Taking the X-Men to the extreme

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13th June 2013

Legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont continued writing about the X-Men in X-Treme X-Men before wrapping up his long association with the mutants with a third run on Uncanny X-Men and a few spin-off books.

When Chris Claremont was removed as writer of Uncanny X-Men and X-Men vol.2 by new Editor-In-Chief of Marvel, Joe Quesada, in 2001, they talked about what Claremont could write instead. "One of Chris' wishes was to write X-Men that wouldn't be impaired by the ever-present continuity, or intertwining with all the other adventures of all the X-books," Quesada told Wizard #111. "We said, "Chris has a good point, and he's got some good ideas about it let's go with that." We took him out of a situation where he's having a hard time, and gave him a situation where he's gonna flourish."

"Joe's original thought was to give (writer) Grant Morrison one X-Men book and me the other," Claremont revealed in Comics Creators On X-Men. "Then he asked me what would I like to do if I had my choice. I said I'd like to do X-Men under the Marvel Knights imprint, which was more out of continuity, out of the mainstream. That way I could do what I want and not have to worry about playing nice with the other writers. The next thing I knew I was on X-Treme (X-Men). We divied up the characters between the three books and that seemed pretty fair."

"When I started working on X-Treme X-Men the core team was two original cast, two new cast, two second generation cast. Storm, Beast, Sage, Bishop, Rogue and Psylocke," Claremont told Newsarama.com.

"Grant, in his manifesto, specified which characters he wanted," Claremont continued in Comics Creators On X-Men. "I went up to Matt Hicks, who was my editor, and sat down and blocked out the first year and it was great. My contract specified I did two books a month, but I only had X-Treme so I wrote two issues a month and got really far ahead."

"I did a year's advance worth of stories built around the Beast," Claremont revealed to Newsarama.com. "Only to discover that Beast had been pulled from my cast and handed over to Grant Morrison's cast (in New X-Men). That meant rewriting an entire year's worth of stories, which was a pain in the neck. Some stories had to go in one direction, some stories had to be postponed and others pulled completely. It changed the entire timeline. (...) So even when your plans are totally meticulous, there is always the unexpected to be factored in."

"The Beast stayed in our first arc because Salvador Larroca had already drawn it," Claremont told Comics Creators On X-Men, "but I had to rewrite everything else. So suddenly, the Savage Land arc, which was all about the Beast, became all about Storm."

No resolutions

Claremont revealed on his Cordially Chris forum in 2003 that in his original story-arcs for X-Treme X-Men the ones that included Beast he also had plans for Forge, Dani (Moonstar), Rahne (Sinclair) and Rachel (Summers), but with the subsequent changes in editors and development of story-arcs, they were dealt out of the cards.

When Claremont started writing X-Treme X-Men, he didn't give much hope to readers about seeing the characters he introduced during his short stint on Uncanny X-Men and X-Men vol.2 in 2000 and 2001 in the new series, nor resolutions to the unresolved plots he had to leave behind. "Much as I would prefer otherwise," he lamented to Cinescape.com.

"Partly there's a parochial desire to keep characters within the Canon were they were created," he explained. "Partly a perception (in-house and in the marketplace, justified or not) that I have a tendency to strip-mine my own characters and continuity. Partly, a perception in-house that the characters created by me for the FF and the X-Men weren't that interesting. Hence, the enthusiasm with which the concepts have been bastardised or outright excised from the books."

"But from my own perspective, I wont be using them, at least for the first publishing year, because there isn't room. Too many characters already, too much to do," he concluded, but added: "If we last longer than a year, then we'll see."

Characters introduced during Claremont's second stint on the main X-Men books began to appear during X-Treme X-Men's third year, among them the villains Revenant, Manacle, Bludgeon and Cudgel from Uncanny X-Men #383.

No Shi'ar story

In an interview in the back of X-Treme X-Men #1, 2001, Claremont was asked where the team would be going, and he answered with a question: "Shi'ar space?"

Then, in X-Treme X-Men #10, 2002, Sage was looking at a prediction from one of Destiny's Diaries that had a picture of Storm, Bishop, Thunderbird and Lifeguard facing off against Deathbird alongside a text about Lifeguard: "Earth shall be her home, the stars her destination. Mothered by War, her Father's her Salvation. The price of Xavier's Dream shall be the Ancient Aerie's FALL."

This plot was developed further in X-Treme X-Men #14, when it was revealed that Lifeguard's mother was Shi'ar royalty. So her "war(ring)" nature was caused by her Shi'ar genes and her "salvation" was her humanity inherited from her human father. Was it possible that her mother was actually Deathbird who spent many years in exile on Earth prior to her debut appearance in Ms. Marvel #9 in 1977, or was her mother the sister Deathbird claimed to have killed in Ms. Marvel #10?

