Friday, May 20, 2016

Face time with legendary 'X-Men' writer Chris Claremont (flashback)

As you may have noticed — or started noticing — X marks the spot here at Cary's Comics Craze. 

Chris Claremont speaks to a fan
during the 2014 Motor City Comic Con.
Just as I did with the lead-up to the May 6 release of "Captain America: Civil War," with many Cap-centric reviews and features, I'm posting ones about the X-Men just in time for Friday's release of "X-Men: Apocalypse." (And you can bet I'll be posting a review of the film!) 

So if you're going to talk about the X-Men, that conversation has to include writer Chris Claremont, who wrote UNCANNNY X-MEN for 16 years starting in 1975. So check out this one-on-one experience I had with the Marvel Comics living legend during a 2014 comic book convention. 

Spoiler tease: It didn't start out so promising, but the way it ended — soooo cool …!

WARREN, Mich. — There’s nothing like having a living comic-book legend calling you out.

Unless the day before that same childhood hero pours over an X-MEN issue he wrote — just before he autographs it for you.

During the VIP time/first night of the 2014 Great Lakes Comic-Con (Feb. 28, 2014), I’m pleased to – who am I kidding? pretty darn geeked to — get face time with the one and only Chris Claremont. He’s one of only a handful of true living legends in the comic book industry who is still with us.

Granted, Claremont was a little wary of me at first.

(Maybe he spotted the reporter’s notebook I had with me — just in case I got the vibe he was open to doing an interview there at his table. [I didn't get that vibe BTW. ...] Or maybe it was the press credentials I also had in case I needed it — which I didn’t. Or the camera I put on the corner of his table. …) 

But he warmed up to me. And it made for an uforgettable few minutes with the Man.

Yup, Chris Claremont's autograph is just as difficult
to decipher as it is in this undated photo!
Claremont was gracious when I told him how much joy his X-MEN stories have given me over the years. I also shared how what he wrote remain as fresh and powerful as the day they were published.

“Thank you very much,” was his warm response, accompanied by a quick smile.

(I guess I geeked out so much I didn’t talk much shop with him, but give me a minute here. …!) 

Being a vendor at the “con" with "Big" Ron Cooper, I was able to snag a free autograph.

Claremont put it on the top of the front cover of MARVEL FANFARE No. 3 (a reprint of one of Claremont’s first stories about the “new” X-Men line-up, this one being in the Savage Land). Just a few minutes earlier I had bought a copy at a vendor’s table for less than 50 cents; again, I got a discount since I did some wheeling and dealing as a vendor.

But anyway. …

Before Claremont signed his autograph, he had me take the issue out of its bag.

I thought he would sign it and be done. No, instead he gently placed the comic book in front of him. And opened it.

Claremont then carefully studied each and every page, taking his time to flip through the entire issue. He studied the words he’d written 40-plus years ago and Dave Cockrum’s distinctive artwork. It was as if he hadn’t seen this story in a very long time and was re-experiencing it.

My biggest surprise was yet to come.

Claremont came to a small panel near the end of the story featuring Colossus being handcuffed with massive iron bolts with his teammates. In a feasible Russian accent, he mimicked the very dialogue he had given the Russian mutant.

When Claremont got to the final page, he said (something to the effect of): “Of course there’s a cliffhanger. What will happen to our heroes? You’re going to have to get the next issue to find out.”

It was an amazing bunch of fanboy minutes!

The only thing better would have been if Claremont had read the entire issue to me, as a preschool teacher would for a group of youngsters. …

The next day — March 1, 2014 — Claremont called me out during his Q&A session.

My celebrity buddy Jordan Trovillion, host of Comics Continuum, interviews Chris Claremont
during the 2014 Great Lakes Comic Con. Little did I know she was there … and would befriend her later.
Ironically, he didn’t realize he was doing one, or least he had forgotten, until I told him I was anxious to hear what he had to say. That’s right; I basically reminded him during our one-on-one time the previous night!

Claremont spotted me furiously taking notes as he talked. (I asked him about the different between working with Cockrum and John Byrne — and he gave me a doozie of an answer.)

“Oh no, he’s taking notes,” he said to everyone there, dramatically putting his forehead on his open palm.

And with an even more dramatic wave of his hand, he said: “I deny everything!”

Of course you want to read more about Chris Claremont …!

During his Q&A at the Great Lakes Comic Con, Claremont shared how he pitched the WOLVERINE limited series to artist Frank Miller and what he thinks about "The Wolverine" film, which had just been released the previous summer and was based on Claremont's now highly sought-after limited series.

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