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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #3

"Fallout!"
December 1991

In a Nutshell
The death of Magneto & departure of Chris Claremont.

By: Chris Claremont & Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco


Plot
The Gold team races for Asteroid M, hoping to rescue Professor X and their brainwashed teammates before the plasma cannon fires. They manage to seemingly sneak aboard the station and reach Professor X, but they're then attacked by the Blue team. As the battle rages, the Blue team slowly seems to come to their senses, just as Magneto and his Acolytes intervene. But as Magneto suddenly collapses in pain, Wolverine appears with Moira, who explains that her attempt to modify Magneto's mind failed as soon as he used his powers, just as its failed on the X-Men during their battle, and that Cortez, who has fled the asteroid, hasn't been healing Magneto, only amplifying his powers to mask his injuries. Just then, the cannon fires, and Magneto uses the last of his strength to hold the asteroid together long enough for Xavier and the X-Men to flee. But the Acolytes refuse to leave, choosing instead to die with Magneto, and Xavier must be dragged to safety, refusing to abandon his old friend. As Magneto dies, he opens his mind to Xavier, insisting it's better that his dream die in this manner, giving Xavier his dream instead, even as he fears Xavier's heart will break when it fails him. As the X-Men return to Earth, Xavier speaks to the power of hope, insisting that the X-Men are obligated to try and create a better world than the one Magneto knew.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is Chris Claremont's final issue of X-Men, bringing to an end a run (combined with Uncanny X-Men) that stretches all the way back to 1976, as the writer, fed up with the conditions of working with Jim Lee and with editor Bob Harras clearly favoring Lee's ideas for the direction of the series over Claremont's, decides to leave the characters he turned into blockbuster superstars. He will, of course, return to the X-Men, a handful of times of varying lengths and quality, but he'll never again achieve the peaks - creatively or commercially- that he did during this initial, groundbreaking run.

Claremont was actually long gone by the time this issue (and in fact, all three issues of the series thus far) was on sale, with news of his departure leaking to fans around the time X-Force #1 was on sale. He agreed to do this initial three issue story as a sort of severance package for himself, one which ended up paying out handsomely.

Magneto dies this issue, going down in flames aboard Asteroid M along with his remaining Acolytes, in order to help the X-Men escape. He will, of course, be back, but remains dead for roughly two years (1993's crossover, "Fatal Attractions", is built around his return), which is a rather remarkable length of time for the franchise to go without its signature villain, especially at a time when it's profile is arguably the highest it will ever be. It marks the longest sustained absence of the character since his de-aging in Defenders, and as someone who read most of these issues in real time, month-to-month, it certainly felt a lot longer than two years before he came back.


Magneto's death can be read as another example of the future Image guys cleaning house, pushing him out of the way along with the Reavers, Hellfire Club and Hellions over in Uncanny, but given that he receives much more of a proper sendoff than those characters, and his death coincides with Claremont's departure from the series, it reads much more like Claremont putting his favorite toy back in the toybox before he leaves.

This initial wave of Acolytes, most of whom are ciphers beyond Cortez, also die this issue, and for the most part, they will remain dead, though the concept of the Acolytes will be resurrected by Cortez and that iteration of the group will eventually come to serve the resurrected Magneto as well.


The latest iteration of Asteroid M is destroyed as well, though we'll eventually see that parts of it will fall to Earth, and some of those parts will later serve as the basis for Utopia, the artificial island sanctuary the X-Men will operate out of during Matt Fraction's later run.

This issue rolls back the idea, suggested in the previous one, that Magneto's repudiation of his villainous nature was a result of being brainwashed by Moira while an infant in her care, establishing that while Moira did try to alter him biochemistry, the change was reversed almost immediately after Magneto started using his powers, an effect also depicted on the brainwashed Blue team: the more they use their powers, the more quickly they come to their senses. Unfortunately, the fact that the previous issue's retcon is undone (re-retconned? Conned?) in this issue occasionally gets overlooked, as some sources still cite Moira's manipulation as the explanation for Magneto's time as a member of the X-Men.


Cortez's true colors are revealed this issue as well, and we learn that his mutant ability to amplify other abilities is merely masking Magneto's ill-health, making him worse rather than healing him (confirming Cortez does not in fact have a healing power), shortly before abandoning Magneto and the rest of the Acolytes to their deaths, the better to position himself to take full advantage of Magneto's oncoming martyrdom. It will eventually be revealed that Cortez, like Fitzroy and Shinobi Shaw, is a member of the Upstarts, with his "killing" of Magneto giving him a sizeable points advantage in their contest.


Gambit and Rogue are seen interacting with each other directly for the first time in this issue, the start of a relationship that will come to dominate the franchise for next half dozen or so years, and never truly goes away. Gambit seems to hint that he'd be immune to Rogue's powers, something he'll do on-and-off through the years, before she does touch him, and it turns out, he's not (with his insistence otherwise chalked up to cockiness/indifference).


