Nov 15, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #10: Chris Claremont

Welcome to the first installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Chris Claremont!

Why Is He #10?

In 1975, after he and Dave Cockrum introduced the All-New, All-Different X-Men, Len Wein gave the task of writing UNCANNY X-MEN to Chris Claremont, who, along with artists like Cockrum and John Byrne, took the X-Men, redefined them, ran with them, made them the hottest comic book franchise on the planet, and never looked back.

Under his pen, the X-Men were one gigantic dysfunctional family. Claremont's characterization was so strong that he could have a whole issue with just everyone talking, and it would be fine, because everyone's personalities were so dynamic. In particular, Claremont is known for the moment when Wolverine became a superstar:

And developing personal relationships between various members of the team, and really setting the group dynamic:

Claremont was also known particularly for his very strong characterization of females. Jean Grey became Phoenix under his watch:

And Storm became the team leader - the first woman AND non-white character to do so for any mainstream superhero team.

In addition, Claremont really, really got the whole concept of using superheroes as metaphors for the real world. The X-Men is really a story about prejudice, and anyone who's ever been prejudged can relate to it. Such was the premise of one of Marvel's first graphic novels, GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS, written by Claremont and drawn by Brent Anderson. The entire book is about religious persecution of mutants - and it was relevant back then, and it's relevant now. It was also the basis for X-MEN 2, the only time a comic book story with characters full of history (so not counting THE CROW, WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, and those other "complete" stories) was the full basis for a movie adaptation.

For soap operatic writing and making monumental strides to address relevant social issues in his comics, Chris Claremont is number 10.

Where Can I See His Influence?

The influence of Claremont's X-MEN was so prevalent that just a few years after he took over the X-MEN, DC Comics relaunched their teen heroes, the NEW TEEN TITANS, with Marv Wolfman and George Perez, and used pretty much the same formula of tight characterization and soap operatic group dynamics. These were the two highest-selling books of the 1980s.

And, in the 90s, just about every team book tried aping Claremont's X-MEN, including Rob Liefeld's YOUNGBLOOD:

Jim Lee's WILDC.A.T.S:

Even some runs of the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and the AVENGERS:

The formula Claremont laid down for X-Men is still in use today in the X-books and other team books.

What Works of His Should I Read?

I'm always going to fall back on two things. The first is THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA, drawn by John Byrne, where Jean Grey, possessed by the incredibly powerful Phoenix force, is slowly being corrupted by it. This story not only showcases the group dynamics of the X-Men and their strong, individual personalities, but it's also the story that shows so many of their definitive moments, from the moment that made Wolverine a star to the ending, which still gets me every time I read it.

The other one I'll always recommend is GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS. It's a really provocative story about a religious zealot who honestly thinks mutants are evil. If you've ever been judged because of your race, your sexual orientation, your religion, or any other reason, or if you've ever taken up an anti-hate cause, this is a great, great book to read.

Who's next on the list? Come back tomorrow for the ninth most influential comics writer of all time, same Cube time, same Cube channel!

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