NYCC 2014: Marvel 75th: X-MEN w/ Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Many More!

Giant Size X-Men #1
Giant Size X-Men #1
Credit: Marvel Comics

It's the legends of the X-Men. Friday's first Marvel 75th Anniversary panel at New York Comic Con 2014 brought together some legendary creators that have worked on - and created - many of the X-Men over the years.

X-editor Mike Marts introduced the panelists, starting with artist Rick Leonardi. Writer Fabian Nicieza, artist Walt Simonson, editor, writer, everything Louise Simonson, Writer Chris Claremont, introduced as "some guy," and Len Wein rounded out the panel.

Marts asked how everyone got started with the X. Wein got started by creating Wolverine in the pages of Incredible Hulk. His only guidline was "a Canadian named Wolverine." He made him a mutant just in case someone was reviving the X-Men and wanted to use him. "I did research on Wolverines, and they're small, scrappy animals who will take on creatures ten times their size - it was that easy!"

Claremont "started working on the X-Men in 1969" as a "go-for" as the intern terminology didn't really exist there yet. He was looking at issues as they came in and fell in love with the characters. "They were trying to figure out how to get rid of the Sentinels - and I spoke up.

"That was it - I was hooked. When Len took over the book, he couldn't lock his office door, and I kept sneaking in to listen. He was too polite to kick me out. And the rest as they say is history."

Louise Simonson got into Marvel Comics with "this project dumped on me" - about a character called The Phoenix. "I started writing and that's where Walter comes into the project." On the X-Men/Teen Titans crossover, she hired her husband Walt to draw it "he heard we were using Darkseid as the villain, and came into my office and said 'I'm drawing that!'"

Walt came to do one issue of the X-Men just because he was around to draw it, and it was the issue where Rogue went from being a villain to a hero. "It was the only issue of the X-Men that I've ever drawn, and it's the most reprinted comic I've ever drawn." Claremont said, "and it has the best punch ever in comics in it!"

The X-men/Teen Titans had Marvel editor and creative team, and "I happened to be walking by as they were discussing and like Weezy said I ducked in and said I was doing it." He got X-Factor similarly.

Nicieza said he got into it by "buying Giant Size X-Men #1 off a spinner rack, and buying every issue until I started working at Marvel in 1985!"

Leonardi got in through Louise as well, doing an issue with Storm and Cyclops's "best fight ever" as Claremont interjected again.

Marts next asked about "memorable moments that summarize your experience on the X-Men."

Walt's was, "Everyone thinks I created Apocalypse. In actual fact, even the guy who created him, Jackson Guice, thinks I created him. He drew him one time in a small panel at the end of an issue. I took that drawing, and gave the guy steroids - so I'm the guy that made him larger. But seriously, even the guy who actually created him though I did it."

Nicieza talked about the second X-Men summit he'd been at. "We were looking for our next crossover, and we were talking about Magneto, and Peter David, out of frustration said, "Why doesn't he just rip out Wolverine's skeleton?" and we all loved it."

Louise said she remembers when Claremont came to her office and pitched a crossover event - and she blamed him for all crossovers since. Claremont was going to do a single issue storyline, and Louise said, "No let me play with this too. We were going to call it the Merry Marching Marvel Mutant Massacre but they wouldn't let us do that full title. But as soon as we started talking about it, other people all wanted to jump in."

There used to be a stigma over September, and they chose to do the crossover in September. The next year, Jim Shooter said "you're doing another crossover for September" and "tried to tell us a story to do and we said, no we're going to do something we already have something - and we didn't!" That one became Fall of the Mutants. Then when they did Inferno, "that was supposed to be the funny one," Claremont said.

Claremont added taht the spirit of collaboration was really his favorite as well.

Wein said that his favorite thing was in creation. He had worked on creating a couple characters with Dave Cockrum, and had created an African character named Black Cat (before the Spidey one came in) with luck powers, and a character named Tempest who could control the weather. They couldn't get either to work, but then Roy Thomas said, "Well, take the powers you like from Tempest and give them to the other one," and that's how Storm was created!

Fan Q&A was next. The first fan asked about favorite X-Villains.

Wein: I'll say Krakoa.

Claremont: The cheap answer is, the one I haven't invented yet!

Louise: Apocalypse, just because I helped make him and he's fun!

Walt: Apocalypse, because I didn't make him but people think I did and he's fun!

Nicieza: Mesmero, I always thought more should be done with him because he's that depraved.

Leonardi: I always thought that Xavier was kind of a villain because of the way he'd come and grab these little kids when they suddenly have a superpower.

Claremont said, "Yeah, can you imagine pitching this now? This old bald guy in a wheelchair goes and collects little kids and puts them in skintight suits and has mind control and forces them to fight."

The next question was, "What are your least favorite changes to characters you created?"

Claremont said he didn't have enough time. Wein said, "The origin Chris gave to Storm."

Question: Any lost story ideas you never got to do?

Claremont talked about his plans for Wolverine, with him going full villain as the leader of the Hand after having his claws ripped out.

Louise said that "the Chris Claremont dangling plot threads were never dangling - they were little things he'd drop in there and have full plans to come back to 2 or 3 years later."

Nicieza said, "There's not a single story that I got to start with the X-Men and got to finish! (laughs) So for me, it would be... all of them."

Leonardi's one regret is that "there's so much plot richness and stuff going on, and characters that are so interesting, it's a drag as a penciller to weigh in for an issue or two then have to bow out."

Question: Any contribution you specifically think is important to you as a political or art story?

Claremont, "God Loves Man Kills. We poured everything into that. It ruined Graphic Novels for me forever because I've never come up with anything better. That's one of the things I'm proudest of working on with Weezy."

Nicieza, "Things were really very bombastic when I was really writing, and Scott Lobdell grabbed most of the opportunities. I'm glad I got to do a few small soft moments for Gambit and Rogue. Getting the chance to have characters just sit and talk to each other a bit was rare at the time."

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