Fan-favourite writer Chris Claremont’s return to the X-Men became short-lived, when a change in Editor-In Chief lead to him being removed from the books after only ten months. This resulted in plenty of abandoned storylines.
In 1995 Chris Claremont was asked in Wizard, the Guide to Comics #51 under what circumstances he would consider writing X-Men again, or if he even missed writing the characters. “I have thought about it off and on,” Claremont replied. “You know, if somebody from Marvel called up and dropped like 10 million bucks on my desk and said, “Come back, all is forgiven,” I couldn’t automatically say no.”
In 2000, Claremont did indeed say “yes” to returning as writer of the two core X-Men books. “They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Claremont told Wizard #103. “The opportunity presented itself; the challenge was irresistible.”
“I wrote the book for 17 years, and (early 20th-century author) Thomas Wolfe’s dictum about not being able to go home again looms very large over a circumstance like that,” Claremont continued. “Everybody has an opinion, everybody has expectations, so there’s a lot more attention and pressure on this gig than there was in 1975.”
These words would prove tragically prophetic. Shortly after Claremont’s return to writing the X-Men books in 2000, Marvel got a new Editor-In-Chief, Joe Quesada, and he didn’t appreciate Claremont’s X-Men stories at all. “They were completely unreadable,” Quesada opinionated in Wizard #111. “Right around the time of the movie, the heavy hand of continuity for whatever reason just came crashing down on these books. You just could not pick a single issue from the two core X-titles and start from scratch. None of them had a jumping-on point.”
“It’s unfortunate,” Quesada continued. “Chris sort of jumped into a weird set of circumstances with it, and I know he tried to work his way through it as best as he could, but even he knew that it was a very touchy, almost unworkable situation. (…) Really desperate measures had to be taken.”
Quesada chose to remove Chris Claremont from Uncanny X-Men and X-Men vol.2 after only 10 months back as their writer.
What went wrong
Claremont’s version of what had gone wrong with his crossover-impaired second run on the X-Men books was reported on Cinescape.com in 2001. “In retrospect, I probably tried to do too much, too soon,” Claremont said. “Whatever the cause, it’s evident in retrospect that the creative mix on the books was not synergizing as smoothly or effectively as it needs to in our business. Hence, the changes that were made.”
“In a lot of cases, stories and characters that I had lots of plans for were truncated or dropped altogether,” Claremont continued. “It’s hard to embroider a character when the editor (Mark Powers) doesn’t like it. Them’s the breaks.”
“Some of the elements – the treatment of the villains and the absence of Kitty (Pryde) – came about because of editorial decisions that had direct impacts on the ongoing storyline. For example, the decision to bring the teams together in July, to echo the movie. In fact, if we were going to do that it should have been incorporated into the macro plot structure from the beginning. Instead, because no one realized until late spring that the movie might actually be successful, not to mention good, we had to play serious catch-up at the same time as we were trying to establish the entire structural foundation of the two series.”
The Psylocke and Phoenix power switch
When Claremont started writing the series with X-Men vol.2 #100 and Uncanny X-Men #381 in 2000, there was a six months continuity leap from the previous issues. During those six months, Psylocke and Jean Grey (Phoenix) had somehow switched powers so that Psylocke now had Jean Grey’s telekinetic ability and Jean Grey had gotten Psylocke’s telepathic ability. Claremont didn’t get the opportunity to explain the power switch before he was removed from the books.
In 2003, Claremont was asked on his online Cordially Chris forum if he had considered writing stories for X-Men Unlimited, a series which at the time mostly published solo X-Men stories, as a way of telling stories from the six month gap. “Stories for Unlimited are the province of editor C.B. Cebulskie,” Claremont replied. “If he wants any he knows where to find me. I’ve done what I can, which is let him know I’m interested and available. The ball’s now in his court.”
