mandag den 27. februar 2012

The unrevealed mysteries of Mystique

And the unpublished debut of Destiny, Rogue and the Hellfire Club.

The shapechanging Mystique, who would become an important figure in the X-Men mythology, was originally introduced in Ms. Marvel, written by Chris Claremont. In Ms. Marvel #18 from 1978, it was established that Mystique was working for a Lord who remained unidentified, but it was probably a Lord of the Hellfire Club – an organization of rich and powerhungry mutants.

However, Ms. Marvel got cancelled in 1979 because of poor sales before it was confirmed if Mystique was working for the Hellfire Club, so their "plan" was never revealed. But the Hellfire Club, as well as Mystique’s partner Destiny and their adopted daughter Rogue, would also have been introduced in Ms. Marvel if the series had continued. When the characters showed up in X-Men instead, Claremont used their unreleased Ms. Marvel appearances as backstory, the reason being that those stories were supposed to see print in Marvel Fanfare.

When it was decided to cancel Ms. Marvel with issue #23, Ms. Marvel #24 had been ready to go to the printer. The plan was to print that issue in Marvel Fanfare instead, and to conclude the story started therein over several issues of Marvel Fanfare. So in Uncanny X-Men #158 from 1982, there was a reference to see future issues of Marvel Fanfare for the reason behind Mystique’s hatred of Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel).

The stories never appeared in Marvel Fanfare, however, and Claremont considered doing them as back-up stories for Classic X-Men instead, but that ended up not happening, either.

Revenge for untold events

Finally, in 1992, Ms. Marvel #24 turned up in Marvel Super-Heroes vol.2 #10, and the first part of the continuation intended for Marvel Fanfare turned up in Marvel Super-Heroes vol.2 #11 with a 10-page epilogue written by Simon Furman that wrapped up Claremont’s unfinished story in which Mystique’s hatred of Carol Danvers was explained with the precognitive mutant Destiny having predicted Rogue’s death at the hands of Ms. Marvel.

However, Simon Furman had no idea of what Claremont had planned and made an error in including Destiny in his epilogue. Destiny would have ended up in prison in Claremont’s unpublished continuation of his Ms. Marvel story, because when Rogue made her official debut in Avengers Annual #10 in 1981, she attacked Ms. Marvel and permanently absorbed her powers and mind in order to help Mystique bust Destiny and the other Brotherhood members out of prison.

Rogue’s attack on Ms. Marvel wasn’t shown until Uncanny X-Men #203 in 1986, and in Uncanny X-Men #182, 1984, Rogue explained her reason for the attack: “Hatred. Vengeance. We’d fought a few months earlier. Ah’d almost been killed. Ah wanted to get even.”

The fight Rogue mentioned must have happened in the storyline that was begun in Marvel Super-Heroes vol.2 #11. Unfortunately, that storyline was never finished.

When Sebastian Shaw of the Hellfire Club mentioned a previous encounter with Rogue in X-Men Annual #7 from 1984, it was probably also a reference to an event in the untold Ms. Marvel story. Rogue also referenced the fight in Uncanny X-Men #209, 1986: “When we first tussled long before ah joined the X-Men – Shaw near punched my ticket.”

Chris Claremont confirmed in his online Cordially Chris forum that when Mastermind of the Hellfire Club exacted revenge on Mystique in Uncanny X-Men #170 in 1983, by troubling her with nightmares and causing Rogue to leave her, it was for something that had happened in the unpublished Ms. Marvel stories. Mastermind also assaulted Emma Frost of the Hellfire Club in Uncanny X-Men #169, 1983. His hatred for Frost was also left unexplained, but before she was attacked, Frost feared for Shaw’s safety.

Whatever the story in Ms. Marvel #25 onwards was about, it obviously involved a conflict between Mastermind and the Hellfire Club (Shaw and Frost), and Mastermind had his plans thwarted by Mystique in some way.



Cordially Chris,, 3 February 2003

mandag den 20. februar 2012

Interrupted romance

Cyclops dated Colleen Wing, but never really responded to her advances. Was there some secret reason readers didn't know about?

In X-Men #114 to 125 from 1978 and1979, Scott Summers (Cyclops) thought that his girlfriend Jean Grey (Phoenix) was dead. There was a controversial scene in X-Men #114 where Scott told Storm that he felt no sorrow for the loss of Jean because she was no longer the girl he had loved after becoming Phoenix in X-Men #101, 1976. (Years later, in 1986, Phoenix was retroactively changed to not have been Jean Grey at all, making Scott more right than anyone knew at the time.)

“The intention was always there that Scott should feel nothing on Jean’s death,” writer Chris Claremont told The Comics Journal #50. “I mean, the reason being that Scott is a person who has been so hurt in his life that at that point he couldn’t afford to be hurt anymore.”

“But many people saw it as my abandonment of the character rather than my establishing something that will be resolved – that I was setting something up. Rather than make this major shift in his character, I wanted to build it; I wanted to broaden his horizons a little. That’s why I brought in Colleeen Wing (in X-Men #118, 1979), to give him an alternative.”

“Someone like Scott would internalize the grief, would shut it away, would ignore it, and by ignoring it would ignore his own feelings toward Jean,” Claremont added in The X-Men Companion. “What I wanted to do with the Colleen Wing relationship was to show him growing up, show him getting in touch with his emotions, his feelings, his needs, his fears, his loves, his hates, his griefs, his joys, so that when he finally found Jean again they could experience their love in the fullest measure.”

