With Wolverine as the villain, Gambit as the betrayer, and Professor Xavier’s final battle with the Shadow King had writer Chris Claremont stayed on the books.
Writer Chris Claremont explained the reason for the X-Men and X-Factor merger in X-Men vol.2 #1 in 1991 to Amazing Heroes #192: “It was felt: Rather than perpetuate the confusion that has existed for so long with the original X-Men being in a book under a different title, acting like the X-Men, and the X-Men being in their own title acting like the X-Men, it would be better to combine the two teams into one team, which is what they should’ve been – and have been – from the start.”
“I think having the original X-Men come back was a good idea,” artist Jim Lee told Marvel Age #104. “It didn’t really make any sense for me why X-Factor existed. Especially with Xavier back now, it seems more strange that there would be these two separate teams, when they all know each other very well, and they all share the same mission or dream in life.”
“(Editor-In-Chief) Tom DeFalco’s vision of the new X-Men book was to have two books done by two different artists with the same five characters in each – essentially making the book a bi-weekly,” Claremont revealed in Comics Interview #98. “I opposed that and Bob Harras agreed with me – basically (…) it was a waste of resources. We had a dozen or more really superb characters: To have to cull them down to a half dozen – first of all, you’d be casting six characters into comic-book limbo, who would immediately be picked up for some other series, which would perpetuate the X-Factor mess.”
“It’s very hard, to the point of impossible, to adequately fit a dozen or more main characters in a monthly title,” Claremont admitted in Amazing Heroes #192, “(so) there are two different teams, two different artists, two different (books).”
Picking the teams
The plan was for Chris Claremont to write both books with X-Men vol.2 being pencilled by Jim Lee, and the Uncanny X-Men being pencilled by Whilce Portacio beginning with issue #281 in 1991.
According to Amazing Heroes #188, early plans consisted of Cyclops, Rogue, Psylocke and Iceman starring in Uncanny X-Men, and Marvel Girl, Storm, Beast, Wolverine and Gambit starring in X-Men vol.2. Professor X would lead both teams with assistance from Forge.
“(Editor) Bob Harras basically thought that (Jubilee) was not a viable contribution to the team mix,” Claremont revealed in Comics Interview #98. “His feeling was that by focussing a lot of attention and energy on a new kid character, it functioned to take a step or two away from the established characters. He wanted to restore the focus more tightly on them, so he decided to shunt Jubilee into the background for a while. The same sort of thing is probably going to happen to Forge and Banshee. They’ll be there, but they’ll be background characters like Jarvis in The Avengers.”
“The X-Men team currently, I believe, is Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Psylocke, Beast, and Gambit,” Claremont told Amazing Heroes #192. “The Uncanny team is Storm, Jean Grey, Archangel, Iceman, Colossus, and a sixth character that we’re in the process of designing.”
“We’re talking about introducing a brand new sixth character to the team,” Claremont confirmed in Comics Interview #98, “but at this point, nothing’s been defined about him.”
This sixth character eventually became Bishop, who debuted in Uncanny X-Men #282 after Claremont’s departure from writing that series.
“People’s assumptions were, “Scott (Summers, Cyclops) and Jean (Grey) will be together; Storm and Wolverine will be together; X-Factor will be together,” Claremont told Comics Interview #98. “We wanted to attack that head-on. (…) Some of the X-Factor characters went to one book, some went to another; Scott’s in one, Jean’s in the other; Storm’s in one, Wolverine’s in the other. We tried to create a mix that would leave each book with strengths all its own (…) Definitely new synergies.”
“The first issue of X-Men, X-Men 1, my original idea was to do a double-sized sort of entry level book,” Claremont revealed in an Internet interview. ““What do we do with 53 X-Men?” I had this great sequence worked out where – we sort of hinted at it in what was X-Men 1 – I wanted to do this five page scene where Storm and Scott are in the danger room. Scott’s up in the booth, Storm’s down on the floor. You have this incredible fight going on, Brotherhood of Evil versus the X-Men, bodies flying everywhere. Storm just wanders through the middle of it, fights going on around her. She’s taking notes. They freeze it. Displays appear, assessing everybody’s performance. And what Scott and Storm are doing is running scenarios, mixing various members of the teams. “A twelve man team is unwieldy, you need to have six people teams, who’s the best mix? Does Jean go with Storm or with Scott? Where does Wolverine go? If Wolverine goes somewhere, where does Jubilee go? Should Jubilee go anywhere, or are we doing Kitty all over again?” Show them actually working this out, actively figuring out, “Where do we go from here? How do we protect the mansion?” Here’s Xavier trying to deal with what I’m doing with Moira.”
