Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
The legendary Chris Claremont first wrote the X-Men in 1975. Well, we’re just days away from 2023 and Chris is still writing new stories about Marvel’s merry mutants. As far as career accomplishments go… well, that’s uncanny!
It also means I — your humble X-Men Monday shepherd — continue to have opportunities to interview a creator whose work has brought me so much joy across decades.
Earlier this year, Chris stopped by X-Men Monday to discuss his Gambit limited series with artist Sid Kotian, and this time around, he’s answering questions about his return to X-Treme X-Men (the first issue, featuring art by Salvador Larroca, now on sale).
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Chris! X-Treme X-Men had such a unique look and feel to it and, as a result, holds a special place in a lot of X-Fans’ hearts. Marvel also just put out an X-Treme X-Men omnibus, so new readers are discovering it. When you look back on the original X-Treme X-Men run, what are you most proud of?
Chris: Well, the whole thing. The fact that for the 46 issues, we were basically one writer, two artists, and a heck of a lot of stories. There’s some stuff that I’m really proud of by me, Salvador Larroca, and Igor Kordy. And my fundamental regret is that they pulled the plug, because I would’ve loved to keep going and seeing where we’d have ended up. I felt like there were a lot of stories to tell. There were a lot of good interactions.
I think my feeling with this mini-series is that this is the next arc, with qualifications that basically yes, it is fitting into a magical space of time between X-Treme X-Men going away and me and Alan Davis getting back together again on Uncanny X-Men. But this is comics. Those gaps in time can be significant if you don’t examine every millimeter of time.
AIPT: X-Fan Ollieno was curious to learn how the new mini-series came about. Was it your idea to revisit this period? And did you still have a lot left to say about this period in X-Men history?
Chris: I’m a writer, I always have more stories. I had more stories when I left the X-Men the first time, the second time, the third time. There are always more stories to tell, especially with these characters.
But Marvel pitched to me. They called up and said, “Would you like to do another run on X-Treme X-Men with Salva?” I said, “Hell yes.”
AIPT: And was this story with Ogun one you’d always wanted to do in your original X-Treme X-Men run or is this brand new?
Chris: No, it was a new one. I mean, the original concept back then was, when Kitty and Logan killed him, he was dead. I had no initial intentions of bringing him back. It was a self-contained story. But that said, this being comics, there are no self-contained stories. There’s always wiggle room for a new wrinkle. So they said, “What do you want to do?” And I took it from there.
AIPT: What’s your elevator pitch for this new X-Treme X-Men story?
Chris: What do you do when you’re a grad student and you discover a nightmare you thought was dealt with when you were a little kid is not, and the nightmare introduces itself by killing all your friends?
AIPT: What makes Ogun such a compelling villain in your eyes?
Chris: You mean, aside from my basic mistake of giving him and Logan virtually the same name? My wife pointed that out and I went, “Oh my God.”
He’s a remarkably vicious character, and in many respects, he’s both Kitty and Logan’s nightmare. He stole away her childhood and she came out of that experience a much deadlier X-Men member. But is that what you really want when you’re 13? And what made it more fun is that he’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s more going on in this arc than one would suspect, which readers will discover later this month in the second issue.
AIPT: X-Fan BloodyNinja asked, how would you describe the creative experience of resuming a project almost 20 years later?
Chris: Oh, it was absolutely wonderful. You know, they were neat characters and we ended up closing off the X-Treme X-Men series at a significant point in time when Ororo and Remy had just pitched a new reality for their group of X-Men.
I guess the point was that there was a perceived increase in tension between humans and mutants, and this was Ororo and the team’s hope of dealing with it before things got out of hand — or anymore out of hand.
Part of that was, for example, Sam Guthrie coming back and being involved in helping people. The one-issue story where he’s helping save people trapped in a tunnel accident, but because of other deaths in the X-canon, he can’t take it anymore. So he goes off with Lila Cheney for some personal time, back in the days when, from my perception of reality, Sam and Lila — that was his true love and she was his true love. Apparently, I missed that one.
AIPT: Salvador Larroca’s art is very strong in X-Treme X-Men #1. How does it feel to write for Salvador again?
Chris: I would say he’s an artist who just gets better. It’s wonderful. Looking at it was just, holy cow, this is just brilliant and it gets better with every issue.
AIPT: You had a chance to revisit Gambit and ‘Ro in your Gambit mini-series. Which member of the much larger X-Treme X-Men cast were you most excited to write again?
Chris: Well, Kitty, obviously. I really find it hard, especially with X-Treme X-Men, to pick favorites. When we did the split, I felt like I got my wishlist. And then when I got Gambit as well, it was like, “Whoa, this is even better.” It’s like, how do you choose between Sage, Remy, Rogue, even Logan, I mean, he’s a guest star, so to speak, but, you know, as is my wont, I put him through hell. As I say at every convention, I don’t play favorites. It just makes no sense. It’s a waste of effort.
