then, when I started with Marvel and they were up on 59th Street. It was a long, skinny, “office,” but Stan's was the only one that actually had a door. Others had doorways, but they had no door. Stan had a door. He could shut the door. He could have privacy. And this was sort of an echo of that.
Anyway, Len and Dave would plot, and I would eavesdrop and occasionally kibbitz, and by the time they moved on to Giant Size 2 and the decision was made to shift it from a quarterly giant size to a bimonthly regular format, Len had decided to move on as editor in chief and be replaced by Marv Wolfman. He had to give up one of the titles he was writing, and the one that got sacrificed was the only non monthly, which was X-men.
So he asked me if I was interested in writing it and I said, "huh, hell yes!" Because the chance to work with Dave was ridiculously irresistible, and as they say, the rest is history. Once Dave and I started, we never looked back. And we probably threw out everything Len had planned, including Wolverine being a young punk, and the claws big part of a glove, Nightcrawler being a bitter, tormented soul, and we just decided, eh, we had much better ideas, and we took it on from there.
OH: You definitely made those characters your own.
CC: I think you have to look at it in the sense that Dave and I made them our own. Because a lot of the character aspects that I brought to it were sprung off of the visual iconography that Dave established in his designs for them. I mean, in a very real sense, John actually was the first one to present Logan without his mask in Iron Fist #15, a team-up with the X-Men, and he drew him as a very respectable, normal looking Canadian, and Dave just said "no, no, no no no no no no no no no no no no no no," and came up with Logan. Dave had a specific vision in mind for what he looked like, and I was like oh yeah, duh!
OH: You worked with some of the best artists the industry has ever seen. Dave Cockrum, Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, John Byrne, Salvador Larocca, and the list goes on with who you've worked with. Who do you think realized your vision best?
CC: Well, I mean... when you're looking across a collection of artists where you're talking Frank Miller, where you're talking Bill Sienkiewicz, where you're talking Marc Silvestri, where you're talking Jim Lee, where you're talking Rick Leonardi, where you're talking John Bolton, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, you know, each brings a unique vision, each brings a unique strength. Each brings something that is extraordinary to the presentation of the characters and the stories.
You can't really differentiate one from the other. You just embrace the embarrassment of riches and say woohoo, this is way too much fun and dang I wish I could have worked with Kirby. But there you go. The thing is, until you actually see John Buscema's pencils, until you actually sit down and write a plot and see what he presents you as a throwaway... You have no idea, you're used to thinking of John as "John Buscema." He's been doing this for god knows how long. You take it for granted. And then you see him expressing your story, presenting the vision, and the things that he does.
Well yeah that's the traditional superhero stuff, and then the grace notes he throws in for the hell of it you sit there and go, "wow! That's really cool." You don't realize how gifted and how brilliant some of these guys are who you're so used to taking for granted.
I mean, in some respects, in a lot of cases, people think of Sal as, "oh yeah! The other Buscema," where if you actually work with him, when you're actually putting the stories together and you're looking at them, and especially when you see it as the foundation for stuff when he's inked by example by Steve Leialoha, or when he's inked by Bill Sienkiewicz, and you realize, holy cow, it's like they're illustrating, but the fundamentals, the storytelling is all there. And that's from Sal. That's the stuff he's giving you, and when you see the stuff that he's inking himself where he's actually literally [saying], "oh yeah? You're so used to thinking of John? Well look at what I can do!" And you go, "oh god!" You should never yield to the temptation to think of these guys as the cliche, because none of them are. They're all incredibly gifted talents.
Here's the story. Years ago, I was at a party with Herb Trimpe and we were all jamming in the back, and he was playing the guitar. And Herb is a superb guitar player, and Barry Windsor Smith, someone else I worked with, hahaha, was there along with Herb. Actually Herb's a classic case in point. Everyone looks at his stuff and thinks "Herb Trimpe, the guy who draws the Hulk, and yes, he is the guy who draws the Hulk. But anyone who ever thought that Herb was not an absolutely brilliant artist, to me, all they have to do is look at the two issues we did of War is Hell, that he inked himself, especially The Battle of Britain issue, and bloody brilliant! I'll match him up against anybody. Storytelling, evocation, art, you just look at it and its just mind blowing. You should never take these guys for granted.
Anyway, Herb's sitting there, and Barry's saying, "Herb, why don't you do the rock music, bring him, just bring him," and Herb looks at him and just goes, "Barry, Barry, everybody in the world figures they can pick up a guitar and play rock, but Barry, how many people in the world actually draw comics for a living?" Have you thought about it? How many? A thousand? In the world? We thought about it for a second, and we said, yeah, you know, if you add in all the Japanese, yeah a thousand. So you know, you're talking one for a half million? No, one for five million, six million, one out of every six million people draws comic books.
That's not exactly a bad [thing]. That's a fairly small circle. And Herb's point was "I'm one of those thousand people, and I love what I do," and I think our shame as an industry is that we haven't kept hold of him. We've lost him. He's moved on, and that's our loss and the reader's loss, but that's the fun of this business. That's what got me started and keeps me going, much to my chagrin half the time, and why, to me, doing this is so much fun, because you have the chance of meeting someone, of working with someone like Herb, like Frank, like Sal, and discovering someone like Tom Grummett, and just watching him get better and better on a book like Forever and just knocking your proverbial socks off. All the fun of making a big budget motion picture without having to blow a million dollars.
OH: Mr Claremont, I heard that you were instrumental in recruiting some of these artists for Marvel. Is this true?
CC: Yeah, it's sort of like, I'm desperate to find talent, and after I find talent, they always get dropped into a higher profile book. I was lucky enough, for example, to work with Salva [Salvador Larocca] for six years because everyone thought he was just one of those Europeans, and then they suddenly realize, “holy cow, he's absolutely bloody brilliant!” And the next thing I knew he was hijacked off of X-treme and I haven't seen him since. But that's half the fun, finding somebody new. I mean now, everybody's looking for new blood and trying to get them on to Ultimates or whatever.
OH: Mr. Claremont, this is Ru, I was just wondering, you were talking before about how Wolverine is this big tough guy Canadian...
CC: He's short actually. Not like the movie at all.
OH: Well, at least, like, a tough guy, I think we can agree on that. Why do you think he works so well with female sidekicks like Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, and even right now Armor...
OH: The character in Astonishing X-Men...
CC: I don't read the new stuff. It's derivative.
OH: Well, you definitely started the trend with Kitty Pryde, and later with Jubilee, with him having a young female partner that he worked and riffed well off of. Obviously, I think that's very much characterized by the Kitty Pryde/Logan relationship. Why do you think that dynamic worked so well with a character that was written sometimes as very cold, as the killer on the X-men?
CC: Well, if you're looking for a literary analogy, the paradigm would be mentor/pupil. You have the mature samurai and the young punk being taught. The grandmaster and the new kid on the block. A Zorro teaching young Zorro kind of thing... is it Anthony Hopkins teaching Antonio Banderas in the remake? There's that aspect of it.