No sex for Colleen

“As near as I can tell from reading the books, Jean was the first normal love of Scott’s life,” Claremont continued in The Comics Journal #50. “The guy was an incredible loner, an incredibly introverted personality. I couldn’t see him being easy with people. Anybody. And I wanted to make him more easy with the team, and with people in general. And at the time, Colleen was a convenient peg on which to hang this.”

“But again, Misty Knight and Colleen’s appearances in the X-Men were for reasons that had nothing to do with the X-Men,” Claremont admitted in The X-Men Companion. “I was bounced off Power Man and Iron Fist. (Writer) Ed Hannigan didn’t want either of the women in the book, and I said, “Fine, can I take them to X-Men?” and he said, “Sure.” You see, I pretty much created them and I wanted to keep control of them.”

“I brought these characters with me when I left Power Man and Iron Fist – so much for that idea,” Claremont sighed in The Comics Journal #50. “The intention was always just to broaden his horizons. They were never going to fall in love. Everyone says, “How dare Scott throw over Jean for Colleen,” but if you read those issues, the only person who refers to a possibility of a relationship is Colleen. Scott never picks up on it. He was going to, but events forestalled it. In retrospect, I’m glad they did. It works out better this way.”

“If you look at it the way it evolved, at no point does Scott make a move,” Claremont added in The X-Men Companion. “Colleen is the one who takes the initiative. They talk a lot, they enjoy each other’s company, but at no point does he give her any kind of sexual response or emotional response. Again, I was trying for things that got terminated for reasons that had nothing to do with the X-Men.”

No Sabretooth, either

The end result was that nothing happened between Scott and Colleen because Scott learned that Jean was still alive and rushed to be with her without giving Colleen another thought. “Again, it’s too abrupt,” Claremont admitted in The Comics Jounal #50, “but that’s because (writer) Jo Duffy felt we were co-opting her characters that rightfully belonged to Power Man and Iron Fist.”

“Jo – quite rightly – demanded them back,” Claremont revealed in The X-Men Companion.

“Colleen was introduced for a very specific purpose: To create the conflict that never really came about when Jean came back,” artist John Byrne summarized in The X-Men Companion. ““Here’s Jean back and here’s Colleen, and oh jeez, I jumped into Colleen so fast and I did not care about Jean,” and all that kind of stuff, which didn’t happen because Mary Jo Duffy quite rightly demanded Colleen back to do stuff with her. Chris has an unfortunate tendency to think that once he’s written a character it’s his character, and I try to think that once I leave the book I leave the characters behind.”

Jo Duffy also laid claim to Sabretooth, who had debuted in Iron Fist, for use in Power Man and Iron Fist. “(Wolverine’s father) was supposed to be Sabretooth,” Byrne revealed in The X-Men Companion. “Now I don’t know. I understand that Mary Jo is planning on doing a Sabretooth story. Whether or not she’ll do anything with that I don’t know. It’s entirely up to her now. It’s her character, because she has Iron Fist.”

Mary Jo Duffy never did anything interesting with Sabretooth, and when Power Man and Iron Fist was cancelled in 1986, Sabretooth – or at least a clone of him – finally started appearing in Uncanny X-Men.

Gary Groth: Chris Claremont, The Comics Journal #50, October 1979
Peter Sanderson: The X-Men Companion I, March 1982
Peter Sanderson: The X-Men Companion II, September 1982

mandag den 13. februar 2012

Why Phoenix had to die!

And how the all-time greatest X-Men story ever was born.

Scott Summers (Cyclop)’s girlfriend, Jean Grey (Marvel Girl), left the X-Men in issue #94 in 1975, but returned in X-Men #97 in 1976. “Basically, we missed her and wanted her back,” artist Dave Cockrum recalled in Comics Creators On X-Men. “Archie Goodwin was the X-Men editor by then and I had started badgering him to let me do something with Jean Grey. I hated her costume. We felt that Marvel Girl was a dumb name, too.”

“We never intended her to come back and just be plain old wimpy Marvel Girl,” Cockrum told The X-Men Companion. “We made her a bit more flamboyant than she was.”

“Dave and I deliberately set out to make her more independent and attractive before we made her into Phoenix,” Claremont told The X-Men Companion. “I saw no reason why a young, intelligent, attractive, courageous, heroic woman should look like a Republican frump. I told Dave, “Let’s jazz her up,” - visually jazz her up, changing her hairstyle, giving her slightly flashier clothes – and when he became more attracted to her, he liked drawing her and we liked using her again. I told Dave to jazz up the visuals on her power, because dotted lines do not an interesting visual make. And, partly because there was all this talk about Ms. Marvel, we felt some pressure to get rid of the Marvel Girl name.”

“At some point we thought, well, we’re giving her an official rebirth and Phoenix refers to rebirth so, okay, we’ll call her Phoenix,” Cockrum revealed in Comics Creators On X-Men. “I started drawing costumes and my first Phoenix costume was a lot like the current one, except that it was white and gold and had an off-the-shoulder cape like the Fawcett Captain Marvel. I loved it, personally, but Archie wouldn’t okay a white costume because he said you’d be able to read the copy through the page on the old newsprint we were printing on in those days. So I changed her colors to green and gold, and he okayed it.”

The first female cosmic hero

While trying to save the X-Men from death, Jean Grey was exposed to cosmic rays in X-Men #100, 1976. “(Writer Chris Claremont) told me to play off the origin of the Fantastic Four with the cosmic rays and that whole “TAGATAGATAGA” sound effect,” Cockrum recalled.

