Chris Claremont's X-Men (2018) Movie Script

(industrial music)
(light electronic music)
- [Narrator] X-Men is
unique in comics history.
Unlike Superman,
Batman, Spider-Man,
and most other
popular superheroes,
which were defined by many
creators over decades,
the X-Men's wild success
is due almost entirely to
one writer, Chris Claremont.
(light electronic music)
- I was born in London, abducted
by pirates at a young age,
transported across the pond
to this strange new world.
My father wanted to
explore medicine over here.
My mother wanted better food.
It was five years after the war.
She was tired of rationing.
Went to school for
the first time,
dressed as I would be
going to school back home,
shorts and a proper shirt and
a proper sleeveless sweater
and knee socks and shoes
and a blazer, and, uh,
didn't last the day,
(children laughing)
and never did it again.
- Chris grew up in
a military family
and they moved
around quite a bit.
- When you're moving
every couple of years,
by the time you settle in
and establish relationships,
especially when you're a kid,
boom, you're up and out,
moving across the country.
and you gotta do
it all over again.
That's a hard thing
to get used to,
and after a while, you
just stop trusting,
because, well, I'm not
gonna make friends,
because if I make friends,
we'll just move again.
- Chris's experiences
feeling like a little bit
of an outsider had influence
on his work on the X-Men.
He probably would not have found
a whole lot to identify
with in the comics of, say,
the 50s or maybe
even the early 60s.
- Comics was something I did
when I went to get a haircut.
You know, sitting around
waiting for a barber,
didn't want to read
Ladies' Home Journal.
So if there were comics there,
you read, I read comics.
- Chris Claremont, when
he went to college,
he went to college for theater,
he wanted to be an actor.
And what do actors do?
They sit and they
think about character.
How do you make a
character well-rounded?
What is a character's
back story?
How do you present it so that
it's not a flat, two-dimensional
thing on the stage,
but is something living and real
that the audience can relate to.
And I believe that
it's that training,
in how to create a character,
that led him to create
these amazing characters.
(pensive guitar music)
- [Narrator] As a
university student,
Chris was tasked with
finding an internship,
a task which took him
into the world of comics.
- My parents had a
friend, Al Jaffee,
the artist from Mad magazine,
and I thought it'd be cool to
work as a volunteer for Mad,
because from all
accounts, Mad was cool.
Al evidently called up
my parents and said,
"There is no way in hell
I'm gonna take your son
into the office."
"Do you have any idea
what we do in there?"
"You'll never speak to me
But Al said, "I know Stan Lee."
"If he's interested,
I can see about getting
him a job at Marvel."
And I said, "Cool," and
the minute I said,
"Since it's school,
I'll work for free,"
I was in.
(light electric guitar music)
- [Narrator] While
Marvel comics of the 60s
may seem dated now, at
the time, they were hailed
for a realism and relatability
previously unseen in comics.
- The challenges that the
Marvel heroes would come across
were more down-to-earth,
and because they were
more down-to-earth,
they made the super-heroics
part of things
a little more accessible.
It wasn't that Spidey
would defeat Doc Ock,
it was, will he get
the test in on time?
Will he work things
out with Gwen Stacy?
Everybody was flawed, which
made the Marvel characters
that much more accessible
and interesting
from a dramatic side of things,
and more fun to play with,
and, as far as the
X-Men were concerned,
no one really knew from
one issue to the next,
were they respectable, were
they hated, were they loved,
were they what?
They'd save the world and
nobody would say thank you.
(pensive guitar music)
- [Narrator] X-Men was created
by Stan Lee and
Jack Kirby in 1963.
They introduced the
basic premise of mutants
fighting for a world that
hates and fears them,
and some of the series'
notable characters,
but the book was not
considered a major achievement
next to more successful
Marvel titles,
like Fantastic Four,
Spider-Man, or The Avengers.
- It was one of the very few
books Jack and Stan created
that wasn't at least doing
solidly in the marketplace.
They left the book early.
- The X-Men, back in the 60s,
was a commercially
failure, ultimately.
It got canceled.
But it was always a book
that had loyal readers.
It was always an
intelligent book,
even though it was
sort of a second,
even third-string book.
- And there was talk
for a number of years
about possibly reviving the book
as a group of
international heroes,
based on the fact that
a lot of Marvel books
sold very well in various
other, foreign countries,
and they thought if they could
heroes from those countries
in this book, it would
increase the sales even more.
- [Narrator] Editor Len
Wein and artist Dave Cockrum
were tasked with creating an
all-new, all-different team
of international X-Men.
- Dave Cockrum was
already a fan favorite
from his work on
Legion of Superheroes.
- And he showed me his
sketchbooks from the Navy.
- Dave had a note,
well, a notebook,
he had a dozen notebooks
filled with sketches
of characters he did.
- You'd ask him for
a costume design,
he'd come in with
40 pages of artwork.
- [Len] So it's where
we found Nightcrawler,
and Colossus, Thunderbird,
all came from that.
- [Narrator] Giant-size
X-Men number one
was released in May 1975,
the first new X-Men
story in five years.
It was successful enough to
justify continuing the series.
- It was supposed
to be a quarterly,
because Marvel wasn't
sure it would sell.
After Dave had started
working on the second issue,
the editorial decision came down
to make the book a bi-monthly.
- And X-Men, I really didn't
intend to give up, initially.
- But he didn't have time
to do a bi-monthly X-Men.
- And when I said,
"Gee, I don't know,
should I give up the
X-Men, should I keep it?"
Chris just sort of
sat there and went,
"I'll take it, I'll
take it, me, over here."
- So he asked if
I was interested.
And I said, "Hell yes!"
- [Narrator] In
his early issues,
Claremont began to develop
this new cast of characters
and started laying
the groundwork for
decades of storylines.
- What I had was what almost
no one has had since then,
a mainstream series that was
fundamentally a tabula rasa.
We had a half-dozen characters,
all of whom are brand new.
It was a chance to get
in on the sub-level
and define the characters
from the get-go.
- His dialogue had more
sophistication to it
than a lot of other writers.
It had more of an edge.
He also was delving more
deeply into character
in ways that a lot of other
comics writers of the time
were not doing.
(light rock music)
- You take these seven people,
five of whom were immigrants,
and you throw 'em into
a world that, ideally,
is unlike anything they know.
You had a wall down
the middle of Europe.
So for Peter Rasputin to come
from the Ust-Ordynsky
Collective to New York
to work with the X-Men,
was making a valid and,
in its own small way,
revolutionary, statement.
- Chris and Dave Cockrum
and, later, John Byrne
were the ones who
really sort of helped
define these characters.
- How do we define Nightcrawler?
Nightcrawler should
be scary, but no.
We're tired of demons
who look like demons
acting like demons.
Why can't they be cool?
Why can't they be normal people?
Why don't we make the most
outrageous-looking of the team
the most cheerfully rational
and generous of them all?
- Wolverine came along
when I was doing the Hulk.
The idea of making him a mutant
was simply because I
knew there was talk
of somebody doing this
international book.
I said, "Well, okay, so I'll
give 'em a Canadian hero."