“In the middle of this Magneto shows up. There’s the obligatory confrontation. There might even be a fight. The gist of it is that Magneto and Xavier have come to a parting of the waves. They can’t see each other’s point of view any longer. Magneto is certain that humanity will betray them. Xavier is just as certain that humanity will not. The statesman versus the terrorist, who knows which is right? They go their separate ways. The X-Men realize that there is a nasty world out there and they have to be ready. They divvy up the teams.”
“The first issue was a sort of, “Hi, if you’ve never read the X-Men before, this is what we’re all about. This is the mansion, these are the characters, this is why the characters exist, this is the world they live in.””
“The whole story would be selfcontained in X-Men #1,” Claremont told Seriejournalen.dk. “The only function that issue had was basically as a primer to introduce new readers to the X-Men. What was the core of the team? What was the genesis of it? What was its reason for being? What was its major opposition? It was basically to restate the theme. (…) It was primarily to bring new readers in. If you wanted to give someone who had never read the X-Men before, but wanted to know what it was all about – give them X-Men #1. And then the end of it would be the springboard for the launch of the issues, which would begin with Uncanny X-Men #281 and X-Men #2. Ideally, X-Men #1 should’ve been X-Men #0.”
Wolverine as a villain
According to Amazing Heroes #188, the books would then start off with three-issue storylines. The X-Men vol.2 team would go up against the Hand and Omega Red. The Uncanny X-Men team would go up against the Wild Boys – a group of sadisctic, young mutants who wanted to thin out the fearsome Hellfire Club for not being ruthless enough. One of the Wild Boys was Shinobi Shaw who had been introduced in X-Factor #67 in 1991. Despite Claremont’s departure from the book, the Wild Boys did make their scheduled debut in Uncanny X-Men #281, but as the Upstarts.
“I had a whole arc built up (before leaving) leading up to Uncanny X-Men #300,” Claremont revealed in Wizard #85.
“(It would take) Wolverine through moderate degrees of hell along the way, making him a more natural character just because this is one of the things that always bugged everybody. Myself included,” Claremont told Wizard #51.“If he was going to have claws and all these abilities, why not make them natural, if for no other reason than it would save us a ton of explanation every three or four issues - then you get letters saying, “How could he do that?””
“The way it was supposed to build, in my head, was that Wolverine would die and be resurrected somewhere in the late #280s,” Claremont revealed in Wizard’s X-Men Special. “And Wolverine would be a villain for the better part of a year-and-a-half, culminating in issue #294 where they get him back.”
“I was planning (Wolverine’s death) for X-Men #3,” Claremont told Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “(Editor) Bob (Harras)’ objection was, “What do we do with (the) Wolverine (series)?” My solution was easy for me to say, probably not easy for (Wolverine writer) Larry (Hama) to execute. “We do a book for two years where he is the villain, and the stories are how you deal with it because he is the villain in his own book.””
““You have situations where you can bring in the Avengers – they could fight Wolverine and they could win,”” Claremont added in an Internet interview. “Of course, the hero would then lose in his own book. Or the hero can win in his own book, but that means the bad guys win - lots of possibilities. And I would have thought it would be a lot of fun.”
““You go into the relationships - why Charlie always felt he was integral to the X-Men, why he was the first one contacted, what is his past, his present, his future” – all sorts of ideas,” Claremont continued in Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “Basically, it floundered on the fact that it was too disruptive to the ongoing continuity stories involving Wolverine crossovers, Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine, the whole nine yards. That struck me as sort of absurd.”
“I write the X-Men, (Larry Hama) writes Wolverine, which is the senior book?” Claremont asked in the Internet interview. “Bob would come and shake his head and act as if he couldn’t deal with this person anymore.”