The Blue team fights the Gold team this issue, an idea so obvious in its geekery once two teams of X-Men are created that it's not surprising it happened this fast (though with plenty of other things to cover, the actual fight doesn't amount to much, and no clear winner really emerges).

A Work in Progress
Opening narration in this issue declares that roughly 50 miles up is where space begins, the highest point humans can travel in anything less than a rocket. I have no idea if this is correct, but it's one of those cool science-y facts that occasionally get worked into comics.

The Gold team's method of reaching Asteroid M is also clever, in that comic book science kind of way: flying a transparent glider powered by Storm into space, after which Jean telekinetically grabs onto the asteroid and drags the ship towards it. Not sure the science entirely holds up (and Forge apparently built this thing fast), but on the surface, it's lots of fun.


Banshee's jaw is broken by Gambit this issue, a minor continuity point over the next couple issues. 

Claremontisms
In the last Claremontism scripted by the man himself, Delgado tells Colossus, it's "your choice...your funeral!"


The Best There is at What He Does, Mon Ami
Similar to his catching of a bullet in issue #1, Gambit is able to use his staff to deflect all of Forge's shots.


Human/Mutant Relations
On the final page of the issue, Professor X gives a little soliloquy which can be read as Claremont giving a final statement on the purpose of the X-Men and their thematic importance.


Bob Harras on Chris Claremont Leaving the X-Men
"With X-Men, there are some things you can't get away from for too long: the school dynamics; Xavier; the fact that they're essentially students learning how to use their powers; that sort of thing. But the book was becoming more like Avengers. The X-Men now had aliens and magically-powered characters on the team. I felt like we had to go back to what X-Men was all about, and to me X-Men was Xavier and Scott and Jean and all the other classic characters. But Chris didn't want to do that kind of stuff any more. He felt that he had done it already. My point was, 'Sure, that's the X-Men!' It was getting so we were speaking the same language, but we couldn't understand each other.

Also, at that point, I was getting whispers from the sales department, saying that the retailers were unhappy. There was a subtle pressure from that direction to do something drastic with the book. It was doing well enough, but I got these rumblings that excitement wasn't there any more. It had the numbers still, that was Chris' point, and it was valid. His books had the best sales by far in the industry. He had made it the number one book. Why mess with that? But, on the other hand, I knew I had a great asset in Jim [Lee], who also had feelings about the direction he wanted the stories to take. It was like, 'Which way do we go?' The other thing was, as the books were coming out during all this tension, they were getting better and better. There was more excitement in them. So I thought, 'Okay, if we get through this, Chris will see that we're having a great ride here."

"On the one hand, I was thinking, 'Hey, buddy, we're just going to keep on going!' But there was also a fear in me that the franchise was going to die. I had read Chris's X-books for years, so his leaving was huge. I really wanted to work it out. I wanted Chris and Jim to be a team. When Chris opted out, there was this definite feeling of, 'Holy shit!' But another part was, ;Okay, we can still do this,' Because I did believe in the character, the concept, and that we could keep going. That being said, I was far from happy, because I had great respect for Chris. Even in our worst head-butting period, I recognized Chris as the guy who had created this thing. Well, maybe not created, but had certainly developed it. So I had mixed emotions. but I also knew that Jim had a lot of really exciting ideas".

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p178

Chris Claremont on Leaving the X-Men
"Working with Jim [Lee] was a lot of fun, but the institutional strains were starting to kick in. The problem was that Jim was just as strong-willed as I was. Jim wanted to do stuff that reminded him of the things that made him get into comics in the first place. He wanted to bring back Magneto and do the Sentinels and all that sort of stuff. My problem was I had already done those things...at least twice. I wanted to try and find some new stories to do. New stuff for the new millennium, you know! We couldn't find any sort of common ground that would allow us to compromise...Bob Harras was editing X-Men in those days and he was a lot more simpatico to Jim than he was to me. Looking back at it from the vantage point of the here-and-now, I can see no one had either perspective or the incentive to find a way out. There was just no comfort zone. There was just all this butting of heads and we all got boxed into corners. Bob and Jim wanted to do what they wanted to do and the feeling was I could not or would not go along, and they were going to do it anyway. I thought, I've worked too hard. The time has come maybe to see if I can survive with the X-Men. So I quit X-Men and left Marvel."

"At some point, Bob decided to follow Jim's vision on X-Men and that's when I knew it was time to go."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. pp75-76

"It wasn't even a case of 'Jim will handle X-Men, you can take Uncanny.' No one on the editorial side wanted to talk about it, it was just take it or leave it situation....Jim was not a consistent producer. I'd get seven pages; a week or two would go by, and I'd get fourteen pages. There were cases where I'd get the pages and I'd have to script them and send them to the printer a day later. It was a panic."