It's also a study in contrast. You've got someone who's the scariest, most dynamic character in the team and you hook them up with someone who's the fundamental opposite. Therefore you have the greatest potential for conflict between either, in the sense of, will Logan corrupt the innocent, or will the innocent corrupt Logan away from his violence? We're taking it to the next level with Sabretooth.
OH: Actually, I wanted to ask a follow-up question. I think people kind of get it wrong because they see the way Wolverine is written now. When you wrote the character, he had definite limits in terms of his healing ability. You wrote him as someone who is vulnerable. I remember an issue when Mystique is training to take down the X-men and she theorizes that she can take down Wolverine with a throat shot. In Fall of the Mutants, you push his healing factor to a maximum where he has a choice of going into a healing coma.
CC: Well, if you actually follow the time line, and if you plug, as one should, Forever into the original continuity, the way this was all designed in the beginning was, starting with Fall of the Mutants, and Wolverine's crucifixion I think in #250, somewhere around there, with the Reavers, he'd been in a fairly sustained downhill curve. He should by rights take a year off, lie on a beach, and recover, but he hasn't been, he's been going from crisis to crisis and gradually taking more and more hits and coming back more and more slowly from them throughout the last thirty five, forty issues of X-men. That was going to lead up, in the original concept, to his death, and his ultimate resurrection at the hands of The Hand and his coming back as the master assassin. That was the wish fulfillment plot line that was one of the things that led to the separation in '91.
OH: The thing is you seem to have always put Wolverine on his heels the way that other writers seem to miss. I remember when you came back for a short stint when Wolverine had lost the adamantium and you had given Sabretooth the adamantium and basically made the point to say that the only thing that even made them even close to equal was that Wolverine had adamantium, in a sense putting wolverine back on his heels. Do you think that vulnerability is an essential part of the character that seems to be lost when other people write him?
CC: Accepting your final comment, and comparing this to other people's writing, because that's an assessment readers will have to make for themselves, my vision of the character is that what makes him interesting is that while the healing factor gives him a risk, it is not a get out of jail free card. There has to always be a moment where, when he goes into a battle, where he goes up against an adversary, there is the awareness that, "I can die. I accept that." That's the samurai part of his makeup. And thus far, he hadn't, up until Forever #1, but up until then he played the cards and came out ahead.
Once that becomes a given, that no matter what you do to him, you can reduce him down to his molecular structure and he'll get better, eh, what's the point? Where's the suspense? Where's the risk? How is he any kind of viable, realistic, relevant character? He just becomes a cypher. One step, actually, very much like Superman, except that Superman is vulnerable at least to Kryptonite. Wolverine, as currently portrayed, has no vulnerabilities, and one has to look at it again from the quesiton of, given the healing factor and given everything else, how can he even get old?
I mean, how can you do an Old Man Wolverine? Why can't his healing factor deal with that? But clearly, if you look at the presumptive structure of Old Man Logan, it's a totally different vision of the character than what I had because it's looking at him as having a relatively normal human lifespan. You're talking sixty to seventy years in the future, whereas I was always looking at him as more in the two or three hundred going on infinite stretch of time. Well, that's hooking up with Phoenix.
So, the whole point with this was, especially with Forever: ok, if we can't do the Wolverine getting killed and coming back as master assassin of the hand because Mark Millar's already done that... Yeah, that's amazing, all the Brits use the same plot line. You come off the boat, they give it to you with their passport. “Here's a wolverine plot, go work for marvel now.” So, the next best thing was, well, why don't we kill him off for real? No one will ever see that one coming. The other reason is, once we get him off stage, no one's gonna compare how we're writing him in Forever with how they're writing him in X-men. We remove him as a moment of comparison, and once we create that kind of hole in the center of the series, suddenly, there's a tremendous amount of room for other characters to expand to fill the gap. Like Beast for example, or Jean, or Sabretooth.
The thing is that Wolverine, of necessity over the years, seems to be sucking up a tremendous amount of air in the comic and cinema firmament. If you look at the evolution of the x-men as films, they quickly became the adventures of Wolverine and these other six characters. It's a logical reflection of Jackman's power as an actor and the character's power as the center of that film universe and the comic universe, but from a writing standpoint, from a publishing standpoint, if we want Forever to stand distinctively apart from Uncanny, then the easiest and simplest, most organic way to do it is: ok, let's get rid of the short guy and see what fills the space instead, and who might step forward to become the next central figure in this collection of characters and what fun might we have with that, as writer and as reader.
OH: Mr. Claremont, to jump onto a different character, there is a perception, based on Madelyne Pryor, Jean Grey, what happened with Nathan, and even in Forever the revelation of Jean and Wolverine's relationship, you never really seem to give Scott a break. Some people say that you hate Scott Summers.
CC: That's why I spent so much trouble finding him a nice girl, getting him happily married, having him go... he meets Madelyne, he puts his past behind him, he proposes, she accepts, they get married, they go off to the South Seas, she has a child, he moves away from the mansion, reluctantly I grant you, to start a new and happy life together and grow up. Yes, I really hate his guts. I gave him a happy ending. Jeeze.
OH: Was that the plan for Scott? You really wanted him to have the happy ending and to live happily ever after?
CC: Yes, He would be available on occasion to come back when the X-men really needed him, because he's the core, but he grew up. He has responsibilities. He's got a family now. He's not about putting on a skintight costume and going out and saving the world. He's building the next generation the old fashioned way, by a stable life, with a wife and a job and a family and a home and parents. I mean, think about it for a second. He's been living alone all his life. He fell out of a plane as a child. He lost his parents. After an unimaginable amount of time alone, he discovers, “whoops, I've got a brother (this is back in Roy and Neal's time).” He discovers Alex. Now there's two of them. Then, after a certain amount of other time, they discover, “holy Toledo, my dad's alive...”
OH: And a space pirate nonetheless...
CC: And a space pirate no less. And after that, he discovers, “I've got grandparents.” Wow! Reality. Sanity. Normalcy. And to add icing on the cake, he discovers that there's a lovely young lady who, yes, coincidentally, happens to look just like his dead girlfriend. Not quite, you know. And he falls for her, and they work it out, and it was supposed to be a happy ending, and that was the interesting summer where we just plotted the wedding, we were moving ahead full bore, and out of nowhere, the proposal comes in for X-Factor #1. I remember Ann [Nocenti] and Barry Smith and I were sitting in this restaurant around the corner from Marvel on a Friday night, plotting out X-men #198 I think... Either #196 or #198, and we're sitting down, and Ann says, “oh, by the way, Jim wanted me to tell you this. I figured I'd wait until after the office closed. They're bringing back Jean.” And I said, “you're shitting me.” And she said, “no.” And I said, “you'll have to excuse me for a minute,” and I walked out, tried to call Jim, he'd left the office, came back in and I cursed for about a half hour. Barry sat very patiently. He must have wondered what the fuck was going on, and Ann's sitting there, brilliant editor that she is, having learned from the best editor to work work other than Archie Goodwin who is Louise Simonson, and just waiting for the storm to pass, and then we plotted #198 which was bloody brilliant. Barry's work is just breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking.
