Chris Claremont appeared on Syfy Wire’s live stream from C2E2 Sunday to discuss his upcoming story in Marvel Comics Presents #5, going back to the 1980s and the Cross-Time Caper era of Excalibur. But before that, the greatest comic book writer to ever live talked about how he gets work at Marvel these days — at the whims of editors!
“Basically, as with all things at Marvel, an editor called up and said, would you like to write this story?” Claremont said of how he got the Marvel Comics Presents story gig. “And I said yes. So I wrote the story, and that led to another story, which is leading, apparently, to another story, and another story, but that’s the way it goes. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Very rarely do you go in and say ‘I’ve got a great idea’ because when you do that, editors kinda go ‘huhh?’ They like to have the idea first, and they bring it to the writers, and then we make it work.”
Claremont talked about taking inspiration from real life for his characters and stories and why Nightcrawler is awesome (and inspired by Frankenstein) before discussing what he hopes readers will take from his Marvel Comics Presents story featuring the character, hinting that there could be some major revelations in store for him (and also spoiled the ending).
“Well, it’s a short story so we have to get on, say our piece, and get off really quickly,” Claremont explained. “I would like [readers] to think this is a decent guy, this is a guy with a sense of humor, this is a guy who, out of nowhere, is about to discover potential secrets about his past he never dreamed of in my run or anything else’s, and the conclusion is: what are you gonna do about it? The end result in the story is Kitty says, eh, we’re gonna be here for overnight. Let’s go walk the town and have fun. And being Nightcrawler, he says okay.”
Finally, Claremont was asked the difference between making comics today and making it back in the 80s, and he was more than happy to dig into that topic.
“I think, from a purely technical standpoint, in the 80s, there was more variety and freedom in that the artists we had available to us were far more fluid and relaxed storytellers,” he said. “We dealt mostly with presenting the story to the artist as a plot and we trusted the artist’s ability to tell stories, to break it down into panels and pages. This was how Stan worked with Jack Kirby. This is how I worked with John Byrne, how I worked with Salvador Larroca, among the many many many many others. And from a creative standpoint, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a synergy. The best ideas of the writer teamed with the best ideas of the artist. The artist’s talent inspires the writer, the writer’s talent focuses the storyelling of the artist.”
But when it comes to the preferred “full script” method of modern comics, Claremont seemed less than enthused.
“When you do a full script, it’s much easier from the editor’s standpoint because you’ve got the whole story in front of you,” Claremont explained. “But when you’re dealing with a gifted storyteller, like for example Bill Sienkiewicz, to me, it’s waste of time. Telling him what to do panel by panel by panel denies the opportunity to watch him strut his stuff and then exploit that. In a way, doing a plot first and evolving the story is like listening to jazz players jam or rock players jam.
“We’re just following the music and improvising. Whereas full scripts are totally structured and it’s all locked in from the start. It will come out looking brilliant sometimes, but it loses, to me anyway, that element of freedom, of effervescence, of inspiration that I, as a reader, loved. That’s the kick that got me hooked with FF 48 back in the dawn of time and I kept coming back because the synergy of Jack Kirby’s brilliant storytelling and Stan Lee’s ability as writer to hone it all together into a coherent finished product was just irresistible.”
God damn editors.
When Syfy Wire releases the final video of the segment, we’ll update this article with it. Claremont’s Excalibur short story appears in the upcoming Marvel Comics Presents #5, with another short story in the Wolverine: Exit Wounds one-shot in June. Claremont remains under retainer as a Marvel exclusive writer, but thus far a Marvel editor has not invited him to write an ongoing series since 2014’s Nightcrawler.
MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #5
CHARLES SOULE, CHRIS CLAREMONT & MORE (W)
PAULO SIQUEIRA. LUKE ROSS & MORE (A) • Cover by ARTHUR ADAMS
VARIANT COVER BY ROB LIEFELD
Welcome to the 1980s, Marvel style! First, Wolverine’s Vigil goes into its fifth decade but doesn’t go the way he planned. Then, join Nightcrawler mid-Cross-Time Caper at the fall of the Berlin Wall! Finally, a tale of one of ’80s Marvel’s biggest creations, that most lethal of protectors, Venom!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99