Then X-Men #101 started with Jean Grey having become Phoenix. The closer circumstances surrounding the rebirth were revealed in X-Men #125 in 1979: “Her body was consumed by the intense radiation. But her mind refused to die. Driven by her love for Scott Summers, she achived her full potential as a psi – becoming, briefly, an entity of pure thought before finally reforming as Phoenix.”

“We agonized over what the hell she did,” Cockrum revealed in The X-Men Companion. “It took us a long time to figure out exactly what she did, so we left her in the hospital for several issues, while we thought about it. It started out being an enormous upgrading of what she already did. So powerful that nobody could cope with it.”

“Phoenix is actually Marvel Girl at her ultimate extent,” Chris Claremont explained to The Comics Journal. “Phoenix in X-Men #108 (1977), when she saved the universe, was Jean Grey achieving her fullest potential as an entity.”

“Our intent was to create an X-Men analog, if you will, to Thor – someone who was essentially the first female cosmic hero,” Claremont revealed in Phoenix: The Untold Story. “We thought at the time that we could integrate her into the book as well as Thor had been integrated into the Avengers. The problem with that is that it grew out of the synthesis between Dave and me. The fact that we had, in a sense, created her gave me a degree of involvement that (artist John Byrne) didn’t have, coming in seven issues later.”

Editorial resistance to Phoenix

“When we first introduced Phoenix, we wanted her to fight Thor or the Silver Surfer, but (new Editor-In-Chief) Jim Shooter wouldn’t allow it,” Cockrum told Comic Creators On X-Men. “He said no female is going to beat Thor or the Silver Surfer. We kind of sneaked around him by sending her up against Firelord, who had once fought Thor to a standstill. We established her power levels that way.”

“Dave and I kind of liked the idea that we had a female character who was cosmic. No one else did,” Claremont revealed in The Comics Journal. “Len Wein objected strenuously to our using Firelord if Phoenix beat him. We couldn’t have a lady character who’s cosmic, because – well, his argument was that it made the rest of the X-Men superfluous. We got around it by having the fight be a draw.”

“One of the storylines that Dave and I discussed was the possibility of turning her into a power junkie,” Claremont told The X-Men Companion. “The idea was that the more power she used, the more she wanted; the more she wanted, the more she got; the more she got, the more out of control it got. And she was scared, because she didn’t think she was ready for it, so she would deliberately not use her power, and then we’d deliberately put the X-Men in situations where they had to use her power. I wanted to give Jean an internal conflict, through which she could constantly demonstrate her heroic nature by overcoming it.”

“Actually, when we introduced Phoenix I don’t think we intended for her to keep super cosmic powers, because the rest of the group becomes superfluous then,” Cockrum told The X-Men Companion. “Chris had said something about using the power to save the universe in X-Men #108 (in 1977), but that wiped it to such a degree that it reduced her powers. And after that, theoretically, she was not supposed to be that super-cosmic person.”

Inventing rationale

“So anyway, we were told, Dave and I, that Phoenix could not be cosmic,” Claremont said in The Comics Journal. “And when the editor passes down an edict, you’re stuck with it. We had to cut her back. So we decided to cut her down to roughly where Storm is, which is fine. Now I had to think of a rationale.”

“The potential to become Phoenix is still within Jean. But without the necessary increase in her awareness, in her perception. If her consciousness, her soul, whatever, is not enlightened – if her consciousness is not cosmic, then she can’t handle the power. It’s like Doctor Strange could not become the Sorcerer Supreme until he had achieved a certain psychic and emotional balance, or awareness. Neither can Jean. She’ll burn herself out, she’ll be warped, twisted, turned into an evil person. Ergo, what happened was her mind shut her down, as a safety mechanism. To prevent her from hurting herself, it just dropped a wall down.”

Claremont’s rationale for the cutback of Jean Grey’s powers was used in X-Men #125 in 1979. Professor Xavier’s colleague, Dr. Moira MacTaggert examined Jean Grey and reached the conclusion that if Jean Grey was once again to reach her full potential, as she did in X-Men #108 while saving the universe, and gain access to the powers that still existed inside her, she could become something akin to a god.

The decision to turn Phoenix bad

Phoenix officially rejoined the X-Men in issue #110 in 1978, but John Byrne, who had taken over as X-Men artist from Dave Cockrum with X-Men #108, didn’t share Cockrum and Claremont’s enthusiasm for the Phoenix character. “I agitated to get her out of the book as quickly as possible – which is what we did,” he admitted in Phoenix: The Untold Story. “I didn’t like Phoenix since the word go. Because she instantly made the rest of the X-Men fifth wheels, you know? And she wasn’t even an X-Man.”

”Much as I would prefer to have it different – and this is why Phoenix isn’t on the cover or in the title logo – is that in the opinion of (X-Men editor) Roger Stern and John Byrne, she isn’t an X-Man,” Claremont revealed in The Comics Journal.

“John liked Jean, he did not like Phoenix,” Claremont added in The X-Men Companion. “John’s antipathy toward Phoenix as a character was one of the primary motivations behind the entire decision to begin a Dark Phoenix storyline and get rid of her, or at least change her in such a way that she could not remain on the team as Phoenix.”

“Chris, new X-Men editor Jim Salicrup, and I went to lunch to discuss a crazy story that Chris had in mind wherein Phoenix was going to slowly, over the course of many issues, be corrupted by her power and become a great threat,” Jim Shooter recalled in Phoenix: The Untold Story.