- Len had envisioned him as a
kid, he was 19, 20 years old,
and that the claws were part
of the costume, not the body.
And the problem is, he
didn't look like a kid.
And especially in
the first issue,
he's presented as an
officer, so we figured,
let's go the other direction.
Why not try him as being older?
But then, if he's older and
he's got a healing factor,
how old are we talking about?
And then, the third
thing was, well,
wouldn't it be cool
if the claws actually
came out of his body,
if they were a part of him?
And the first reaction
was, "Oh, that's disgusting."
"Oh, man, that's creepy."
Oh, they are gonna love this.
The reality for me, from
the very beginning, was,
every time he pops his claws,
he is slashing open his hand,
so there's blood
and there's pain.
To me, that made him
accessible and human.
He wasn't just a magic monster.
He is a guy who has
a serious problem,
and he can't escape from it.
And so how do we deal with it?
(somber, monotone music)
- At the time,
Chris's boss at Marvel
was Jim Shooter, who had
broken into the comics industry
as a writer, as
a young teenager.
- I'm Jim Shooter,
and when I was 12 years old,
I decided I wanted
to write comic books,
'cause my family needed
money, and when you're 12,
they won't hire you
in a steel mill.
So I thought, I can do that.
The reason I thought
I could do it
is I read a bunch of DC comics,
I read a bunch of Marvel comics,
and the Marvel
comics were better.
And I thought, if I can figure
out why these are better,
then I can write for those guys.
So I literally studied
comic books for a year.
And when I thought I
had it figured out,
I wrote a script for DC
Comics' Adventure Comics,
featuring Superboy and
the Legion of Superheroes,
and sent it to them, I thought,
"Well, maybe a shot
at selling this."
Well, I got a letter back
from the editor saying,
"Hey, this is pretty good,
send us another one."
So I sent 'em two more.
He called me up and he said,
"I want to buy all
three of these,
and I want you to write
a Supergirl story,
and we'll keep you busy
as much as you want."
So I became a regular writer.
I was in ninth grade.
- This was not a common thing.
A 13 and 14-year-old
kid writing comics
just didn't happen in 1966.
- After this went on
for a little while,
the editor said, "I want
you to fly up to New York."
I lived in Pittsburgh,
Said, "I want you to
fly up to New York
and spend a couple of
days in the office,
'cause we want to teach
you some few things."
And I kinda hesitated, and he
finally said, "How old are you?"
'Cause he thought I must be
a college student, I think.
And I said, "Well,
I just turned 14,
and I wrote the first
story when I was 13."
And he said, "Put your
mother on the phone."
- He always wanted
to work for Marvel.
Marvel was where the
quality stuff was,
so he moved over to Marvel
and began as an editor,
and this was a time,
after Stan Lee had stopped
being the editor of the comics,
where Marvel went through about
four or five editors-in-chief
in about four or five years.
- Basically, it was anarchy.
I mean, basically, every writer
just kind of did his own thing.
The books were never
even seen by the office
until they were completed.
I was kind of brought
in as an innovation,
an editor, someone to
actually look at the plots,
make sure that they made sense,
look at the pencils
when they came in,
make sure they
followed the plot,
and then look at the
script when it came in
and made sure that makes sense,
so that there would be fewer
catastrophes at the end
that had to be entirely remade.
(light rock music)
- [Narrator] The pressure
of a monthly schedule
forced original artist Dave
Cockrum to leave the book.
He was replaced by John Byrne,
an up-and-coming young artist
whose collaborations with Chris
drew more critical acclaim
and attention to X-Men.
- Now that we're so used
to X-Men being the hit,
the number one, it
may be hard to realize
that at one point, it
was the sort of book
that the aficionados
knew and loved.
- When I met Chris, I discovered
he was pretty intense.
I mean, he cared desperately
about this third-string book,
and he poured his heart into it.
And I read it, and I
thought it was pretty good.
- Those people who, shall
we say, had discerning taste
knew that this was good,
this was something different,
this was a book that
was going places.
But it wasn't until into the 80s
that the book really
became this top seller.
- [Narrator] One of
Claremont's most successful
early stories was
The Phoenix Saga,
which saw ordinary mutant
Jean Grey transformed
into a cosmically powerful
entity, the Phoenix.
- He had this idea that maybe
being like Phoenix could,
like, her powers could run
amok a little bit and stuff.
And I said, "You know what?"
"At Marvel comics,
we had any number
of villainous characters
become heroic."
"We've never had a heroic
character become evil,
I mean really evil, the
next Doctor Doom, you know?"
And I said, "Why
don't you do that?"
- The Dark Phoenix Saga, of
course, really nailed it down
as the comic that everyone
was talking about.
- [Narrator] The Dark
Phoenix Saga saw Jean seduced
by manipulative
villain Mastermind
until her powers ran amok,
leading her to consume a planet
filled with an alien race
known as Asparagus People.
- Chris comes in, he shows
me this page, and he says,
"Look, this is Phoenix," and
he said, "John drew this,
and she's destroying a planet."
So then I wrote this caption,
and it said, "You know, the
Asparagus People scream
as zillions of them fry."
And I said, "Chris, she's a
you can't have her
kill all these people."
And he said, "Oh, yeah,
Shooter said I could."
You had shown it to Sali--
- [Chris] No, Salicrup
said I could--
- That's like saying,
Mommy said I could,
and then,
- That's right.
- And then bringing in Dad.
- John, no,
John and I thought Salicrup
had shown it to Shooter,
and it turned out,
no, he hadn't.
- When I became editor-in-chief,
I would check the books out.
I mean, no book would
go to the printer
without my signature.
I remember checking
out an issue of X-Men,
and I think, whoa, you
know, mass murder, holy cow.
And so I'm reading through
these scripts and plots
and, finally, the plot
for the last issue.
And in the plot
for the last issue,
Dark Phoenix is
captured by the Shi'ar
and she gets her brain adjusted,
and then she's okay again,
and she goes back and lives
on Long Island with the X-Men,
and everything's fine.
I said, "Whoa, what
a wimpy ending, nah."
I said, "You gotta
do something better."
He said, "Like what?"
So we had another one of
our shouting arguments.
And I suggested, I
said, "Well, maybe,
you know, for the first
time in comic book history,
she gets captured
and sent to prison."
- But then you
automatically know
that the next 40 issues of X-Men
will be them trying to get
to hell, breaking her out,
failing, succeeding,
failing, succeeding.
- So he didn't like that.
I said, "Well, then, you
figure it out, I don't,
okay, you're the
writer, you do it."
So the next morning, he came in,
and he kind of strides
into my office.
He said, "We're
going to kill her."
(suspenseful music)
- Well, I figured if
we're gonna do it,
we might as well do it right.
- I said, "Okay, she's
dead, it's done."
It's a deal, it's
a pact, she dies.
And he's like, "What
do you mean, but, uh,
and now he starts arguing
like, you can't kill her."
I said, "What do you
mean, me kill her?"
You just said, "You
were gonna kill her."
So Chris goes out of my office,
finds a phone someplace.
Seconds later, my phone rings.
It's John Byrne, and his first
words were, "Are you crazy?"
