Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Documentary Spotlights Chris Claremont's 'X'-Cellent Work; by Rick Bentley

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Documentary Spotlights Chris Claremont's 'X'-Cellent Work; by Rick Bentley

Article excerpt

Byline: Tribune News Service

One of the major milestones in comic book history came in May 1975 when a very young writer with an interest in acting, Chris Claremont, took over penning the exploits of a band of mutants in the Marvel's "Uncanny X-Men."

He got the job both because of his enthusiasm for the characters and because the comic was doing so poorly in circulation that veteran writers had little interest.

What happened after is the subject of Patrick Meaney's documentary, "Chris Claremont's X-Men," available through Video on Demand. The film is an extended version of the director's 2013's "Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont's X-Men." Officially, the book and band of heroes are Marvel's "X-Men," but Claremont made such an impact on the book and the comic industry over the next 17 years, the comic book title was transformed by Claremont's embracing of change and the respect he showed for the readers.

Not only did Claremont save "Uncanny X-Men" from cancelation, he turned it into the company's biggest hit.

The success can be measured in the influence his writing had as his storylines have been used to create 10 films and television series. It can also be measured in how Claremont changed the way comics were written, implementing complicated plots, delving deep into the psychology of human emotions and pushing for more of an emphasis on female characters by moving them into leadership levels.

Even when talking about his work and career, Claremont reveals his complicated thinking process.

He refuses to talk about which of the hundreds of characters he created are his favorites or which artists did the best job at bringing his words to life.Claremont deflects that kind of scrutiny to a later time because he's still working and such retrospective analysis can't be done until the journey ends.

He does offer a few glimpses into the process that made him one of the most successful comic book writers. On the question of what audience he was writing for with his intelligent and detailed stories, Claremont says it was a simple approach that worked.

"My ambition was very fundamental. I wanted to grab every set of eyes, every brain and member of the audience who was out there," Claremont says. "The only way to do that was to tell stories and create characters and put them through hell in ways the readers found irresistible. I think that's what every writer's ambition is when starting out. The trick is succeeding."

Claremont pauses and then adds that success often is "sheer dumb luck." In his case, that was his being the right young and energetic writer who happened to be on the Marvel staff when one of their comic books was struggling, despite having a solid cast of characters. He took that opening and wrote stories that to him just felt right. …

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