“Freewheeling, I pointed out that while Marvel had many heroes who started out as villains – the Black Widow, Hawkeye, several others – we’d never had a hero who went bad,” Shooter added in Back Issue #29. “I suggested that Chris evolve Phoenix into a villain, permanently and irrevocably, the new “Doctor Doom” for the X-Men. Salicrup and Chris liked the idea and Chris began work on what eventually became the “Dark Phoenix” saga.”

“As far as I was concerned, Phoenix was always a part of the X-Men,” Claremont summarized in The X-Men Companion. “Jean was an integral part of the team. John disagreed, and from that disagreement – as he put it, he was getting disenchanted with the book in the mid-120s. Then when we decided to turn Jean evil, or to make her a villain, he got intrigued and stuck around.”

The original ideas for the fate of Phoenix

“The original intent to turn her into a bad villain got lost for me about two-thirds of the way into the story when I suddenly started thinking, “We’re doing this to Jean Grey with whom I’ve always been deeply involved,”” John Byrne confessed in Phoenix: The Untold Story. “My whole thought was, “Make Phoenix evil and then suck Phoenix out of Jean.””

“I wanted to depower her totally,” Byrne continued. “Chris had said that she manifested her power when she was about ten, so I had said that the ideal thing would be to have had Xavier turn her brain back, basically, till she was nine years old. Then, in the scenario that I had envisioned, the Phoenix, still an evil force, would have been kind of like this Bogey-Man that would pop out every once in a while.”

“This is a scene that I pictured in my mind: Jean, now essentially retarded and living with her parents is taken by her parents into town to see, just to date ourselves, “The Cat From Outer Space” was the movie I kept thinking of. Two or three punks see her wandering by herself while her parents are buying the tickets and escort her into an alleyway. There’s a brief scuffle and from the alley comes this horrendous flash which is the Phoenix out loose again. And we have to depower her again. So Phoenix would pop out as a sort of “Jekyll and Hyde” thing.”

“What Chris had suggested was that Phoenix would apparently be destroyed in the battle on the moon and that three or four issues later, she would turn up as Jean back at her old apartment, saying, “Here I am, I’m back, leave me alone, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to hear about it, I’m just going to live my life.” We sort of synthesized those ideas, which bubbled down into that we were going to depower her, but she was essentially going to be Jean and was going to live her life and wasn’t going to be nine years old.”

The original ending of the “Dark Phoenix” saga

“The ending that John and I had planned for X-Men #137 (1980) was that on page 28 or 29, we have that pullback from the moon, the “Butch Cassidy” act, and it’s obvious that Jean and Scott have been trashed,” Claremont told The X-Men Companion. “And then we have a five-page sequence in which Jean essentially has her psionic abilities removed down to a molecular level, the reason being, Lilandra says, that they don’t want to destroy Jean, partly because they don’t know what releationship she has to the M’Krann crystal. They believe they can safely strip her power; they don’t know if they should kill her, so they won’t. And she doesn’t deserve to be killed. So her power is removed molecule by molecule. The galaxy’s greatest telepaths sit there and they literally take Jean apart molecule by molecule, take out all of the molecules that relate to her psionic ability and put her back together again, leaving her a normal human being.”

“John wanted to have her essentially lobotomised, reduced to the level of a 12-year-old child, for whom the mere presence of Scott would cause psychic angst and grief, so we’d have your basic impossible love affair. I didn’t go for that. I was willing to accept a few issues of her being, essentially, in shock.”

X-Men #138, 1980, was originally going to conclude with Scott Summers and Jean Grey leaving the X-Men. “The first issue she was pretty much going to be, basically, in shock,” Claremont added in Phoenix: The Untold Story. ““I know something awful happened on the moon, and I did something, but I can’t remember it so I’m just going to go on.””

“What I wanted to do then was spend about the next eight issues or so having Jean come to terms with the fact that she can no longer move things by thought, that she is locked inside of her head for the first time in her adult life. At the same time she has the memory that she had godlike powers, and more importantly, what she did with them.”

Tempted by Phoenix

“I had a rough idea of where I wanted to take it, which was over the next year having her deal with what happened, with what she did,” Claremont revealed in Phoenix: The Untold Story. “From my point of view, I saw it as coming to terms with the fact that she killed five billion people – that she committed a crime for which she can never atone, and yet she’s still alive. The easy way out would be just to jump off a cliff, but she can’t. She has to somehow put things right with herself, within herself.”

“The ultimate end of it, leading up to issue #150 (in 1981), would be that Magneto, having found out about this, would come in, kidnapping her, and offering her the power again on the false assumption that he could control her. And the X-Men would come to her rescue. They’d be battling Magneto on one section of the Asteroid M, and she’d be in a room all by herself with Phoenix, the effect, the power, coming back, forced to make the choice (of a lifetime).”

“Does she accept this power that she wants with every fibre of her being, knowing that if she takes it she will probably lose control again, because she’s not evolved enough, and go on a rampage and kill and maim and destroy?” Claremont asked in The X-Men Companion.

““Could I become a god again with all the power of a god, aware that in the process I may destroy living beings and planets, planetary systems, whatever, in order to survive?”” Claremont asked in Phoenix: The Untold Story. ““Or do I deny it and remain this kind of,” what is for her, “shadow of a being?” And the idea was then that we’d end on a triumphant note as Jean proved her own heroism.”

The infinite human capacity for good

“She denies it,” Claremont answered in The X-Men Companion. “She says “No! Get thee from me, Phoenix!” And the idea is, it is better to be human than it is to be a wrathful goddess.”