OH: That's the solo story on Wolverine?
CC: No, no, that's Life Death 2 - Storm goes back to Africa and spends a stormy night, so to speak, keeping a young girl safe in the ruins of a junkyard, and she gives birth to her child, and at the end of the story the tribe medicine man, who is an old gentleman, died, and the idea was that as each child was born, one of the old people has to die because there simply isn't enough resources to keep everyone alive, so the old make way for the young.
OH: That was issue #205 I was think about, sorry about that.
CC: yeah, that was a year later. Anyway, sorry. I was reminiscing. So I wasn't terribly thrilled, but that was policy. That's the difference between the decisions that are made by management and those that are made by creators.
OH: So, Mr. Claremont, it seems like you removed some plot points from your original run for Forever. For instance, it was recently revealed that Scott's son Nathan was alive and well in Alaska, not trapped in the future with a techno-organic virus. How did you decide what to keep?
CC: The rule of thumb was that anything that happened prior to page 12 of #279 is cannon.
OH: What's special about that page?
CC: That was my last script. I stopped scripting the book on page 11, and Fabian took over on page 12. It wasn't a happy time. So the end of the Shadow War was in no way, shape, manor, or form anything remotely similar to what I had planned.
CC: Oh, it was a long and unpleasant experience, and the less said about it right now the better. The gist of it is that the things that fall into that, it is an arbitrary decision on my part, but part of the fight was the whole resolution of the Scott/Nathan circumstance in X-Factor. I wrote those three issues for Jim [Lee] and Whilce [Portacio] because I was under contract and it was convenient, but it was their plot and by the time it was done, I was out of the planning structure altogether and there was no way to rectify things. So, this is just me tidying up the loose ends that, if I hadn't left, I would have tidied up at the time.
OH: How long do you want to write X-Men Forever? Forever?
CC: Well, I'll settle for sixteen years. I'd like to go for twenty, but I won't be too greedy.
OH: So you see this as an indefinite, ongoing series? You don't have an ending planned?
CC: Well, I have lots of endings planned. We have a one year commitment. We are good through issue 24. Many of the impassioned disputations I have with Mark Paniccia revolve around my tendency to plan ahead, as far ahead as I can, and throw things up against the ceiling and see what sticks and what doesn't stick and just leave em there for a while, and he wants to tie up all the loose ends because he has to deal with this from the presumption that the book's gonna get canned with issue 25, because we do it in five issue arcs.
OH: I think what people love about your writing it the slow burn plot, so I'm glad you're doing it that way.
CC: Well, I'm doing it that way, but the problem is every series I've started in the last ten years: X-treme, Exiles, Excalibur, Uncanny too when I was on it, X-men Forever now, has ended with loose ends galore, and readers have expressed frustration because either I get bounced off the book or the book gets canceled and things are still left hanging, and this is an attempt to try to forestall that, but at the same time, my instinct is, I want to let things percolate for a while. I don't want to throw things up and resolve them an issue later. I want to see what's going on, and that's part of what we were discussing passionately today when you called was this Nightcrawler arc, as to what we want to do with Nightcrawler and his past and his future and how we want to structure it, and I'm saying do this and do this and the editor is saying do that and do that. Putting myself in as editor and saying this stuff will work and this and this and this...
I suppose part of the discontinuity here is that every time, when one is a young assistant editor at Marvel talking to an old fart like me, the problem is you're also talking with someone who has been, not so long ago, editorial director, senior editor, book editor, line editor, you know? I've played both sides of the street as often as anyone else, and a lot of this was before some of the current staff were even born, and it's like, “oh shit, how do I tell him this?” And I'm sitting here thinking, “don't these idiots know how to do this job?” And the frustration is, we're both right half the time, and we're both wrong half the time, the trouble is to try to get that equation in sync so we're both right and in agreement more often than we're both wrong and in disagreement.
OH: I have to ask about a minor dangling plot point. There was one thing that you introduced...
CC: Only one?
OH: No, there were many, and I loved them all, but there was one that I really loved and that had to be Genosha, the island nation that functioned on the backs of mutants, or mutates I guess. Now they've pretty much wrapped up that storyline in current continuity...
CC: Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's still as it existed in #277, which means the revolution... At this point, it is not beyond the realm of possibility, I would think, if we get a second year, for example... I would not be surprised if there was a Genosha arc where we discovered that the Genegineer and his coterie have reassumed control.
OH: Right, because the last we saw was the X-tinction Agenda crossover, so you answered my question already which was will we see it in X-Men forever, and the answer is next year.
CC: Well the caveat is if we go to second and third year, and yes I mention it because, I make no bones about it, I want there to be a second and third year, and the only way we're gonna do that is if we get reader support. I'm sorry, this is the Star Trek rule of, screw it, start complaining tomorrow. The only way this book's gonna survive is if people write in and express themselves to the management and say, “we want this book to survive. We will support it. You must keep publishing it.” And I figure if I make an effort and the audience responds, then we've got a shot. The problem with the current marketplace, especially with a book like Forever, is the costs are so extreme. I mean, with Uncanny and the other titles, you have built in the momentum of history. “I can't break a collection that goes back 600 issues. Jeeze, what do I do, I gotta find out if Cap is coming back.” Bravo. And also, “I'm buying Uncanny, I have to read Spider-Man because they're connected. I have to read Fantastic Four because they're connected.”
We're a standalone title. We have an entire Marvel Universe. The trouble is, we don't have 40 titles to showcase what's going on. The FF may show up to a funeral. You may know that characters are having adventures off panel, but we only have one title to show what's going on, so you're only looking at it from the point of view of the house in Westchester. Therefore, the only ways that Marvel is going to know that anyone likes this book and is interested in this book and wants to keep reading this book is if they publicly voice their position, which means A., they buy it, and B., they tell Marvel that they're buying it and they want it to stick around. That way Marvel can say...
Case in point, we just got word in the last fortnight that Forever has gone from #22 on the subscription list to #6. That's phenomenal! The point is that that kind of support, that kind of enthusiasm translates into a renewal, and hopefully out of that renewal comes a bigger print run, and more sales, and more enthusiasm, and out of that we build our foundation. Otherwise, we end up with the book that launches, goes for ten issues, and fades away because it just doesn't fit any models and the company moves on to other things.
OH (Jude): So you heard it here, folks, please buy three copies of X-Men Forever and give them to your friends, because if I have to stop reading this book, I will be very, very upset...
OH (Jon): This is actually something Jude has done, he has bought copies of this book and sent them to people...
