Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Speaking of uncanny — let’s talk about 1990’s Uncanny X-Men #268.
Iconic creators — Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Glynis Oliver, and Tom Orzechowski? Check!
Iconic characters — Wolverine, Captain America, and Black Widow? Check!
Iconic cover? Check!
It’s just — you guessed it — iconic. So it’s only natural that it’s getting a sequel this February in Wolverine: Madripoor Knights, a five-issue mini-series written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Edgar Salazar. Hey, just in time for Logan’s 50th birthday! We caught up with Chris to discuss that upcoming mutant milestone, Madripoor Knights, and a certain infamous honeymoon photo, so let’s get started!
Chris Claremont: Well, he’s a flawed person who has spent his whole life trying to cope with that — trying to figure out which side of the line he’s on. Is he a beast who’s pretending to be a man or a man who’s tormented by the beast side of his reality? That struggle is one we all face at one level or another. And with Logan, it’s brought to the forefront.
AIPT: OK, onto the new mini-series. X-Fan Wolvergoat wanted to know what made you want to revisit the story from Uncanny X-Men #268 for Wolverine: Madripoor Knights? Was this a story you pitched or was it pitched to you?
Chris: Editor Mark Basso and I have a whole catalog of ideas that we bounce back and forth. And for the last few years, for better or worse, I’ve kept my distance from current continuity. Staying — sort of back in my original run — is a more comfortable way of presenting the characters in that it’s focused almost entirely on my vision of who they are. And from a creative standpoint, it’s a cleaner presentation. The current continuity doesn’t have to worry about me, and I don’t have to worry about the current continuity.
Then it comes down to how much the stories appeal to the audience. I hope a lot, but the marketplace these days is so challenging that it’s hard to determine what will work and what won’t. And we’re dealing with the reality that books are far more expensive now than when Logan and the X-Men started. I mean, back then we were talking 15 cents an issue — maybe a quarter to 35 cents if it’s an annual. That’s a whole different reality than 5 bucks.
Then it’s just trying to balance everything out and tell a good story. In terms of Madripoor Knights, it was a lot of fun to both ask and answer the question: What brings Captain America there? What brought Natasha there in the first place? There’s a lot of open space in the presentation, especially since the series picks up about 4 hours after the original single issue ends. And, you know, as with all good single issues — much more so than with doubles, triples, and continued arcs — you find yourself saying, “Well, OK, they’re here — what brought them here?” And then, “What the heck happens next?”
So I ask and answer.
AIPT: Would you say that’s your elevator pitch for Wolverine: Madripoor Knights? Or is there more you’d want potential readers to know?
Chris: The baseline premise for the series is it’s a team-up between Cap, Logan, and Natasha. In the initial story, you have Natasha and Logan in the present, as well as Natasha as a child, Cap as a brand-new Captain America, and Logan in the past. So it was technically a team-up, but not quite. This brings you to the next step, and I hope along the way the series asks and answers some questions people might have about what happened in the beginning.
What were Natasha and Logan doing?
AIPT: Well, what can you share about the origins of Uncanny X-Men #268? What made you want to tell that story?
Chris: It was Jim and me just getting started. We had Logan, Jubilee, and Psylocke in Madripoor. We had just finished what happened with Betsy in the three-part story that was, in a way, Jim’s audition. So, I think I just wanted to do a one-part story. You get on, you say your piece, and you get off. Tell a story in a single issue, hand it to someone who’s never read Uncanny X-Men before, and see if they can get to the end of the story and know all they need to know. And maybe they want to come back and see what happens next without resorting to tender hooks.
This comes out of my upbringing, I guess. Stan Lee’s philosophy was that since the distribution of comics was so wretched, every issue should be a one-part story because you can never guarantee that the same store will get the same series next month. On the other hand, he would say, if it’s a really good story, like God Loves, Man Kills, you can have two issues.
AIPT: X-Fans Hariel Avila and Mario B said Jubilee and Psylocke were in the original story. Can we expect them to play a role in Wolverine: Madripoor Knights as well?
Chris: No. That’s what the first issue’s all about: Get it focused on Cap, Natasha, and Logan. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that at some time in the future, the question might be asked, “Well, what the heck were Psylocke and Jubilee doing for those two days?” Well, maybe we should do a story that shows you what they were doing for those two days.
AIPT: Well, two X-Fans asked this question, so the demand is there.
Chris: Oh, I have no problem with that. But it’s not entirely up to me.
AIPT: While we’re talking all things Logan, X-Fan Martyn Jones was wondering why you left the original 1988 Wolverine series with John Buscema.
