The Good Chris Claremont

Yes, some of his characters — well, a lot of them, actually — talk like leprechauns.

Yes, he’s guilty of terrible, terrible shortcuts.

Yes, he (ironically!) mostly writes his “strong, independent” women so that they sound like a cross between Erica Kane, and Robert A. Heinlein wearing a dress.

And yes — his speed belies his size.

But y’know…I remember the good Chris Claremont. The envelope-pushing, “realism”-loving, teen crush-creating, skillful pinch-hitting (let’s just put the climactic issue of my beloved Englehart/Milgrom Captain Marvel to one side, if we can), topical silly maundering fascinating always-trying-new-things goddamn Chris Claremont right on Maude.

I think he was under-utilized, by the big comics Establishment. Which is saying a lot, really, because they used him on practically everything, for a while. It’s a wonder they didn’t wear the poor guy out. But these colours don’t run, damn it! And though I don’t care for Chris’ contemporary scripting (well, I don’t care for Stan’s, either), there’s no denying that when his style still seemed fresh and vivid, he accomplished many, many more things than I ever have in my life.

Let’s look at some of his accomplishments!

ITEM! X-Men #97 to X-Men #143, a run which invites comparison with Lee and Ditko’s great Mordo/Dormammu sequence, or indeed with any of the great protracted superhero storylines of the Sixties or Seventies, and whose climax in #137 represents not just such a unique collision between Past Good Claremont with Future Bad Claremont that together they open the door to Ultimate Pan-Dimensional Mind-Bendingly Awesome Claremont, but which also represents the very best work of the Byrne/Austin team even just purely in terms of art…though I think we all know by now that their contributions went far beyond even that brilliant, brilliant art. Make no mistake, friends, this was the Galactus Trilogy of the Eighties, and moreover it was supposed to be, and better than that, it WAS…with all #137’s showering and shaving, that marked X-Men as a new, more multicultural, more kaleidoscopic Fantastic Four, a new idea of family-as-choice, for a new time…chillin’ in the Blue Area…

ITEM! Iron Fist, the series that dared to ask “what if Daredevil could see, and knew kung fu?” Answer: it would be totally AWESOME, in the hands of Chris and John…right up (again!) to the massively cool Couldness detonation that was Power Man/Iron Fist #1, that (sorry, Ann!) finished everything before it began, and ensured that the kickstart was so raucous it could never be lived up to afterwards in terms of sheer NOISE. Maybe the most auspicious premiere issue of anything that I have ever read. Maybe my favourite Byrne/Claremont collaboration ever. ‘Sploitation? You want ‘sploitation? Man, at the time, I remember thinking they’d just go on, and on, and on…

Hold on, I’m working up to something here…

ITEM! Marvel Team Up, the title we could almost call the Claremont/Byrne Handbook Of The Marvel Universe, that brought such fucked-uppedly good stories as Spider-Man/Havok + Spider-Man/Thor, and Spider-Man/Yellowjacket + Spider-Man/The Wasp, to my grateful eyes. Wow! Could this Claremont/Byrne team do no wrong?

But hold on…it wasn’t just Claremont/Byrne. No. Up above, there, in the X-Men exhibit, is some Claremont/Cockrum, too…ah, you young kids who don’t know the goddamn Dave Cockrum, you’re missing a lot. And ask Chris: he was always lucky in the artists he got paired with. Why I recall an early MTIO featuring the Thing and the Black Widow, one of the finest portfolio-pieces a comic writer could wish for, where Chris’ script was brought to life by none other than the Goddamn Bob Brown

So as fine (and unstoppable) as the Byrne/Claremont collaboration was, let’s look at some other stuff, too…

ITEM! X-Men and Teen Titans Special, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Walt Simonson. Villains: Darkseid and Dark Phoenix.

I have nothing to tell you about this. As a comic fan, I freakin’ lost it, reading this. I think even Marv was grinding his teeth in envy. And that’s Marv! You know, author of the goddamn Tomb Of Dracula…?