But before the answer, and the fall of the "Ancient Aerie" (the Shi'ar Empire), came about, Lifeguard and Thunderbird left the X-Men in X-Treme X-Men #19, 2002, to go search for Lifeguard's brother, Slipstream, and a cameo appearance in Excalibur vol.3 #5 in 2004 aside, they never appeared again, despite Claremont's assurance to X-mencomics.com that readers of X-Treme X-Men hadn't seen the last of Thunderbird and Lifeguard. "I have plans to resolve the situation with those characters," he said.

"For whatever reason - and the writing/writer has to take his own share of responsibility (Thunderbird) never seemed to gel with the readers (in X-Men vol.2)," Claremont told Comicon.com. "So I tried a second time with Neal (Shaara, Thunderbird) in X-Treme (X-Men), didn't seem to work there, either. "Delhi Dimwit" was a particularly memorable description of him on-line. With character-designs, it's always hard to tell - what works in concept may not travel to execution. Sometimes that can be fixed, others you just have to take your lumps and move on."

"A character may crash and burn, as Neal Shaara did, suggesting we not emphasize him, unduly in future," Claremont concluded to Newsarama.com.

In 2003, Claremont confirmed on his Cordially Chris-forum that he did have plans for the villain Vargas to re-appear, too, but that didn't happen, either. He explained that any plan he had was dependent on editorial approval, and that had become an increasingly difficult thing to achieve in the last few years. "If (editor) Mike Marts and I decide to pursue the Shi'ar story arc, then we'll let you guys know when it's a done deal. Same goes for Hecate."

In 2004, Claremont wrote the out of continuity X-Men: The End Book One Dreamers & Demons mini-series in which the prediction from Destiny's Diary was now about another character, Aliyah Bishop, instead. Also in that series, Slipstream had become a villain and Vargas a hero.

No Mekanix ongoing

Claremont revealed to Cinescape.com in April 2001 that he had a mini-series starring Storm in the works. When it ended up not happening, the story for the Storm mini-series became the 2004 X-Treme X-Men #36-39 story arc instead.

In 2002, another mini-series entitled Mekanix did appear. It starred Kitty Pryde, Karma and a new character, Shola Inkosi. However, Mekanix was intended as an ongoing series, but Claremont revealed on his Cordially Chris-forum that it didn't have enough readers to continue. He said that as things looked in 2003, Mekanix would end following its six-issue test-run and that he had plans for Kitty (Pryde), but it hadn't been decided yet if he would have the opportunity to include the rest of her Mekanix cast. Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) ended up appearing in X-Treme X-Men and Shola Inkosi re-appeared in the 2004 Excalibur vol.3 series.

In Mekanix #6, 2003, the mutant-hating Purity organization member Alice Tremaine began to repair a small mutant-killing Sentinel back to operating capacity and was seen still working on it in X-Treme X-Men #33 that same year, but although Alice Tremaine later appeared in Uncanny X-Men #449, 2004, and in the 2005-2006 X-Men: The End series also written by Claremont, her pet Sentinel was never seen again.

Stories in queue for X-Treme X-Men

In X-Treme X-Men #31, 2003, a female Genoshan mutant from a refugee camp in East Africa killed some soldiers who had murdered people from Doctors Without Frontiers. Apparently this was the beginning of a new storyline, but besides a quick reminder of the Genoshan mutant's existence in X-Treme X-Men #33, nothing was seen of her again.

"In certain cases what looks like a dangling plotline may actually be, stuff came in and got in the way," Claremont said to Newsarama.com. "It had to wait until a queue opened up so to speak."

In 2003, Claremont told X-mencomics.com about two story-arcs in queue for X-Treme X-Men: "Following "Intifada" (in X-Treme X-Men #31-35) was originally meant to be a four-part high adventure, as the X-Treme team visits a country in Central Asia that has been taken over and is now wholly ruled by a quartet of mutants, in their variation of the classic Rudyard Kipling story, "The Man Who Would Be King". It's meant to be fun, stealing liberally from the Arabian Knights, the work of H. Rider Haggard and just about every swash & buckle Hollywood epic ever imagined."

"That's the set-up for what was intended as the keystone arc for this "season": "Sixteen Million," Claremont continued. "The premise here is utterly simple. Sixteen million people died when Cassandra Nova's uber-Sentinel annihilated Genosha. Now, a group of survivors ordinary citizens of that country, some mutant, some not have banded together to exact what they consider is appropriate (and Biblical) retribution on the world at large that stood by and allowed their country, their friends, their families to be murdered. In all the time that's passed since that terrible event, no one has been publicly and legally brought to account for that crime against humanity, and for all these people know it could happen again, anytime, anywhere, to any group of mutants seeking to build a decent life and homeland for themselves. They don't consider this terrorism terrorism was what was done to them in the first place, they consider it justice. Eye for eye, life for life."