Howe, Sean. Marvel Comics - The Untold Story. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. p327-328

Chris Claremont on Magneto
"It's never been as cut-and-dried as 'he is a hero, he is a villain,' He is a man with an agenda, a set set of beliefs. He is someone who, if you want a more contemporary analogy, could be considered Malcolm X to Charles Xavier's Martin Luther King. He doesn't trust the world outside. His belief is bone-deep. His belief is that to trust humanity is to ultimately be betrayed by them. He looks around and he, for example, sees what's happening to the Kurds and that proves his point that governments will find a way to screw you no matter how much they say differently. From the perspective of someone who spent his youth in a death camp - not even a concentration camp - in Auschwitz, he is extraordinarily bitter and extraordinarily cynical and extraordinarily distrustful. His belief is 'I must do what I must do to protect my people. I will take whatever steps are necessary to achieve that goal. Whatever is in my way must either get out of my way or I will remove it from my way. Whoever tries to stop me must face the consequences.'"

Darwin McPherson. "An Exact Man: An Interview with Chris Claremont." Amazing Heroes July 1991: p39

Claremont on the theme of prejudice and intolerance in X-Men
“The X-Men is the only Marvel book I’m aware of that, when it was started, had a specific theme, that theme being that humanity hates mutants simply because they exist...the X-Men are hated, feared, and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have here, intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry, and prejudice. That gives it a very possibly far heavier thematic structure than is perhaps intended for [mainstream] comic books, but I think that’s one of the things that’s given the book its endearing nature over the years. It’s a book about outsiders, about people who are beyond the pale, so to speak, which is something that any teenager can identify with. It is a story about downtrodden, repressed people fighting to change their situation, which I think anybody can empathize with. And it’s a book through which we can say certain things about the human condition that might not be as easily said in, say, The Avengers.”

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p32

Austin's Analysis


And with that, Chris Claremont's 15 years writing the X-Men, a run of unprecedented quantity and quality, then and now, comes to an end. He will be back, a few different times (because little in superhero comics is forever), but none of those later returns ever rival this initial run, in terms of length, impact, or sheer quality of writing. This is, for all intents and purposes, the end of an era, and Claremont's importance to the X-Men cannot be overstated. That we are discussing this today, that X-Men movies have been released steadily into theaters for the last sixteen years as of this writing, that the X-Men continue to be a going concern for Marvel, is all down to Claremont, and the work he and his many gifted collaborators did from 1976 to 1991. Everything that follows for the X-Men, for better and worse, lives in the shadow of Claremont, either in attempting to replicate and/or honor what he did, or in reacting against and/or repudiating it. He introduced at least a dozen lasting characters to the Marvel Universe, helped develop Wolverine into a richly complex character and sales engine in his own right, and turned a lone bi-monthly title into a full-fledged franchise.

Much has been written about Claremont's departure, how it was handled, who was to blame. He received a raw deal, no doubt about it, pushed aside in favor of the hot new thing (which, in a delightful bit of schadenfreude, shortly thereafter pushed aside the people who booted Claremont), despite his decades of history and the level of his success, elevating an afterthought of a title into an industry juggernaut. His departure, while necessary in the eyes of the powers-that-be, was handled poorly and by, most accounts, unprofessionally. But Claremont, to his credit, has always presented a measured level of animosity over that. He knew the terms of his employment - if Marvel could survive the departure of Jack Kirby at the height of the Silver Age, it could survive the loss of Chris Claremont during the booming early 90s. Whatever animosity Claremont has let out in public statements seems mostly directed at the work-for-hire model that still dominates American superhero comics, a model which left him little recourse for grievances, while also acknowledging that writing the best-selling comic of all time (and receiving a cut of the profits) certainly made for a decent severance package (it reportedly paid for his house).

And while his departure in this issue is relatively unheralded, left only to a small graphic on the final page, he gets to go out with a thoroughly Claremontian issue. Like the previous two in this series, it suffers from the apparent disconnect between Claremont and Lee, with Claremont's scripting and the sheer energy of Lee's pencils smoothing over some dodgy plotting, but it does feature one of Claremont's favorite tropes: heroes fighting mind-controlled heroes, and Xavier's soliloquy on the final page acts as a kind of final mission statement from Claremont, a final declaration about the power of hope and the responsibility to craft a better world.