OH (Gheru): I'm one of them...
OH (Jon): ...to get them to read this book. It is not a joke whatsoever, and the Outhouse is definitely gonna have to organize something. I heard something about a possible viral campaign for this book. Have you heard anything that anyone specifically was doing? Because we all want to help, and we definitely enjoy the book.
CC: Just let Marvel know. And it's not just my book;, it's any book. If you like it, let Marvel know. What I'm fond of telling people is, if you're going to communicate with Marvel, it's always better to do so by snail mail, oddly enough, because electronic mail is very casual and it's easily faked. Anyone can do a thousand cheap copies of notes and email them in claiming to be from a thousand different people, but if you get, suddenly, three hundred letters, or a hundred actual post cards saying, “I read this book, I like this book,” whatever the book is, that someone is willing to go out and spend 50 cents on a stamp if not for nothing else. In the old days, at least... It might be different now... In the old days it was like, Holy Toledo! If people care enough to make this kind of effort, then it's the same rules I think with comics as with TV, you know, fans put up a fight to save Star Trek, it went for a third season. Fans put up a fight for, oh god what was it, was it... Quantum Leap?
OH: Well, I know it wasn't Laverne and Shirley...
CC: Well, there are legends, and the same rules apply here: that enthusiasm on the part of the audience goes a long way towards making any title [succeed]. It's one of the things that I think kept, over at DC, Preacher going. It wasn't a top selling title, but the enthusiasm of the audience and the faith of the publisher in the title kept it going, and it gradually built up a following. If you go back and look at, for example, television, a lot of series, like Friends is a classic example, or even Cheers... First season, Cheers sucked. First season, Friends sucked. And twenty-five years later, Cheers led to Frasier and that was money in NBC's bank, and the same thing happened with Friends.
OH: I think one of the rabid fan bases you were talking about was with Joss Whedon, possibly with Firefly, which then led to the Serenity movie, because the fans did speak with their wallets. They bought the fourteen episodes that had been released and convinced the studio to make a movie
CC: And in a way its paying off with Dollhouse, because it's making Fox very nervous about any kind of precipitative response to that, because they don't want to be known as the network that keeps killing Whedon's shows too soon, and then paying the price. But it's a challenge, because the cost of producing a weekly TV series like that is not small, and if you have to invest three years to build any kind of an audience, yes you may get paid off with a ten year run, but it's a hell of a crap shoot, and it's to a much lesser but equally prevalent extent that this applies in comics as well.
In the old days, we could afford to sit back and let a series go for a year and see what happens, and say, “ok I'll give you a year. I'll give you two years.” DC gave Sovereign Seven three years. Three full years, and I would have canceled it after one. I'm sorry, the sales sucked. As an editor, I looked at it and thought, ugggghhhh. The first three issues did really well and then the market collapsed.
OH: Actually, I did read Soveriegn Seven. It's creator owned, correct?
OH: Is there any possibility of seeing it at a different company?
CC: Well, do you have a company? Do you want to invest two hundred thousand
OH: We actually do, but we don't pay a lot.
CC: There's always a possibility. The two problems in comics are, 1., you need an artist, and 2., you need a publisher. One example is, two years ago I spent the better part of a year working with a young French artist on a fantasy/science fiction series that was going to be published by Heavy Metal.
OH: Keven Eastman's Heavy Metal?
CC: No, no, the original French company. And it went belly up. And the problem is that, now we have this lovely science fiction/fantasy series, with a great artist, but the publishers that are over there are not thrilled with the artist, or they're not thrilled by the story, or they're not thrilled by me, or it's not quite right for what they want to do, and no one in the states does that sort of stuff. They don't do 48 page graphic novels. And he, or it, isn't right for the market model that Marvel or DC operate under. Neither company does science fiction, certainly neither company does fantasy, and European visual styles do not translate well into the United States. Dark Horse might publish it, but Dark Horse pays nothing, and all of a sudden, that's it.
The same rules here apply as apply for prose, as apply for film, as apply for anywhere else. There are a lot of attempts and a lot of false starts, and for every hundred or two hundred of them you get a series. So, you keep throwing stuff at the wall and hoping for the best, but as Mel Brooks is fond of saying, you expect the worst.
OH: Speaking of new series, with New Mutants Forever, exactly where in your New Mutants run does this start off?
OH: Do you have any hints on artists?
CC: My last issue was #54. My next issue is #55.
OH: Is Cannonball gonna still be using the same costume? They had all new costumes in #55.
OH: Was that Hellfire?
OH: Ok, just trying to remember where we were...
CC: They were having a “fight/teamup” with the Hellions, Magneto had just become the White King, the X-men were off in, oddly enough, San Francisco!
OH: That's right, with Madelyne right? To save Madelyne Pryor?
CC: Yeah it's amazing how everything old is new again.
OH: I think it's pretty amazing how precipitously New Mutants goes after you leave. No offense to the creators or anything...
CC: I thought Weezie's [Louise Simonson's] was a brilliant run. It's just totally different from mine. That's to be expected. I mean, when the new writer on the book is the woman who was editor of the original concept and helped create the whole thing in the beginning, one can't really argue with her creative decisions. For the most part, I agree with them, except for killing Doug, and a couple of other things. But that's just me. It's no reflection on her. As a matter of fact I just heard word that they're now talking about doing X-Factor Forever, with... It would be funny if it was Weezie AND Walter [Simonson]. So I think that'll be a total stitch.
OH: Is there any pressure, with something like New Mutants Forever, to start going in the direction that the real run took, which is X-Force?
CC: Nope. Partly because it;s a whole different dynamic. New Mutants Forever is a five issue limited series, whereas X-men is an ongoing, theoretically.
OH: Oh, ok, we hadn't heard that it's a limited.
CC: At this point, everything is limited. Marvel has always been very cost concious. Therefore, the idea is that it's easier to publish things in what used to be a six issue arc, because that was the model, now it's a five issue arc because its a little bit cheaper, and you see if it flies, and if it really flies, then you go with it. The challenge with New Mutants Forever, for better or worse, is there's an ongoing New Mutants series.
OH: With very much the same characters.
CC: You win some, you lose some. That in itself is a challenge to the audience. The idea is that we float the concept, we see if the audience likes it, and if they do, start browbeating upstairs management into green lighting another one. The same rules as worked with Genext. The first series was successful, therefore we got the green light for a second series. Hopefully, we'd like to get the green light for a third series to wrap up the trilogy. Hopefully, they will, so we can.
OH: That's your plan for Genext?
CC: My plan would happily be for an ongoing, but there you are.
OH: So for New Mutants Forever, are you approaching this to wrap up different storylines?
CC: This is a self contained story that continues logically from where we left off and throws in a bunch of surprises along the way.
OH: Mr. Claremont, it's been a lot longer since you were on new mutants than it was since you were on X-Men, and I have to admit that I wasn't reading comics when you were on New Mutants. One of my biggest complaints is there's no collection of your run that I can find, like the Essentials. Do you have any pull to get one of these made? An Essential? An omnibus?