Unfortunately, Cebulskie didn’t ask for any stories dealing with the six month time gap, but in 2001 Claremont explained his motive for having given Psylocke Jean Grey’s telekinetic power on CoolBoard. He said he thought that the readers had started to take Psylocke’s personality and abilities for granted, so he wanted to present her with a challenge – to set her back to a point in her life where it was necessary for her to become a student again in order to emphasize the school aspect of the Xavier Institute. He wanted to establish a contrast between her and Jean, so that instead of being an echo of each other, they could now function independently, both as individuals and as teammates.
“It was, at that time in 1999/2000, intended to be addressed in an “annual” or possibly a subordinate arc or mini-series that would cover what happened between Jean and Betsy during the “six-month-gap” which would explain why their powers switched,” Claremont revealed on his Cordially Chris forum in 2003.
Claremont told CoolBoard that there had always been an explanation and had he found the time in 2000, the story would have been in (Uncanny) X-Men Annual. But that opportunity had passed, and given the current status quo in X-Mythology – the fact that Jean had been set back to her normal status quo as a telepath/telekinetic (by subsequent writer Grant Morrison and also without explanation) – Claremont doubted that the story would ever be told. Why explain a continuity twist that no longer existed?
“If I ever get my hands on Jean again, ” Claremont added in Back Issue #4, “there’s a lot I would like to do with her in terms of character structure to have her come to terms with all that’s happened in her life.”
Aborted romance and dead Neo
In X-Men vol.2 #100, Rogue and Colossus shared a kiss. It wasn’t explained how they could touch without Rogue absorbing Colossus’ powers and personality, rendering him unconscious in the process, as usually happens when Rogue touches someone, but this was intended as the beginning of a new romance. Editor Mark Powers revealed in Wizard #102 that readers shouldn’t be surprised if Rogue wound up in a relationship with another teammate, and warned that Colossus was going to hook up with another X-character.
“I (…) thought it might be fun to introduce some potential romantic complications outside the traditional couples box,” Claremont told Comicon.com. “That’s why the kiss between Colossus and Rogue in X-Men (vol.2) #100, to explore the possibilities of re-introducing a measure of romantic tension to the various relationships. Originally, I thought Neal (Shaara, Thunderbird) might be fun for Jean (Grey, Phoenix).”
“And the Rogue notion got spiked so fast you don’t want to know,” Claremont continued. “Once again, let’s hear it for the Interneteratti, who are all for change so long as it confirms to their prejudices, pro and con.”
“This is a new millennium. A new beginning,” Claremont told Wizard #103. “My goal, at least for the first year, is to primarily introduce new material, new characters, new relationships, new conflicts.”
“The initial storyline in both books will involve them coming up against a new breed, a new offshoot of humanity, sort of like the next generation beyond mutants,” Claremont continued. “Basically, the war that everyone has been afraid of between mutants and humans is sort of about to start, but it’s not the war everyone expected. And it’s not the enemy everyone expected.”
“And, unfortunately, the outcome’s not gonna be as clear cut as everyone expected.”
The new breed Claremont was talking about called itself “the Neo.” However, the promised war between them and the mutants never developed beyond the Neo establishing a beachhead fortress in Brooklyn before Claremont had to leave the books.
“I would have preferred to take more time with the Neo and the (Crimson) Pirates,” Claremont told Cinescape.com. But that was not to be, as those characters were probably among the ones the editor didn’t like. So it was most likely an editorial edict that subsequent writer Scott Lobdell had Magneto kill the Neo in the Brooklyn fortress in X-Men vol.2 #110, effectively ending the threat of war between Neo and mutants just one month after Claremont’s final issue.
Shadowcat’s untold destiny
In X-Men vol.2 #100 Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) was separated from her teammates who subsequently were in no particular hurry to find her again. Claremont explained the circumstances to Cinescape.com in 2001: “What happened was that the original, proposed story arc got shot down after the series was set in motion and the first issue plotted.”