(laughs) And I said, "No,
we're killing her, that's it."
So they're both
yelling at me now.
It was a bluff, they didn't
really want to kill her.
They did it sort of
kicking and screaming,
and yet, that issue sold,
umpteen, sold through the roof.
And P.S., it's a great issue.
- The impact was huge, X-Men
sales went through the roof.
People reportedly sent
flowers and death threats
to the Marvel offices.
(gentle guitar music)
It was the major
sensational event of its day
and really put the
X-Men on the map,
sales-wise and critical-wise,
and it sort of stayed there
for the next 20, 25 years.
- That same year, I flew
the whole X-Men team
out to San Diego, and that
wasn't done in those days,
they were mobbed everywhere
they went, mobbed.
- [Peter] It was an era
in which the creators
were becoming more prominent,
were becoming stars,
and that this was Chris
Claremont's X-Men.
(upbeat guitar music)
- I'm Louise Simonson,
otherwise known as Wheezy,
and I started Marvel
in 1980 as an editor.
- Toward the end of
the Dark Phoenix Saga,
the X-Men got a new
editor, Louise Simonson.
- Like all children in the
50s, I read some comics.
- Louise Simonson, who used
to be known as Louise Jones,
was around comics for
a really long time.
- I wanted to be in
publishing of some kind.
I knew that, that was
why I was in New York.
I knew comics, I knew a lot of
people who worked in comics.
- If you go back to the very
first thing Swamp Thing comic
in 1972, she was the
model for the cover
that Bernie Wrightson drew.
- I didn't think
of it as a career
until I actually
started working there,
and I found I loved it.
Loved the people,
loved the work.
- Shortly after joining Marvel,
Louise Simonson
was assigned to edit
Chris Claremont and
John Byrne on X-Men.
- Because I had been
asked to edit the X-Men,
I took home all of Chris's work
from the very beginning, when
he had started writing
the X-Men.
I sat down, I had
a raging headache.
The building behind me
was throwing a huge party.
There was a loud band,
womp, womp, womp,
and my head was going
womp, womp, womp,
and I started reading these
comics, and it all went away,
and I was in the world of the
X-Men and it was wonderful.
And I thought, "Has any other
editor ever been so lucky
as to be handed a team like
this and a book like this?"
I was just very, very
lucky, and I realized it.
With Chris, it was never a
problem coming up with a story.
Chris is an enormous
font of ideas.
- And I would just
sit there at lunch,
watching how she negotiated
which ideas were good
and which weren't good.
- I remember, it was one issue.
Chris had gotten really late.
Shooter was threatening
to pull him off that issue
and put in a fill-in.
So I dragged him to my house
and I sat him down in a chair
and I said, "Okay,
Chris, what happens?"
And he'd tell me,
I'd go (imitates
typewriter keys clacking).
"Okay, what happens next?"
And he'd say, "Blah-blah-blah,"
and I'd go, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah.
"What happens next," put
it in and I'd type it up.
- And they used to call Wheezy,
that her superpower was the
power to cloud men's minds.
And all I had to do was watch
her handle Chris for a while,
where she somehow would get,
pull the best ideas out,
and everybody left the office
with their tail wagging.
And then I'd sit there and go,
"Did they realize that
you just told them
what they were doing
was terrible and
they had to redo it?"
They always left happy.
- And we would
just smile and say,
- I think that's a legend,
- Wheezy would,
it's not, I've witnessed it!
- And the thing is, we
know she's doing it,
when it's happening, it's like,
"Wow, I'm really brilliant,
but she's smarter."
- Well, actually,
you were brilliant.
- I don't really notice that
I'm being whipped right
now, you know, and, oh,
it feels good, actually.
(Chris and Louise laugh)
(upbeat pop music)
- [Narrator] Though many
today consider Dark Phoenix
the high point of Chris's run,
he was just getting started
developing a universe
of characters.
- Well, we just
killed off Phoenix,
and the idea that
I think John and I
were always playing with
during our run on the book was,
okay, can you top this?
Just when you thought you
could take a breath and relax,
we had this wacky idea.
- [Tom] Days of Future
Past was a story
that looked into the
future of the X-Men.
- You come in in the
last act in the tragedy.
The first cover says it all.
Look at that wanted poster
behind Logan and Kitty
and there are all the X-Men
and half of them say dead.
And you know, just
looking at it,
that everybody there
who is a mutant
is living on borrowed time.
And yes, the paradigm
for Days of Future Past
comes right out of
the second World War
and what happened in Germany,
and that is the automatic
primal resonance for Magneto.
(somber tonal music)
This is his worst
nightmare come to pass.
This is everything
he has warned against
and fought against
for his entire life.
How can he find a way to
stop it, to neutralize it,
to make it right?
And then the other
side of the coin is,
Xavier has to look
at it and think,
everything Magneto has
told me has come to pass.
Which side should I be on?
The neat tagline for Days
of Future Past was that
you don't know what
will happen tomorrow,
you just have to do
everything you can today
to make the world,
and life in the world,
as good as possible.
(somber tonal music)
- Several issues after
Days of Future Past,
John Byrne quits, because
he wants to go over
and do Fantastic Four, and I
think, "Oh my God, I'm doomed."
I have driven this creative,
this brilliant creative
team apart (groans).
Oh no, they're going
to fire me for sure.
But then, you know, but
Chris kept it together,
bless his sweet heart.
And, um, you know,
the rest is history.
You know, it just got better
and better and better.
- [Narrator] After turning
a hero into a villain
with Phoenix, he
set out to redeem
the X-Men's
arch-nemesis, Magneto.
- Magneto was sort of the
typical Marvel villain,
very much in the
mode of Doctor Doom.
- In the Scottish
play, Mac-you-know-who
comes out, and he's just
a bastard from step one.
Who cares?
But if you see that he
starts out as a noble hero,
a trusted knight, and suddenly
he's walking down a path
which makes perfect
sense to him,
but, you're watching
the degradation,
the corruption, the destruction
of someone who could
have been a noble hero,
it's the essence
of great tragedy.
The villain, the guy who
turns out to be the monster,
has to have something
wonderful to lose.
- You started to get this
really intense backstory.
- So with Magneto, what
led him to this position?
He's a young man in Auschwitz,
he lost everything
there, he survived.
Somehow he survived.
And each step of
the way leads him
towards putting on the suit
and forming the
Brotherhood of Evil Mutants
and coming out
and trying to say,
I've tried playing
by your rules.
It isn't working, fine.
I'm going to impose my rules
and you'll behave yourselves.
I'm gonna be the dad now
and not the servitor.
- This was a really bold
way to reimagine a villain.
It gave the character a depth
that very few bad guys in
superhero comics ever had.
- [Narrator] Issue
number 150 revealed
Magneto's Holocaust backstory,
and also put him in
contact with Kitty Pryde,
a recently introduced
teenage X-Man.
- The beautiful paradigm
of Kitty's presence
in the X-Men was suddenly,
we had a young Jewish hero
who is everything
Magneto is fighting for,
and the seminal moment in 50
is he damn near kills her.
