Next to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, perhaps no other singular creator is more identified with a Marvel Comics franchise than Chris Claremont. For decades Clarement guided the X-Men as the comic book industry's dominant family of titles, including not only the core Uncanny X-Men series, but spin-offs as well. He's the co-creator of the New Mutants, the X-Men's youthful expansion team that redefined what the premise of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters really means.
Now, alongside artist Bill Sienkiewicz, who illustrated the classic "Demon Bear Saga" along with many more New Mutants stories, Claremont will return to the New Mutants for War Children - a one-shot that also returns to the team's early days when Claremont and Sienkiewicz were in the midst of their run.
Newsarama spoke with Claremont ahead of War Children's September 25 release about reuniting with Sienkiewicz, returning to the New Mutants, and the magic of working on the X-Men after all these years.
Newsarama: Chris, you’ve reunited with artist Bill Sienkiewicz for New Mutants: War Children, a one-shot that revisits a chapter from the team’s past. What can you tell us about War Children and how it came about?
Chris Claremont: Marvel called up and said “We want to reunite you and Bill for this aspect of the 80th anniversary celebration. We’d like you to do a 30-page New Mutants story.”
So I said, “I’m cool, ask Bill.” They asked Bill and Bill was cool. Then my son came up with the next question, which was, can we have a hundred pages?
The interesting irony is, when Bill and I sat down to figure out the story, we essentially came up with our next issue. The fascinating thing with the New Mutants, especially with Bill’s and my approach to it – 'cause we haven’t worked together in 30 years aside from one six-page story years ago – is that we just picked it right back up.
As Bill said it, we came in like we were picking up the next issue – it just took us 30 years to get here.
Nrama: Speaking of Bill Sienkiewicz, what’s it like working with him again? How has your working relationship evolved in the decades since you last worked together?
Claremont: The characters are so rich and so interesting, and his visual presentation is so brilliantly unique. The problem with this story and these characters and this creative team is, we could have expanded to fill an infinite amount of pages with absolutely wonderful visual and storytelling concepts. That’s just the way Bill works. I looked at the pages as they came in and I thought “Wow!”
It’s a simple response, but it’s primal. Bill just takes the scene out of his heart and puts it on the page – which is totally different from my approach, which is to pluck it out of my brain and put it on the page. But somehow it all synergizes magnificently.
Nrama: Which aspect or character of New Mutants were you particularly excited to return to for this story?
Claremont: The editorial mandate was they’d like the story built around Warlock – which is fine with us.
You have to understand, this is one of the many wonderful aspects to Bill’s approach to this story and to these characters. They’re all my favorites.
I could tell you Dani in one answer, or Berto in the next, or Warlock in the third, Rahne in the fourth, Doug in the fifth – I could go on and on about any of them.
It’s the same reaction I still have to the X-Men. I look at these characters I’ve known for, heaven help me, the better part of a half-century, and they’re still young and fresh and dynamic. I have an infinite score of stories I want to tell about them.
Nrama: What’s it like coming back to these characters after all these years, set in the time period you last left them?
Claremont: The wonder, especially about the New Mutants is, they’re all kids. They’re all growing. They’re changing literally, from page to page in terms of character and approach, past, present, and future. As a writer, that’s the most delicious thing to play with.
The one immutable reality of film is, no matter how wonderful the actors and the performances are, every year the actors age and grow older - Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey was wonderful! Maisie Williams was my first choice to play Wolfsbane when I heard about the New Mutants movie - but in comic books, I can keep the New Mutants adolescent for decades and have as much fun writing them at the end as I did in the beginning.
For me that’s the magic of the printed page. We don’t have to pay attention to the passage of time and focus in on the realities of these characters at a specific age or at a specific time in their lives, and we can play with that to our hearts’ content.
Nrama: Could you see yourself telling more New Mutants stories in the future?
Claremont: For me, I look at these characters and I look at the way they’re presented, and even after all this time, my gut reaction is, what the heck happens next? But whether I get to tell those stories is up to the folks making the decisions.