“My idea was to establish Kitty as a subplot that would run through the conclusion of the Neo arc, around (X-Men vol.2) #104-105, and then move center stage,” he continued. “Then, (the X-Men) go after Kitty. When the arc structure got nuked by the editorial decision to reunite the two books and teams in July, to coincide with the movie (…), the Kitty arc was shifted over to a stand-alone mini-series (X-Men: Shadowcat – Captains Courageous) which would cast Kitty and a team of Captains as a kind of pan-temporal S.W.A.T. team, dealing with crises on alternate Earths and serve as the foundation/springboard for a possible new ongoing series.”
The Captains Courageous plot was originally intended as a Nightcrawler story when Claremont wrote Excalibur in 1990, but it wasn’t realized before Claremont left the X-Men Universe in 1991. Unfortunately, the plot didn’t become the Shadowcat mini-series either, when Claremont revisited the idea nine years later. “We had plots, we had an artist (Lee Moder) but then the green light turned orange after Labor Day and the whole shebang fell into turnaround Hell,” Claremont revealed to Cinescape.com. “I have further plans for Kitty and assorted other characters, and for the macro-story I set out to tell in her series, but I’m leery of talking about them too far in advance for fear I’ll jinx the concepts.”
When Claremont realized he had to leave the X-Men books without an opportunity to incorporate a decent explanation as to what had become of Shadowcat, he cut the story short in his final issue, X-Men vol.2 #109. In that issue, Viper delivered a message to Wolverine from Shadowcat that she was alive and well. It was anti-climactic, but at the end the only way to wrap up the plot.
“As far as I’m aware, that (Shadowcat mini-series) proposal is dead,” Claremont concluded to Cinescape.com in 2001. “The basic thrust of the concept has been enfolded into X-Treme (X-Men) for the last major story arc of our first publishing year, the “Invasion From Dimension X” (in X-Treme X-Men #10 to 16).”
“The nice thing about comics, though, is that nothing’s lost forever,” Claremont comforted Cinescape.com’s readers. “The story that isn’t used today in X-Men may resurface down the line.”
A story about what happened to Shadowcat between X-Men vol.2 #100 and 109 and how she survived her ordeal with the Neo at the end of X-Men vol.2 #100 still hasn’t surfaced, though.
Nightcrawler and Mystique’s relationship
According to Wizard #102, Claremont was giving more thought to the secrets surrounding Nightcrawler and Mystique’s relationship. “Stick around. It’s in the works,” he promised in Wizard #103. However, he didn’t get around to it before being removed as writer of the X-Men.
One of Claremont’s storylines that was originally intended for Uncanny X-Men and X-Men vol.2 did get realized by the writer himself, though: His spin-off-series X-Treme X-Men’s starting point, that a group of X-Men left on a quest to find Mystique’s dead lover Destiny’s 13 diaries. “It was something we were considering for (the X-Men books in) the Spring of 2001,” Claremont revealed to Cinescape.com.
In the Wizard #103 interview, Claremont also answered the question if Mystique would still be hunting Professor X: “No. She doesn’t have to,” he replied. “She’s been there all along. Wait until you see who the new staff member of the Xavier Institute is… heh, heh, heh.”
The Xavier Institute’s new staff member turned out to be Tessa, formerly affiliated with the Hellfire Club. She joined the X-Treme X-Men team under the new codename Sage and was clearly not one of Mystique’s many secret identities. So whatever Claremont had originally planned for Mystique, it didn’t come to pass, although Mystique did appear in his “Dream’s End” crossover in 2000.
X-Men: Year Zero
In Uncanny X-Men #381, Jean Grey revealed that she had worked alone with Professor Xavier before the formation of the X-Men. Claremont said on his Cordially Chris forum in 2003, that he had proposed Marvel an X-Men: Year Zero limited series, which would have told the story. The limited series was intended to deal with the time-frame between Xavier losing his legs to the opening scene of X-Men #1 (1963).
“It would go into the origins of (Xavier’s) relationship with Sage, and Sebastian Shaw, his recruitment of Jean, their adventures together, back-story concerning Logan, and his gradual decision to form the X-Men,” Claremont revealed. “Marvel chose to pass on the proposal.”
Professor Xavier’s first meeting with Sage was instead incorporated into X-Treme X-Men #44 in 2004.