The death and resurrection of Wolverine
“(X-Men) issue 2 I was going to kill Wolverine,” Claremont revealed in the Internet interview. “He would have a fight with Lady Deathstrike and she would rip out his heart. She’d die, he’d die, except he wouldn’t die because he has a healing factor, and he has his followers, so the Hand grab the body. They resurrect him. He comes back as the master assassin of the Hand. For two years, leading up to Uncanny X-Men 294 (in 1992), he would be the X-Men’s greatest foe. The story would range from Uncanny to X-Men and back again.”
“Along the way, an interesting thing was going to happen. Wolverine’s healing factor went into ultra high gear when he was “killed.” It was essentially rebuilding his heart. What would have happened if he had been left alone, his arms and legs would probably – this is really disgusting, but his arms and legs would have rotted, as his heart healed. His conscious mind would have been in total suspended animation. Everything about him would have been geared towards keeping his sentiency intact and repairing his heart – everything else would have been left to go. So assuming no scavengers came in and started to eat him, you would find this partially decomposed body with a fully healed torso, at which point the decomposed bits would begin to heal. It would take a long time and be disgusting beyond words, but ultimately he would have survived.”
“One of the side effects of this, the healing factor is purging all non-organic matter, which means the adamantium. So what was going to happen was, it would start to leech out of his skin. There would be a time where Wolverine would look like the Silver Surfer with hair. He’d be this blinding, shining creature with killer claws. Ultimately, the adamantium would just be part of his hair – he’d look like a silver porcupine.”
Wolverine’s heroic victory
“Scott and company are figuring, “Wolverine’s gone bad, we gotta put him down,”” Claremont continued in the Internet interview. “Xavier is unmoveably adamant about the need to save him, the need to salvage him, to bring him back to the light.”
“Jean would go in and try to rescue him and end up becoming his evil babe, though not really – she would be faking it this time. She is trying to tap into the Wolverine, which is buried beneath all of the Hand’s spell.”
“At some point in the storyline, Colussus and he would have a major fight, and it would have this great cover: It would be a black background with a spotlight of light and in the centre of the spotlight are two sets of claws with the housings, just as if they had been ripped out of his arms, and one of the claws would be broken. What was going to happen in that issue was that Colossus was just going to pull the claws off from their roots.”
“So, of course, the Hand would then give him artificial claws. They would work or not work as the case may be, but again, as part and parcel of the healing process, gradually he would realise that he was growing something new. That there is a natural element in his body that gives him claws. And over a span of six issues, you would see them grow. They would be growing faster than normal because of the accelerated healing.”
“So, when all is said and done, it would come down to a major league fight between the X-Men and Wolverine. A major component of the fight would be Wolverine’s battle with himself - with the goodness of his soul, the warrior of his soul, fighting this demon he has become, and he would win. The adamantium would flake off and eventually he would stand himself, reborn as a totally natural being. His bones and claws would be virtually unbreakable. They could be broken, but they would also heal. But because of the incredible stress he has been under for the past two years, his healing factor is like, “I’m tired. Don’t do this again… Not for a while, okay?””
“When all this is said and done, Wolverine is not only more vulnerable – he’s not going to butt his head through walls, because, “It hurts and why do I wanna hurt myself? Why don’t I just use the key? Or get Colossus to do it?” It is like Wolverine has come face to face with his own mortality and his own limitations, and it’s like, “I’m too old for this shit. We’ll find a better way.””
The love triangle
“(The storyline) would create a bond between (Wolverine) and Jean like nothing that’s gone before,” Claremont continued in the Internet interview. “So that even if she was still in love with Scott, there would be a level of communication between her and Wolverine that Scott could only dream about - or have nightmares about, it depends on your point of view.”
“It was going to involve Jean Grey being forced to choose between Cyclops and Wolverine,” Claremont added in Wizard #85.
“The triangle between (Wolverine) and Jean and Scott would come to an end, hopefully not how people expect,” Claremont revealed in Wizard’s X-Men Special 2003.
“I think it would have been nice to set up a rivalry,” Claremont told Back Issue #4. “I think it would have been fun to add some romantic tension to this book. I think it was something that evolved in concert with Dark Phoenix. So a lot of possible romantic consequences of what we set up ended up dying with Jean. End of story, move on. And we did. That’s when the Mariko stuff was really blowing into the forefront, because Jean was out of the picture, completely. Then she came back and things got complicated again.”