"It's never been publicly revealed that Cassandra Nova was responsible," Claremont continued in Wizard's X-Men Special 2003. "There's a growing belief among the mutant community that baseline humans are responsible for Genosha and they want payback."

"The precursor arc to "16 Million" has the title "Kill Charley,"" Claremont revealed on his Cordially Chris forum. ""Kill Charley" is an echo of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill.""

The mysteries of Magma and Selene

Instead of "Kill Charley" and "Sixteen Million", story-arcs entitled "Storm: The Arena" and "Prisoner of Fire" followed "Intifada", and in X-Treme X-Men #45 Magma was confronted with the first Lord Imperial of the Hellfire Club, Elias Bogan, having a connection to her parents. It was never explained how, because the series was cancelled with #46 in 2004, and Bogan never appeared again in any X-Men book.

While Chris Claremont wasn't writing the X-Men from 1991 to 2000, other writers had postulated that Magma was actually a girl named Allison Crestmere, and that her life as Amara Aquilla in Nova Roma had been a lie fabricated by the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, Selene. Claremont did away with that nonsense when he started using Magma in X-Treme X-Men, and in #46 Magma now knew that her time as Allison Crestmere had been but a cruel dream intended to steal her away from Nova Roma to torment those who loved her. But it was never revealed who was behind this scheme, although it is possible that it was Selene, who confronted Magma in X-Treme X-Men #45 and was waiting to claim her as a slave.

As for Selene, she was supposed to be trapped inside the New York Hellfire Club, but she revealed in Uncanny X-Men #454, 2005, also written by Claremont, that she had struck an alliance which secured for her a certain freedom of action, but it was never revealed who that alliance was with.

Goodbye to X-Treme X-Men

In an interview with Newsarama.com in 2003, Claremont looked back on his ups and downs writing the X-Men from he left them in 1991 to leaving X-Treme X-Men: "It's hard to walk away from something, there are memories, scars, regrets and all the rest of them. But there (were) other things I wanted and needed to do back then and I did them. I got a second chance to come back and do the book three years ago and for various reasons pretty much beyond my control it didn't work out. On the other hand the last two and (a) half years writing X-Treme X-Men has been a real delight. The opportunity of working on 24 issues with (artist) Salvador Larroca has been wonderful. I have yearnings but no complaints."

X-Treme X-Men was cancelled despite having stayed among the 20 best selling comic books on Previews Top 100 in order to bring the characters back into the main X-Men books. "It's bittersweet to bring X-Treme (X-Men) to an end, when it feels like the series was only just getting started and we were in the process of building our momentum through a really exciting series of stories," Claremont told Newsarama.com.

With the cancellation of X-Treme X-Men, Chris Claremont was hired on as writer of Uncanny X-Men beginning with #444 in 2004. It was his third run on the title. At the same time, he launched a new Excalibur series.

The short-lived Excalibur series

"With the announcement that X-Treme (X-Men) would be cancelled, (artist) Igor (Kordey) and I were kicking around the idea of what to do next," Claremont told Newsarama.com about the creation of Excalibur vol.3. "I had some thoughts that had been percolating for some time, that I'd been planning for X-Treme (X-Men), that synergized with the news that Charley (Professor Xavier) would be leaving Uncanny (X-Men) after (writer) Grant (Morrison)'s run."

"Igor and I began constructing the world we wanted to create on Genosha, the visual feel for the book, the type of characters who'd live there and the stories we'd tell. We were going great guns," Claremont continued. "Now, due to circumstances wholly beyond his control, (artist) Aaron Lopresti (who replaced Igor Kordey on Excalibur vol.3) has to play six months worth of pre-production catch-up in half as many weeks, which is a challenge I wouldn't wish on anyone but one he's embraced enthusiastically. So, despite all the speed-bumps, I think the book will be off to a great start."

In Excalibur vol.3, Professor Xavier went to the ruins of the island nation of Genosha and along with Magneto he gathered a new group of mutants. They had adversaries in a group of mutants led by Unus that included the teleporter Hub. In Excalibur vol.3 #2, 2004, it was revealed that Hub was actually an undercover agent in Unus' gang. She was secretly working with two other mutants, Hack and Purge, and in Excalibur vol.3 #3 they were revealed to be taking orders from a woman named Chimre. In the following issue, Chimre recalled Hub, Hack and Purge from helping out Excalibur because her plan was more important.

In Excalibur vol.3 #6, 2004, Chimre once again told Hub, Hack and Purge not to help out Excalibur because the plan was more important and it would be better for them if Professor Xavier was taken out of the equation. Although Hub appeared as an undercover agent in Unus' gang again in Excalibur vol.3 #8-10 and reluctantly joined Excalibur on a mission in Excalibur vol.3 #11 and 12, her purpose as an undercover agent and Chimre's plan was never revealed before Excalibur vol.3 got cancelled with #14 in 2005. Chimre never appeared anywhere.