Okay, that “goddamn” thing is getting tiresome, I’ll admit. Tell you what: when Frank stops, I’ll stop…

Marv Wolfman. Hey, come to think about it, let’s think about Marv. I say Chris Claremont is a mutated replicant based on genetic material taken from Marv, Roy, and fractional amounts of the Two Steves, with maybe just a little powdered Tony Isabella thrown in for piquancy, over a bed of sweet Len Wein. In other words, you prick the fellow and he bleeds ITEM!s. In his day, like Alvy Singer’s aunt, he was quite the beauty.

Okay, actually you can let go, now. I’m not working up to anything, I’m just drivelling, and since I’ve got limited time (going out of town for a bit), I’d better stop.

But, does anyone else remember the Good Chris Claremont? He was a character introducer and reviver par excellence (maybe Marvel’s last great character-introducer? Not counting Simonson’s work with the noted Canadian icon Horse-Face Thor), and he could work the yellow-captioned second-person narrative voice, and he made Banshee a favourite character of mine, for God’s sake. He implied that Charles Xavier had at one point engaged in sex. He made me sympathize with an evil Magneto.

They say you were quite the beauty in your day, Chris. Is it true?

(Psst…Jon J. Muth sent you this letter…he wants to meet and discuss that Curse Of Chalion thing…)

(Psst…Jon J…Chris sent you this letter…)

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6 responses to “The Good Chris Claremont

  1. Pingback: the link stays in the picture « supervillain·

  2. I don’t know, I think the upper hundreds range you’re (Priene) citing shows definite signs of the beginning of his decline. I liked the Paul Smith stuff, but I personally found Cockrum’s second run so disappointing compared to his first that it’s almost hard to look at for me.
    You know, I once came across someone online saying that they actually *preferred* Cockrum’s second run? This person might just as well have been from Neptune as far as I was concerned. I often wonder what happened, and to which degree Shooter’s visual policies might have been to blame.
    (I have these plans to write up a big post that will focus on my problems with Shooter’s visual policies and their resulting washed out colours and overabundance of goddamn white backgrounds in the 80s, something nobody seems to talk about when they play the Shooter bashing game. Yes, Plok, I will post again eventually…)

  3. Nowadays, every preview page from a Claremont comic I click on tells me one thing.

    “Never heard of diminishing returns, Chris? Yeah, then stop driving Alan Moore’s CAPTAIN BRITAIN concepts into the dirt”.

    But yeah, when I was a boy, the guy could do no wrong in my eyes. Until my affections turned to stuff like DAREDEVIL, WARRIOR, and AMERICAN FLAGG, certainly.

  4. Hey Captain Britain is Claremont’s character. One which was first driven into the dirt by nameless (well, I’ve forgotten who they were) clowns way back in 1978. Bob Budiansky may have been one of the culprits, come to think of it.

    I’d agree some of the late 100s were a bit wearing, but I still think the quality was extremely high. After #215ish, though, I get the impression of a man starting to run short on good ideas.

  5. To some extent it might come down to the Golden Age being when you first read comics. Nobody designs costumes as enduring as Dave Cockrum did, with almost every new design of one his characters it is at best minor cosmetic variations. I was well pleased up through #213, which is just a brilliant issue. Post-Massacre for me the X-Men lost its shine, but I think the Good Chris Claremont moved over to Excalibur, which really popped up until both Claremont and Davis got lost in their own maze of space-time. The early Wolverine issues with Buscema were really fun too, Casablanca with claws, and I think we were really lucky to get work on that character by Buscema. Certainly Claremont doesn’t have Moore’s teeth, but I think with Davis as the bridge there was some great, fun material. The more recent stuff with the Fury was okay, but it was like trying to recapture a lost moment for something that could have been spectacular if it had come at the right time. You probably know how the Fury was originally supposed to be the sole entity responsible for the Mutant Massacre. They were even planning to build up a Jasper’s Warp. Jaspers was seen in #200 as the main prick on the international jury. Claremont and Sienkiewicz on New Mutants was such great stuff, really revolutionary for their time, and never the same since.

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