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65 Why did Chris Claremont leave the X-titles? Why did Peter David leave X-Factor?




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This article is from the X-Men Comic Books FAQ, by Kate the Short (racmx@yahoo.com) with numerous contributions by others.

65 Why did Chris Claremont leave the X-titles? Why did Peter David leave X-Factor?

For this question, the FAQ-keeper is going to try and be as objective as
possible, which is tough on a question in which all information has so
far come in from interviews in fan press. However, this is definitely a
FAQ, and deserves being treated in this FAQ. Here's hoping for
objectivity.

Chris Claremont left the books he had worked on for almost half his life
because of one person, the X-titles group editor, Bob Harras. Claremont
had often stressed in interviews how important having an editor who
worked well with him on the stories was, and was thankful that all the
editors he had had (this was during Nocenti's reign) had been wonderful
and talented. Obviously, something went wrong as Harras took over,
although the eventual cause was due to problems on both sides.

The problems have been revealed in a few interviews. Harras is in a bit
of a hot seat in the very competitive, corporate atmosphere of Marvel.
One slip of the titles, and he has to explain himself to his superiors.
He's therefore always interested in keeping the books popular and
selling well, a sensible attitude for any editor.

Something that obviously caught his eye was the huge upswelling of fan
support for artists of the "Image" type (although they weren't called
that back then, since Image hadn't been created yet). Rob Liefeld, Jim
Lee, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, and Whilce Portacio were at the
forefront of a style in comics that was very popular at the time. So
popular that when McFarlane requested a title to try out his burgeoning
desire to write his own stories on, he got one starring the Marvel
flagship character, Spider-Man. The Marvel Offices were so impressed
with the sales figures coming from these artists that they were willing
to do almost anything to keep them.

One thing they weren't, though, was to give up some of the money they
were making out of selling licensed materials (t-shirts, pins, posters,
etc.) done by those artists. For these as well as other reasons, the
above artists and a few more fled Marvel in what has come to be called
the X-Odus, since so many of them worked on mutant titles at the time.
They went and founded Image. For more information, you should ask at
rac.misc.

How this relates to Claremont leaving, as well as his good friend and
fellow X-writer Louise Simonson, is as follows: maybe on his own,
perhaps because of pressure from the offices above him, Harras was
extremely protective of the Image artists on his titles. Somebody,
somewhere, was convinced that they were why the titles were selling, and
wanted them made as comfortable as possible. The trouble with the Image
artists on monthly books, like the X-Men, has been shown: they're all
terribly slow, and usually were late. This annoyed Claremont, who was
accustomed to working with workhorses like John Byrne and Dave Cockrum.

Also, as the Image team started recognizing how much strength they had
at Marvel, they started asking for more power. Jim Lee, Claremont's
penciler at the time on UXM, in particular wanted more say in how the
plot went. Claremont, usually more than happy to co-plot with his
artists, didn't like the fact that Lee's idea of co-plotting was that he
drew the issue any way he felt like, and then shipped it off to
Claremont, usually just under deadline, for him to fill in the dialogue
balloons with no say in what would appear in the issue. While the usual
practice at Marvel is to have the art made before the dialogue is
written (it's a practice that started back when Stan Lee was writing
every Marvel book in the 60s, and it's even called the "Marvel Style"
comics-writing), usually co-plotting involves the writer and the artist
deciding what will be in the issue together.

When Claremont complained about this, and the usual tardiness of Lee, to
Harras, he was told that his opinions were recognized, and things were
being worked on. However, nothing apparently was ever done. Indeed,
Harras gave Lee complete plot veto on any new plot lines (it should be
noted that Lee did not request anything like that from Harras). This
meant that Lee had all effective plotting power on the X-Men title,
since he could, if he felt like it, deny Claremont any plot that he
didn't like.

All of this might seem a bit rude, and possibly Claremont felt that
after giving twenty years of his life to this one title, he was entitled
to a bit of info as to what, exactly, the editor of that book wanted
from his writer. Apparently Harras either never answered, or else didn't
answer to Claremont's satisfaction, so after issue #3 of the new X-Men
book, Chris Claremont left the X-titles. A sign of the atmosphere he
left in was that his departure wasn't even mentioned in the letter
columns of the books he had written for sixteen years. Louise Simonson,
who had much the same experiences happen to her, left at about the same
time. To be frank, Claremont's scripting, plotting, and dialogue had
been slipping in his final years, and a sabbatical would certainly have
been helpful even in more calm circumstances.

With the departure of what was once the most dependable writing corps in
the history of major comics, Harras was now free to fill the titles with
writers who wouldn't complain so much about the artists who wanted to
run the titles a bit more indepth. The first person he got, though,
perhaps in an attempt to reclaim some of the "Big Name" marquee value he
lost when Claremont left, was old X-Men penciller and co-plotter John
Byrne. Byrne, however, was not going to even be given the illusionary
title of "writer"; he was just there to script Jim Lee's X-Men plots,
and Whilce Portacio's plots for Uncanny X-Men.