Two other announced Claremont projects – a Lila Cheney mini-series and a Wolverine ”fantasy” project with artist Rick Leonardi – were both reported as pronounced dead by Cinescape.com in April 2001.
When Claremont took over Uncanny X-Men and X-Men vol. 2 in 2000, the idea was to introduce a new X-Man in each series. The one was Thunderbird in X-Men vol. 2. Claremont told about the other in Wizard #103: “She’s actually an animation artist from Japan. She draws things and they come to life. We call her Reanimator.”
However, when she was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #383, it was under the name Sketch. And then she was never seen again. Claremont commented on it to Cinescape.com in 2001: ”Also lost in the shuffle: More on Sketch.”
In Uncanny X-Men #383, Chris Claremont introduced the villain Tullamore Voge, who was of an alien species that Claremont had introduced all the way back in “The Cross-Time Caper” in Excalibur #16 and 17 in 1989 – a story which Claremont drew quite a bit of inspiration from after his return to the X-Men Universe in 2000, for example in X-Treme X-Men #25, 2003, wherein Shadowcat for the first time ever referred to the event in Excalibur #16, where she killed the witch Anjulie to save the life of Princess Kymri.
Claremont used Kymri again in X-Men vol.2 #104, 2000, and established that Tullamore Voge and his slavers had conquered her world, and that Kymri now served Crimson Pirate Killian as his personal Hound. (Hounds are enslaved humans in chains, which Claremont has portrayed at various points of X-Men Mythology. Tullamore Voge and his race used them as personal slaves. The Shadow King also made use of them, for example in Uncanny X-Men #265-267 in 1990. Rachel Summers served Ahab as a Hound in the apocalyptic future she had escaped from.)
Claremont had probably intended that Kymri’s fate should evolve into a story where she and her world would be liberated from slavery if he had continued as writer of the main X-Men books. In X-Treme X-Men #36, 2004, Storm went after Tullamore Voge and he made a cameo appearance in X-Treme X-Men #39 but remained at large, while Kymri’s destiny also remains unresolved, despite Nightcrawler wondering what happened to her in Uncanny X-Men #450, 2004.
In 2004, the letters page in Uncanny X-Men #446 promised that, “as for Tullamore Voge and Princess Kymri… well, just be sure to check out that other X-book Chris (Claremont) is helming, X-Men: The End.”
In the out of continuity X-Men: The End Book One – Dreamers & Demons #3, Nightcrawler had saved Kymri from the Slavers and had married her.
The Summers family reunion
Cable was on Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men team in 2000, and one of the villains Claremont had big plans for was the clone of Cable, Stryfe. “We used Stryfe in the (X-Men) Annual (2000). And the interesting thing is that while there’s a tremendous enthusiasm for the character in-house, fan reaction has been incredibly vehement,” Claremont told Comic Book Resources.com in 2000. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of affection for Stryfe as a character, which to me is a big red flag in front of a bull. It’s like, “You don’t like him? OK, by the time I’m done…” Nobody liked Rogue when she first showed up, either, so we’ll see.”
Claremont used Stryfe again in X-Men vol.2 #105, where he is the mysterious man in the shadows at the end of the story, whose identity was never revealed in the comics. “Actually, the original idea for that scene spun off of the X-Men 2000 Annual and the team’s confrontation with Stryfe,” Claremont revealed to Cinescape.com in 2001. “He was doing to Psylocke in (X-Men vol.2) #105 what she had done to him in the Annual, only in this case he uses telepathy instead of ninja powers to mask his presence.”
Stryfe’s appearance in X-Men vol.2 #105 was meant to be the beginning of a bigger story. When Comic Book Resources.com in 2000 asked about what stories Claremont had up his sleeve, he replied: “A Summers family reunion.”
Claremont confirmed in an interview with Upstart Comics.com that a Summers family reunion was underway. “After that we’ll deal with the repercussions,” he said, “and in January the X-Men will undergo a fundamental change.”