Not because he has
anything against her,
it's just, he reacted.
He saw the costume,
she was attacking him,
he struck back
and then realized,
oh, my God, it's a little girl.
But within the context of the
character that I was building,
this is also a man
who, 20 years earlier,
had seen his own
daughter, the same age,
burned to death because
she was different.
And that was bringing
home in a primal sense,
a personal sense,
I am becoming that which
I fought my entire life.
Am I a good man who can
reform himself through will,
or am I inevitably a monster?
(light pop music)
I mean, my plan was, by
300, to have Charlie killed
and Magneto become the
permanent head of the school.
You know, I wanted
him to be a hero.
I wanted him to be the
leader of the X-Men,
because it would then
allow us the opportunity
of creating a whole new,
utterly irredeemable villain
for the current generation.
(light pop music)
- The X-Men, in particular,
really appeals to people
who feel in some
way marginalized,
because they've always been
this metaphor for outsiders.
- If you don't fit
in any place else,
then you know that there
are other people like you.
- Now, that's a great
metaphor for race and racism,
but I think it's
not a bad metaphor
for what women also
have to endure.
- And it had more
female characters,
it had such a diverse cast.
- [Peter] Much more
independent, much more feminist
than we've seen before.
- Every team had a female
character who was the girl.
Never the woman,
always the girl.
I figure, why can't we
have more exciting people?
- He has said that
whenever he sat down
to create a character, he
would always say, first,
you know, "Is there any reason
this character can't be female?"
- So he added so many female
characters to the mutant canon.
Kitty Pryde was a
classic, inquisitive
young girl, you know?
She was spunky, she
was learning about love
for the first time, you know,
she was exploring her powers,
and she was just the
perfect character
for teenage girls
to identify with.
- I felt like Kitty Pryde,
there was my role model now.
- There was Storm,
who is really probably
my first feminist icon ever.
(jazzy guitar music)
- Because I'm mixed,
it was one of the first
comic book characters
where it was a strong
female character in Storm.
- I don't think
other people asked,
why can't this
character be a woman,
I think it was a Chris thing.
And honestly, I think that,
because it was a Chris thing,
Chris's books were very
popular with a female audience.
And you gotta figure that
half the people out there
in the world are
female, so you know,
it could have been
one of the reasons
that his books sold so well.
I mean, the X-Men
was a huge seller.
- Ann No centi came on,
first as an assistant editor
under Louise Simonson,
and then she took over
as editor of the book.
- I'm Annie No centi, actually,
I'm Ann No centi (laughs).
Who am I?
I didn't have a history
of reading comics.
I didn't even know what a
comic was when I got hired.
I answered an ad in
the Village Voice,
and it said that they
were looking for writers.
I called up and I said, "Well,
what would I be writing?"
And she said, "Oh, I
can't say over the phone,"
and I thought, well,
porn, okay, I'll try.
(Chris and Louise laugh loudly)
- The advantage, I think,
that I've had with X-Men
was Louise Simonson and
Ann No centi as editors.
They provided a perspective
that was rarely
available elsewhere.
- So he had women around
him, women who he respected.
- Ann had no idea where
I was coming from,
and I had no idea where
she was coming from,
so we shuffled it all together
and came up with some
really great stuff.
And Wheezy would just
look at us and kind of go,
"Gosh, aren't they interesting?"
- The offices themselves,
back then, were a lot of fun.
- When I first came into Marvel,
there were people
sleeping under desks.
There was a giant
papier-mch figure of Thor
suspended from the ceiling.
I mean, really, DC was
like an insurance office.
Marvel was, as I said, home.
- Or they would decide to set
up offices in the bathroom
or people would come
in with balloons,
helium balloons with their
thoughts over their heads,
and it was really fun.
- There was so much creativity
that it just boiled over.
- [Chris] Yeah.
- [Louise] It wasn't contained,
it boiled over onto the walls,
it spilled out into the bullpen.
- We're sitting around one day,
and we were talking about
Saturday Night Live,
'cause they were just
in their second season,
and it was really
cool, and you know,
what are we gonna do in team-up?
Oh shit, you know
what would be fun?
Why don't we just,
Spidey and the
And Shooter looks at
me and says, "Well..."
I said, "Well, what?"
"Well, it's your idea, do it."
(stutters) Okay.
And so he called 'em up,
and it's like, you know,
Jim talks for five minutes,
and that was all it took.
And we all got invited to the
cast party for Animal House.
- Marvel was considered to
be a creative think tank
back then, and NASA once said,
"We're sending
Slinkys into space,"
- Oh, NASA, yeah.
- "And we want the Slinkys to
have superhero characters."
So they'd hire us,
and we would come up
with characters for NASA.
And then the Vatican hired
us to do the Pope comic,
you remember that?
- Oh, God, yes.
- And the monsignors
came through and
blessed all the pages,
and we were just dying,
you know? (laughs)
- Because half of us
were Jewish! (laughs)
And the other half,
you don't want to know.
Marvel was the kind
of wild, crazy place
where this sort of silliness
happened as a matter of course.
(soft rock music)
- [Narrator] With X-Men a
bigger and bigger success,
Marvel wanted to
expand the brand
and corporate higher-ups
pushed for a spin-off title.
- Jim Shooter had been
after the X-Men office,
which was me and
Chris, essentially,
to create another
X book for a while.
Chris didn't want to do that,
because he didn't
want to water down
the impact of the X-Men.
I mean, he felt
like he was doing it
and he was doing it well,
and that it really
didn't need another book.
But commercially, Shooter
wanted another success
that was as big as the
X-Men, if he could manage it.
- As soon as Chris realized
that this was actually, I think,
going to happen, was when he
sort of got serious about,
okay, well, if there's
going to be a spin-off,
I'm going to do it.
'Cause he was protective
of his corner of Marvel.
- [Narrator] Chris
developed The New Mutants,
which introduced a new
cast of teenage characters
studying at Xavier Academy.
- After a little
slightly rocky start,
that became a real
interesting book.
I mean, that became
our experimental book,
with Bill Sienkiewicz
doing fantastic, weird,
crazy, artsy stuff.
- The energy that built
when we decided to put Bill
Sienkiewicz on The New Mutants
was extraordinary.
That was just extraordinary,
because Bill is so deeply
intelligent, he's so passionate,
he has a billion ideas.
- You had stuff that
looked like it was drawn
by little kids, you
know, in crayon,
and then you had stuff
that just looked like
beautiful Renaissance painting.
- This looked cutting edge,
and I think Chris
responded to that
by making the stories
more cutting edge.
- I don't think
we would have done
the stories we did with
Warlock, for instance,
without Bill as the artist,
because we knew that Bill
could just run with it.
- The whole tone of
The New Mutants comic
took a big shift from
more teenage storylines
into things that
were a lot deeper
and a lot more
complicated and emotional.
And Legion was probably
the best example of this,
because it delves into
so much psychology.
- I used to say, "Bill,
draw whatever you want,
you're a genius, why should
I tell you what to draw?"
And he'd do these covers, to
me, they were like brilliant,
and Shooter would fight him--
- tooth and nail.