CC: I don't know, I know they've been doing some...
OH: They've collected certain story lines.
CC: They've collected the [Bill] Sienkiewicz issues. If this had been two weeks ago, I'd say show up at the New York con and talk to Joe or David and say, “look, you should do this!”
OH: I already spend enough money on comics. I don't think my wife would let me travel to New York to ask if I could spend more.
CC: Well, that's the advantage I suppose of something like New Mutants, that the back issues are relatively cheap, if they can be found, unlike X-Men, and there aren't that many of them per se, but I would assume also that if the series takes off, or if it gets any kind of positive response, then Marvel will never shy away from the opportunity to make a buck, especially off of reprints. It's just doing a black and white compilation. If they're redoing Son of Satan and god knows what else that seems to be showing up in my bundle lately, I'm sure they'll do Essential New Mutants at some point.
OH: Well, with New Mutants Forever coming out, and an ongoing current book, you would think there are fans out there.
CC: Well, that's management, and I am but a wage slave.
OH: You guys had some amazing, just like everything else, some amazing artists and those were some great stories.
CC: Ooooh, those issues with Sienkiewicz were about as “what the dickens” as you can get. Actually, he was my first choice to do the new series but he, unfortunately, seems to be fairly heavily committed over at the other company. Would have been fun though. No one would have known what to do with it, but it would have been fun.
OH: Yeah, that issue, I forget what number, where the Beyonder shows up, issue #37 I believe, was fantastic.
CC: Well the other side of it also was Arthur [Adams] was doing some of the most brilliant covers I've ever seen. I mean, the Beyonder cover with Dani and Rahne, with everybody just climbing into their graves was just breathtaking. The cover that got us all into trouble, which is the white queen dangling the bodies...
OH: Yes, I own that issue, I remember that, as a child, and um...
CC: People go What the dickens were you guys doing? "But, Arthur's such a nice guy. It was just a cover!" That's the other thing - who would I like to work with? Unfortunately, Arthur is booked. He's doing five other big time series and he's not available for young punks like me, peripheral guys. I'm gonna change my name to Bendis.
OH: Yeah, then you'd be on the Avengers though. The thing is, in looking at the animated shows that were done about the X-Men, in looking at the movies, four movies about Wolverine we can basically say now...
CC: Five, if you look at the one that's in production, which is an actual adaptation...
OH: Well, that's what we want to ask you about. Have you been consulted at all, about any of these, any of the animated shows? The fact is they borrow very heavily from stuff that you've written.
CC: Some of them they've done straight adaptations, sometimes I've been paid for them. The actual irony is that back in the day, back in the very beginning, back in '98 when we were starting to work on all this, they had a log jam. Bryan [Singer] was interested, but they couldn't quite figure out how to get a handle on the concept. There were so many characters. What was the story? They were just gonna put it in turnaround, and it would go the way of all flesh, as the X-men had done three times before when it had gone into Hollywood, and I was working consulting with Lauren Donner at the time, who was the producer on it, and Bob Harras and I had met with her back when she was doing You Got Mail, and that's when all this started. Keven Feige was her assistant, and that was when we first met Bryan.
So I wrote up a long, long memo and sent it up to her at Fox, saying this is what this series is, this is how it fits together, these are who they are, this is what you can do with it, these are the tropes and the arguing points in terms of presenting it to the audience, how you make it into a film, and these are the characters you focus on, and next thing I know I get a call back from Lauren and from the managing VP at Fox saying, “thank you. The memo catalyzed everybody's thought processes, got everybody back on track, got Bryan really excited about it. We're looking forward to working on it.” Within the next three months, the sale went through, Avi [Arad] took over, well I took over Marvel and Avi Arad took over the film making side of things, and that was the last direct connection I had with it.
So what's been happening since, the interesting thing is, Lauren's been wanting to make Frank's and my story into a film for ten years. That was always on her list. That was the first wolverine film she wanted out the door from Fox, and Fox were the ones who insisted that they do an “origin” first, to establish, to tell all the back story. Boring. So what I'm happy about is that we're finally getting the chance to bring the story that she wanted to do, and that I wanted to do, to fruition. It will be nice for Frank to get the credit. I would say recognition, but he's already done way too much on the West Coast for that. Well, I think it will be a lot of fun and I think she will have a lot of fun doing it. I'm really curious to see how they bring it together.
OH: Mr. Claremont, you had commented earlier how X-Men Forever gets a year worth of comics, and for you that's twenty-four comics. You're also writing New Mutants Forever, and that's another 5 issues. Most of us, with most comics, are lucky if we get ten or eleven issues a year. I guess my question is, what are your thoughts on the current comic book industry, the scheduling, the superstars, where the industry has come since basically your X-men heydey?
CC: Comics are a balls to the walls industry. We're paid by the page, and not very much. My starting rate... I was the first writer to get ten bucks a page. Someone asked me, “what does that mean for an issue?” Well, it's $180 an issue. Wow. “And what does Grant get for a page?" Grant gets $180 a page, if not more, I would assume. So yeah, in forty years, the numbers have gone up, but the fact is that on one hand you say, “yeah, I'm doing twelve books a year,” well twelve books a year, what does that translate into in the real world? Well, if you're lucky that's maybe thirty to forty thousand bucks? Well, thirty or forty thousand bucks in todays in economy, living in New York, with kids in school? That's not a lot of money.
The reality of comics is that production is survival. You do the work so that... I mean, in the happy old days, when the X-Men and I parted company, I left a book that was selling a half a million copies an issue. Everyone laughingly points to X-Men #1 and chortles. Well, chortle all you want, we printed 8.2 million and we sold 7.9 million. At over a buck and a half a piece. Do the math. And that doesn't even count the compilations. So Marvel made some bucks. They made some bucks. I made some bucks. The ambition then was, ok, with X-men #1 we have a miracle. We have 8 million copies. Well, X-Men #12 is the key. If we can get to X-men #12 and we're still selling 750,000, well then we've changed the dynamic. We've gone from 400,000 to 500,000 to 750,000 and maybe 800,000, and maybe then, maybe a year after that, we could, who knows, go back to the 1960 model and try for a million copies an issue. Think about that. We're selling a million copies an issue. This is our fantasy.
And if the X-men can sell a million, what does that mean for Captain America? What does that mean for The Avengers? What does that mean for Spider-Man? And if Marvel can have those kinds of numbers, what does that mean for DC? And if comics can do those kinds of numbers, what does that mean for the comic book retailers? We were thinking, wow, this could be the start of something big.
Well it was: a disaster! But, that's the joy of hindsight versus foresight. If you'd said that twenty years before that point, comics were printing...