“The thing with Jean is it’s just pure chemistry. They walk into a room together and sparks fly and they have no idea where this is coming from.”
“He sees Jean, Jean sees him, hormones kick in, the rational brain checks into the Happy Hour hotel, and everyone else runs for cover.”
Gambit: An evil traitor
Although Claremont’s storyline about Wolverine’s death and resurrection was rejected by editor Bob Harras, and Claremont left the X-Men, Wolverine did end up getting the adamantium sucked out of him by Magneto in X-Men vol.2 #25 in 1993 written by Fabian Nicieza, resulting in him becoming the more natural character Claremont had envisioned. “A lot of my stories were rejected and has suddenly come up in the last three years as X-Men stories,” Claremont commented to Seriejournalen.dk.
Years later, in 2004-2005, Claremont’s idea for Wolverine to get killed and revived by the Hand as their master assassin ended up happening in Wolverine vol.3 #20-25 written by Mark Millar. That storyline only lasted for six months, though.
Claremont’s plan for Gambit was also used – although moderately – by subsequent writers, when new X-Man Bishop arrived from the future and accused Gambit of being a traitor to the team in X-Men vol.2 #8 in 1992. Gambit’s character and loyalties were also called into question by Yukio in Uncanny X-Men #312 in 1994 and by Sabretooth in X-Men vol.2 #33 the same year. Claremont revealed his original idea in his online Cordially Chris forum: “Gambit was created to – among other things – be an X-Men adversary who worked to undermine and destroy them from within. The connection to (Mr.) Sinister was part of his creation from the beginning – but that connection related exclusively to my idea of Sinister and the plans I had for him and the team following X-Men vol.2 #3.”
After Claremont had left the X-Men, Gambit became so popular a character that the subsequent writers backed out of the idea of him being a traitor or reconsidered it because it was what readers expected him to be. But in Uncanny X-Men #350 from 1997, written by Steve Seagle, it was revealed that Gambit was responsible for gathering Mr. Sinister’s Marauders and providing them access to the Morlock tunnels prior to the Mutant Massacre story in Uncanny X-Men #210-213 from 1986-1987. In the end, the X-Men forgave him for that past transgression and Gambit remained a hero.
When Claremont returned to Marvel and the X-Men, he revealed in X-Men: The End – Book Two: Heroes & Martyrs #5 from 2005, that Gambit himself was one of Mr. Sinister’s clones. He was cloned from both Scott Summers’s and Mr. Sinister’s own DNA.
“My overarching goal was heading towards Uncanny #300 (in 1993) and taking the world up to the brink of the war between humans and mutants with the Shadow King at the heart of it,” Claremont revealed in Wizard #51.
“What I was building to was the final conflict with the Shadow King, which was the X-Men basically heading off what the Shadow King was trying to ignite – a war between humans and mutants, homo sapiens and homo superior,” Claremont told Seriejournalen.dk. “And where I was going to go from there I wasn’t sure, but that was issue 300 or so.”
“I was trying to build up a whole network of people who were using the concept of mutants, evolving the threat to the X-Men from pure prejudice to the realization on the part of the world at large that mutants are exploitable commodities – that to have a telepath working for you is a good thing. And that the danger now is going to come from governments, corporations and organisations trying to get – you know – the Earth’s governments worrying about a mutant (being used as a weapon), which is what the Shadow King was all about, and what the Hand with (Matsuo) Tsurayaba was all about, and what (Mr.) Sinister was all about.”
In X-Men vol.2 #2 from 1991, a Russian general sold a weapon to Matsuo Tsurayaba. That weapon was the mutant Omega Red, but Claremont’s idea of mutants being used as weapons was never really used after he left the title, although it was later considered as a theme for Excalibur when Richard Ashford started writing that series with #72 in 1993.
“Excalibur will be sent on rescue missions for various mutants,” Excalibur editor Suzanne Gaffney told Marvel Age #131. “They will realize that a lot of mutants are being used as pawns internationally. For example, countries will horde mutants like they are nuclear weapons to use against each other or to keep mutants from being used against them. Some of these mutants will be joining the team. Some of them will be staying for a couple of issues. There will be new members coming in and going out with a solid core of the three of them (Shadowcat, Nightcrawler and Phoenix).”