- Chris had to run everything
past his editor, of course,
the editor had to say yes or no.
- Well, there are always clashes
between writers and editors,
because you have
different perspectives.
The writer is very
I want what is best for my book,
everybody else get the
hell out of the way.
The editor-in-chief,
like it or not,
has to balance those desires
with the fact you're
playing in a community.
- We fought like cats
and dogs, me and him.
He wanted to do all
kinds of things, and I,
X-Men was important, I
paid attention to it.
- But for the most
part, I think that Chris
had a surprising amount
of creative freedom.
- We could do whatever
we wanted, really.
- We just had to be a little
tactful about it, that's all.
- Chris, Wheezy, and I
came up with storylines.
There was nobody
guarding the gate
between us and the public.
Sometimes your mistakes
saw print, but so what?
Because you were always able
to stretch and do fun things--
- Shooter was the only
real major obstacle,
and really, he wasn't that bad,
certainly on the X-Men,
- Yeah, you could,
- He wasn't that bad.
- Oh, no.
- He had his moments, but,
- I tried never to
say, "You must do this,"
but I would say, "This is
the sort of thing we need,
because, you know,
you've created this story
and it needs to go someplace."
And so he'd, you know, we'd
have these shouting matches.
But it was always
about the story.
- When Shooter would
get us all presents?
Oh, my God.
- Yes, yes.
- [Louise] Oh, yes.
- [Chris] Yeah, some of those
presents were just, like--
- Well, you know what he got me.
- I know.
- He got me a bondage outfit.
- I know.
- With a whip and
a knife (laughs).
(whip snaps)
- [Narrator] Claremont's
run continued
with artist Paul Smith
in a series of stories
that drove deeper into the
personal and emotional lives
of the characters.
- It's interesting.
I hear people talking
about a character now,
and it's as if they're over
there, and they're iconic,
and they're, you know,
they were just people.
- You define certain
specified moments.
We're going in this direction.
But these are
organic characters,
and it's not just
a single character.
You're dealing with a group
of seven to 14
characters in an issue.
You don't know who will
suddenly jump to the foreground.
- One of the maddening but
beautiful things about comics
is that you have to give
characters a sense of change
without changing them so much
that they violate the
essence of who they are.
- Dave, when we started,
emphasized Nightcrawler,
because he loved Nightcrawler,
he bonded with Nightcrawler.
Nightcrawler, to him,
was the coolest thing
since sliced bread.
John Byrne loved Logan, and
that shifted the evolution
in a slightly
different direction.
Smitty, I like to
think that the one,
the character who stepped
to the foreground was Storm.
- [Narrator] Under
Chris and Paul Smith,
Storm had a personal
crisis, lost her powers,
and took on a new
mohawk-and-leather look.
- You know, I think
one of the best things
Chris came up with was Storm,
was deciding that
the goddess thing
was getting a little tired
and to put her in
the biker outfit.
Characters age, and get stuck,
the whole African worship
thing started to feel,
a little, like,
clunky and tacky.
You know, and just
right at the right time,
you have to recreate
a character,
but they have to stay the same.
- With Smitty, the superhero
adventures, they're alright.
But the character,
the characterization,
the interaction of the
X-Men on an emotional level
was unsurpassed.
One image that stays to mind is
the moment where Rogue
walks into the room in Japan
to meet Logan and Mariko,
and she's just
standing there, shyly.
It's very, very, very
hard to draw shy.
And Paul did it.
At that point, you don't
need a superhero battle.
You don't need the
end of the universe.
You bond with that girl
and you want to know,
how do you make her feel better?
- You write from your heart,
and you write your passions,
what interests you, and
then there's gonna be
a ton of people out there
that are gonna react.
- The X-Men expressed
real emotion,
sorrow, anger, love, lust.
Their lives were
just so turbulent.
When people call the
X-Men a soap opera,
it's not really a joke, and
I was totally enthralled.
- Once I started reading X-Men,
I was obsessed with comics.
- X-Men comics were
where it started for me.
Got super into that.
- It's really easy to think
that you write these stories
and they're just disposable,
that they don't go
into anybody's head.
But you'd get letters,
occasionally, from people
that your stories really
made a difference to.
It makes me feel
better about what I do,
which is entertainment.
You know, you begin to think,
well, entertaining people's
maybe not so
unimportant after all.
- If I had never opened
that X-Men comic,
I don't know if I would be
exactly where I am today,
because that just, I went,
this is what I wanna do.
- [Narrator] Chris continued
to expand and deepen
his universe with new
artist John Romita, Jr.,
but was rudely surprised
by the news that
a new X-Men book
would be starting
without him, X-Factor,
and that the first issue
would resurrect Jean Grey.
- X-Factor sprung from an idea
that they had to reunite
the original X-Men,
because Chris constantly
added characters to the X-Men,
and you ended up with a
pool of X-Men characters
that weren't in the X-Men,
and obviously Marvel
was gonna think
that's a good idea to maybe
do something with them,
since the X-Men sell so well.
- Chris had been told
that, if Jean was killed,
she would never,
ever, ever come back.
This was the end, she
was dead, dead, dead,
forever ever ever.
And that was fine.
- Oddly enough, even
though it was Jim Shooter
who decreed that
Jean Grey must die
for the Dark Phoenix
Saga, of course,
he was one of the principal
forces behind X-Factor,
which brings Jean back.
- My idea is that when
you kill a character,
that character stays dead.
And then my idea with Phoenix
was that she would remain dead.
Well, it was John Byrne
who came up with this
return of Phoenix idea.
- The first thing
she tells me is,
"Well, there's something
you need to know."
What's that?
"They're bringing back Jean."
And I said,
- I barely remember this.
- "What the fu,"
and I jumped up from the
table, ran out the door,
and called Shooter,
who had the sense not
to be in the office.
It was after hours, I couldn't
go back and, like, punch him.
- Before this, you
called me and asked,
and I said, "Oh, Shooter
would never do that."
- That's what we thought.
- He swore to you.
So I gave you really bad advice,
you wouldn't,
- kinda.
- I calmed him down.
'Cause I wasn't an
editor at that time,
I was just a freelancer.
- It's coming back.
- Shooter would
never, ever do that.
He wouldn't lie to
you that way, I said.
He's an honorable man.
Guess what.
- Yeah, well.
If you have 400,000
readers who read this issue
and have emotional reactions
to the death of a character,
and then we turned
around and say, "We lied,"
they're never gonna
trust you again.
- [Narrator] X-Factor
was a critical dud,
and original writer Bob Layton
was soon replaced
by Louise Simonson.
She worked closely with Chris
and brought the book more in
line with his vision for X-Men.
At the same time,
Chris became known
for an increasingly
sprawling narrative style,
with plot threads
stretching multiple issues
and even years
before resolution.
- Problem I always had
with Chris on a book,
and I loved his work, I
read the book religiously
while he was writing it, was,
he was always
starting new stories.
- And we were getting
fast and loose and sloppy
and having stories that
went on for six issues
and we didn't know--
- [Chris] Not at all like today.
- It was like the Big Sleep,
you know, where not even,
was it Raymond Chandler?