“In X-Men #137 (1980) Jean is the victim. She is not a protagonist; she is acted upon; she does not act in her own behalf. In X-Men #150 (1981) she is the hero. She single-handedly all by herself, and no one knows it, saves the universe again. It’s the greatest sacrifice that has ever been made. It would be like Lucifer deciding not to rebel against God. It is that seminal an event. And with that act, she thereby proves humanity’s worth as a creature in the cosmos - not that they have this capacity, but that they have the capacity to deny it, to deny ultimate power for the benefit of all. Essentially all the stuff the Watcher said at the end of (the published version of) X-Men #137 would have been said at the end of X-Men #150 but not because she killed herself, but because she denied this infinite power.”

“In a sense it would have been (like Magneto’s) confrontation with Kitty Pryde (which took place in X-Men #150 instead), but on a much stronger note,” Claremont added in Phoenix: The Untold Story.

This plot idea ended up being made into a story by another writer in What If… vol.2 #32, 1991, which asked: “What if Phoenix had not died?”

The timeline of Rachel Summers

“My grand plan was that Scott and Jean would get married in the 1981 X-Men Annual #5 and for the 20th anniversary issue in ’83 (X-Men #175), they would have a child,” Claremont revealed in The X-Men Companion. “And Scott would have to deal with the fact that his job is to lead the X-Men and he wants to raise the kid, and Jean would be dealing with the fact that she loves this child but she loves working, fighting by Scott’s side. So Mariko, perhaps, ends up taking care of the child, or Kitty. And Kitty would get pissed, because she doesn’t want to be a babysitter all her life. I wanted to show the evolution, the ages of man, so to speak.”

The grand plan ended up becoming an alternate timeline wherein the baby grew up to become Rachel Summers, who made her debut appearence in Uncanny X-Men #141-142 in 1981. She inherited the Phoenix power in Uncanny X-Men #199 in 1985, and was able to control it.

“We had a situation in which John and I knew we were both treading on thin ice with the ”Dark Phoenix” storyline,” Claremont admitted in The X-Men Companion. “We were stretching things as far as we thought we could go in terms of what we could persuade Marvel to accept. And we both felt this was a storyline that had to be cleared at every step of the way.”

“Well, (X-Men editor) Roger Stern at that point had gone off staff in the middle of the storyline. Jim Salicrup had come in and taken over, so here I am giving plots to Salicrup, saying, “If there’s any question, ask me; if there’s any problem, would you please show these to Jim Shooter and check with him. We are dealing with some heavy concepts here. Jean is killing an entire planet.” And Jim never showed them to Shooter. Shooter told Jim he trusted his judgment. Well, as it turns out, Salicrup approved everything.”

Jim Shooter popped a cork

“When I read X-Men #135 (1980) that included the scene in which Phoenix destroyed a Shi’ar starship, killing hundreds, and an inhabited planet, killing billions, curious, I asked Jim Salicrup to show me whatever else was done on the storyline,” Shooter recalled in Back Issue #29. “I discovered that Chris and John had backed down from the idea of Phoenix becoming the X-Men’s “Doctor Doom.” The plot indicated that Phoenix would somehow be mind-wiped and let go. Back to living at the Mansion, hanging around with Storm and company, sitting at the same table for lunch, etcetera. Did I have a moral issue with that? Yes. More than that, it was a character issue. Would Storm sit comfortably at a dinner table with someone who had killed billions as if nothing had ever happened? Nah.”

“He popped a cork. And that was exactly what we’d been afraid of all along,” Claremont told The X-Men Companion. “What I was trying to write in the Phoenix story is a story about forgiveness, about mercy, about how the greatest mass-murderer in the history of the cosmos can and, in certain circumstances, should be forgiven. And the difference between Lilandra’s race – this incredibly old, incredibly mature race that rules a galaxy – and ours is that hers had that capacity to look at Phoenix or Jean, to judge the situation impartially and to choose the side of forgiveness.”

“And that’s why I very specifically said all through every speech Lilandra made relating to Phoenix, “Phoenix must die, Phoenix must be neutralized, Phoenix must be dealt with.” Because she understood that there were two separate beings, that one could view Phoenix without viewing Jean, that they were bound but not inseperable. It was not that Phoenix was evil, it was just that Jean suddenly found herself coming out of a situation where she had been sucked up into this Black Queen personality, this somewhat cruel, decadent trip. She went directly from that to a situation where her slightest wish, her slightest thought could be manifested as reality.”

“In her case, both conscious and subconscious could draw on, literally, this infinite power she possessed,” Claremont concluded. “The idea was that it was a tidal wave sweeping up the shore and then back down again, and when it swept down again was when she reasserted her control. The point is that she was not ready for it.”

“When she consumed D’bari, it was the equivalent of a human being destroying an ant hill. (…) The same goes for the starship. And, again, in her defense, they shot first.”

Let the punishment fit the crime

“I remember getting together with Chris and asking him to change the story,” Shooter said in Phoenix: The Untold Story. “We talked about various possible changes that could be made, because I felt that there had to be some consequences for the actions. I felt that the way the story was originally designed to end, it did not have enough consequences for what happened – it wasn’t an ending. I found that the story was kind of… in a way, it wimped out. It ended with her being back with the X-Men, seemingly without much concern on their part about what she had done, which struck me as being out of character for them. Also, it didn’t fulfill that original discussion that we’d had.”

“He felt that the punishment did not fit the crime,” Claremont told Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “And our claims that Jean was not responsible were, in effect, getting her off on a technicality. He did not buy it.”