Chris: There aren’t enough hours in the day. At that point, I was trying to hold onto Excalibur. But more importantly, Uncanny X-Men had gone to 18 issues a year and bi-weekly in the summer. So something had to give and it was Wolverine. I always felt that was a shame because I liked the idea of playing Logan as a kind of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. He outwitted people more than just slashing and burning.
AIPT: A general X-Men question we received — X-Fan Uncanny X-Man asked, why didn’t Rogue have a “real” name for the entirety of your first X-Men run? Was her name supposed to be a mystery, perhaps revealing a secret familial connection, or did you just not want to reveal it?
Chris: She did have a real name. It was Rogue.
AIPT: These days, I believe the “real” name given to her is Anna Marie.
Chris: I do not claim responsibility for anything that other creators have done with this series.
AIPT: I think the question is asking whether there was something more there you just didn’t get to, but it seems like “Rogue” was enough.
Chris: Well, it was enough for me. A lot of things happen to characters when I’m not involved with them.
Kitty had a significant change in her life after Alan Davis and I left Excalibur, which to my eye, had a significant negative impact on the concept of Marvel-integrated continuity. And when I came back as Editorial Director, I tried to fix it. I figured, “Hey, I’m a vice president, let’s see what we can do.” And the fans reacted with incredible fury. So, you know, that’s the way things happen. There’s not much one can really do about it other than shrug one’s shoulders and say, “Oh, well, we hit the iceberg, we’re sinking fast, end of story.”
AIPT: I know you mentioned you and Mark have a catalog of ideas. Are you currently working on any other Marvel projects beyond Wolverine: Madripoor Knights?
Chris: It’s way too soon to talk about any of them. I think they’re good ideas, so we’ll see, A: What Mark thinks, B: What’s feasible, and C: Where we go from there.
AIPT: Alright, well finally, a fun question (I hope) and something I’ve seen X-Fans talk and wonder about for a long time. In Uncanny X-Men #178, Professor X opens a letter from Scott Summers that includes a picture of Scott and Madelyne Pryor in bed on their honeymoon. The question I’m hoping you can finally answer is… who took that picture?
Chris: I think if I had any sort of inappropriate intentions, it was to say, “Yes, we’re not fooling around, they’re really married. They’ve done it all — get used to it.” It’s not like she’s an evil wraith from another dimension or a clone.
Ah… clones. Clones, clones…
AIPT: But Chris, who took the picture?
Chris: I’m sorry. Have you never seen the first iteration of Star Trek, where you have little communicators where the top flips up and you can call anywhere? I mean, Scott could have had his super secret X-phone plugged into the wall. It could have been the White Queen. They might have had a slight relationship. Maybe it was Mister Sinister just hanging around.
I mean, it tells you something about Charlie, that the finest telepath on the planet couldn’t figure out she was a clone. But it was my way of saying as often and as emphatically as I could, that this was for real. They were happily married and somebody in the X-universe was going to have a happy ever after.
Scott’s happy. He’s happy for probably the first time in his life. And he’s happy in a way that I don’t think he ever was with Jean. Yes, Scott loved her. Yes, she loved him — (until the Canadian showed up, but that’s a whole different direction to go in) — But the idea with Madelyne was that he put all those old feelings on the shelf where they were in a box where they belong and he was trying something new. And yes, it was a tease that she looked just like Jean, but that’s what melodrama is all about. The important thing for him was this was a new beginning.
He tried a little with Colleen Wing, he tried a little with Lee Forester — who ended up with Magneto, so where do you figure that’s gone? But people have more than one date, more than one girlfriend or boyfriend in their lives. You never know where it leads until it leads to the right ending. And for Scott, I wanted this to be it. I literally wanted him to have a happily ever after to an extent that even Reed and Sue don’t have in the Fantastic Four.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The end result of this whole thing was something that it took Louise Simonson and me a couple more years to figure out. In all honesty, I don’t like it. But I don’t like it because it’s not what I thought Scott deserved and had earned. But that’s me as much as a reader as a creator.
AIPT: One of the great what-ifs in X-Men history. But on that note, Chris, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. Always an honor.
X-Fans, Wolverine: Madripoor Knights #1 goes on sale February 7, so be sure to reserve a copy. Here’s an eXclusive first look at the mini-series’ first issue illustrated by Edgar Salazar:
And here’s an eXclusive look at Philip Tan’s cover to Wolverine: Madripoor Knights #2.
Until next time, X-Fans, stay exceptional!
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