It also gives him the opportunity to put in the final word on the crowning achievement of his tenure, the transformation of Magneto from a one-dimensional, cardboard villain into one of fiction's most complex and compelling characters. Magneto would, of course, be back (see above re: finality in comics), but he'll rarely reach the level of complexity Claremont brought to the character. After slowly reaching a point where he was willing to give Xavier's dream a chance, then failing and ultimately declaring himself out of the game, Magneto's final act is to sacrifice himself for the X-Men and his old friend, Charles Xavier, giving in one last time to the better angels of his nature even while insisting that Xavier is a fool for not seeing the world for what is is. It is perhaps the best sendoff the character could have received, one which sends him out on a high note while staying true to his character, safely safeguarding (for a time) Claremont's crowning achievement from the next generation of creators.

But for all this issue makes for satisfying conclusion to Magneto's decades-long arc, it still isn't quite a satisfying conclusion to Claremont's run. But then, it's doubtful anything could have been. To say Claremont had already overstayed his welcome is unduly harsh, but it's hard to imagine a better exit point than any of the ones he's already passed in his fifteen years on the title (the end of "Dark Phoenix" or "From the Ashes", Uncanny #200, the end of "Inferno"), or even this one, which concludes the introductory arc of the series which made X-Men a franchise unto itself, with a final statement on Magneto's character and the thematic significance of the X-Men. His departure deserved more attention, more fanfare, more respect. But at least he got to go out saying something, in a high-profile, well-drawn issue. It could have been better, but it also could have been worse.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Technet shenanigans in Excalibur #45. Friday, flashback shenanigans in Wolverine #49. Next week, Sunfire! in Uncanny X-Men #284.

Collected Editions

35 comments:

  1. I never understood what Magneto had to stay on Asteroid X- why couldn't he leave with the X-Men?
    Moira's explanation as to why her process failed made no sense- she says that as long as a mutant uses his or her powers, any brainwashing will be shaken off. If that's the case, then how did the Genoshans brainwash their mutants for decades?

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    1. Yeah, as Sylar suggested, I've always read the brainwashing comment as being specific to Moira's process. It's not that all mutants are immune to all forms of brainwashing, just that Moira's specific process would fail quickly after a mutant starting using their power.

      And, I think the idea is that Magneto is dead anyway; leaving with the X-Men just means he'll die on their ship rather than in his home. But that probably could have been made more clear.

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  2. Genosha used telepaths to condition their Mutates into a docile, subservient state. Their genetic manipulation was done solely to alter their powers. Moira's brainwashing was done on a genetic level, but faulty as each mutant power usage reversed the brainwashing.

    Magneto was weakened by Repeated exposure to Cortez's power, and further weakened by the plasma cannon's blast on Asteroid M (he's linked to the asteroid, so he felt the plasma blast too).

    He figured he'd save the X-Men, but not himself. The combination of the above effects meant he was dying anyway.

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  3. I can understand that Marvel couldn't give a single writer complete autonomy in perpetuity, but Claremont deserved better.

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  4. Jim wanted to do stuff that reminded him of the things that made him get into comics in the first place. He wanted to bring back Magneto and do the Sentinels and all that sort of stuff. My problem was I had already done those things...at least twice.

    It's a popular knowledge that when someone becomes a comicbook creator on a book he's been a fan to, he wants to re-visit and bring back the stories and villains he was reading as a kid. In this case the generational transition went awry as the co-creator was also the creator of those original stories. The little-explored downside of the, heh, uncannily long creative runs.

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    1. Good point - this is a fairly unique situation, in that few creators stick around on a book long enough to end up working with creators who grew up fans of their work.

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  5. I realize now that as many times as I've read Vol. 2 #1, I've never actually read #2 and #3. I had no clue that Magneto was meant to die at the end of this issue as Claremont's way of saying goodbye. The way it's written sounds VERY final, and it makes me wonder the what ifs: Would Magneto have been killed if Claremont stayed on? If so, would he stay dead? What if other writers never brought him back?

    It's bittersweet reading this review because everything Claremont worked for ended up at this spot, but it was a DAMN good run. And again, I'm wondering about the what if's here regarding what the comics would be like if Claremont was still on them to this day. I read a bit of X-Men Forever, but a lot of the stuff was really far out there and didn't unravel gracefully like a lot of the subplots Claremont would build up over months or even years.

    I'm interested to read the reviews from here on out, because while I discovered and grew to love the X-Men from reading Lobdell and Nicieza's runs in the early 90's, nothing ever compared to the Claremont run. It's been over 20 years since I read those issues, so I'm curious to see if the series retains a level of quality or if it's all downhill from here.

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    1. There's been a fair amount of stuff written online about Claremont's plans had he stayed, some of which made it into X-MEN FOREVER (but not very much, much to my dismay). The big plot involved Wolverine apparently dying and being resurrected as a Hand assassin (with Psylocke's transformation to the same serving as a test run for the process), along with the return of the Shadow King (in which the Muir Island Saga would have played out differently), culminating in a big Shadow King/Xavier/Magneto battle in issue #300 that would leave Xavier dead and Magneto in charge.

