NYCC '09: Claremont and the X-Men: With a Twist

Flashback to the summer of 1991—older readers remember that summer well—every time they look at their five copies of X-Men #1. It wasn’t long after the launch of Marvel’s second X-Men title that Chris Claremont left his tenured 16 year position as writer of the X-Men for unknown pastures…

…but What If he hadn’t?

That’s a big “What If?” - so big, in fact, that Marvel is giving Claremont a new monthly title to pick up where he left off at the end of X-Men #3. This weekend at the New York Comic Con—Marvel announced its plans for X-Men: Forever. Written by Claremont and drawn by Tom Grummett, X-Men Forever allows Claremont to pick up where he left off...18 years ago—just minutes after the Children of the Atom believed they had destroyed Magneto once and for all.

Newsarama contacted Claremont and Grummett to discuss what’s in store for the X-Men of 1992 again…but like never before.

Newsarama: Have these plans for the X-Men been laying in wait for 18 years? Or are these all new?

Chris Claremont: Plans never “lie” in wait; they go out for strolls, they get into arguments, they strike up a conversation with other ideas and the next thing you know, they have grandchildren you never saw coming. Sometimes, they find themselves attracted to a different project and make a new life for themselves, while other ideas wander in from parts unknown and take up permanent residence. Sorta like Wisteria Lane. It would be a sad thing if these ideas had been sitting in limbo for 18 years. The world that they—and we—inhabit today is far different from the one that existed in 1991-92. Can you imagine what it would be like if we were all still listening to Marky Mark and watching Kevin Costner run around in green tights? Seriously, though, there are some touchstones with these characters than remain true, regardless. That’s the foundation on which we build.

NRAMA: Looking back at your body of work on the X-Men--was this concept difficult to come back to? How hard is it to ignore nearly 20 years of continuity?

CC: Coming back to the X-Men is never difficult. Quite the contrary, it’s a true pleasure, like visiting old and dear friends. [X-Men] Forever allows me not just to pick up where I left off, but to show the reader the unexpected. Forever allows me to pick up where I left off with the freedom to take the series in whole new—and unfettered—directions. The characters here are totally up for grabs. All of the presumptions that we’ve gotten used to over time no longer apply; relationships that we’ve come to take for granted are suddenly cast in question.

Think about that a moment—say we’re used to a romantic relationship between a couple of characters. But suppose that applecart gets overturned, suppose one of the characters finds themselves attracted to someone new and unexpected, what then? Suppose we go down that road, where might it lead?

Readers will discover right from the start, in the on-line preview, the events of the “Magneto” trilogy which appeared to bring that story to its conclusion, burst open a door on a whole new world. I put it to readers who think they know me and the X-Canon—to guess correctly where I’m taking you from here—you have no idea.

NRAMA: What can readers expect initially from X-Men Forever? Will various aspects of both the old-school "adjectiveless" X-Men and Uncanny X-Men be addressed in a single title?

CC: The readers should take nothing for granted. This iteration of X-Men is different, nothing is guaranteed, their lives are at risk. Actions—decisions, choices—have consequences and those consequences can’t simply be erased. This series will be defined by such an event, and that event will have immediate and profound—and lasting—ramifications on the X-Men as a whole. It’ll strike at the very foundation of their lives, both as superheroes and as human beings. The thing I want readers to be aware of from the start is that they should not expect anything approaching the “same-old, same-old.” I am blazing new trails, I mean to catch the readers by surprise.

NRAMA: Tom, is it a little strange drawing older versions of modern characters?

Tom Grummett: I never really thought of it as strange... I was too busy having fun with it! Admittedly, it's a unique concept we're playing with, but the X-Men are iconic heroes, whatever incarnation you choose. I just sit back and enjoy the experience of drawing these great characters.

NRAMA: Have you been allowed to revise or create new concepts for these characters?

TG: My first task on joining the team was to come up with new costume designs for the cast...a nice way to ease into a project like this. It gave me a chance to get over a touch of stage fright, and get a handle on each character—to acknowledge that they are the X-Men—not 'the Alternate X-Men', or 'the X-Men re-imagined'. Some of the new designs are a real departure from what fans have been used to, so reactions should be interesting.

NRAMA: Tom, how different are the comics of today in comparison to the comics of 1991?

Comics have evolved, certainly...just as every other creative medium—television, film, and books—have changed over time. What hasn't changed is our mandate: to entertain our audience.

NRAMA: Chris, the X-Men were probably at their largest number when X-Men started in 1991—will you be thinning the ranks somewhat?

CC: The preview sets the stage: this is X-Men honed down to its essence.

NRAMA: How does the continuity of this book exist in terms of the standard 616 Marvel Universe? Is there now a "Claremont-universe"?

CC: In both form and substance, the world of this series is very much like that of the standard 616 Marvel Universe. The setting is contemporary. The year is 2009. The original trilogy that frames the start of this series occurs just prior to the events of Forever. From that point on, anything goes. Everything is up for grabs.

NRAMA: What sorts of threats will these X-Men be facing initially?

CC: For years, the X-Men think they have it covered. They think, with Magneto defeated, they’ve won. Their world is secure. They are so very, very wrong. There is a threat out there that even Charles Xavier knows nothing about—and a threat within the X-Community that is barely a glimmering thought.

I may be picking up numerically where I left off but this series is very much about characters facing the challenges of the early 21st century. What hasn’t changed—will never change—is that this book is the story of a group of gifted, haunted people, trying to live their lives as best they can while facing threats both to their own future and that of the world around them. They face choices, and those choices will always have consequences. Nothing can be taken for granted. Especially survival.

NRAMA: Are there any plot points from 1991 that you are not going to be carrying out that you wanted to address before? And if so, can you tell readers some of your discarded plans from before...

CC: Why not simply read the book and then tell me?

More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage:

NYCC '09 Video Page

NYCC '09 Mini-Site

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