Born in England, raised in the USA, Chris Claremont grew up reading the pulp heroes. He wasn’t planning to be a writer; he had his sights set on a career in film as either a director or an actor.
Put simply, Claremont is the guy who made the X-Men good. Before Claremont, X-Men was boring. It was one of the few comics that Jack Kirby & Stan Lee created that didn’t sell so well. It was actually selling so badly that it couldn’t maintain its own monthly title. This young upstart came along and turned it all on its head. It changed into a long running soap opera where character motivations and drama became much more important than who the villain of the month was. Like Lee before him, Claremont tried to do something different with the super hero genre and ended up being one of the biggest influences.
Claremont saw that the idea of mutants could be used as a stand in for any real life minority, whether it was race, social status or whatever else, Uncanny X-Men in Claremont’s hands became very important to a diverse range of readers. He expanded the franchise to include other titles such as New Mutants, Excalibur and (just) X-Men. Thanks to his work, the franchise became the powerhouse it is today.
Claremont was the co-creator of many important characters such as: Rogue, Psylocke, Sabretooth, Shadowcat, Phoenix, Mystique, Emma Frost, Captain Brittain and Gambit. He also shaped many others into what they are known as today, like: Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Cyclops and Iron Fist. Many of the stories he wrote for X-Men were adapted into the movies, games and cartoons we all loved. The upcoming Wolverine movie will be based around the early issues of the series he created with Frank Miller and the next X-Men film on the classic Days of Future Past.
He didn’t just elevate the X-Men franchise; he elevated the super hero genre.
Claremont has written a lot of comics since he started in the 70s, so much that I have to admit, I’ve barely scratched the surface. The most important to me will always be Excalibur. When I was a kid I saw the infamous pilot to the X-Men cartoon starring Cyclops, Dazzler, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and an Australian voiced Wolverine. I also was lucky enough to find the arcade game based on that same cartoon in local arcades soon after.
So, inspired by the cartoon and game I loved so much, I went to my local comic store in search of X-Men comics. I found out that Nightcrawler, by far my favourite mutant superhero, had moved on from X-Men and was now a member of the British team Excalibur along with Kitty Pryde, now going by the name Shadowcat. There was no doubt in my mind; this was the comic I was buying.
I was in luck, whereas in the pages of Uncanny X-Men the team were dealing with boring stuff (to my 10 year old brain) like mutant politics and never ending crossovers, Excalibur was doing its own thing. They were going on a Cross-Time Caper, meeting trolls and Judge Dredd analogues, they were running from the powers that controlled the entire Omniverse and meeting strange new versions of established Marvel heroes in strange new worlds.
Unlike a lot of the other Marvel titles of my youth, Excalibur included a sense of humour, while managing to maintain an addicting drama as well. Excalibur was so different to the rest of the X-Franchise and I loved every little bit.
He was also the writer of the first Iron Fist ongoing series and has worked on everything from Gen 13 to Batman. There is so much he’s done. Go and check out his giant bibliography on Wikipedia, he did all sorts of stuff including a trilogy of novels with George Lucas set in the Willow universe.
These days Claremont’s writing style seems to be a bit out-dated to me. He tends to over explain things and doesn’t always let the art talk for itself as much as he should. On the other hand, the concepts he comes up with are fairly different from what a lot of other creators use, or they inspired them.
Broken record I know, just go and buy it already!
Uncanny X-Men & X-Men
It’s funny, even though I love X-Men as much as I do, I’ve not read all that much of Claremont’s work. That’s not to say I haven’t read a lot, but the fact is the man was writing it non-stop for nearly 20 years. He quit not long after I started reading comics regularly so there’s was a lot for me to catch-up on.
Some of the more famous stories are Days of Future Past, God Loves Man Kills & The Dark Phoenix Saga. You probably already experience them all in some other form of media.
Chris Claremont was the writer of the first Wolverine solo series and Frank Miller was on pencils. Miller also helped out with the plot. This is the series the next Wolverine movie will be based around. Heaps of fun in Japan with ninjas, a lot of ninjas.
A team created by Claremont during his time with DC Comics. This has similar themes to X-Men in regards to the misfit teen drama thing but it leans more toward space adventures rather than politics or racism.
Claremont has been writing for a long time without any significant break, he’s worked on just about every Marvel superhero and a decent amount of DC. There are also the novels he wrote. There is so much on offer, chances are if you don’t like any of the work mentioned, you will find something else he’s worked on and fall in love with it.