Sunday, May 22, 2016

'X-Men' writer Chris Claremont on working with Dave Cockrum, John Byrne (flashback)

Welcome back to another installment of my "X Marks the spot" series of reviews and features leading up to Friday's release of "X-Men: Apocalypse." Check out this feedback that legendary X-MEN writer Chris Claremont gave me when I asked him one (!) question during a Q&A at the 2014 Great Lakes Comic Con: Tell me about the difference between working with artists Dave Cockrum and John Byrne. …

Chris Claremont
WARREN, Mich. — I knew exactly what I wanted to ask legendary X-MEN writer Chris Claremont during his Q&A session at the 2014 Great Lakes Comic-Con.

After all, there’s nothing more quintessential than Claremont’s work with artists Dave Cockrum and John Byrne.

And The Man himself reminded me he’d worked with another of my favorite pencillers, Michael Golden on X-MEN as well (UNCANNY X-MEN No. 273 and UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL No. 7).

(For you completists, Cockrum was on X-MEN Nos. 94-111 and UNCANNY X-MEN Nos. 145-164; Byrne was on X-MEN Nos. 108-143.)

So at the Q&A, I asked Claremont about the difference between working with Cockrum and Byrne.
“Dave was a ferociously meticulous artist,” said Claremont, who added Cockrum didn’t work as editors wanted. “Editors didn’t ask for rewrites.”

Dave Cockrum/Courtesy of the Cockrum page on Comic Vine
Claremont credited Cockrum with delivering “brilliant art” — and the same with Byrne.

(For my tribute to Cockrum soon after his Nov. 26, 2006 death, follow this link. It’s an updated version of what ran in the print version of CCC in the NORWALK REFLECTOR newspaper.) 

This iconic image of the "new" X-Men is one of many equally
memorable images that the late Dave Cockrum created during
his two must-read runs on the original X-MEN series.
“The only difference was John Byrne was faster,” Claremont said. “John Byrne could pencil two issues a month.”

On the other hand, Claremont said Cockrum might not produce his pages until two months after Claremont had submitted them to him.

Claremont gives complete credit to Cockrum for coming up with the idea of making Wolverine’s claws a part of his body (having them retract into the housings over top his knuckles) instead of having the claws be a part of his gloves.

“Dave had a flash of inspiration,” said Claremont, who pointed how ridiculous it would be for a foe to get a hold of Wolverine’s claws and then try to hurt the mutant with a healing power. The writer even remembered the panel was on page 3 or 4 or X-MEN No. 98 or 99.

Claremont, during the Q&A session, basically gave a dramatic reading of Jean Grey’s response to seeing Wolverine without his gloves for the first time.

John Byrne, at the 1992 San Diego Comic Book Expo
“This was totally creepy all in one shot. … My first reaction was ‘Ugh.’ My second reaction was, ‘This is cool,’” Claremont said about his own response.

(Claremont talks more Wolverine — specifically the 2013 film and the 1982 limited series he wrote with artist Frank Miller in this CCC flashback feature.) 

When talking about his work with Byrne, Claremont ended up discussing the ramifications of “The Dark Phoenix Saga.”

“John was never happy killing her off,” Claremont said, referring to Jean Grey. “I thought she’d stay dead longer.”

The writer half-jokingly made fun of how often Marvel Comics has resurrected and killed off Grey. 

“Now we’re on hold until they bring her back again,” Claremont said.

It would have been better from a story-telling point of view, he said if Marvel editors had told him Grey eventually would have been resurrected because he said he would have written other things differently. 

His example was the way Claremont would have used Madelyne Pryor-Summers, whom he co-created with artist Paul Smith. He cited her marriage to Scott Summers, getting pregnant and certainly Summers walking out on his marriage for Grey. 

All this made Summers “look like a total toad,” Claremont said.

“She (Pryor-Summers) was angry. Her sweetie walked out on her for a dead girl,” he added.

Claremont claims that writers like Kurt Busiek told then Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter “you caved to Claremont” when he suggested resurrecting Grey.

“Life is too shoot; he was too tall,” Claremont said, referring to Shooter’s height. 

After that Byrne-Grey-Pryors-Summers diatribe, Claremont turned his attention back to me and asked, “Aren’t you glad you asked me that question?”

I’m sure he intended the statement to be rhetorical, but I immediately said: “Yes — absolutely.”

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