      It's hard to say how good "coulda been" stories actually would have turned (and there's simply no way Marvel would have allowed Wolverine to be off the board for that long, not at the height of the speculator bubble), but I do wish Claremont had been able to stay through issue #300. Just seems like a nice, round, jumping off point.

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    2. I remember reading about a lot of these hypothetical plots on a blog a few years ago. Wolverine would come back but as something like a zombie. His healing factor would also be in overdrive and would start pushing his adamantium out of his body and it would start covering his skin, making him look like the Silver Surfer.

      So if the plan was for Magneto to be involved in issue #300 then it sounds like he was meant to stay alive. I'm guessing that since this is Claremont's swan song that he wanted to end on a major note, i.e. killing off their greatest villain.

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  6. And damn, how many times has Banshee had his jaw broken or throat messed up? He was out of the game from early in Claremont's run till the end due to various injuries, and now Gambit breaks his jaw. No clue why they couldn't have just written him out instead of having him be a poster boy for superpowered violence.

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    1. Heh. Yeah. And he's soon gone from the series, not to return until the Generation X run-up, for reasons that have nothing to do with his powers, so it seems someone is just rubbing salt in the wounds.

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  7. "I can understand that Marvel couldn't give a single writer complete autonomy in perpetuity, but Claremont deserved better."

    Truth. At the very least, he deserved a farewell note that didn't look like he died.

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    1. Right!? Considering the orgiastic fanfare DC gave Geoff "my middle name is 'Mediocre'" Johns when he quit Green Lantern after eight-or-so years, Marvel should have given Claremont a goddamned ticker tape parade.

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  8. "it reads much more like Claremont putting his favorite toy back in the toybox before he leaves."

    Yup.
    Claremont: “It was my way of saying, my Magneto is dead. If a Magneto comes back in five issues or fifty issues or whatever, it’s not going to be my Magneto. It may look like him; it may act like him; it may have some of the same attitudes – but it won’t be mine.”

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    1. I've always felt the Magneto we've seen from Fatal Attractions onward was Xorn. The real Magneto never would have interrupted Illyana's (his former student!) funeral raving like a nut job.

      CR

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  9. Great analysis! Despite what I'm about to say in my second post, I do believe that Chris Claremont's importance to the X-Men cannot be overstated and he got a pretty bum deal on his way out. The fact that he doesn't get so much as a little goodbye column on the letters page (does this issue even have one?) is particularly insensitive -- though I suppose it's entirely possible he wouldn't have wanted to do one even if it was offered.

    (All that said, I also feel he was kind of overdue for at least a break by this point.)

    Has anyone ever determined what Claremont made for X-MEN 1 - 3? All I know of royalties back then is John Byrne's statement that ALPHA FLIGHT #1 netted him a check for $500,000. But he was working as writer/penciler/inker, so he would've received a greater share of the royalties than just a writer. That said, AF #1 was about six or seven years before the X-Men relaunch, and the industry boom had barely begun. Claremont must have made a few million off these three issues alone, right? Not bad!


    "...and as someone who read most of these issues in real time, month-to-month, it certainly felt a lot longer than two years before he came back."

    I find this to be the case with lots of comics I read as a kid. The time between this and "Fatal Attractions", between "Age of Apocalypse" and "Onslaught"... the gaps all felt longer at the time than they really were. I think partly it's due to having two X-books going at once, so even if you were only reading the core X-MEN and UNCANNY, two years between X-MEN 3 and X-MEN 25 comes out to about 44 combined issues of both series -- the equivalent of nearly four years' worth of comics if they were just one monthly title instead.

    But more than that, I chalk it up to something I'm sure everyone notices as they get older: our brains just perceive time differently as the years and decades pass. Marvel's first CIVIL WAR was ten years ago now, but I feel like I read it two or three years ago, tops. Heck, I feel like stuff like "Onslaught" was only about ten years ago! But in 1994 or '95, the year since whatever prior crossover had occurred seemed so much longer since that year proportionally comprised a much larger chunk of my life at the time.

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    1. Claremont: "My problem was I had already done those things...at least twice."

      This is my main issue with latter-day Claremont in a nutshell. In sixteen years he did all of those things "at least twice." This is an ongoing, serialized comic book! New readers are coming in every month. The X-Men should be hitting all the classic villains and situations at least once every two years or so. For Claremont to not realize this is kind of selfish on his part. Even when he invented new villains, he'd use them two or three times and then do away with them/reform them/what-have-you rather than keep them around for continued use.

