In 1975, Chris Claremont and John Byrne took over an under selling Marvel comic The X-Men taking the series to new heights in sales and popularity over the following 16 years. When the X-Men movies in early 2000 jump-started the superhero movement to the big screen, many of the characterizations and plot points were pulled straight out of the Claremont/Byrnes run. In a recent interview at New York Comic Con Claremont talked with Hugh Sheridan (via BleedingCool) and discussed the current state of the X-Men comics at Marvel.
Here’s a couple of questions that focused on the X-Men:
HS: When you started on X-Men the series was close to cancellation, and over the 16 years you wrote the book it became Marvel’s leading franchise. Your X-Men #1 from 1991 remains, I think, the highest selling American comic ever. But in the last few years the X-Men have faded a little and they are no longer the industry’s top sellers, what advice would you give Marvel to get them back on top?
CC: That has nothing to do with comic sales, that has everything to do with the fact that the film rights are controlled by a rival corporation.
I guarantee you that if 10 years ago, when Marvel was approached by Disney, if the X-Men film rights were owned by Marvel Studios and not Fox the X-Men would probably still be the paramount book in the canon. The reason for the emphasis on the other titles is because Marvel / Disney control the ancillary film rights whereas all the film rights for the FF- the Fantastic Four – and the X-Men are controlled by Fox who has no interest in the comic books.
So I think the corporate publishing attitude is: “why would we go out of our way to promote a title that will benefit a rival corporation’s films when we could take that same energy and enthusiasm and focus and do it for our own properties?”
Hence the rise of the Inhumans as the new equivalent of the mutants. I could wish for something else but it ain’t my 5 billion dollars.
HS: So you think that eventually those characters will come back up? That those characters are so compelling that eventually, if the rights issues are resolved, they will go back to being the top-sellers? Is it just a matter of promotion?
CC: It’s not a matter of promotion, it’s purely a matter of ownership. If at some point Fox decides that the X-Men properties are no longer lucrative I’m sure that they will cut a deal with Disney. But I also expect that the deal they would want to cut would be extra-ordinarily expensive and Disney or Marvel might just as easily say “screw it” we love the X-Men but we are not going to hurt ourselves to get it because we have our other properties that we own that are doing far better. If you want to give it back or take a reasonable deal that’s one thing, if you’re just going to go crazy screw you.
Those are questions better posed to [Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Axel [Alonso] and the Marvel group than me, my opinion at this point is effectively as valid as any fan in this building.
HS: Well, you are the architect –
CC: No, no – we are talking business, we are talking corporate – that has absolutely no impact at all.
While fans might want Marvel to return the focus to the X-Men in the comics, Claremont clearly lays out the reasons why that is not likely to happen in the near future or perhaps forever. Disney and Marvel are foremost a business and that business is cut throat when it comes to making money and retaining character rights. We can all hope that one day FOX and Disney/Marvel can come to some kind of arrangement like the Disney/Marvel Sony Spiderman deal, but don’t hold your breathe.
Is there any chance of a reunion with John Byrnes on an X-Men project?
HS: It would be a big deal if you worked together again on something X-Men related
CC: The retailer fantasy of the century is if John and Terry [Austin, the inker on their classic Uncanny X-Men run] and I got together for a special edition or run. It would be fun. On the other hand it could also fall flat on its face and embarrass all of us, so I’ll believe it when I see the pencils.
At best fans could hope for some sort of boxed set that might have a short couple of pages bonus with the two. Any hope of a monthly title is pretty far-fetched.
One last question that had the expected but very well thought out answer was this one about Wolverine.
Hugh Sheridan: So can you give me a scoop? Can you finally reveal what exactly Wolverine is “the best there is” at?
Chris Claremont: A surprising number of things, but what he does very best is not very nice and it isn’t needlecraft.
He is what the name implies. He is a warrior, a hunter, a killer. His specialities – like it or not – are the darker aspects of human interpersonal interaction. But at the same time they are countered by a soul and an intellect which is forever striving to be something better.
Which is why, if you ever walk in to his flat or his room at the mansion, you’ll see it almost bisected by an invisible line. On one side is total chaos – beer cans, everything – the other side is absolutely pristine stylistic and design perfection, primarily derived from a Japanese source because that’s where his concept of form and structure is defined.
But that is the yin and yang of his personality. He is a raw elemental striving to be a rational sane intellect and soul and the battle is what defines him.
There is more to the interview over at Bleedingcool in the link above, it’s worth a look but mainly focuses on Claremont’s other works and current projects. What do you think, will the X-Men ever return to the Marvel fold?