Like most other comic book junkies, I got my first fix of sequential art when I was a very small child but Star Wars and later GI Joe eventually fed my needs. It was years later in high school that I came back to comics when a friend gave me my first free dose. If I was ever a fanboy, it was these years in high school. Later, in college, Literature and Art forced me to see the comic book medium in a different, ever changing light but the high school years are what is important here.
I was an outcast in high school so I was an X-Men/Chris Claremont fan. I had a paper route at the time so I had some extra cash and I quickly became a regular at my local book store and eventually had my mom driving me way out to a comic book store where I discovered more and more titles. But at the time, I kept coming back to X-Men. We had just transitioned from the amazing Marc Silvestri to pre-Image/Homage Studios Jim Lee so there was some incredible work being done there and I was hooked. And it was with the X-Men that I realized that it had to be more than amazing art to keep me reading the same title monthly.
Chris Claremont was at the peak of his commercial career in these years and he was producing amazing work in the X-Men. Each issue was like a short story – they were dense with word balloons and internal dialogue, each character had self-doubt and was battling one internal demon or another as they worked together, as a team for better or for worse to face a foe that was always greater than they as individuals and most often, not as good as the X-Men were as a team. In fact, the X-Men often lost. It was a sign that mutant exteriors aside, they were all humans on the inside.
Claremont’s X-Men were about people, characters, individuals and their transformation from one personality to another. The books were in fact so much about characters, they sometimes felt like soap operas. A wonderful aspect of Claremont’s X-Men is that they all had families outside of the team. Jean Grey had parents that were afraid of/for her. Kitty Pryde had parents that wanted only the best for her – that’s how she got to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
But the real proof of how good Claremont’s X-Men really were comes in how the francise is handled today. The uber-successful films all use characters and story-lines either created or made famous by Claremont’s mad-skills. The X-Titles today all have versions of these same characters – the core characters of virtually all X-Titles are Claremont’s X-Men. Something that I want to point out about these characters that are really no more than licenses today, they were original when Claremont forged them – they were people crafted from his mind, fresh and new. There was a time when they did not exist but Claremont made them interesting enough to be realized and capitalized on. They are today’s entertainment.
But what will be tomorrow’s entertainment? Rehashing of Claremont’s X-Men? A fourth and fifth rebooting of X-Men and for the love of all that is X, another rebirth of the Phoenix? I really hope not. Cause that will be boring. But at the same time, there are very few new characters in the X-Men and there certainly aren’t any new story lines. The latest major X-Crossover was against the Avengers, who they’ve fought several times before already. But more importantly, a version of Phoenix is back. Now, I get that this is the point of the Phoenix, a creature that is reborn from its own ashes but at the same time, I come back to, “What are the next X-Men movies going to be about?”