      I'm a firm believer that serial fiction should generally be on a permanent wash/rinse/repeat process, and Claremont didn't seem to want to do that. You can mix things up for a while now and then, and present new angles for old tropes, but the core status quo and rogues gallery should remain perpetually viable forever. This doesn't mean you can't reform or kill off Magneto, but it should be understood by all parties involved that he will be a living villain again in a year or two at most. And certainly if something doesn't work, it can absolutely be reinvented -- look at the original vs. "new" X-Men for an example of that. But the new X-Men did work and there was really no reason to drastically rejigger them once that was established.

      I just think Claremont just stayed too long on X-Men to the point that he got bored with all the classic stuff and wanted to change things for his own entertainment -- which would be fine if this were a creator-owned property, but not for an ongoing corporate brand. Drift too far from the franchise's roots in terms of both cast and status quo, and it becomes unrecognizable and unmarketable.

      But I'm well aware I'm in the minority (both due to ongoing sales back then and due to the reverence in which the latter part of the run is held now), so I'll shut up!

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    2. All that said, in recent years I've just come to look at these things in terms of runs rather than ongoing sagas. Early Claremont is not later Claremont, and neither of those is Lobdell. Dikto/Lee Spider-Man is not Romita/Lee Spider-Man is not Stern/Romita Jr. Spider-Man. They're all good, but in a away they almost exist in separeate individual vacuums for me (except for perhaps Ditko and Romita, which flow pretty well together).

      It makes it much easier on my poor anal brain if I just view these things as different takes -- "novels", if you will -- starring various interpretations of the same basic characters and concepts. I can enjoy later Claremont for what it is; I just don't think of it as the "real" X-Men.

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    3. I hear what you're saying, and can agree to a point. When X-Men #1 hit the stands, and was basically hitting a lot of the same notes as the classic stuff (homage cover, Magneto as villain, students in school, Xavier as headmaster, etc.), it was exciting to me largely because it was the first time I saw those things outside of reprints. That said, I feel like "my" X-Men were the ones that existed basically between issues 200-300 (I'm rounding, it's not quite that long), where those old tropes had been done away with. To me, it was more that the Outback Era was solid, good stuff, but the Teamless Era was weak. Of course, the status quo has to be returned to eventually, but I think the idea that it should happen every year or two doesn't give enough credit to the stuff that happens between those cycles. So yeah, I can see Claremont as being wronged here, even as I can also see that maybe it was time for him to let Lee and others play with the toys and riff on those old themes again. At any rate, it's hard for me not to see X-Men #3 as being maybe the last issue of "My" team, though it would take several more issues and Lee's eventual departure before I dropped the franchise entirely.

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    4. But what's being ignored is that the thing the X-men were known for like fighting Magneto or battling the Sentinels never really sold the book. It's the Dark Phoenix saga and then Days of Future Past and finally a nuanced Magneto that made it so much more than recycled stories. It was breaking new ground that made X-men the juggernaut that it would become.

      I never want to read another alternate future again. Going back to the same stories again and again has hurt the franchise, especially in the Trade Paper Back era when everyone can just read the original stories and see they're having trouble finding a new direction for the franchise.

      CR

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    5. Has anyone ever determined what Claremont made for X-MEN 1 - 3?

      I've never seen an exact figure, but have come across the "it paid for my house" comment a few times, so we're probably talking in the hundreds of thousands, at least. And given how often that chunk of issues gets reprinted, I bet he's still consistently making money off it.

      so even if you were only reading the core X-MEN and UNCANNY, two years between X-MEN 3 and X-MEN 25 comes out to about 44 combined issues of both series -- the equivalent of nearly four years' worth of comics if they were just one monthly title instead.

      I've never really considered that, but you're right. It's really not just two years' worth of comics; with two titles, it's like four years worth.

      And the relativity of time regarding age is just crazy. I get it - when you're 15, one year is a 1/15 of your life; when you're thirty, it's 1/30 of your life, a much smaller fraction, so one year seems to go by faster - but it's still crazy. I can still remember reading the first issue of CIVIL WAR on a friend's couch (at an apartment he had three homes ago), and thinking "yeah, that was just a few years ago" but no, it was more like ten, and that's crazy.

      But I'm well aware I'm in the minority (both due to ongoing sales back then and due to the reverence in which the latter part of the run is held now), so I'll shut up!

      Well, there were reportedly rumblings from dealers at the time about Claremont needing to get more back to basics too, so it's entirely possible that if he'd stayed and done his thing, sales would have been affected (which is what Harras was trying to stave off). Then again, maybe the fervor over the Image guys would have balanced it all out - god knows there's plenty of badly written but nice looking stories to come.

      And outside of little pockets on the internet (like me and Jason Powell), I've always gotten the impression that the later part of his run is the stuff most widely mocked online (and even I don't cite that stuff as my personal favorite, with the "non-team" stuff my least favorite overall).