The latter he expanded on to Comic Book Resources.com: “Assuming all goes well, the X-Men at the end of January 2001 will be a fundamentally different concept than the X-Men right now – in ways, hopefully, that the readers will wonder how the hell we’re going to dig ourselves out of this one. And for the first time in their career as super heroes, they are going to be seriously, seriously on the defensive.”
“They’re going to be up against a set of foes who know them better than they know themselves, and are probably stronger than all of them put together,” he continued. “They are characters you’ve seen before. Certainly within the last five years. Or less. And some of them may surprise you.”
When the Summers family reunion didn’t happen because Claremont was removed from the X-Men books, Claremont revealed on Cinescape.com in 2001 what he had meant with ”a fundamentally different concept” for the X-Men books, and what team of enemies the X-Men should have been up against: “The thrust of that story was for (Stryfe) to build an all-new, all-different team of X-Men based on family, sort of a Summers family reunion, consisting of himself, Cyclops, Jean and Cable, and possibly Nate (Grey, X-Man). They were going to evict Xavier and the others from the mansion and go public, pulling a Thunderbolts riff by branding the fugitive X-Men as criminals and portraying themselves as heroes.”
“The idea was that Stryfe would slip into the Search For Cyclops series and hijack both characters at the end, then gather Cable and in (X-Men vol.2) #110, seize control of X-Men. No more Xavier Institute. In its place: The Summers School.”
“I thought it would be fun, but editorially it didn’t fly.”
Jean Grey and Cable were attacked on the astral plane by an unknown enemy in Uncanny X-Men #384, wherein that same enemy also possessed Cable. The enemy’s identity was never revealed in the comics, but Claremont spilled the beans on his Cordially Chris forum in 2003: “It was meant to be Stryfe, as a precursor to the arc that would close-out 2000, wherein the X-Men and Xavier would be “evicted” by the Summers Clan (Stryfe, Scott, Cable, Alex, Jean and Rachel), who would present the school to the public as the Summers Scool For Mutants. They would control X-Men (vol.2) and the fugitive team (think about it, how would you – COULD you – fight adversaries who comprise four of the most powerful psis in creation, plus two (Cyke & Cable) of the pre-eminent tactical and strategic strategists?) would be on the run in Uncanny (X-Men). And that would be the status quo until (Uncanny X-Men) #400, when things would get really squirrelly.”
“We’re talking conflict here, a civil war/War of the Roses between the Lancasters and the Yorks of the House of Mutants!” Claremont continued. “So much for that idea.”
Claremont had barely left Uncanny X-Men and X-Men vol.2 before subsequent writer Scott Lobdell (presumably on editorial edict) ensured that the Summers family reunion couldn’t happen by killing off Stryfe in the Gambit & Bishop: Sons of the Atom mini series.
Kim S. August: Chris Claremont: The X-Treme Interview, Cinescape.com, 1 May 2001
Jennifer M. Contino: Chris Claremont Pt 1, Comicon.com, 28 January 2005
Cordially Chris, Comixfan.com/xfan, 16, 18, 20 and 30 June 2003
Christopher Lawrence: What Next?, Wizard #102, March 2000
Christopher Lawrence: The Wizard Q&A – Chris Claremont, Wizard #103, April 2000
Christopher Lawrence: The Wizard Q&A – Joe Quesada, Wizard #111, December 2000
Jim Lee: Dynamic Duo, Wizard #51, November 1995
Eric J. Moreels: Claremont Talks New X-Title, Cinescape.com, 24 January 2001
Eric J. Moreels: Claremont Reflects On Core X-Book Return, Cinescape.com, 26 March 2001
Eric J. Moreels: Claremont Talks X-Treme Down Under, Cinescape.com, 22 April 2001
Josh Roberts: Chris Claremont Interview, Comicbookresources.com, 18 August 2000
Peter Sanderson: Pro 2 Pro – Claremont And Byrne: Wolverine At 30, Back Issue #4, June 2004
Upstart Comics Interviews Chris Claremont, Upstartcomics.com, 2000