Chris Claremont: interview
Chris Claremont is one of the Comic Con Portugal guest writers. His stories have achieved best-seller status, won numerous awards, and are trend-setters for the industry. RIBDA interviewed the writer.
You grew up reading Eagle, with Dan Dare and other British comics characters. How different was Eagle from the stories and drawings being published in USA comics?
The most basic difference was that Eagle was a weekly comic compilation, containing a mix of comic stories and text articles, aimed primarily at boy readers. The interior comics were generally single page adventures, although the bookend pages and the center spread of the issue (at least as I remember it, looking back over far too many years) were in full color. The covers were devoted to the magazine’s signature series, Dan Dare, and the interior color pages were biographies of significant historical personages (such as Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein and, of course, Jesus Christ.) The differences between Eagle and its American counterparts (at least, as far as I could see) were basically technical, having to do with the amount of material being presented and the way it was produced. To me, though, those were technicalities. As a young reader, I found it mostly cool stuff.
Throughout all your work on the X-Men, what are the issues or storylines that you are most proud of and why?
I’m sorry to say, I don’t choose favorites anymore when it comes to the X-Men. I’m proud of it all. That said, the true answer, now as always, is that I’m most proud of and most look forward to, the story I haven’t written yet.
Nowadays, concerning Marvel characters, do you still need to balance between what you’d like to do and the editorial demand? And what about the public demand?
As a professional, and an employee of the company, one of my primary responsibilities is to be aware of what Marvel wants from the series and the characters — that in part is what the editor does, find a way to balance the company’s needs with the hopes of the creative talent. And while one should always be aware of public opinion, you have to bear in mind that the readers operate at a significant time differential from the creators. Ideally, I should be plotting stories better than 6 months in advance of when they’re actually published, which means that audience opinion is always way behind the curve. If the creative team has done their work well, then the audience will like / love the work and the book will be successful. If not, we reboot creatively and try again. Everything starts with the best of hopes and intentions and fingers seriously crossed.
It seems to us that the comics about Avengers and its members became once again very popular, while the mutant titles don’t have the same hype than several years ago. Do you agree with that? Do you think it’s related to the movies or it’s just part of a cycle?
You have me at a significant disadvantage in that I am no longer current with the comics and haven’t been for quite some time. I couldn’t give you any kind of accurate, informed assessment of the relationship between “houses” within the Marvel publishing pantheon.
What’s your point of view regarding nowadays Marvel pictures and TV series and the previous ones? What do you think of the ubiquity of the comics characters in all different kinds of entertainment platforms?
I’ve very much enjoyed the films and TV shows that I’ve been fortunate enough to see and look forward to seeing whatever production is next in the pipeline. (Especially those that are based on characters that I’ve co-created, in this instance along with artist Bill Sienkievicz, such as the forthcoming “Legion” from FX.)
You also have your own creator-owned properties. Tell us a bit about that.
In terms of past work, each project was a unique delight, whether Marada and the Black Dragon with John Bolton for Marvel, Solo with Michael Golden also for Marvel, Huntsman with Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri for Image, Wanderers with Phil Brioness for Fusion (Paris) and of course Sovereign Seven for DC. In that mix are super-heroes, science fiction and dark fantasy. Some were critical successes, some were commercial hits, some were both, some weren’t. But they were all fun. Best of all, being creator owned — that is to say, being mine — they’re all sitting on shelves in my office waiting for the opportunity for me to return to the concepts and take a wander down the creative pathway to see what might happen next. Who knows, perhaps something unexpectedly exciting will happen in Porto to bring one of these existing concepts back to life. Or perhaps, good fortune will turn its gaze on something altogether new. That’s the (maddening) fun of creating stories and concepts; one never know precisely where the trail will lead or who a concept might entice. One just have to keep on moving forward.
Is it hard to see a character you created for Marvel being approached by other writers in a way you don’t agree?
The bedrock reality is that none of the super-hero characters produced for Marvel are “mine.” They’re the property of Marvel, as Superman is the property of DC / Warner Brothers. Creators are assigned to titles at the decision of their editors and each brings their own unique vision to the assignment. The key is to create stories that will excite the readers and bring them eagerly back from issue to issue, to see what happens next. If we can accomplish that, everybody’s happy. That’s the goal.
You are the author of several science-fiction and phantasy novels. Are you interested in writing more novels?
That’s what I’m doing now.
Can you tell us about your next projects?
Forgive me but I don’t talk about work that’s still-in-process, whether prose, comics, screen or TV work. When it’s done — better yet, when it’s delightfully sold — that’s the time to celebrate. Before that — hey, why spoil the surprise, where’s the fun in that?
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Put your passion into your work. The time to talk is when the project is done, and sold.