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rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks FAQ: 8/8
Section - COMICS INDUSTRY QUESTIONS

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Top Document: rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks FAQ: 8/8
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge

Please note: Background information on the creators and the X-titles 
editorial offices is based on over a decade's worth of interviews, 
articles, and personal questions, and as such is not directly 
attributed here. Now that some of Marvel's staff members are on Usenet, 
they are welcomed to correct and amend any of the answers listed below. 


--- Why did Chris Claremont leave the X-titles? Why did Peter David 
    leave X-Factor?

For this question, the FAQ-keeper is going to try and be as objective as
possible, which is tough on a question in which all information has so 
far come in from interviews in fan press. However, this is definitely a 
FAQ, and deserves being treated in this FAQ. Here's hoping for 
objectivity.

Chris Claremont left the books he had worked on for almost half his life
because of one person, the X-titles group editor, Bob Harras. Claremont 
had often stressed in interviews how important having an editor who 
worked well with him on the stories was, and was thankful that all the 
editors he had had (this was during Nocenti's reign) had been wonderful 
and talented. Obviously, something went wrong as Harras took over, 
although the eventual cause was due to problems on both sides.

The problems have been revealed in a few interviews. Harras is in a bit 
of a hot seat in the very competitive, corporate atmosphere of Marvel. 
One slip of the titles, and he has to explain himself to his superiors. 
He's therefore always interested in keeping the books popular and 
selling well, a sensible attitude for any editor.

Something that obviously caught his eye was the huge upswelling of fan
support for artists of the "Image" type (although they weren't called 
that back then, since Image hadn't been created yet). Rob Liefeld, Jim 
Lee, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, and Whilce Portacio were at the 
forefront of a style in comics that was very popular at the time. So 
popular that when McFarlane requested a title to try out his burgeoning 
desire to write his own stories on, he got one starring the Marvel 
flagship character, Spider-Man. The Marvel Offices were so impressed 
with the sales figures coming from these artists that they were willing 
to do almost anything to keep them.

One thing they weren't, though, was to give up some of the money they 
were making out of selling licensed materials (t-shirts, pins, posters, 
etc.) done by those artists. For these as well as other reasons, the 
above artists and a few more fled Marvel in what has come to be called 
the X-Odus, since so many of them worked on mutant titles at the time. 
They went and founded Image. For more information, you should ask at 
rac.misc.

How this relates to Claremont leaving, as well as his good friend and 
fellow X-writer Louise Simonson, is as follows: maybe on his own, 
perhaps because of pressure from the offices above him, Harras was 
extremely protective of the Image artists on his titles. Somebody, 
somewhere, was convinced that they were why the titles were selling, and 
wanted them made as comfortable as possible. The trouble with the Image 
artists on monthly books, like the X-Men, has been shown: they're all 
terribly slow, and usually were late. This annoyed Claremont, who was 
accustomed to working with workhorses like John Byrne and Dave Cockrum.

Also, as the Image team started recognizing how much strength they had 
at Marvel, they started asking for more power. Jim Lee, Claremont's 
penciler at the time on UXM, in particular wanted more say in how the 
plot went. Claremont, usually more than happy to co-plot with his 
artists, didn't like the fact that Lee's idea of co-plotting was that he 
drew the issue any way he felt like, and then shipped it off to 
Claremont, usually just under deadline, for him to fill in the dialogue 
balloons with no say in what would appear in the issue. While the usual 
practice at Marvel is to have the art made before the dialogue is 
written (it's a practice that started back when Stan Lee was writing 
every Marvel book in the 60s, and it's even called the "Marvel Style" 
comics-writing), usually co-plotting involves the writer and the artist 
deciding what will be in the issue together.

When Claremont complained about this, and the usual tardiness of Lee, to
Harras, he was told that his opinions were recognized, and things were 
being worked on. However, nothing apparently was ever done. Indeed, 
Harras gave Lee complete plot veto on any new plot lines (it should be 
noted that Lee did not request anything like that from Harras). This 
meant that Lee had all effective plotting power on the X-Men title, 
since he could, if he felt like it, deny Claremont any plot that he 
didn't like.

