It’s pretty much impossible to be an X-Men fan and not love the work of Chris Claremont. After all, the writer provided decades of foundation today’s X-Creators like Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard continue to build on to this day. The man’s a legend. With that said, he’s a legend I have a complicated personal history with.
I’ve interviewed Claremont twice–once in 2017 at New England Super Megafest Comic-Con and, more recently, this past summer at Terrificon. As there’s never a shortage of fans looking to talk to Claremont at conventions, both were extremely brief conversations featuring questions Claremont clearly wasn’t thrilled to answer.
What’s that saying about never meeting your heroes?
Anyway, as I type this, Claremont-signed copies of Uncanny X-Men #136 and #137 are in frames over my desk, so clearly, I have the ability to separate the artist from our awkward interviews. And as I read through the newly released Marvel Visionaries: Chris Claremont trade paperback, I remembered why he can often come off as a bit full of himself–back in the day, the Claremont hype was very real and his countless contributions to the comics medium have truly stood the test of time.
Clocking in at 366 pages with a cover price of $34.99, I strongly believe this TPB would make a great gift for the comic fan in your life this holiday season. Not convinced? What, have you only read X-Men Forever? Maybe X-Men: The End? Well, forget Claremont’s more… let’s say “mediocre” modern works and take a look at three big reasons why you should give this Claremont sampler a shot!
1. Several classic stories all in one affordable collection
Uncanny X-Men #137–the epic final chapter of “The Dark Phoenix Saga”–Check! Uncanny X-Men #205–the acclaimed Wolverine solo adventure “Wounded Wolf”–Check! Avengers Annual #10–the first appearance of Rogue–Check! I could go on and on–the point is there’s a lot of solid Marvel storytelling in this pretty affordable TPB.
I referred to this collection as a “Claremont sampler” above, and I very much stand by that label. Look, if you’re craving mozzarella sticks (or the complete Dark Phoenix epic), you order mozzarella sticks from a restaurant’s appetizer menu. But sometimes… sometimes you want to get a sense of all your appetizer options, and that’s when you splurge on the sampler platter.
Damn… now I want mozzarella sticks.
When you pick up this trade, you see how Wolverine’s greatest adversary Sabretooth was initially introduced as an Iron Fist villain. You learn how Rogue got all those powers she had on the ’90s X-Men cartoon. You find out how Logan first met Captain America and get a sense of where Magneto’s rage toward humanity comes from. Essentially, reading this collection gives you a crash course in Marvel–and X-Men–history.
You also see how Claremont left his mark not just on Uncanny X-Men, but its sister titles New Mutants and Excalibur, as one issue from each is featured in here. Which brings me to my next reason for purchasing this TPB…
2. Claremont’s range as a writer on full display
When comics fans hear “Claremont,” it’s likely the X-Men come to mind. But in this post-Marvel Cinematic Universe world we live in, some of them may be surprised at just how many other heroes from the House of Ideas the writer left his mark on, from Captain America to Captain Marvel.
The first comic in this collection is also Claremont’s very first Marvel script: Daredevil and the Black Widow #102. It’s a pretty forgettable tale but fun for Claremont’s hip caption boxes that say things like, “And where do you go to puzzle problems out? Right on, brothers ‘n’ sisters… the public library!”
Someone give this guy the X-Men!
But in addition to Daredevil, you’ve got his fellow Netflix hero Iron Fist and Peter Quill of Guardians of the Galaxy fame in Marvel Preview Presents Star-Lord #11. I had no idea Claremont wrote a lengthy, black-and-white Star-Lord story that was illustrated by John Byrne!
Truly, though, it’s Claremont’s X-Men work where he really got to show off his range as one of comics’ most creative writers. 39 years later, Uncanny X-Men #137 remains one of the greatest comics ever produced and is arguably the best X-Men comic ever made. Stories like “Kitty’s Fairy Tale” (Uncanny X-Men #153) and “Slumber Party” (New Mutants #21) show how masterfully Claremont could write young mutants during his prime. Meanwhile, Logan-focused issues like Uncanny X-Men #205, Uncanny X-Men #268 and Wolverine #3 provide a master class in how to create a comic book legend.
3. Some of the best art in Marvel history
Let’s face it–no matter how solid Claremont’s scripts are, many of these stories wouldn’t be the classics they are today if not for his artistic collaborators. I’m talking names like Arthur Adams, John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Alan Davis, Michael Golden, Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz and Barry Windsor-Smith. Everyone shines in this collection.
If you just flip through the pages of this collection, you come across visuals like Sienkiewicz’s astonishing Warlock, Adams’ grotesque Mojo, Windsor-Smith’s intricately detailed Lady Deathstrike, Davis’ swashbuckling Nightcrawler and Lee’s perfect Captain America. If you’ve never seen any of these images before, just close your eyes and picture pure awesomeness.
Seriously, try it. What you see is awesome, isn’t it?
How’d I do? Are you going to pick up a copy for a friend, or maybe you’re going to gift this TPB to yourself? No matter what you decide, there’s no denying you get your money’s worth with Marvel Visionaries: Chris Claremont. And best of all, if you’re completely new to Claremont and love this collection, there are so many places to go from here–from a Dark Phoenix Saga collection to the Claremont/Miller Wolverine TPB and so on. If it’s a Claremont X-Men epic, there’s a good chance you can track down a collection for it.
Also, is anyone else still craving mozzarella sticks?