However, Ashford’s tenure as Excalibur writer became shortlived. He only wrote three issues of the series before Scott Lobdell took over and moved the storyline in other directions.
The death of Xavier
“Then it leads us to the final confrontation with the Shadow King, which would culminate with Charlie’s death in the 300’s and the official passing of the torch to Magneto,” Claremont revealed in Wizard’s X-Men Special 2003. “That was actually the whole goal of the Uncanny X-Men arc from #200 (in 1985) to #300 (in 1993). The whole point was that (Professor) Charles (Xavier) dies in a fight with the Shadow King, and Magneto would end up running the school.”
“And that would have closed the circle,” Claremont added in Uncanny X Cast Episode 77. “It would’ve been a moment where in the final confrontation, Charlie would’ve sacrificed his life to save the world. It would’ve been the kind of thing where I structured it out so that you had tease after tease, so you’d say, “Oh, no! This is it! Oh, no! This is it! Oh, no! This is it!” And he gets away with it each time because he’s just wonderful, and then – right at the end – out of nowhere there was gonna come a moment where someone had the drop on Magneto and the two of them come together and it’s a toss-up – they’re both trying to save the other, determined, “I’m not gonna let you die.” “I’m not gonna let YOU die!” And the gun fires, and Charlie’s just pulling every way of cheating that he can, and Magneto’s blocking the bullets.”
“Both of them can’t survive. One of them has to die. And Charlie is the one who dies, ‘cause he’s dying anyway for other reasons. He sacrifices himself to save his friend. The argument, the rationale is that Charlie’s fate is he knows where he stands. The whole point of the excersise is for Magneto to redeem himself and the only way to prove that is to actually put his back to the wall and say, “You’ve got to choose now. No more fucking around.””
“I really had no effective plans beyond the idea that I wanted Xavier once and for all to die in the 300th issue,” Claremont told Seriejournalen.dk.
With Claremont resigning from the X-Men, none of his plans for the merged X-Men and X-Factor teams reached fruition. Instead, he wrapped up his run with a story of the new X-Men teams versus Magneto. “Magneto, he has the power to turn the world on end, yet the very nature and degree of the forces he manipulates have quite probably, in my structure of the character, driven him mad, and will continue to do so,” Claremont told Back Issue #4.
“(X-Men vol.2 #) 1, 2 and 3 were basically my wrapping up as many loose ends as were available,” Claremont added to Seriejournalen.dk. “It was not a happy time – they’re not very good issues, I think. And that’s the way of it. But that book at that point was in the process of being defined by the editor and the new writers and artists – the way they wanted it – and has been so ever since.”
Claremont left readers with a final couple of unresolved plots. At the start of X-Men vol.2 #1 from 1991, Major Harry Delgado chased a team of criminal mutants on their way to Magneto’s Asteroid M. At the end of the issue, he was fighting alongside the same mutants, who had now become Magneto’s Acolytes. Beast and Wolverine wondered how that came about, but the mystery was never solved. Subsequent writers decided to introduce all-new Acolytes, rather than using the ones Claremont had created.
Also, in X-Men vol.2 #1, Wolverine recognized the new villain, the Upstart Fabian Cortez, but it was never revealed how Wolverine knew him.
?: Chris Claremont, Internet interview, 1994
Amazing Heroes #188, March 1991
Chris Hutchins: Chris Claremont, Wizard #85, September 1998
Cordially Chris, comixfan.com/xfan/, 2003
Jim Lee: Dynamic Duo, Wizard #51, November 1995
Anya Martin: Excalibur Reborn!, Marvel Age #131, December 1993
Darwin McPherson: An Exact Man, Amazing Heroes #192, July 1991
Patrick Daniel O’Neill: Chris Claremont, Comics Interview #98, 1991
Peter Sanderson: Jim Lee Interview, Marvel Age #104, September 1991
Peter Sanderson: Pro 2 Pro – Claremont And Byrne: Wolverine At 30, Back Issue #4, June 2004
Tue Sørensen and Ulrik Kristiansen: Chris Claremont Interview, seriejournalen.dk, 1995
Uncanny X Cast Episode 77, pod-cast, 2009
Wizard’s X-Men Special, 2003