All of this might seem a bit rude, and possibly Claremont felt that 
after giving twenty years of his life to this one title, he was entitled 
to a bit of info as to what, exactly, the editor of that book wanted 
from his writer. Apparently Harras either never answered, or else didn't 
answer to Claremont's satisfaction, so after issue #3 of the new X-Men 
book, Chris Claremont left the X-titles. A sign of the atmosphere he 
left in was that his departure wasn't even mentioned in the letter 
columns of the books he had written for sixteen years. Louise Simonson, 
who had much the same experiences happen to her, left at about the same 
time. To be frank, Claremont's scripting, plotting, and dialogue had 
been slipping in his final years, and a sabbatical would certainly have 
been helpful even in more calm circumstances.

With the departure of what was once the most dependable writing corps in 
the history of major comics, Harras was now free to fill the titles with 
writers who wouldn't complain so much about the artists who wanted to 
run the titles a bit more indepth. The first person he got, though, 
perhaps in an attempt to reclaim some of the "Big Name" marquee value he 
lost when Claremont left, was old X-Men penciller and co-plotter John 
Byrne. Byrne, however, was not going to even be given the illusionary 
title of "writer"; he was just there to script Jim Lee's X-Men plots, 
and Whilce Portacio's plots for Uncanny X-Men.

Byrne lasted only five issues on Uncanny (#281-285), and only two on the 
new X-Men (#4-5). According to Byrne, he encountered the same troubles 
as Claremont as scripter of the books. Lee and Portacio were 
consistently late. Pages were faxed to Byrne hours before deadline for 
him to dialogue as they came in, often without knowing how the book was 
going to end because the plotter/artists hadn't bothered informing him.

Byrne complained to Harras. Byrne pointed out that in any other DC or 
Marvel comic, the writers usually got three months to work on one issue 
(most are done far before then, but that's the usual margin of safety). 
He didn't mind working a few extra nights and burning the midnight oil, 
because he liked the X-Men, but all he asked for was at least one month 
to actually think about the issue. Harras thanked him for his comments, 
and said he would work on it. No further pages were ever faxed to Byrne 
for him to script.

Having now annnoyed most of the major X-writers of the past to the point
that they wouldn't work with him, Harras ended up with Scott Lobdell (a
stand-up comedian and comics writer Harras offered the job to at a 
party) and Fabian Nicieza (one of Marvel's editors) as his main writers 
on the X-titles. All was looking good until the X-Odus occurred, and 
suddenly Harras didn't have all the Big Name Artists that had to be so 
carefully protected. The chances of Harras getting back Claremont and 
Byrne to write now that the artists who were partially to blame for 
driving them away were gone was rather slim, so there was an obvious 
period of scrambling at the X-offices to get creative teams to cover the 
books.

With Claremont gone, the brightest bit of writing in the X-titles had to 
be Peter David, the new writer on the "new" X-Factor. Easily mixing his
standard blend of top-notch humor with good characterization, David was
impressing people with how interesting a bunch of once second-rate 
mutant characters could be. Not even this relationship was a smooth one, 
however, because David quickly became annoyed by another mainstay of the 
mutant titles: the crossover.

David didn't like the fact that the mutant titles invariably crossovered
once a year, often for three or so issues. He also didn't like how he 
was always given fill-in artists because artist Joe Quesada was never on 
time with his art (a common complaint apparently). He felt that it was 
an insult to the reader to have to make do with shoddy art that was 
rushed out because the regular penciler couldn't be bothered to get his 
art out on time.

Meanwhile, he expressed disgust that the X-Office didn't even want him
continuing his main plot during the crossovers. He had to fight and 
complain just to get one page per issue in of his normal, supposedly 
ongoing, plot in his own book. Why? The editors said that it was simpler 
if there was no ongoing plot in the crossovers, because then it would be 
easier to collect the whole thing in a trade paperback for future resale 
value without having to edit out those annoying exterior plotlines. 