      My point being I think you're less in the minority than you think. :)

      @CR: Going back to the same stories again and again has hurt the franchise, especially in the Trade Paper Back era when everyone can just read the original stories and see they're having trouble finding a new direction for the franchise.

      You know, that comment got me thinking, in terms of Matt's "two year cycle", how that sort of thing was much more necessary in the pre-trade days, where it wasn't as easy to read classic stories. Whereas nowadays, that stuff is more readily available, so the need to re-tread familiar ground is maybe less pressing. Which may be why we've seen more sustained "off model" status quos over the last 15 years. I mean, it's been at least ten since we had a unified team of X-Men operating out of a mansion under the direction of Professor X. Jean Grey's been dead longer the second time than the first. Even Wolverine's death has stuck longer than anyone expected to (helped, of course, by the technicality that is Old Man Logan being brought into the present timeline by SECRET WARS).

      It's been just as long since the Avengers were operating out of a mansion, the FF aren't even around anymore, and Spider-Man's had a couple of protracted "non-normal" status quos in the last decade and a half. It makes me wonder if creators (and the powers-that-be) are more comfortable stretching those things out now, since the original, classic stories are just a trade (or click) away.

      All of which is just further proof that Claremont is ahead of his time. :)

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    6. It's funny when you talk of "two years cycle", because I understand the emergence of the Silver Age "teenage superhero" akin to Spider-Man or Johnny Storm has been seen as a successful grab for the teenage audience in a situation where the status quo for comic book scene was that the effective comics reading age was the two years from ten to twelve and on that note some publishers would just keep printing the same stories in two years' cycle in their generic title books for the ever-renewing audience.

      Also, the "dealers" grumbling on Claremont's work just gives me a mental image of a particular Simpsons character. Happy now, Comic Book Guy, happy now?! ...It just pains me to realize that the early Radioactive Man episode was contemporary commentary of the comic boom. Talk about "just few years" passing...

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  10. Another thought I had - Do you think Claremont left at the right time for him? Do you think he'd be able to continue writing great stories 10 years down the line if he stayed on the books? Likewise, do you think there were ever times where Claremont phoned it in or showed waning interest?

    I personally can't think of a truly BAD period of Claremont's run. His late 70's X-Men run was filled with standard superheroics and tropes of the time, but when Byrne came on he got away from that and turned the book into something unique. I'm also not a huge fan of his later work during the non-team era, but I think that's because the tone was reflecting the times a little too much and could be too dark and nihilistic at times and not due to the quality of the actual stories.

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    1. While the end of his run isn't for me, I certainly don't believe Claremont ever phoned it in on UNCANNY X-MEN. Heck, he's said that he even paid Tom Orzechoswki and Glynis Oliver a little something extra out of his own pocket now and then to keep them on the book so it could look its absolute best at all times.

      Perhaps his heart wasn't in it near the end due to the struggles with Jim Lee and Bob Harras, but I believe he gave every issue his best effort in any case, whether or not they were issues I personally enjoyed.

      I do believe, however, there was some phoning in on EXCALIBUR. It's evident by the number of fill-ins on that run that he was never as dedicated to it as he had been to UNCANNY and NEW MUTANTS, and his final story arc feels half-hearted. I think he got off on a bad track with "Cross-Time Caper" and that, combined with Alan Davis's departure, led to some sub-par work.

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    2. I agree that I never felt Claremont phoned it in, but the non-team era was a particular low point. As much as the series was rejuvenated by Lee's art, I also think the stories exemplified by this era were a pretty big contrast to the non-team stuff just before it. The comparison can't help but make this stuff exciting. Looking back, I can see why editorial would favor Lee's inclinations.

      I think Claremont could have continued making interesting stories, but his output, at least after Inferno, had been and would probably continue to be uneven. It would be interesting to see what he would have done AT THE TIME, and not the abysmal X-Men Forever stuff.

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  11. As bad as it was to lose Claremont in retrospect, I totally sympathize with Bob Harras here. Jim Lee's artwork from this time period is so iconic that even 25 years later it is used on X-Men marketing materials and spinoff products. The stuff that Lee wants to draw - Magneto, Sentinels, Gambit, the Silver Age team together in the mansion, sexy Rogue - is the same stuff that's about to become a popular, critically acclaimed children's TV series, an arcade game, etc. He can't justify taking the hottest artist with the best franchise vision off the hottest title.

    On the other hand, the last time Claremont had anyone but Jim Lee on board, he went as weird as possible. The Siege Perilous, the issues starring Jean and Forge and Callisto, the Kid Ororo plot, the Cross-Time Caper - if I were editorial, I'd be worried that in a few years we would have another Cerebus on our hands, a book that was no longer intelligible for first-time readers.