Not even Raymond Chandler
knew what was going on
or how it ended, or,
that was kind of
what we were up to.
- Once in a while, he would
say, "I've run out of ideas."
"I can't think of a
story, oh my God."
But with Chris, it was easy,
because as we all know,
Chris had loads of dangling
plot threads that the readers,
of course, always
carried on about.
So you'd say, "Well, Chris,
hmm, you have this plot thread
and this plot thread
and this plot thread,
any of those one that
you want to pick up?"
And he'd say, "Oh, okay!"
And he'd go home and write a
story and it would be great.
- You basically root
around in a box,
either on the floor or
in your head, looking for
something to, that
catches your imagination,
and you just start
talking about it,
and the next thing you know,
you're stitching
it into a story.
- And then, of course, it
all comes from character.
Once you learn who
these characters are,
it becomes just
innate, you know.
You know what Logan
would do and wouldn't do.
They're speaking to
you, the characters.
The only way you could do
this day in and day out
was to convince yourself
these characters were real.
So we had a lot of
affection for them.
So we would have
conversations like,
who's Kitty gonna play
with, which sounds retarded,
- But it was a reality of
life, I mean, I (groans)
not gonna go there,
- Or even who was together.
- it's just, ah!
- [Narrator] This
period was notable
for Chris taking time out
for low-key personal stories
like Lifedeath, in which Storm
and mutant inventor Forge
share an intimate dinner.
- We had done a
bunch of epic stories
and made a conscious decision
to slow the pace down
and just do a Storm
story, you know?
Not even a Storm
story, a Ororo story.
It was a beautiful story.
- I mean, we had a
five-page scene of Storm
just sitting there,
drinking wine and
talk, you know,
wearing a pair of jeans
and fixing a salad.
- And that was just
so much fun, for,
to just allow ourselves to
have that little breather,
that one moment, when
we were just like,
well, who is she?
(gentle acoustic guitar music)
- [Ann] You know, people
have this wonderful cause,
and then, boom, you hit
them with something.
- [Louise] And it
gives you something
to have your big story about,
- [Both] Mm-hmm.
- Other than about explosions,
which I personally
happen to love.
I have no problem
- I have no problem with
blowing things up, either.
- with blowing things up
and knocking buildings over.
But it's nice to have
it have a human context.
And if you've got characters
whom you've come to love
involved in this event,
then the event has meaning.
And if you threaten
these characters,
it means a lot more
than if it's just one
explosion after another
with no emotional context.
- I also think that,
when you have, like,
a lot of characters in a book,
you have to take
turns torturing them.
Chris loved torturing
Wolverine, Storm.
It is interesting that we
use this word torture a lot.
- It is.
- We're always talking about
torturing the characters.
- I know.
- It's not, it's meant
with love and affection.
- Oh, total love.
- It's, yeah, it's kind of like,
if you want to find out
what somebody is made of,
put them through
some kind of trial.
- It's our answer to why God
allows evil in the universe.
(Ann laughs)
- Well, 'cause otherwise,
he'd be boring.
He'd be bored.
It's like, there's
no fun in the world
if I don't have the devil.
- I don't know if you've
noticed, from the three of us,
but when you write
comics for years,
you stay a little
infantile (laughs).
(Chris and Louise laugh)
- [Louise] It keeps you
very infantile (laughs).
- Young in all but hair.
(light guitar music)
- As the X-Men started
to get more popular,
there were pressures to
make more and more titles
that involved those
X-Men characters
and Claremont, of course,
who felt very proprietary
about these characters.
- The advantage
that X-Men built is
that it was fundamentally
the product of two people,
two writers, me and Wheezy.
That gave it a tremendous
focus in terms of
what we could do
with the characters
and how they were
presented to the audience.
- What you start to
see in the early 1980s
is Chris Claremont spreading
himself thinner and thinner,
making sure that he
can keep controlling
what's going on with these
corporate-owned properties.
They're going to be published
with or without him,
and so he's just trying to
make it as good as he can.
- The first three or four years
being off the radar,
we had our time to ourselves.
Suddenly, down the line, you had
You know, as long as we
could control the crossovers,
it was a family affair.
- The X-Men books
were being done
by a group of close
collaborators and close friends.
- And they enjoyed
working together,
and The Mutant Massacre
sort of came from them.
- Chris came into me and he
said, "I have this great idea."
Paul Smith has drawn too
many mutants in the alley.
I'm just gonna
have to kill some.
And I said, "Oh, man, Chris,
that's just too big a story."
That's too cool to do
it just in one issue.
Can I play too?
- That was exactly
what Wheezy just said.
It was, sometimes
people just all
wanted to play.
- I just thought it was fun.
And then Walter said,
- And thought it was fun.
- "Ooh, can I play?"
That's the way things were
done back in the olden days.
And that's why the
olden days were better.
- [Narrator] 1986's
The Mutant Massacre
was the first X-Men crossover,
a single story spanning
Claremont's X-Men,
Louise Simonson's
X-Factor and Power Pack,
and Walter Simonson's Thor.
The massive success
of this dark story
led Marvel to demand
yearly crossovers
among the different
X-Men titles.
- There was just a need
to keep filling the racks
with X-Men comics,
because they sold well
and they hadn't reached
their saturation point yet.
And Marvel was not going to stop
until they reached
their saturation point.
- And then the next fall,
Shooter said, "And you will
do another crossover."
- Do another one.
- And, uh, this is what you're
gonna do, blah blah blah.
And we said, "Oh,
no, no, no, Jim."
We pretended that we already
had stuff planned for it.
- Yes, we lied.
- We totally
pretended, oh, yeah,
we have stuff planned for that.
- And pretty much
every year after that,
you'd have some major
storyline that crossed over
into the various X-Men titles.
- It became just a really
complicated problem
to solve every year, and
then more than every year,
and then, seemingly,
all the time.
- [Narrator] As the 80s
went on, Chris phased out
fan-favorite characters like
Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler,
and worked with artist Marc
Silvestri to build a new cast
with characters like
Dazzler and Longshot.
- Not really growing
up with comics,
it took me a little while
to really get the impact
of working with Chris Claremont
and working on the X-Men.
So, for a few years, it
was a pure adrenaline rush.
Once I got the scope of where
I was as a professional,
it became sometimes
And Chris, great guy, but,
you know, intimidating guy,
especially if you're someone
just getting in there.
It was Chris Claremont.
- Towards the end of his run,
Chris had reached a point
that no other comics
writer really had,
having been on these characters
and on this same book
continuously for 15 years.
And I think Chris
got to the point
where he was trying
to do the stories
that still appealed
to him after 16 years,
which was new things,
and he didn't want to do
what pretty much every other
superhero comic book does,
which is, basically, recycle
villains, recycle storylines.
- How do we keep these
long-term readers
excited and intrigued and eager
to find out what happens next?
And that means there has to be
a growth and evolution
in the characters.
- At the time, TV shows
were not serialized.
They were all
standalone episodes.
Movies would have sequels,
but still sort of
stood on their own.
But in the X-Men, he was
writing a bigger story
with each chapter of the
comic book that he did.
- To me, it's all one story.