David's other complaints (which were listed for the net.community in a
resignation-style letter) included the mangled rescripting of a plot 
device that originally was supposed to detect whether a woman's fetus 
was a mutant or not (thus possibly opening the option of an abortion), 
as well as demands about what characters he was supposed to feature in a 
given issue.  A message posted by David to an AOL folder in March 2000 
sums it up:

     Two reasons:  I was having to backburner my ongoing storylines 
     every three issues or so to accommodate crossovers (giving it a 
     very dis-jointed feel) and the editors were "taking over" the book 
     in that they were dictating storylines and developments that I felt 
     were going to be damaging (ex:  Insert Random as a member of the 
     team and kill off the Multiple Man.)  Also they were changing my 
     dialogue unilaterally after I'd turned it in without telling me.  
     So I walked. 

With that being what he had to live with, David resigned from X-Factor. 
The usual bunch of scrambling, fill-in teams rushed to fill his and 
Quesada's shoes (Quesada, like most of the "hot" artists, apparently 
couldn't be bothered to keep to a monthly standard).

As a final note, it's unsure just how much ill-will there still is over 
the X-Odus fallout. Claremont and Lee, for instance, apparently like 
each other enough that Claremont wrote three issues of Lee's 
WildC.A.T.S. comic (hardly a major sign of dislike). 

Chris Claremont returned to Marvel a few years ago, albeit in a 
different capacity. He was a Vice-President position at Marvel, in 
charge of story development across the Marvel titles, and his writing 
tasks included Fantastic Four and a six-issue run of Wolverine. 
Evidently Claremont had enough fun on the titles that he decided to come 
back--the Revolution of the X-titles saw Claremont return as scripter 
and plotter of the core titles just shy of 100 issues after his 
departure.

Unfortunately, Claremont only lasted twenty issues--ten on each title. 
He wrote X-Men #100-109, and UXM #381-389. Claremont's second run often 
emphasized the problem he faced with his run on Fantastic Four: Chris is 
a fantastic writer once he's gotten steam built up, but he's a writer 
who needs time to think before putting pencil to page. Given the sudden 
shift over to full-time writer of the titles (while he was writing the 
FF), he didn't have time to work out all of the plot dynamics until he 
was about to leave the main titles. While some of the plots were quite 
interesting, others left a lot to be desired. The Neo characters were 
very flatly characterized, the plot with Shadowcat was left on a back 
burner when the editors wanted the plots to speed up and go in another 
direction, and the six-month gap meant that characters were neither 
familiar to the fans coming to the books from the wildly popular X-Men 
movie, nor to the fans who had been reading through the years.

Claremont wasn't fired from the core titles. However, when new Editor-
in-Chief Joe Quesada started restructuring the X-Books a year after 
Claremont's return, he gave Claremont a choice: share the core book 
writing with one other writer, or move to a single new title that would 
be separate from the core titles. Claremont opted for the latter.


--- Are any Marvel staff reading racmx?

Some are. Most come and then go again, though. Some do so because 
they're no longer involved with the X-Titles, others because they can't 
keep up with the sheer volume of discussion, and others because they 
just aren't that interested. 

Over the past few years, the newsgroup has been visited by the likes of
Chris Claremont, Peter David, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Warren Ellis, Jay 
Faerber, Steven Grant, Larry Hama, Joseph Harris, Rob Liefeld, Scott 
Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Brandon Peterson, Joe Pruett, Ben Raab, Tom 
Raney, Steven Seagle, Gail Simone, Louise "Weezie" Simonson, Walter 
Simonson, Robert Weinberg, Anthony Williams, Brian C. Wood, Ethan 
Van Sciver, and J. Steven York. If you wander over to our sister group, 
rac.misc, you'll also see Kurt Busiek, Tony Isabella, and Christopher 
Priest. Still others have participated with rac.* regulars on mailing 
lists or message boards. Some are/were regular contributors, while 
others posted a single response and never returned.

All this means, of course, that posters on racmx should maybe think 
twice before posting up personal attacks on the creative staff of the X-
titles, since, unlike for a long period of Usenet history, they're 
finally around and a lot of racmxers would like them to continue to 
contribute to the group.

Not insulting people in general is a good policy to aim for, of course. 
Not threatening them, however, is something that needs to be 
underscored. Many fans tend to get angry at a creator's treatment of 
their favorite characters, and may occasionally post (in jest) threats 
of violence on the newsgroup, i.e.: "Such-and-such writer should be 
drawn, quartered, and hung for doing this to Wolverine, and if I ever 
find out where he lives I'll likely do it myself." This is Not Cool. 
Please don't do it.


