Comic books live and die by their creators. Sometimes a creator is so perfectly fit to a specific title that they go on to define the book for a generation. Sometimes it’s a team of creators, sometimes it’s a superstar writer who simply cannot miss when it comes to a particular group of characters. We’ve been focusing on some of these creators a lot lately, and today we’ve got a special one: the one and only Chris Claremont.
Chris Claremont has been writing comics since 1969, including an incredible 17 year run with X-Men. We wanted to look into his live, and celebrate his achievements.
Chris Claremont’s Early Career
Chris Claremont started writing for Marvel Comics as a college intern in 1969. His first regular title was the new Iron Fist title(Marvel Premiere #23, August 1975), where he was joined for the first time by John Byrne. They worked together on Iron Fist for 15 issues before Claremont was moved over to the failing X-Men title. Len Wein, who was editor in chief at Marvel, said that he knew Claremont wanted the job, and that no one else would do it.
Chris Claremont and The X-Men
Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men is one of legend. It’s not often that someone in American comic books writes on a title for longer that 5 years. For context, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s widely revered run on Batman during the New 52 lasted only 5 years. 17 years on one title is something special, especially when you consider the quality of stories that Claremont was able to produce during this time.
Let’s look at just a few.
You may be asking me, “But…Why?” and I’ll give you an answer. Even though this short arc marked the end of Claremont’s run with the X-Men, the series’ first issue is still the highest selling comic book of all time, 8 million issues. Now this is due to a lot of problems that were plaguing the industry in the 90’s, but that simple fact is worth putting it on this list.
God Loves, Man Kills
Stop me if you’ve heard this one, a reverend with a bone to pick convinces his followers to take humanity into their own hands and take down a minority group. This is the story that takes place in the pages of an X-men graphic novel that pushed the boundaries of stories that could be told on the pages of a comic book. Claremont introduces us to William Stryker, a man who believes that mutants pose a threat to humanity and militarizes his followers. The X-Men even have to team up with Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to stop him. This is the story that established the metaphor that fuels the X-Men. This is a story that dissects the human condition and makes us examine our own biases. It was also loosely adapted into the plot of X2: Mutants United. I wonder if that will be a trend…
Days of Future Past
Not just a confusing title, Days of Future past is a story that spans decades of the marvel universe, all in just two issues. Kitty Pride travels back in time to prevent her own future in which all of the X-Men have died. She teams up with a Past Version of Wolverine and the two face down the odds to prevent their own apocalyptic future from coming to pass. Yet another of Claremont’s stories to have gotten a movie treatment.
Now I know that it’s annoying at this point to be told how incredible this storyline is. It is one of the most well regarded Saga’s in comic book history. Don’t believe me? They made not one, but two blockbuster feature films about this one story. If you don’t know the story, Jean Grey becomes the host for a cosmic force that enhances her powers and aggression. This bothers people on earth, but really seems to piss off a lot of alien races who decide that the Phoenix force must be destroyed. I’ve simplified it here to avoid spoilers, because even if you’ve seen the movies, you have not experienced this story.
Claremont’s career did not end after his run with the X-Men. X-Men isn’t even the only thing he did at Marvel; He also helped resurrect the Guardians of the Galaxy, and helped develop Carol Danvers into the character she is today. He created characters like, Star-Lord, Gambit, Rogue, Sabertooth, Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Cable and so many more that he almost deserves a second article.
Claremont worked for DC, wrote some titles on Image, and has even returned to writing the X-Men from time to time. He has gone on to focus on writing prose novels in his later career, including a widely acclaimed series expanding on the story from the Ron Howard Film, Willow. No matter where he goes, or what he chooses to do in his career, one thing is for sure: His run on X-Men will go down in history as one of the greatest in all of comic books.