Because life is a story,
is a single story,
and this is, to me it wasn't,
I'm not writing
superhero adventures,
I'm telling the story of
these characters' lives.
You pick up X-Men 100, you
see the seven characters,
you figure, okay,
this is who they are.
You pick up 200, the
characters have evolved.
- If you took, like, one
issue from each year,
every single issue is gonna
have different characters in it,
different styles in it.
It constantly changed.
- It would not
be, to me, anyway,
unreasonable to have a
totally different cast,
that Scott, I mean,
Scott retires, Scott's
raising his kids.
Maybe Storm has moved on.
Maybe Nightcrawler
has become a priest.
That allows the readers
who were reading the book
in 1990 to say, "I've got
someone who's my own."
And then the readers who
are reading it in 2000,
maybe they find someone who's,
they can do the same with.
- [Narrator] In the late 80s,
Marvel was sold several times
and eventually went public.
Jim Shooter was ousted
as editor-in-chief,
and the new Marvel management
was focused primarily
on producing higher and
higher quarterly earnings.
- Everyone aspired to the X-Men.
It was the leading book, it
was the top-selling book.
X-Men was automatic.
No matter who drew it, it
always charted probably
just under half a million
copies at the time.
- What changed was that, as
the X-Men became more popular,
there was a demand for
more X-Men material
than Chris alone could write,
or that Chris and his close
colleagues like Louise
could write, and Ann could
write, and edit themselves.
And there's going to
be more and more people
who had their
fingers in the pie.
- Sort of reluctantly,
I allowed the X-Men
franchise to expand.
- Cha-ching.
Money, money,
money, money, money.
- [Tom] They added
Excalibur, which Chris did,
and Wolverine, which Chris did,
but Chris didn't
stay with Wolverine.
- It suddenly gets more
and more challenging
to keep everything balanced.
- But I know, towards the
end of the time I was there
and I got, they started
getting very corporate,
and they started getting very,
well, this sells, so let's do
it in five different versions.
- You wanted to try
and keep a balance
between making the
readers really excited,
or sustaining that
excitement, and come back,
keep them coming back for more,
but never let them get so
much that it becomes a joke,
it becomes boring.
- Yeah, because
your readers are smart.
- I kind of feel like
the X-Men became,
almost like a prison of
Claremont's own making.
The very success that the
X-Men eventually attained
meant that those characters
were going to just keep
being exploited in as many
properties as they could.
- There are only so
many hours in the day.
I couldn't write everything.
I was a fool to think
it was even possible.
And there was no way
I was gonna stop the
expansion of the franchise.
- [Narrator] Artist Jim
Lee joined the title
and became an instant favorite
with both fans and
Marvel's management,
including new X-Men
line editor, Bob Harris.
- He was my assistant.
- Thanks a lot.
- I remember, I sicced
him on you, I'm so sorry.
- Bob was certainly a more
aggressive and, I think,
commercially-minded editor
than Ann No centi or
Louise Simonson had been.
- So much of comics
seems to boil down
to the new kid on the block.
You want the bright, shiny
object, you want the new punk.
- Jim Lee was at the forefront
of this new group of
fan-favorite artists
that started to really
dominate the industry,
and he was followed by
guys like Rob Liefeld.
- Bob Harris, who was
editing the X-Men, said,
"Hey Rob, love for you to come
work for me in the X office."
Now that was a
drop-the-phone moment.
X-Men was my favorite franchise
and that was a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
- Liefeld, I think,
came in as a desire
on behalf of Bob
Harris and Marvel
to boost the book up again.
- Comics were boring.
Even Marc Silvestri,
he'll admit, he got bored.
And from where I looked,
Marc had done the book
for already, like,
four or five years.
And, but it's not a job you,
you don't leave that job.
It's the best-selling comic.
And the writer had been
on it for 15 years.
You don't think he's burned out?
I mean, it was like, hey,
the X-Men girls go shopping.
In the next issue, the
guys go to the mall.
And you're like, this isn't
the X-Men I grew up loving.
Where's Magneto, where's the
Brotherhood of Evil Mutants?
Where's the stuff that's
gonna psych me out?
- The New Mutants had
started to slip in popularity
from where it had been.
- It was the ugly stepchild
of the X-Men universe.
I mean, it was, everything
else sold up here
in the 400,000, 300,000 range
and New Mutants were
selling 100,000.
And they said Rob,
we'll let you do
whatever you want in here.
(upbeat pop music)
- Rob said he wanted stories
with a lot of action
and character,
and when I wrote stories
with action and character,
I often got a lot of people
standing around posing,
you know, trying on costumes
in front of mirrors.
- Everyone in the field
needed a refresher
or needed a breather.
That new energy was necessary.
- He had all these
sketches, he was like,
"This is a new character
I got, Deadpool,
do you think people
will like him?"
I was like, "Yeah, he
looks pretty cool,
I think people will dig him.
- If he didn't like the plot
that Louise Simon son gave him,
he would sort of just draw
what he wanted to draw.
And then Louise
would get back pages
that she had to make sense of.
- But I was not comfortable
with what Rob was doing,
and I don't think he
was comfortable with
what I was doing.
- My first issue of New Mutants
went from 100 to 115,000.
We went up every month.
- And it was seen at Marvel
as being the result of Rob
Liefeld's contribution.
- It was an
unfortunate alliance,
and I was very glad to get
off and go do Superman.
- But that left Chris
with few of the allies
that he had built
up over the years.
- When the artists started
to push back a little bit
on what Chris Claremont was
asking for in the stories,
Bob Harris was very
sympathetic to these artists.
- There was definitely
a power shift, I think,
where Jim Lee became the one
who everyone saw as
driving the book.
- And Chris Claremont,
who had been doing X-Men
for 15 years at this
time, was hardly the type
to just roll over
and accommodate.
- Jim had his own ambitions
in terms of directions he
wanted to take the stories,
things he wanted to do
with the characters.
There was a growing sense
of unease, editorially,
with the fact that I'd been
on this thing for 17 years.
- The X-Men became so successful
that it could no longer
remain an auteur book.
- Stories began to be handed
down from the top down
more and more and more.
So it became a less
fun place to work.
- The thing that
is so frustrating
is that, you know, the
memory of sitting down
back in 89 and 90 and 91
and looking at the numbers
and thinking, holy shit.
We are at a point where comics
is not a peripheral
industry anymore.
We could actually think in
terms of how can we expand?
How can we make it even
bigger and stronger?
- [Narrator] With comic sales
rising in the early 90s,
Marvel planned a
new X-Men title.
For this series, Marvel wanted
a return to the status quo.
The X-Men would
return to the mansion,
and Magneto, the school's
current headmaster
and reformed villain, would
return to his evil ways.
This was all ordered through a,
- A memo from higher authority.
No, I mean, you mean, X-Men one?
[Interviewer] Yeah.
No, that was Bob and
Jim and higher-ups
deciding, editorially,
- It was the profit driving
the progression of the book
and progression of the
story as, honestly,
maybe it should.
- You know, for someone who
really puts the creative first,
like Chris did, that's
a tough thing to take.
