Jason Powell Talks Chris Claremont’s X-Men
Geek Genie caught up with author Jason Powell on the release of his book “The Best There is at What He does – Examining Chris Claremont’s X-Men” released by Sequart.
GG: Hi Jason. Congratulations on the release of your book! What made you want to write a book specifically about the Claremont run in X-Men?
JP: Well I guess that my love of the X-Men is really tied to that particular run by Chris Claremont. I was lucky enough to be given a collection of comic books from my Uncle which had a good mix of Marvel comics (although he refused to give up his Spidey books!). I discovered the X-Men at the same time that the X-Men cartoon series was also taking off and so I really wanted to find out more about these chracters.
GG: Claremont’s run is legendary for its soap opera and length of run. Was this an easy write?
JP: Yes and no! It was easy in the sense that it was a real labour of love. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and in fact it’s taken about 10 years to get this book out! Part of the reason it took so long is probably because I was so determined to get this absolutely right. Because I cared so much about this topic, I wanted to make this something that I could look back on and be happy with. And this is a tribute to a great writer that I very much admire and so it was kind of daunting in some ways. You want to get your tributes right!
GG: You’ve gone through the main ages of Claremont’s run very methodically.
JP: I guess that was the easiest way to do it, given how long his run stretches.
GG: And so we start with “All New, All Different…”
JP: Yes and as we progress through the book, you become aware of the different stages that the book and indeed the whole X-Men family go through. Claremont oversaw such huge changes to the team. New team members were draughted in, plot lines were introduced and would run for months, sometimes years.
Character development and relationships were central to the Claremont run. Each character brought a unique dynamic to the team and their relationships underpinned many of the most famous plot lines. Would Jean’s slow descent into the Phoenix force have been as emotionally charged without Scott’s anguish?
Claremont also took the team and characters out of their comfort zones, whether it was in far off space or in the outbacks of Australia.
GG: Claremont was clearly the driving force behind the rise and rise of the X-Men during this period, but he also worked with some top creators as well. What was that relationship like?
JP: Claremont was very detailed when plotting a story. Using the “Marvel method” his plots would often run as many pages as the actual comic book itself which irritated John Byrne no end. But then Frank Miller found Claremont very easy to work with when the two collaborated on the Wolverine Limited Series in 1982.
GG: As the X-Men franchise grows bigger and more successful, what kind of challenges did this pose for Claremont as a writer?
JP: There were challenges. The X-Men soon became the premier Marvel book and it becamame a licensing and marketing behemoth for Marvel. That maybe difficult for people to believe in this Marvel Cinematic Universe where the X-Men don’t even exist! But back then, it was all about the X-Men and pretty soon marketing concerns were creeping into creative decision making. As an example, the success of the X-Men cartoon TV series meant that Claremont was being pressured to ensure that there was no conflict in storylines between the two mediums. They didn’t want him being too creative!
GG: The success of the 1980’s soon gives way to the gigantic sales figures of the Jim Lee era. Claremont would soon leave. Was he pushed?
JP: No. Although Jim Lee certainly wanted more creative control of the X-Men, neither Jim Lee nor editor Bob Harris wanted Claremont to leave. However, the increasing interference and creative restrictions placed on Claremont eventually led to him leaving. It was suggested to him that he should hang on and wait for Jim Lee to move on but Claremont was adamant he’d had enough. Lee did eventually leave the X-Men not long afterward but he is quite philosphical about that stating that the same issues would probably have surfaced with the next rising star artist. He left the book in great shape, it was still the best selling book for Marvel so he’d done his bit.
GG: Where does Claremont rank in the pantheon of Marvel creators?
JP: The sheer quantity of work means that Claremont looms large. But it’s also the quality that he injected into that work which seals his status in the history of not just Marvel comics, but the comics industry period. The number of characters that he created, the seminal storylines and iconic moments. The bedrock of the entire X-Men franchise was created by this one man. And these stories are now resonating through the movies now, touching a whole new generation of audiences. He is probably the most influential creator of the second wave pf creators after the Lee, Kirby and Ditko era and I wanted to put out an unapologetically pro-Claremont story and to honour someone that has enriched our story-telling experiences.
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