You look back in the early seventies and Roy... When I started at Marvel, if you had a book that sold, the rule of thumb we were saying at a convention the other week, if your sales were forty-five percent, you were cancelled. What does forty-five percent mean? Well, forty-five percent of a print run of 300,000 copies. That means you're selling 140,000 copies and we're canceling you automatically because you're shit. Well, if you sold 140,000 copies today, they'd be kissing your feet. Well, that was twenty years prior to 1990. 1990 we'd gone direct market and we were selling a half million copies a month. Now, twenty years later, the book that was selling a half million copies an issue is now selling 80,000 and is considered towards the top of the line.
OH: That's top ten. Maybe top five.
CC: And X-Men Forever is hanging on at 28,000. Mind you, it's 4 bucks a pop and Marvel is definitely making money on it, but still, 28,000. That sucks. And when you consider that San Diego's pulling in 160,000 people, and New York, what did they pull in last spring, 80,000? 60,000? That was the spring convention. Last week it was something ridiculous too. There are bodies out there, but no one is buying comics it seems, and that's intensely frustrating, and that's the model we have to find a way to change or else we're just gonna go down the tubes.
OH: Well, why do you think that is, that comics are so successful in movies, and there are so many people at the conventions and so many people who like the characters, but the comics just aren't selling?
CC: Well I could give you all sorts of interesting arguments like the quality of the work, like the difference in production models. Why do I want to see a whole series of stories written for forty five year old men wanting to scream about how such and such character is not fulfilling this detail of that particular item from their past that fits into this particular model that goes this way sideways and jumps up and down three times..
OH: Hey that's our entire audience at the Outhouse!
CC: As opposed to, “Hey, that's a really good story, what happens next?” What you have is a bunch of people who are screaming about minutia and yelling at each other online and having a great time indulging in their own wish fulfillment fantasies, but we're not providing the general audience any interesting model or reason to come buy us. I mean, the thing is, the critical point was, and I think a lot of people never understood this until it was too late, Marvel always had a strong commitment to the new stuff. The thing about the X-men that made Uncanny fundamentally different from just about anybody else was that, of our four hundred thousand to five hundred thousand sales every issue, 120,000 of them were from Newsstands. We paid our print cost off of the news stand. Everything we sold in direct was gravy, was profit, but, more importantly, the news stand provided us an ongoing outreach to fresh readers.
You were walking through an airport, walking through a train station, you look at the news agent and you see an X-Men. You pick it up. You look at it. You give it to your kid. He likes it. She likes it. You like it. You say, “where can I find more books like this?” You go to your comic retailer. That became part of the source material. But the problem was, to sell to the newsstand, you had to print 300,000, 400,000 copies to sell your 150,000. Well, it became more cost efficient, and DC decided, and Marvel decided, as the decade wore on into the nineties, the hell with that, we don't need the newsstand. Comic book retailers will support us. So we'll go direct market only.
Which is fine, until the direct market collapsed, at which point we find ourselves in a declining spiral with no outreach to new readers, so, to me anyway, we're just selling to the same old same old, and everybody just wants echoes of what they've seen before. Variations of what they've seen before. There's no integration with popular culture, with the modern world, with fun and games, and no influx of new readers, no influx from the new readers of new writers and new visualizers in both art and story, so it gets to be a self-fulfilling and frustrating policy, to me anyway.
OH: Is this why you've chosen to do things like the Wanderers with a European sensibility? Is this part of that frustration with the American market?
CC: Well, it's partly that. It's partly, as my wife is fond of pointing out, I spent forty years making Marvel billions of dollars, and what I have to show for it are lovely conversations on podcasts. This is no disrespect for you, but it's like, if I had taken the same effort and had the same sales and the copyright was mine and not Marvel's, we'd be having perhaps the same conversation but in a much more secure commercial and financial reality than exists.
And it's the same reason why... It's the thing that as a young professional you never think about, and by the time you do think about it, it's invariably almost too late, which is the Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster reality. You create something that turns out to be groundbreaking, but you don't own it. And so, thirty, forty years down the line, you're begging, and the corporation that owns the material is in a seventy story high rise.
It's why Neal Adams has done a tremendous amount of wonderful work showcasing the stupidity of creators in the industry that fall into this trap, and the fact is that I do stuff that's mine because it's mine, and because I want work out there that is as eloquent and as lasting a showcase of my ability as the X-Men and hopefully will do just as well, and at least then, this is something my kids can cherish after I'm gone.
OH: Well, in talking about some of this work, like the Wanderers, what is the easiest way to get copies of some of this work? Is this just being released in Europe? In France?
CC: Well, once all three volumes are done coming out in France we'll be looking for a US publisher.
OH: So it won't be until at least the earliest next year?
CC: It was originally, three volumes were supposed to come out in one year and then the publishers changed the publication program so now the second volume will be out in March 2010 and then the third one is in march 2011. So I would suspect, we'd like to get something out, ideally, we'll cut the deal and see if we can find a publisher in 2011 or 2012, but that depends on if this is something that, for example, Marvel is interested in or DC is interested in. It's historical fantasy, which neither mainstream publisher is easily equipped to present, and it's European format, which means it's three volumes of 140 pages of material, which is a hard sell anywhere because American publishers are not comfortable with graphic novels of that size and mainstream publishers don't know quite what to do with it either. But hopefully, by then, Apple will come out with a big enough screen and we can just sell it on podcast. An animated comic.
OH: Like one of those Kindles...
CC: The hell with the Kindle. Once you've got 27 inch iPods, you could actually get away with it. two pages on one screen. Who knows, throw in some animated bits. But that's technology. We'll find a way to sell it, and hopefully, who knows?
OH: Do you think the days of paper publishing are on the way out? Is that what the industry should embrace? The digital ways of distribution?
CC: The problem is, unless you can find me a practical way, a Kindle that will... It requires a reassessment of what constitutes a viable comic book page. I mean, if you're looking at a kindle, you're looking at something roughly the size of a standard paperback. That's an awfully small page to try and look at a full page of art and lettering. Now if you're looking at art and you can figure out a way to actually do the art with voice over instead of written text, so you're looking at the pictures, but hearing the script performed in your ear... but then you're sort of locked into reading at the pace of the spoken word.
OH: Have you seen any of the spider woman motion comics?
OH: Is that like what you're suggesting?
CC: Well, I saw them back when they were originally done back in 1965. You put the images on television and animated the mouths with dialog. I mean, it hasn't really gone much beyond that. I saw Neal's presentation of Joss's X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, the other night, and it was very nice, and for a first step out the box... Again, it's like looking at the Wright Brothers and trying to think, now, jump ahead twenty years. But even then, it took, to get from that point to the point where you actually got a viable way of presenting the information on a small screen...
My problem with a kindle is that you're locked into a linear, progressive format. You can only turn the pages one page at a time, according to, you press the button, the page turns, the page turns, the page turns. You can't flip instantly through the book. You have to have a sense of the whole structure of the book. I want to jump to page 703. Maybe I'll have an idea of what's on it, but I can't flip through it, find a page, lock in on it, go back five pages to something that clicks my memory, run down the page, flip over a page, run up, go sideways... it's not holistic. It's not three dimensional. It's not tangible. It's linear and it's structured, and that's the big problem.