“Not that she had to die, but she had to be punished. We were saying, “She was insane, we removed the insanity, she sort of got better, therefore all was forgiven.” He said, “No, you don’t go killing five billion people and then get better. There has to be a moral equivalence.””

“He did not want Jean getting away scot free,” Claremont recalled in The X-Men Companion. “The essential given was that he thought Jean had committed four billion four hundred and thirty acts of homicide, first degree murder, and she was getting away for it with a slap on the wrist. He would not be dissuaded from this view. (…) Shooter wanted Jean punished. He wanted her to suffer. His idea was she go to prison, that she be tortured horribly, that she be drawn and quartered, whipped, chained… I mean, drawn and quartered at morning and put back together at night. He wanted the tortures of Prometheus chained to a rock with the eagles ripping her guts out every day, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.”

Hurt feelings

“John Byrne and I were both thinking in terms of going to Jim’s office and saying “Listen, you have someone write X-Men #137 and #138, we’ll abide by whatever you do, we wash our hands of it,”” Claremont confessed in The X-Men Companion. “Because at this point we were not at fault. I had cleared every plot. Every plot had been cleared by Salicrup. Every script had been cleared by Salicrup and, I assumed, by Shooter. I was sitting in Shooter’s office saying, “I told you this!” But he didn’t remember. “Didn’t Jim show you the plots?” “No.” “Didn’t Jim show you the scripts?” “No.” And Shooter’s saying, well, he understands that it’s not our fault, that we did everything that we were supposed to do, but he feels that it is his responsibility as Editor-In-Chief of Marvel Comics to see that nothing goes out of the office that reflects a moral position that he does not think Marvel should take, and that he felt that this story made a moral statement that Marvel should not stand behind. And he did not feel that we had sufficient foundation for the forgiveness aspect that I was talking about.”

“By this time Louise Jones has already been appointed editor of the book, effective with X-Men #138 (1980). Louise and I then sat down and we started putting together X-Men #137, because Salicrup didn’t want any part of it, and I was real pissed off at this point and I didn’t want to work with him on it anyway.”

“The only reason Jean was in this trouble was because we went ahead with a storyline that we felt was clear from top to bottom,” Claremont complained in Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “If we had known when we started that this was going to be the end, we probably would not have done the story in that way.”’

“I finally just decided – and John and Louise agreed – that firstly, putting her in jail was unworkable and it was unfair. She was being nailed on a bum rap.”

A new and open ending

“The problem was that the following issue had already been drawn,” Claremont recalled in The X-Men Companion. “Also my thought processes at the time were that I would not have Jean taken to prison, because I could not then viably see any way that the X-Men would leave her there. So that meant that we’d have a situation where the X-Men are continually trying to rescue her, and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. It made no sense.”

“There’s a limit to how much John can do in terms of repencilling, because he’s got Captain America on his desk, he’s got the next X-Men on his desk, we’re both pissed, so it eventually comes down to the fact that if anything’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in the last five pages, period. So I’m tossing a number of ideas around in my head. I try a couple out on Louise. She says they sound fine. I go to Jim Shooter. I try them on him. He says, “Sounds good to me,” but evidently the only one he heard, or the only one that stayed in his mind, is that Jean dies.”

“So what happened was, I wrote a plot which was essentially this: We end the last shot in page 28 or 29 with people on the ship going, “Majestrix, something’s happening on the planet.””

“Page 29 was supposed to be: Shot of the moon, ship in the foreground, Phoenix effect around the moon, the bird, claws out, wings extended, bolt of energy just plowing up from the moon through the ship – boom! – panic on the ship, Xavier going, “Oh, God, wake up, my X-Men,” X-Men responding, attacking Jean, she and Scott end up getting knocked into the Watcher’s house, which we’ve previously established as having weaponry and devices that are beyond the ken of mortal men.”

“Jean and Scott have their scene. The Watcher is standing there in the background somewhere observing. Jean picks his brain unbeknownst to him, finds the right weapon, uses it to destroy herself, or to manifest herself on some other plane of existence, Scott is upset, Watcher has a big moment, story ends.”

How Phoenix ended up dying

“Her corporeal form would have faded away, but it would have been some esoteric device of the Watcher’s that would have done the trick,” Claremont revealed in The X-Men Companion. “As far as Scott’s concerned, it would have been a death.”

“Now, John evidently went down to Miami with Jim Shooter and gave him a somewhat different breakdown of the last six pages, the critical fact being that John felt the Watcher should not be involved, the Watcher’s house should not be involved. Louise and I weren’t told of this until we got the pencils. Fait accompli. There was nothing we could do about it. It was too late to get them repencilled. Louise was upset that Jim had approved a plot change without telling her. Jim was very apologetic; he thought John had discussed it with her; John thought Jim had. I was wondering what the fuck was going on.”

“And again, the splash page, that shot of the ship being blown away, is not what I’d plotted, and more fundamentally, by replacing the Watcher’s house with a Kree blaster, then you have to accept, given the history of the Blue Area of the Moon as outlined by Steve Englehart, that a device constructed by the Kree at the very beginnings of their mechanistic civilizations, when they were essentially being given everything by the Skrulls, is capable of destroying Dark Phoenix. To me, anyway, that stretched the bonds of credibility.”

“And again, the structure of the story as pencilled was such that there was no opportunity prior to Jean’s death to explain the logic behind it, which is why you’ve got Scott going, “Oh, weep, weep, weep,” and then you’ve got those five balloons sitting on his head explaining why Jean did what she did.”

