Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Creative Yodas...Chris Claremont

One thing's for sure, from the writing, you can always tell when it's a Chris Claremont story.
I became familiar with Mr. Claremont's work with Uncanny X-Men #129,  the issue that introduced the world to Kitty Pryde and the Hellfire Club. Over the next eight issues, he led us through the story arc that reached it's climax in issue #137 with the death of Jean Grey and became known as the Dark Phoenix Saga, which is still one of the most popular X-Men stories along with the Days of Future Past, that Claremont also authored.
The wonderful thing about Mr. Claremont's writing is that he makes you care very deeply for the characters and the worlds they inhabit. The stakes are always raised and the characters are changed after the story is over. It's not some stock threat that the characters would stop and the Status Quo would remain, there are consequences to peoples actions and decisions.
And his dialogue is very unique in word choice and cadance. Nobody's Wolverine sounds like Chris Claremont's. Or his Storm, Professor X, Cyclops, Nightcrawler...the list goes on.
There's also the fact that he brought a real literary sense to comics with the way he wrote the Uncanny X-Men. He used foreshadowing, cliffhangers, red herrings and the like to make the stories more suspensful and make comics more credible as a form of literature.
Chris Claremont was born on November 25th, 1950 in London, England and moved to America in 1953 where they settled in Long Island. Growing up, he read Dan Dare and Robert Heinlein, as well as Rudyard Kipling and C.S. Forester.
As an undergraduate at Bard College, Claremont studied Political Science and Drama and wrote prose and plays with the intent of becoming a director. In 1969, he was hired at Marvel Comics as a gofer/editorial assistant to Roy Thomas. Claremont received his first professional credit with a plot assist on X-Men #59 and his first scripting assignment three years later on Daredevil #102. In 1974, he got his first regular writing assignment on Iron Fist with John Byrne as the artist.
A year later, Claremont became a full-time editor, leaving acting far behind, and was given the assignment to write the Uncanny X-Men book that Len Wein and Dave Cockrum created. It was a low performing, not-so-popular book at the time  so nobody was trying to jockey for the chance to write it.
When Giant Sized X-Men #1 hit the stands it served as the template for a new, more diverse roster of Professor X's team and a chance for Claremont to define the direction of the book. He co-wrote issues #94 and #95 with Wein and took over as the regular writer in issue #96. After that, there was no going back.
For 17 years straight, not missing an issue, including annuals, specials and guest appearances in other books, Claremont chronicled the adventures of the Uncanny X-Men. He killed Jean Grey and brought her back, grew Wolverine from a one dimensional killing machine to a multifaceted and complex mainstay of the team. Storm evolved into the leader and woman she is now and showed us the bittersweet, tangled road of first love with Kitty and Colossus. He introduced Rogue in Avengers Annual #10, made her part of the team in issue #171, brought us the Brood in issue #155 along with many other memorable story moments throughout his tenure. He capped it off with starting a second X-Men book, simply called X-Men, and gave us one last twist with Moira MacTaggert manipulating Magneto's genetic matrix when he was a baby after he encountered the Stranger.
Putting it succinctly, Chris Claremont defined the X-Men along with a slew of great artists like John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, John Romita Jr., Michael Golden, Brent Anderson, Leinil Yu and many others. He also brilliantly folded the Civil Rights struggle into his stories since mutants as a whole were seen as dangerous outsiders by regular baseline humans, which was and is analogous to how Non-White races have been and are regarded the world over.
Sadly, Claremont isn't writing any new comic material, but, Black Dragon and Marada, The She-Wolf are being re-released by Titan Publishing, he's releasing First Flight digitally along with his novel with Beth Fleisher, Dragon Moon. He has a short story in the new John Carter of Mars collection called Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom and is currently working on a dark Fantasy Novel set in New Orleans, according to Newsrama and shopping around a YA novel and putting the finishing touches on a Mystery/Suspense novel according to Robot6 on Comic Book Resources.
What makes Chris Claremont one of my favorite Personal Yodas is that he showed me the power of Family, the beauty of integrity and self-worth and the wisdom of always, always giving your best, not matter the cost, regardless of the odds. His work shaped a lot of how I viewed the world when I was a teenager and he made me want to create stories and characters of my own and try to impart the sense of wonder and peril and straight up fun I had reading his stories.
Columbia University recently started archiving all of his old manuscripts and articles and plays to start a study of comics literature. If I have the same honor as that in my writing career, I will be a very happy man to be in such august company.

Christopher S. Claremont 

What follows is a smattering of Mr. Claremont's Graphic and Prose work... 

The original covers to the High Frontier Trilogy...

...And the covers for the digital re-releases

Claremont's collaborations with George Lucas set in the Willow Universe...

The Cover to the Under the Moons of Mars Collection

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