Comics In Focus: Chris Claremont’s X-Men (review)

Frank_Miller_Wolverine

He is one of the people responsible for one of the most iconic Wolverine comics of all time. Although he didn’t create the character, he’s probably the most iconic writer for the X-Men. He is Chris Claremont.

To several fans, Claremont is synonymous to the X-Men themselves. The writer is seen as one of the major contributors to the X-Men’s rise in fame and pop culture presence. Not only does this documentary reveal Claremont’s humble beginnings as a summer intern at Marvel, but it chronicles his relationships with his co-workers, the obstacles they faced publishing X-Men, including life at Marvel through the ’70s to the early ’90s. The documentary also demonstrates Claremont and his team’s respect to the reader in developing individual characters, and the impact the series had on modern day comics.

Claremont’s beginnings at Marvel certainly were not as auspicious as one would think considering his status as comic book royalty. While at school, Claremont’s university program required a summer internship. Having an uncle at MAD magazine, Claremont asked his uncle for an internship. Citing the “inappropriateness” of his office space and that Claremont’s mother would “never speak to him again,” his uncle suggested an internship at Marvel Comics. While at Marvel, Claremont would volunteer to take on a project started in the 1960s involving a group of mutants. One could not imagine the meteoric rise in popularity the series would take with Chris at the helm.

Up until the early ’90s, Claremont would have a hand in virtually every important X-Men story. The documentary does well to describe his relationship with Marvel editor Jim Shooter, who had the “final say” over several storylines – including how to finish the Phoenix Saga. Claremont may have suggested the ultimate ending (I won’t spoil it) but Shooter was the one to push for it and make sure the writers didn’t get cold feet.

The movie also provides some pretty interesting insights into life at Marvel. There are several interviews with past editors and writers, such as Ann Nocenti and Louise Simonson. These interviews are one of the documentary’s greatest strengths. Claremont and his team sound more like a group of friends reminiscing at a bar than the subject of a documentary, and this provides the movie with a uniqueness and captivating tone not found in other documentaries.

Claremont also highlights the responsibility he feels towards the reader. While watching the documentary, you get a sense of the weight that Claremont and his team felt they had to carry. It manages to come across as heartwarming, sad and relatable all at once. One can really grasp the personal connection the writer has with each and every X-Men, and that connection is then passed on to the reader.

xmen#1

Unfortunately, Claremont’s tenure at Marvel did not have a rosy ending. As the company grew and eventually became a publicly traded company, the creative team saw a shift in company focus. Spin-offs were had and characters thought to be long gone were re-introduced. Shortly after releasing X-Men #1 in the early nineties (which, still to this day, is the best selling comic of all time), Claremont left Marvel.

While the interviews and subject matter are mostly brought up tactfully and gracefully, the “filler footage” for this movie is out right laughable. These scenes contain a group of cosplayers modelling several of the X-Men’s most iconic outfits, but the acting comes off as awkward and unnecessary.

From the casual fan to even the most die-hard X-Men nut, Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont’s X-Men is insightful, heartwarming, and informative. One of the greatest strengths of the documentary is not only its focus on Claremont himself, but on his environment and the people surrounding and supporting his work. While the documentary does have some issues “filling in the blanks,” it offers a fantastic celebration of the X-Men series, and the great minds behind it.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

NR 4 Atoms - B

You can rent or buy the movie on Vimeo!

Source: Mtv.com, bully’s comics

Facebook Comments

About author

Eric Escaravage
Eric Escaravage 85 posts

Born and raised in the great white north, Eric grew up playing PC games and reading more Archie comics than is humanely possible. Clark Kent look-a-like on an epic quest to play all the retro games he wasn't allowed to as a child!