--- What's a dangler? Is it related to a six month gap?

Danglers are the racmx term for juicy bits of storyline that are raised
in the comics, and then... never show up again. For example, if Storm 
receives a mysterious package, and a big deal is made of what might be 
in the package, and then the package and its contents never show up 
again, that's a dangler.

Danglers happen for a few reasons. Sometimes, a writer is juggling so 
many plots that he or she neglects to pay attention to one of them. By 
the time the writer remembers the plot point, it's probably no longer 
interesting to the readers, so the dangling plot thread is just left to 
dangle, instead of properly being tied off.

In other instances, the editorial staff creates danglers. Sometimes a 
writer really wants to finish a storyline, but the editors realize that 
the storyline is dragging and the readers are losing interest. In that 
case, the plot threads are just dropped while the writer needs to work 
on new plotlines. A great example of this is the X-Men Revolution arc 
that Chris Claremont was writing. He had every intention of telling 
readers what happened to Kitty Pryde after she disappeared, but the 
editors asked him to take the plotlines in a different direction, so
readers will never know where Kitty actually ended up between the space 
station and college. A change in writers is often accompanied by a 
healthy amount of danging plotlines. Obviously, new writers have ideas 
about what they want the X-Men to do, so they usually don't bother to 
tie up the plot threads that a former writer can't finish before leaving 
the book.

Finally, there's the six month gap. This editorial device has been used 
a few times by Marvel staff to give new writers a "clean slate" after 
ending a major storyline or before beginning a new direction for the 
line of titles. Such a gap was used after the Age of Apocalypse. Rogue 
had absorbed Gambit's powers just before AOA, but now it was supposedly 
a few months after everything returned to normal, and the characters 
had moved away or hit the road to deal with various problems. We never 
really saw what happened in-between the end of AOA and the beginning of 
Rogue-on-the-Run; we just knew that Iceman had taken after her. 

As a second example, the X-Men "Revolution" concept at the time the 
X-Men movie was released was designed to return Chris Claremont to the 
team books, as well as letting other writers take over struggling titles. 
To allow the writers to bring in their own ideas, the first issue of a 
new writer's plot would feature the teams and characters as if six months 
had passed. Often, plotlines dangling before the gap were left dangling, 
and new twists that supposedly occurred "during" the six month gap would 
sometimes become danglers as well, if the writers didn't get to explain 
the plot before editors requested rewrites or assigned a new writer to 
the book. The power switch between Psylocke and Phoenix is one example.

Is there a solution to danglers? Probably not. Writing to request an 
explanation of a dangler might remind the editors that a juicy plot 
device is available for writers to use, but most of the time the books 
will take whatever shape the current writers and editors want.


--- What's a Claremontism?

Most writers who have written many stories have developed a certain 
cadence and language in their writing style. Chris Claremont is very 
well known within comics circles for his trademark phrases, which are 
called "Claremontisms" by the fans. As with all trademark phrases, some 
beome tired cliches after a while, but others remain fond memories of 
past stories and characters.

Do you recognize any of these Claremontisms?

   * Ah'm nigh invulnerable when Ah'm blastin'.
   * Back off, bub.  We take care of our own.
   * Bub
   * Bunky
   * By the white wolf!
   * Comes with the uniform.
   * Cripes!
   * Da, Tovarisch!
   * Flamin' muties!
   * Flamin' _____!
   * Goddess!
   * Heart's Desire
   * Hidey-hole
   * I am _____!
   * I love you. And I, you.
   * I possess you, body and soul!
   * I'm the best there is at what I do. And what I do... isn't very pretty.
   * It was sweet of you to worry.
   * It wouldn't be polite to disappoint them!
   * Me an' mine.
   * Me and my big mouth.
   * No quarter asked, none given
   * Not today, and not by you.
   * Our own fate, our very lives, they're nothing.
   * Selfsame
   * Sugah
   * Take your best shot!
   * That fact alone makes them deadly beyond imagination.
   * The focused totality of her psychic power!
   * Ungaublich!
   * We did none harm, yet harm was done to us.
   * Wolverine! Fastball special!
   * Yum!


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