The thing with looking at a film is, once it starts, you're locked in for an hour and a half until it's over. You can't bounce back and forth, up and down, freeze it, go around. You can, but it disrupts the flow of information. The thing about a comic, the thing about a book, a tangible three dimensional book, is that yes, the pages are structured, but within that structure you can manipulate it five ways from Sunday. You can scribble notes on the edges, you can flip back and forth, you can compare one to the other instantly, with an ease that I have not seen on any mechanical viewing device. That's the problem.
The other problem is that the screens are two damn small. You need a bigger screen, but the sooner you get a bigger screen, you defeat the purpose of having a portable device. I mean, if I have a screen as big as my fourteen inch laptop.. and even then, to look at it properly, I've got to open the screen sideways... I'm looking at it vertically along the lens, not the height... It defeats the purpose, or contradicts the purpose. Again, these are all structural challenges that are not insurmountable, but at the moment they're in the way. The only way to move ahead is to figure out how to get over them and progress from there, and that's out of my bailiwick and above my pay grade.
OH So, Mr. Claremont, I know we've taken up a lot of your time, so we won't keep you much longer, but...
CC: Well, this is the danger of talking to someone who's used to being paid by the word.
OH: Well, earlier, you said, I think jokingly, that you don't read the new stuff, but you did intimate that you've read Old Man Logan and...
CC: I'm not unaware of them. I don't read them because, bluntly, life is too short and, as I've said, I've got two kids in school and I spend half the time trying to keep track of their stuff. I'm still trying to figure out how to comprehend new maps. The stuff they learn in school is so beyond anything I ever came close to. It's just mind boggling. Partly, it's easy because, this way, I don't have to judge anybody's work contemporarily, and partly it's because, for the most part, I haven't seen anything that I find makes me think, “wow I haven't seen that coming. This is a new and exciting take on the character that...” Maybe because I'm not the audience that anyone is interested in reaching, it just doesn't appeal to me. Nothing has jumped up and said, “wow, what comes next?”
I love certain writers, certain artists. I'll certainly look at anything that Alan Davis is doing, or Alan Moore for that matter. I'm eagerly anticipating Arthur [Adams]'s new project from Marvel. I've done four signings with Neal [Adams] where he's been talking about his Batman with Frank [Miller], and once I get over the fact that I'm intensely jealous, because one sits there thinking, “goddang it, he gets to work with Frank, and goddang it, he gets to work with Neal. Well I want to work with Neal. I want to work with Frank.”
So it's all wish fulfillment and jealousy, but the fact is that there are people I like and work I like and the series that I've liked have gone away. As I said, Preacher ended its run. I enjoyed reading Grant's stuff over here. I don't see that much DC stuff anymore so I haven't really followed what's going on over there, and unfortunately, we don't have a comic book store nearby. The idea of, in the old days, wandering in and spending an afternoon hanging out at forbidden planet just going down the list and saying, “oh, this looks interesting. This look interesting. Wow! This looks really cool!” doesn't happen anymore because there aren't that many venues, and it's just, again, the sad evolution of things.
By the same token I don't go to the movies that much anymore because, partly, it's too expensive, and partly because there is not enough time with all the other demands on one's schedule, and this is the other factor that we in the industry, as writers and publishers have to address. How do we entice the audience back? How do we make ourselves relevant and irresistible, or at least less resistible, to an audience?
One of the things I took pride on with Uncanny that seems to be reasserting itself with Forever is the title's attraction to the female reader. Because, my feeling then and now is that women, girls and women, are 60% of the population. That's a significant part of the potential reading audience. We should not disenfranchise them. We should offer them as much enticement and as much reason to come and buy this book as any guy, and the more the merrier, and I think one of the things I'm happiest about is that that attempt seems to be paying off in terms of Forever and I hope it continues.
OH: We've talked about some of your upcoming projects, but before we wrap up, is there anything else you want to tell us? We've got mention about a possible screenplay, and an X-men Women book you may be working on?
CC: Well, for the last six years, with the Italian publisher Panini [Comics], we've been working on a project with a very famous European artist, Milo Manara, who a number of American readers may be unfamiliar with, but he's one of the most successful artists in Europe, and consequently sold a hell of lot more comics than comics do over here, but this is his first foray into American superhero comics and the American market, so we've been working on this X-men project that I scripted some years ago that's just been waiting on his schedule to open up and it's absolutely fun. He's known for drawing some of the most extraordinarily beautiful women on paper, so we decided to fulfill that to the extreme, so we have Storm, Rogue, Sage, Rachel, Betsy, Kitty, and a whole host of sinister villains and pirate queens, lost treasures, Madripoor...
OH: So Tiger Tiger possibly?
CC: No. There are many possibilities, but we're trying to keep this very self contained. We have pirates, we have explosions, we have planes, we have romance, we have intrigue, death, taxes, the whole nine yards, and, that's right, babysitting, and a scene with pigs.
OH: Well, for anyone interested, that artist is Milo Manara, and if you look him up, I think the series that people in the states might be familiar with is a series called Click.
CC: And if you ever wanted a scene of Betsy feeding pigs, and Rachel doing laundry and looking after little kids, this is the book. And wait until the evil villains show up and she has to defend them.
OH: I was also wondering, I don't know if you're allowed to say anything, there was a mention of a screenplay. Can you tell us anything about that?
CC: It's finished, and if anyone wants to make me an offer, I'll consider it.
OH: Do we have a genre?
CC: It's contemporary urban dark fantasy. Things go bump in the night. There are no superheroes. There's love, there's death, there's passion, there's drinking, there's scary monsters, and foul betrayals, and lots of gratuitous but enthusiastic sword fighting.
OH: Well, I'm sold. For anyone who has been listening, we will be publishing this podcast and there will be a transcript of this on the Outhouse. Is there anything else you'd like to tell our listeners? Have we missed anything?
CC: The latest issue of Forever just came out Wednesday, the next issue will be out in two weeks, and two weeks after that, and two weeks after that. This book is bi-weekly, and enthusiastically so, and as the saying goes, I'm just gonna keep trying until I get it right.
OH: Well, we are gonna make the Outhouse the vanguard for X-Men Forever and make sure we do everything we can to get people to notice this title. I think it's a fantastic idea. I'm not aware anybody has tried doing this. I think it's absolutely fascinating as a concept and in execution. It's been a unique experience in my comic time. You always talk about this happening - what would have happened if a creator could come back and do the title he always wanted to do and do it the way he wants to do, and hopefully we're getting that with X-men Forever and hopefully New Mutants Forever too.
CC: Well, it's sort of like having a story where a Romulan goes back in time and tries to kill Jim Kirk's dad...