AIPT: You love to give Storm new looks. Ororo looks quite different from when we last saw her in X-Treme X-Men #46. What was the idea behind her new costume and hairstyle?
Chris: I said to Salva, OK, this is like a couple of months later and they worked for the feds. Maybe she chose a different look. As far as the lightning bolt and the half-shaved head, that grew totally out of Gambit, with the shaved head. I thought, “Oh man, I should have thought of that years ago.” And in a way, it was a much more interesting look than the mohawk. I just wanted it to be different visually from all the other iterations of Storm that are currently in print.
AIPT: X-Fan HCameron4Ever asked, if given the opportunity, how would you expand on Lifeguard and Slipstream’s stories?
Chris: In really cool ways that the readers couldn’t help but ask, “What the heck happens next?” No, I’m not going to give anything away. Hopefully at some point, I’ll get the chance.
I mean, the other thing to bear in mind is that the official cast of X-Treme X-Men also includes Sam and Amara. I couldn’t say any more.
AIPT: You didn’t create Cecilia Reyes, but you certainly helped develop her. X-Fan Djsousa says Cecilia has become one of the best supporting characters in the X-Men mythos. In your opinion, what makes Cecilia a unique character?
Chris: I could say she got a movie role, but it wasn’t exactly in any way, shape, manner, or form consistent with the character herself.
I mean, she’s cool, she’s natural. She’s technically speaking, not your typical member of the X-canon. What I always loved about writing the X-Men was they were part of the real world. They tried to have friends. Yes, they lived in a mansion up in Westchester, but Westchester isn’t that far from the city. You go down, you hang out with people, you have parents, you have families, you have realities that are outside the box.
For me, the world that Stan Lee created at Marvel that made it so enjoyably distinctive from DC is that it interacted on a regular basis with the real world — the world outside the reader’s windows. And I always felt that part of our obligation as creators was to emphasize that real-world link. Even when I was doing issues and stories in Valle Soleada. It’s a fictional oceanside town in California, but the hope was to make it very much a place that you could look at and say, “Oh yeah, I know that town, I know those people, I know those houses, I know those realities.”
For me as an immigrant, coming to America when I was a kid, trying to fit in was a challenge. Trying to find the aspects of this culture and this reality. My feeling was that the stories I wrote in X-Men, but pretty much in any comic that I wrote, should reflect that.
When I was much younger, I spent some time in Israel working in a Kibbutz. Among the other people on that Kibbutz were survivors of the Shoah. And that became for me a very meaningful and long-lasting aspect of life, that there is a darker side to stepping away from the world around you — to divorcing yourself from all those who don’t like you. Of ending Charlie’s desire, and I like to think Stan’s desire, that this is a world where we want people to live together, where we want them to find a bridge between one another. And if one is going to walk down that path, then one has to take it, I guess all the way.
AIPT: As we wrap up, you’re one of the rare creators who has multiple generations of fans.
Chris: Three generations.
AIPT: And your well of ideas never seems to run dry. To what do you attribute your endless creativity and enthusiasm for the world of the X-Men?
Chris: I’m too stupid to get out when I had a chance? I had this book for 17 years, give or take. No one outside of perhaps Stan has had that opportunity to embrace a concept and play with it. And for better or worse, the more I played with it, the more I created to play more with it.
AIPT: Finally, what’s next after X-Treme X-Men? Can you tease anything?
Chris: I can tease, I just can’t say, but it spins off of yet another really good story that would — I think — make a really good movie. But that’s just me, especially given the cast involved. But, the first issue just went off to the penciler and we’ll see where it goes from there.
And you know, if I had my druthers, it would be cool to get the green light for another arc of Gambit, especially with Sid Kotian drawing it. That would be wonderful. And quite frankly, it would be a lot of fun to keep working with Salva. I could think of few things that would entice me more.
AIPT: Looking forward to seeing what’s next. But on that note, thanks so much for taking the time to talk, Chris — it’s always an honor!
Now for some eXclusives. First up, another look at that new Storm design, courtesy of Salvador Larroca on the cover of X-Treme X-Men #1’s second printing.
Next, preview pages for X-Treme X-Men #2, on sale December 28, 2022.
And finally, your first look at the cover and solicitation for X-Treme X-Men #5!
X-TREME X-MEN #5 (OF 5)
CHRIS CLAREMONT (W) SALVADOR LARROCA (A/C)
As the battle between the wounded X-MEN and mighty GALÉRER reaches a deadly climax, the anti-mutant PURITY demonstration boils over into unbridled chaos! Can the mutants save the innocent civilians and stop the villains at the same time? And at what cost – to themselves and the city of Chicago? The epic conclusion to Chris Claremont and Salvador Larroca’s latest chapter of X-TREME X-MEN!
Until next time, X-Fans, stay exceptional!
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