A much more powerful ending

“At that point I was – someone once described it as “a fit of pique” – “How dare I destroy such a character in a fit of pique?” – and yet that entered into it,” Claremont admitted in The X-Men Companion. “If we’d had two weeks, if Jim had said, “Well, restructure it in this and that way,” we could have sat back and done things properly.”

“And at the end of it, there simply wasn’t time, given the fact that we only had six pages, given the fact that the next issue was pencilled and we couldn’t bump it, given the fact that the story had to come to an end, given the fact that we were all furious and all hurt.”

“Well, it was awkward because as soon as Jim heard, “Oh, she’s going to die,” Jim spoke to John, John liked it, John thought that was fine, so I was really kind of left out on the edge of the limb. I could quit. The only option I had was not to finish the story and quit, and I wasn’t willing to do that. So we made the best of it.”

“I insisted on the solution,” Shooter recalled in Back Issue #29. “It was done brilliantly, if reluctantly, by Chris and John. And that was the issue that propelled the X-Men to the top for, what, two decades?”

“Chris has never been able to let it go, but I actually think that what we ultimately did was better than what we had planned,” Byrne told Comics Creators On X-Men. “I think the death of Phoenix made it a much more powerful story. I don’t think it would be the comics icon that everybody still references today if we had done what we had originally planned to do.”

The right solution

“Whatever we felt about Jim’s decision, it was his right and responsibility to make it. It upset me because I liked Jean a lot as a character,” Claremont admitted in Comic Book Profiles. “But, looking back on the impact it had, it quickly became apparent that Jim’s decision was the right call. You have to take responsibility for your actions, especially if you’re a hero.”

“We had stumbled over the absolutely right solution to the story,” Claremont added in Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “It was right for the character, right for the book, right for the series, and our decision was that we wanted the story to have an ending. Putting her in prison was not an ending, it was leaving us a giant loose end that we would spend the next two years frantically trying to resolve. Sort of like, “whatever happened to Madelyne Pryor?” Therefore we decided if she is going to be punished, then she should go out with class and she should die in such a way that reaffirms the heroic nature of herself and the X-Men.”

“But we also determined that if she did die, it would be for real. No imaginary story, no back from the dead, no convenient last-minute gimmick. She would die. The characters would have to deal with the loss. The readers would have to deal with the loss. We figured – we hoped – that they would never look at the book the same way again. Every time we would then have a major or minor hero-villain conflict, the reader would be sitting there wondering if it is going to be the end. It happened to Jean. And it worked. It gave the book a credibility, and a degree of tension that up to that time no mainstream superhero series had.”

“You should never assume that just because, for example, Jean Grey was half of the second oldest romantic relationship in the Marvel universe, because she was Phoenix, the most powerful female character in comics, that at the end of the climactic battle, she would survive and she and Scott would somehow live happily ever after, because that’s not always the way it happens,” Claremont instructed in Amazing Heroes #75.

The first “event”

“What was transcendent about the death of Phoenix was that a great many readers viewed it as the death of a real person,” Claremont continued in Amazing Heroes #75. “That Jean Grey died, that we did something. And it was an event that in the end I, as a writer, have tried to remain true to since then. (…) We have remained true to that one fact that Jean is dead, because that was an event that had meaning to the reader. And we wanted it to remain so.”

“We tried to write the succeeding issues and years and, in my case, decades to deal with that as a fundamental parcel of the series,” Claremont recalled in Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “In certain respects some of the characters never got over Jean’s death. It affected the way that Wolverine dealt with people – Wolverine’s relationship with Kitty, Scott’s relationship with everybody, Charlie’s relationships. It was a powerful aspect and color in the book’s spectrum. I think the benefits to the book as a whole far outweigh the active loss of that character. That allowed us to go in directions that normally we couldn’t. We are saying that not every relationship lasts, and we then have the option of throwing in surprises.”

“After we killed Phoenix, we got about 3-4 (death threats). Frank (Miller) got his set after (the death of) Elektra (in Daredevil). The sad thing was we didn’t take it seriously until John Lennon got killed, at which point we decided we would open up a file and make copies, and if anything happened, we would forward the information to the FBI. I suppose that is about as far as we would take it.”

“It was something that had never been done before,” Byrne commented in Comics Creators On X-Men. “Marvel had had lots of bad guys go good, but had never had a good guy go bad. She made this noble sacrifice and then Chris kept referring to it every chance he got for the next ten years, so people were unable to forget how “important” it was. So, yeah, I think that’s the point at which X-Men really started to rise. That particular issue sold 175.000 copies, which were pretty phenomenal sales back then. I think that particular issue also helped destroy the industry because it was the first “event,” and people have been trying to do events ever since. The thing about the “Death of Phoenix” storyline was that it wasn’t planned as an event. It was a story that grew organically from what we were doing. At no point did we sit down and say, “We’re going to do this huge mother of a story that will sell billions of copies.” We just did the story. Ever since then, everybody’s been trying to do their own “Death of Phoenix.” And because they’re trying to do it, they can’t.”

William Christensen and Mark Seifert: From Gofer To Comic Great, Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty, July 1993
Comic Book Profiles #8, Fall 1999
Tom DeFalco: Comic Creators On X-Men, April 2006
Margaret O’Connell: Chris Claremont, The Comics Journal #50, October 1979
Al Nickerson: Jim Shooter Remembers The Death Of Phoenix Storyline, Back Issue #29, August 2008
Phoenix: The Untold Story #1, April 1984
Peter Sanderson: The X-Men Companion I, March 1982
Peter Sanderson: The X-Men Companion II, September 1982
Kim Thompson: Interview With Chris Claremont, Amazing Heroes #75, July 1985

fredag den 3. februar 2012

Homesick Colossus

A neglected character, Colossus was originally intended to be the star of the X-Men book, and his shot at stardom with his own mini-series ended up not happening, either.