Byrne lasted only five issues on Uncanny (#281-285), and only two on the
new X-Men (#4-5). According to Byrne, he encountered the same troubles
as Claremont as scripter of the books. Lee and Portacio were
consistently late. Pages were faxed to Byrne hours before deadline for
him to dialogue as they came in, often without knowing how the book was
going to end because the plotter/artists hadn't bothered informing him.

Byrne complained to Harras. Byrne pointed out that in any other DC or
Marvel comic, the writers usually got three months to work on one issue
(most are done far before then, but that's the usual margin of safety).
He didn't mind working a few extra nights and burning the midnight oil,
because he liked the X-Men, but all he asked for was at least one month
to actually think about the issue. Harras thanked him for his comments,
and said he would work on it. No further pages were ever faxed to Byrne
for him to script.

Having now annnoyed most of the major X-writers of the past to the point
that they wouldn't work with him, Harras ended up with Scott Lobdell (a
stand-up comedian and comics writer Harras offered the job to at a
party) and Fabian Nicieza (one of Marvel's editors) as his main writers
on the X-titles. All was looking good until the X-Odus occurred, and
suddenly Harras didn't have all the Big Name Artists that had to be so
carefully protected. The chances of Harras getting back Claremont and
Byrne to write now that the artists who were partially to blame for
driving them away were gone was rather slim, so there was an obvious
period of scrambling at the X-offices to get creative teams to cover the
books.

With Claremont gone, the brightest bit of writing in the X-titles had to
be Peter David, the new writer on the "new" X-Factor. Easily mixing his
standard blend of top-notch humor with good characterization, David was
impressing people with how interesting a bunch of once second-rate
mutant characters could be. Not even this relationship was a smooth one,
however, because David quickly became annoyed by another mainstay of the
mutant titles: the crossover.

David didn't like the fact that the mutant titles invariably crossovered
once a year, often for three or so issues. He also didn't like how he
was always given fill-in artists because artist Joe Quesada was never on
time with his art (a common complaint apparently). He felt that it was
an insult to the reader to have to make do with shoddy art that was
rushed out because the regular penciler couldn't be bothered to get his
art out on time.

Meanwhile, he expressed disgust that the X-Office didn't even want him
continuing his main plot during the crossovers. He had to fight and
complain just to get one page per issue in of his normal, supposedly
ongoing, plot in his own book. Why? The editors said that it was simpler
if there was no ongoing plot in the crossovers, because then it would be
easier to collect the whole thing in a trade paperback for future resale
value without having to edit out those annoying exterior plotlines.

David's other complaints (which were listed for the net.community in a
resignation-style letter) included the mangled rescripting of a plot
device that originally was supposed to detect whether a woman's fetus
was a mutant or not (thus possibly opening the option of an abortion),
as well as demands about what characters he was supposed to feature in a
given issue. A message posted by David to an AOL folder in March 2000
sums it up:

Two reasons: I was having to backburner my ongoing storylines
every three issues or so to accommodate crossovers (giving it a
very dis-jointed feel) and the editors were "taking over" the book
in that they were dictating storylines and developments that I felt
were going to be damaging (ex: Insert Random as a member of the
team and kill off the Multiple Man.) Also they were changing my
dialogue unilaterally after I'd turned it in without telling me.
So I walked.

With that being what he had to live with, David resigned from X-Factor.
The usual bunch of scrambling, fill-in teams rushed to fill his and
Quesada's shoes (Quesada, like most of the "hot" artists, apparently
couldn't be bothered to keep to a monthly standard).

As a final note, it's unsure just how much ill-will there still is over
the X-Odus fallout. Claremont and Lee, for instance, apparently like
each other enough that Claremont wrote three issues of Lee's
WildC.A.T.S. comic (hardly a major sign of dislike).

Chris Claremont returned to Marvel a few years ago, albeit in a
different capacity. He was a Vice-President position at Marvel, in
charge of story development across the Marvel titles, and his writing
tasks included Fantastic Four and a six-issue run of Wolverine.
Evidently Claremont had enough fun on the titles that he decided to come
back--the Revolution of the X-titles saw Claremont return as scripter
and plotter of the core titles just shy of 100 issues after his
departure.

Unfortunately, Claremont only lasted twenty issues--ten on each title.
He wrote X-Men #100-109, and UXM #381-389. Claremont's second run often
emphasized the problem he faced with his run on Fantastic Four: Chris is
a fantastic writer once he's gotten steam built up, but he's a writer
who needs time to think before putting pencil to page. Given the sudden
shift over to full-time writer of the titles (while he was writing the
FF), he didn't have time to work out all of the plot dynamics until he
was about to leave the main titles. While some of the plots were quite
interesting, others left a lot to be desired. The Neo characters were
very flatly characterized, the plot with Shadowcat was left on a back
burner when the editors wanted the plots to speed up and go in another
direction, and the six-month gap meant that characters were neither
familiar to the fans coming to the books from the wildly popular X-Men
movie, nor to the fans who had been reading through the years.

Claremont wasn't fired from the core titles. However, when new Editor-
in-Chief Joe Quesada started restructuring the X-Books a year after
Claremont's return, he gave Claremont a choice: share the core book
writing with one other writer, or move to a single new title that would
be separate from the core titles. Claremont opted for the latter.


 

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