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    1. From a business standpoint, I can't blame Harras. My biggest problem with Claremont's departure is just the way it was handled. It deserved more pomp & circumstance, Claremont deserved more respect. It seems like Harras was afraid to address it head-on, and so was very passive-aggressive about it, and that's just poor leadership.

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    2. That would be pretty much in align with what Weezie has said of her departure from X-FACTOR: Harras had this roundabout way to tell you you are not wanted anymore.

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  12. I don’t have much to say right now but will return after reading Jason’s posts and the comments.

    // Bob Harras: “It was getting so we were speaking the same language, but we couldn't understand each other.” //

    Rogue says to Xavier near the end of this issue, about him and Magneto, “Y’all may use the same words, but you don’t speak the same language.” So I can’t help wondering if that was a pet phrase of Harras’ that Claremont worked into the script, consciously or not, or if Harras using it later about Claremont's departure is just an amusing coincidence in that light.

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    1. Huh. Nice catch. I do wonder now if Claremont used that phrasing intentionally.

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  13. One more thought regarding this: "With X-Men, there are some things you can't get away from for too long: the school dynamics; Xavier; the fact that they're essentially students learning how to use their powers; that sort of thing."

    A friend and I were having a discussion last night about how many students actually graduated from Xavier's. I know the original 5 graduated in Uncanny #7, but other than them I can't name any other true graduates. The All-New team were full-fledged X-Men learning on the job, and as far as I know the New Mutants became X-Force before they graduated (Although I recall their outfits after the training uniforms were called Graduation Uniforms). Any more info on this?

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    1. Considering Harras started the Blue and Gold era without any students...I'm not fully buying his explanation. How long did it take before Generation X came out? And they were in a different school!

      CR

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    2. The New Mutants had graduation outfits, but they were self-appointed ones. I don't think they ever "officially" graduated from whatever formal curriculum Xavier had in place.

      In the mid-90s Cannonball "graduated" from X-Force to the X-Men, but that's about all else I can think of offhand. Certainly, through the years, we've seen former young students grow up and become X-Men (the New Mutants eventually became teachers to the New X-Men and then were formed into their own X-Men squad, a handful of the Gen Xers, notably Husk, became X-Men in their own right), but I don't think we've ever seen any kind of formal graduation beyond that very first one.

      @CR: Considering Harras started the Blue and Gold era without any students...I'm not fully buying his explanation.

      That's one of those things that's always bugged me. As much as Harras wanted to get back to basics, this group of X-Men are neither students nor teachers. Yes, they're back in the "school", and yes, Xavier is around, but it's not like we ever see them taking classes or training all that much.

      Which makes sense, because they're all adults with established superhero careers at this point, but Harras shouldn't really be dinging Claremont for not doing that when it doesn't happen even after Claremont leaves. And I agree with Harras that the X-Men need some kind of student/teacher element, but that's what a franchise is for - it simply doesn't work, after all this time, to have the X-Men themselves as students anymore. And it really hasn't since the Silver Age. Plus, with the transformation of the New Mutants into X-Force, ironically this era (at least until Generation X comes along) is the *least* school-based we've seen since before the New Mutants were introduced.

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    3. @Austin
      I've heard that Claremont's original intentions for the New Mutants was to eventually have them become THE X-men someday. Around that time we had Cyclops married and soon to have a kid, Storm was without her powers and doing some soul-searching, and the original team were all either on other teams or retired and living their own lives. So Claremont was allowing these characters to grow up and do their own thing, and had things flowed organically we might be seeing an X-Men team today consisting of nothing but former New Mutants with maybe some older X-Men like Storm or Beast aboard as mentors.

      But of course as time goes on the floating timestream comes in place to keep characters young and to also keep a certain status quo. The X-Men were way too popular and couldn't be replaced. So instead of graduating in 7 issues like the original team, the NM and Gen X have had to remain perpetual students for almost 200 combined issues.

      Side note: It's odd that Cannonball "graduated" from X-Force. I was always under the impression that X-Force was entirely separate from Xavier's school. Even when X-Force lived in the mansion it's not like they were suddenly the junior team again.

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  14. These recent entries inspired me to pick up the Mutant Genesis 2.0 TPB this weekend. It was enjoyable and nostalgic to go back and revisit this story. Even still, there's little/no mention that it signified the end of CC's run, and goes on to include the next 4 issues of the series. I don't mind the chance to revisit those, too, and the new coloring is nice, but it almost seems perverse in how little Claremont is acknowledged. There's no blurb, or intro, waxing on about how great/important Claremont was to the franchise, and what this story means for his legacy. One would almost think that a TPB of just issues 1-3 would make sense, but it's like Marvel goes out of its way to downplay any significance of Claremont leaving. Part of me understands that--they don't want to imply the franchise would be doomed, or even that they'd lost a valuable asset--but you see praise for other creators/artists when TPB's are released like that.

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