“The initial inception of Colossus (Peter Rasputin) was done as a character for Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, when (artist) Dave Cockrum was doing that book,” writer Len Wein recalled in The X-Men Companion. “He never had a chance to use him. We were at a party at Marv Wolfman’s house years ago and we were standing out on the balcony talking about characters, and he had wanted to make some changes in the Legion while he was drawing it, and he came up with this idea of doing a Russian character. We talked about possibilities, and he described the power and Colossus was the name I suggested to him at the time. Russian Colossus, and all that. He was going to use it there and never got a chance to, so we decided, “Well, we’ve created a character, might as well use him elsewhere.” So we put him into the X-Men.”

“Some of my plans have been forgotten since it became such a radically different book. But Colossus, for example, was meant to be the star of the book. That’s why he was the big figure in the first half-dozen covers; he was going to be their Thing, their Hulk, their permanent member. That’s why his costume is red, yellow, and blue. Primary colors.”

“When (subsequent writer) Chris Claremont gave him a cosmonaut brother (in X-Men #99, 1976), I wanted to strangle him. Suddenly Colossus was not ordinary anymore, and what made him work was that he was ordinary, despite his powers. If his brother’s a cosmonaut, then the KGB had to be checking out that family, there’s no way he could have been living simply in the collective. I had him out in Siberia almost on purpose. No one ever noticed him. The townspeople didn’t bother, he was good to them, and they all lived out there. The government didn’t even know he existed. But with a cosmonaut brother, they can’t possibly not know he existed. Chris really turned everything around by doing that. That’s the problem. Writers can have a great idea for a story without thinking of all the ramifications.”

Colossus leaves the X-Men

“I would have played him up more,” Wein told The X-Men Companion. “I think Chris tends to let Colossus stand on the sidelines; he focuses on Wolverine and Storm, the characters he’s most interested in, and lets the others flow around. So he hasn’t really treated Colossus that much. I’m not sure what I would have done, but I think I would have paid more attention to the character than Chris has been doing.”

“Len always felt the strong guy, the strong man, was the best character to be the lead character,” Cockrum acknowledged in The X-Men Companion. “He makes a good visual, and we went ahead and made him the prominent figure on the covers a lot, but he’s been terribly neglected and I think it’s about time we did something with him really.”

And Chris Claremont had plans in that regard. “It took a long time for us to find Colossus,” Claremont revealed in The Comics Journal #50. “Now that we’ve found him, we’re beginning to get into him a little bit more.”

“There’s a scene in X-Men #119 (1979) where everybody’s happy, it’s a Christmas party, they’ve defeated Moses Magnum, saved Japan, saved the world. Banshee’s alright, everyone’s happy – except Colossus, who’s standing out on the porch, looking miserable, and Storm goes out and says, “What’s wrong?” And he says, “Well, it’s Christmas. And I miss my folks.” He’s homesick. And this will be built up over the next few issues, culminating in his quitting the X-Men. The character nobody anticipated quitting.”
“What will become of Colossus’ growing realization that what he is doing as an X-Man may be to the detriment of his homeland, the Soviet Union? He leaves the X-Men. He comes back, but there are times when perhaps the charaterizational imperative is to make a more permanent break.”

However, this character development was dropped after X-Men #124 in 1979. Many years later, in 1989, Claremont wrote a story for Classic X-Men #29 where it was revealed that Colossus’ homesickness had stopped because he had learned during a visit to the Soviet Union that it was the wish of his fatherland that he remained an X-Man.

Son of Colossus

Before the story in Classic X-Men #29 appeared, Marvel Age #39 announced: “The big news this month is the upcoming Colossus Limited Series. Feeling somewhat guilty for not protecting his Soviet homeland, the armored X-Man (accompanied by his younger sister and New Mutant Illyana) will travel back to his native land for the first time since he joined the X-Men. This odyssey will give Peter the opportunity to question his role in the world, and to wonder whether he is actually accomplishing anything as a super hero. This six issue series is being written by Chris Claremont and pencilled by Rick Leonardi. Watch for it this summer (1986)!”

The Colossus mini-series never appeared, however.

In another issue of Classic X-Men, #21 from 1988, Colossus met and supposedly had his sexual debut with the girl Nereel in the Savage Land. In X-Men Annual #12, 1988, Colossus met her again and now she had a son named Peter like Colossus. Nereel never told Colossus if he was the father, but when she and Peter were last seen together in Uncanny X-Men #250 in 1989, it was revealed that Nereel was in love with Colossus.

In the 2004-2006 X-Men: The End series, which was written by Claremont and set 15 years in the future, Peter, the son of Colossus and Nereel, appeared as Kid Colossus. In the GeNext and GeNext: United mini-series from 2008 and 2009, which are set 10 years further in the future, Pavel Rasputin, the son of Kid Colossus and grand-son of Peter Rasputin and Nereel, appeared.
Margaret O’Connell: Chris Claremont, The Comics Journal #50, October 1979
Peter Sanderson: The X-Men Companion I, March 1982
Bill Slavicsek: Colossus Back In U.S.S.R., Marvel Age #39, June 1986