Nerds on Earth
The best place on Earth for nerds.

Nerd Obsession: Chris Claremont, the Man Who Defined the X-Men for Millions

I should admit my bias up front: The Uncanny X-Men is among my dearest nerd obsessions. To explain why Uncanny X-Men is tattooed so deep on my heart, you’ll need to indulge me in a little bit of an over-share. I’m an only child raised by a single mom. In order to provide for me, my mom worked multiple jobs, yet she always supported my nerdy interests. One of those was buying Uncanny X-Men comics from the local drug store spinner rack.

I had a hundred Uncanny X-Men comics and I read each one many times over. I’d spend hours at a time, alone in my room like any card-carrying introvert is wont to do, reading and re-reading Chris Clarmont stories. The Uncanny X-Men serves as a touchstone for my childhood.

So, let’s use this edition of Nerd Obsession to give you an overview on why those Chris Claremont X-Men stories had the power to shape childhoods, mine as well as a million others. To me, my X-Men.

Timeline

  • 1969: Claremont’s comics career began, as a college undergraduate, when he was hired as a gofer/editorial assistant at Marvel Comics.
  • 1975: As an entry into writing, Claremont was given Marvel Premiere, featuring the fledgling “Iron Fist” character. He was joined two issues later by artist John Byrne.
  • 1975: Len Wein, Marvel’s EIC, recognized Claremont’s enthusiasm for the X-Men and hired Claremont to take over the series as of issue #94, reasoning that the X-Men’s poor standing and sales befitted a new writer.
  • 1978: The series title was changed to Uncanny X-Men with issue #114.
  • 1982: The Clarmont penned New Mutants title spun out of the X-Men. More new titles would follow throughout the 80s.
  • 1984: By this time Uncanny X-Men was routinely the best selling comic book by a large margin.
  • 1991: The Chris Claremont era comes to an end after an unprecedented 16 years.

Get to Know the Man

Jewish on his mother’s side, Chris Claremont was born in London in 1950 but his parents immigrated to Long Island when he was three. Never seeing comics in his future, he studied political theory and acting in college, while he wrote novels on the side.

But he was hired as a gofer at Marvel Comics in 1969. By 1975 he was given reins to the struggling X-Men title at issue #94. Len Wein, Marvel’s EIC at the time, figured a green writer like Claremont couldn’t drop sales any worse than they already were and, if he did, it’s not like anyone cared about characters like the X-Men anyway.

Claremont would go on to have an unprecedented and legendary run on the title that lasted 17 years and hundreds of issues. Not only did he create dozens of beloved characters but he wrote beloved storylines that endure to this day.

Says Rolling Stone magazine, “Claremont had lived the book’s outsider themes. “I’m an immigrant,” says the writer, who came to the U.S. from England as a kid. “My first week in school, I showed up in knee socks, shorts, shirt, tie, sweater. Got the sh!t beat out of me because I looked like a geek.” He combined soapy angst with cosmic scope, while hitting the prejudice theme harder than ever: Now the teenage outsiders who had begun to dominate comic-book readership saw the mutant struggle as their own.”

Uncanny X-Men became a superpower soap opera and readers began to care as much about the characters as they did the action they participated in. Chris Claremont put the X-Men in constant emotional turmoil.

These emotions would be borne out in comic book thought bubbles and narrative captions. Claremont was known for his “purple prose,” meaning that readers of Uncanny X-Men comics were never at a loss when it came to knowing what their favorite comic book characters were thinking.

What did this lead to? Well, the X-Men became beloved by millions and the comics sold in those numbers as well. Chris Claremont took the title to #1 on the sales charts for years running. As a result, Chris Claremont became a nerd obsession and defined comic books for millions of readers.

By the Numbers

  • 300+: Number of issues written by Claremont, including Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, Excalibur, and more.
  • 7.1 Million: Number of copies sold of X-Men #1, the 1991 comic that Claremont co-wrote with artist Jim Lee.
  • 72+: Number of characters or teams created by Claremont, such as Cannonball, Emma Frost, Gambit, the Hellfire Club, the Mauraders, the Morlocks, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Psylocke, Mister Sinister, and many, many, many more.

Iconic Storylines

Pardon the Introductions

  • Marvel Girl became the Phoenix in issue #101.
  • Teenage mutant Kitty Pryde was introduced in #129.
  • Dazzler, a disco-singing, roller-skating mutant, was introduced in #130.
  • A new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, led by Mystique, was introduced in the “Days of Future Past” storyline in issues #141-#142.
  • Magneto was revealed to be a survivor of the Holocaust in issue #150.
  • The Morlocks, a group of disfigured mutants living underneath New York City, were introduced in #169.
  • Rogue, a member of Mystique’s Brotherhood, defected to the X-Men in #171.
  • Madelyne Pryor gave birth to Cyclops’ son in #201.

Final Fact

Chris Claremont’s X-Men is a documentary film made about Claremont’s legendary run on Uncanny X-Men.

Go Down a Rabbit Hole

Learn about Chris Claremont’s untold stories. | Or the time he created multiple superhero teams. | The story of his Mutant Wars that never came to be. | Reminisce about his creative Australia years. | Learn what is sinister about Mister Sinister. | That time when Claremont made cybernetics cool creepy. | Examine Demon Bear. | Explore Claremont’s X-Men adjacent titles like Excalibur. | Or recall some of his biggest storylines like Mutant Massacre or Inferno.