Achmed Al-Khalad, the leader of the modern-day pirates the Weaponeers, was mentioned in Uncanny X-Men #444 and in Excalibur vol.3 #11, but he never appeared anywhere either.

Mysteries involving Fraser's Bank

In 2006, Claremont launched the series New Excalibur, and in #4 and 5 Warwolves attacked the team, but it was never revealed who had hired the Warvolves. In seemingly unrelated events, a couple of murders had taken place in New Excalibur #4, and it was never revealed who was behind those, either.

One of the victims in New Excalibur #4 was an employee of Fraser's Bank, and in New Excalibur #1 a team of evil X-Men from another dimension called Shadow-X had chased another employee of Fraser's Bank. The Shadow King controlled Shadow-X, but it was never revealed why they were chasing the employee of Fraser's Bank.

But a subplot concerning the head of Fraser's Bank and White Queen of the Hellfire Club, Courtney Ross, was also building. In New Excalibur #4, all of her credit cards and her cellular account had inexplicably been cancelled and in New Excalibur #17, 2007, she was forced to sever all connections with Fraser's Bank by a group of businessmen.

All of these plots involving Fraser's Bank never went anywhere before New Excalibur got cancelled with #24 in 2007.

Goodbye to the X-Men

Meanwhile, Claremont had been let go as writer of the X-Men. "I was recently informed that my run will end with Uncanny (X-Men) #474 (in 2006)," Claremont told Comics Creators On X-Men. "Seems Marvel wants to bring on some new writers and change direction. Again."

Claremont left readers with an unresolved plot in the 2008 GeNext mini-series set in the future. Shadow-X kidnapped team-member No-Name because she had information that they needed to prevent the world from being destroyed and dimensions from being destabilized. When No-Name was saved, it was never revealed what the information was Shadow-X wanted, or how the world and dimensions would then be saved, because No-Name wanted to leave it as something she walked away from a long time ago.

"One of the reasons all the stories in the second (GeNext) arc were set in India was because I wanted to see if it was possible to reach out and perhaps appeal to the sub-continental audience," Claremont admitted to Comicbookresources.com. "If we'd gone to a third series, that would have been set in China; an intentionally global concept if it went forward as an ongoing."

"Think about it," Claremont continued. "You have a whole host of X-Men locked up in North America; enough already, let's see if we can entice a more international clientele. In a way, this kind of thinking goes back to where we started: Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Dave Cockrum, Len Wein in 1975's Giant-Size X-Men with the intentionally international team. It worked then, and it could work now."

"But I have a certain vision for certain characters, and Marvel, for example, is taking their books in a direction that is not simpatico with that vision, so for me it's easier to focus on other things that are definitely more enjoyable," Claremont stated.

So from 2009 to 2011, Claremont wrote the out of continuity X-Men Forever series, which took place in Dimension 161. However, the series was cancelled because of poor sales before a storyline about Mr. Sinister kidnapping Cyclop's son could be wrapped up, and shortly thereafter Claremont stopped working for Marvel, leaving readers with no hope for resolutions to his many unresolved X-Men plots.

"I've always liked the characters," Claremont reminisced on Comicon.com, "and always, to this day, felt there were stories left to tell. Sometimes I feel like I've hardly scratched the surface."

All the more the pity that Claremont's long association with the X-Men has now come to an end.

Chris Arrant: Chris Claremont Talks About The Future, Comicbookresources.com, 2 January 2012
Jennifer M. Contino: Claremont To The X-Treme, Comicon.com, 27 December 2002
Jennifer M. Contino: Chris Claremont Pt 1, Comicon.com, 28 January 2005
Cordially Chris, Comixfan.com/xfan, 12 August 2003, 27 March 2004 and 4 April 2004
Tom DeFalco: Comics Creators On X-Men, April 2006
Daniel Robert Epstein: Claremont_X2, Newsarama.com, 2003
Richard Ho: X-tra X-tra!, Wizard's X-Men Special, 2003
Benjamin Ong Pang Kean: Back In The Saddle Again, Newsarama.com, 2004
Christopher Lawrence: The Wizard Q&A Joe Quesada, Wizard #111, December 2000
Eric J. Moreels: Claremont Talks X-Treme Down Under, Cinescape.com, 22 April 2001
Eric J. Moreels: Claremont Talks X-Treme "Schism", X-mencomics.com/xfan, 21 December 2002
Eric J. Moreels: Claremont's "X-Treme" Plans, X-mencomics.com/xfan, 2003
Your Man @ Marvel: Claremont Gets X-Treme!, X-Treme X-Men #1, July 2001