- It was a moment where
they didn't want to do
what I wanted to do,
I didn't want to do what
they wanted to do, and, er,
tempers carried everyone away.
- [Narrator] In 1991,
Chris and Jim Lee
released X-Men number one,
which sold 8 million copies
and still holds the record
for highest-selling
comic of all time.
Two issues later, after
17 years as writer,
Chris was off the book.
He felt,
- Betrayed.
But that was then, you know,
I mean, we're talking
literally 20 years ago.
- Marvel itself
didn't even really
acknowledge it in the books.
There was no goodbye from Chris.
There was no note saying
this is Chris's last issue,
which reflected,
I think, Marvel's
philosophy at that point,
which was that they're
just, you know,
that the characters sell the
books and not the creators.
- It was easier to walk
away than stay immersed
in a situation that was
frustratingly unproductive.
In retrospect, I should
have been smarter,
but, you know, that's,
that could be said
by a lot of people
over a lot of circumstances.
- I thought that they
didn't appreciate Chris
as they should have, you know,
especially over time.
- At the end of the
day, you're playing
with somebody else's toys,
and you may write that
character for years
and be forever associated
with that character,
but once, the moment
you step away,
somebody else is
gonna fill that spot.
You know, those toys are
never coming home with you,
they're always gonna go
back in the Marvel sandbox.
- In Marvel comics
of the 21st century,
there is no auteur like
Chris Claremont was.
It's just probably never
going to happen again.
- After Perelman
took over the company
and brought in all
the marketing people,
they kinda strip-mined it.
You know, they said, "Hey, if
they'll buy one X-Men title,
they'll buy two,
or four, or six."
- [Narrator] Despite
numerous successful projects
in the years since,
Claremont never again
reached the heights
of his run on X-Men.
- I still think people don't
give him his proper due,
and I think it's because
he was so ubiquitous
and so successful.
- People bought the X-Men
'cause they wanted to see
what happened next month.
- Those early X-Men issues
dramatically changed
mainstream comics, I think,
and sort of set the stage
for everything
that's come since.
- And I liken him to Babe
Ruth, you know (laughs),
'cause Babe Ruth didn't
invent the Yankees
and Claremont didn't
invent the X-Men,
but each of them built a house.
- Fox was interested
in doing X-Men movies.
We had a meeting with Lauren
Shuler Donner and Bryan Singer.
- There were a number
of scripts written,
most of them quite forgettable.
- Nothing was gelling,
and it was very close to
going into turnaround.
So I wrote a memo,
and I just said,
"This is what it's all about."
"These are who these
characters are."
"This is what the conflict is."
"It has nothing to do with
superheroes and super-villains."
"It has to do with
race and prejudice
and trying to find a home
for yourself in society."
Next thing I know, I
got a postcard back
from one of the heads
of production at Fox,
saying, "Thank you, this
got us off the ground,"
it gave us an identifiable
hook to hang his ideas on.
And from there, the series
was off and running.
- Before X-Men opened,
nobody was sure
that a movie that didn't star
a really well-known superhero,
like a Superman or a
Batman, was ever gonna find
a significant audience
or be successful.
- The opening
weekend, it rolled in
with $78 million and number
one at the box office,
and everyone sorta went,
holy shit, this works.
And X2 did even better.
- The movies continued
to draw on the stories
that Chris wrote and worked
with Louise Simonson on,
Days of Future Past, Apocalypse.
- I mean, I get to
see my characters,
characters I created and
relationships I defined,
dialogue I wrote,
spoken by performers
whose work I have respected
my whole working life.
You know, when I was a punk kid,
I would hang out in the
back of Broadway theater
watching Ian McKellan
performing on stage.
To come back decades
later and see Ian McKellan
doing my Magneto is just
utterly, utterly breathtaking.
- The Legion TV show
is boldly experimental
and really challenges
the forms of television,
just like the comics by
Chris and Bill Sienkiewicz,
in which the character
was introduced.
X-Men, especially under Chris,
really became a franchise
with a lot of depth and a lot
of variety to the stories.
They did a lot of
very unusual things
for the mainstream
superhero genre,
and the TV show really
sort of reflects that.
It is able to go to
these unusual places,
visually and creatively,
because the comic went
there 30 years ago.
(gentle guitar music)
Logan brings a lot of the
heart and emotional depth
of Chris's run on the
character to the screen
in a way that no
other movie has.
It took the
character into places
that almost no
superhero movie has,
in terms of maturity, violence,
and emotional resonance.
One of the reasons Logan is
such an enduring character
is because of all the work
that Chris and the
people he worked with
put into developing the
character over many years,
in the largely unnoticed
form of comic books.
- And if you'd asked, 30
years ago, could this happen?
We'd have both
said, "Yeah, right,
that'll be the day."
But it just goes to show,
truth is stranger than fiction.
- Not everyone knows
who Chris Claremont is,
but everyone knows
who the X-Men are,
everyone knows who Wolverine is.
He may not get the
recognition that, say,
Stan Lee gets for creating
The Avengers or Spider-Man,
but his creations and his
stories are just as significant,
if not more so, in
the comics field.
They continue to
have relevance today,
and they continue to entertain
and to inspire people.
- I want this to mean something.
I want this to matter.
I want this to have a sense
of legitimacy and validity.
I don't want them to just
slough it off and say,
"Ah, it's just a comic book."
- You have a charge,
you know, especially,
we used to think a lot
about the younger readers.
- [Louise] Right.
- Because the younger
readers believe
these characters are real,
and you get a shit-load
of traumatized mail,
no matter what you
did to a character.
It kept you in touch with how
every little thing you did,
you know, was profoundly, you
know, hit some kid somewhere.
- I was at a coffee
klatch one night,
and there was a young
woman there who was Mormon,
and she was talking about
how she loved the characters,
that they spoke very
eloquently to her as a person,
as a woman, but also as
a Mormon, as an outsider,
trying to find a
place that worked.
She was married, and her
husband was willing to indulge
her affection for the X-Men,
so long as the kids were
too young to read comics.
But now the kids
were getting older
and they were starting to read,
and he felt that these
comics were inappropriate,
because they dealt with themes
that he felt were
wrong for kids.
And she was heartbroken,
because these were her friends,
and she was facing a future
where she would be unable
to follow their lives.
Not their adventures,
their lives.
And it had her in tears.
And I'm sitting there, I
was thinking, "Holy shit!"
This is real for her.
Not that the characters are
real, but the conflict is real.
The life, the moment is real,
and she is going to lose
something she holds of value.
As a creator, as a
writer, as a person,
I not only have to respect that,
I have to do my best
to be worthy of that.
If someone is going to commit
to this work, to my work,
to my, these characters,
with that level of intensity,
I have to make the
characters and the stories
worth that commitment,
and find a way to
fulfill the promise.
Our goal is to tell
really great stories,
and, 30 days later, find
a way to make it better.
And if we're lucky enough
to do that and sustain it,
we have, we and the audience
can have a whole lot of fun.
But that's the
challenge and it's--
The miracle is that we
get a chance to try.
The wonder and delight
is that we pull it off.
(ambient electronic music)
(industrial music)