CC: ...and changes time so that the Star Trek that was is not quite and Jim gets a second chance to do it all over again, but the key thing is that it's the same essential Star Trek, and the fun part is, ok, what's gonna happen next, and the hope here is, look on it as not the next generation. It's reborn, but now is the chance to see what happens next. We didn't blow up Vulcan, we killed Wolverine. So the cast is the same, but its slightly different. You've got Spock smiling at Uhura, well now we've got Kitty with a claw.
OH: Yeah, you definitely got me with that. To say unexpected... I was expecting to turn the page and see, this was all a ruse, I just think that's fantastic. That's something I loved from the original Uncanny run because there weren't five different X-books covering the same six characters that anything could happen, and that's what I love about X-Men Forever...
CC: Well, you ain't seen nothing yet, because things get even creepier once Colossus shows up. In two weeks you get to find out what he's been doing in Russia.
OH: Whoa. You're talking to three of the biggest fans of your X-Men run, so we will be tuned in...
OH (Jude): Not only that, but X-Men forever is probably my favorite book that I'm reading right now, and I love the way you've been writing Sabretooth...
CC: Well, it's interesting the way things have been evolving between him and Daisy Dugan, Dum Dum's granddaughter. There's an actress named Kristin Chenoweth. They're about the same size, so think of her next to Hugh Jackman, except imagine Hugh Jacman as sabretooth. A bigger Hugh Jackman. And nastier. Well basically Liev Schreiber I guess, and then make it even scarier. It's gonna be, like I said, the beauty of Forever is that we can play with all the tropes and you can't take anything for granted.
This is the thing, and forgive me for stealing even more time, but the fact is that with Uncanny, you're sort of locked into yeah, Scott's gonna be this way and Emma's gonna be that way and they're all gonna behave the way you expect them to because it's Marvel and they're the core series and if Axel [Alonso] and the guys can come up with a way to knock that presumption on its butt and catch an old fart like me by surprise, more power to them, I await it with open arms, but in the meantime, what I'm trying to do here is take my variation on that presumption and say, “surprise! If you didn't see that coming, wait until you see what's down the road a ways.” Hopefully, it's all logical when you look at it, but you think, “oh my God,” and you're gonna be like "what?,” and "oh, oh shit!"
OH: Well, you killed Wolverine, and after that I think you set the tone. That's the great thing, anything can happen, and it sounds like anything will happen.
CC: And ideally, we're not gonna take it back. If it happened, we're stuck with it.
OH (Jon): And just before we do wrap this up, I do have one more thing. You've finished the screenplay. Now, you've already written the story. Can you adapt the Uncanny X-Men issue #205 as a direct to DVD movie, animated? Wolverine being hunted through the canyons of Manhattan by Deathstrike, Cole Macon and Reese? If you can capture Barry Windsor Smith's art I'll buy two copies of the DVD. I'm not kidding, that is my single favorite X-Men storyline. I've rarely seen a story that complete, both in art and storyline. You're a master at what you've done, but...
CC: Well, you know what makes it work? Katie from Power Pack. That's the the classic trope for Wolverine. The monster and the little girl. Wolverine, you've always gotta remember, he's the monster, and Katie is the most innocent extreme of the little girl, but Kitty is a variation on that regard too. You're dealing with a wolf.
OH: Well, just for other writers out there, make a note of that issue. Wolverine is so messed up in the fight with Deathstrike that he's forgotten to speak English. He's speaking Japanese, he is so messed up. It just really shows the vulnerability of the character. Make a mental note of writing that character
because it hasn't been that good in a very long time.
CC: From your mouth to Pixar's ears.
OH: Haha. Well, hopefully. And Barry Windsor Smith's art...
Anyway, Mr Claremont, you have been unbelievably patient with us and a joy to interview. Thanks so much for coming on, and we hope that, when you have things coming up, and with our continued joy with X-Men forever, that we can maybe do something like this in the future, maybe in the second year of X-Men forever.
CC: Absolutely! If there's a second year, you betcha.
OH: If you have anything you need to promote...
CC: Absolutely, as things come up between Beth and me, we will be flouting stuff as enthusiastically as we can. Now if I can figure out how to get my damn website to work...
OH: Well, then you might want to speak to Jude.
OH: I'm not joking, if you stop by www.theouthousers.com, he built that site... Anyway, the challenge is there, X-Men Forever, we're gonna promote the hell out of that book and try to make it as high selling as we can.
CC: Thank you.
OH: Well, you know, you've given us more years and more comics of joy than I can possibly imagine. Uncanny X-Men was the book that got me into comics and continues... it's nice to see X-Men Forever. I was shocked by it. I thought the concept was unique. Thank you so much, it's been gracious, and it's been great to have you on.
CC: The pleasure was mine.
OH: Thank you Chris Claremont.
At this point, we attempted to wrap up the podcast, but we just couldn't help asking Mr. Claremont one more very important question...
CC: My apologies for chomping food at the end.
OH (Gheru): Mr Claremont, who do you have in the world series.
CC: You've got to be kidding me, I live in Brooklyn for god's sake. “Who do you have in the world series?” I'm hoping for the Yankees, of course.
OH (Jon): Well, it hurts me a little but, but still...
CC: It's a fair shot right now.
OH: It's a beautiful world series.
CC: It's not too bad. Jorge [Posada] was doing his job.
OH: Last night, that game was fairly unbelievable. That was two teams playing fairly flawless baseball...
CC: There was a first base umpire who seemed to be a bit of a pothead...
OH: Well, I've never seen two teams play that long with basically mistake free baseball. Last night the better team, the Yankees, won it. They were slightly better than the Phillies, but so far I tip my hat. Two best teams in baseball.
CC: It's interesting, you look at the Yankees/California series too. Except for the one game that the Yankees had the blowout in, they were all one run games. A lot of them were decided in the last inning. With this series, the series is turning into the same thing. It's the kind of game that makes you sad that the home plate seats are $200 a shot, because that's the kind of thing that really should be $10 seats and should be fans and not corporate, because the bleachers didn't empty out at all. The people who were there because they love the Yankees stuck around until the end because this is a serious game.
OH: And for anyone who doubts it, we always look forward to the X-Men baseball scenes. I believe you popularized them, I love it when the team plays baseball and that's just a testament... I do believe I've seen a Yankees cap, I think Kitty was wearing one at one point...
OH: Well, you heard it here first. Chris Claremont, Yankees fan. Thanks again, and thanks for listening in.
CC: My pleasure.
X-Men Forever, an ongoing series, is available in shops every other week. Please give it a try, and if you like it, get a friend to give it a try. This is the kind of fan wish series that fanboys always dream about, being fulfilled. If you don't like it, you probably have no soul. Go buy three copies today, because if it gets canceled, I am randomly banning three people from the message board. Go!
To listen to the original audio version of this interview on the Outhouse Podcast, click here!