Tue Sørensen: We've heard this rumor that you originally intended Aliens vs. Predator [The Deadliest of Species] the entire story to have been a film?
Chris Claremont: No, the original plot for issue # 11 was [that, on the splash-page, we have] a director, a camera, a crew the whole thing and the director is yelling "Cut!" And then on page 2 and 3 we have a double-spread where you pull back and the whole scene that ends # 10 is revealed to be a set! And all the characters, they are either watching or they are acting. Caryn Delacroix is the head of productions at 20th Century Fox, Shirow and DeMedici are the screenwriters, TOY is the director... Delacroix is the producer... and it's all set in Hollywood! Then gradually, as you work through the issue, Aliens would start popping up on Melrose Boulevard! Things would start going wrong, and you come to realize that this is just another Virtual Reality scenario that TOY is using to throw Caryn i.e. Ash off the pace. Fox's attitude was that it was a "fascinating" idea They thought I was totally whacked out! But they were involved in far too much litigation over Alien IV and Aliens vs. Predator to start any trouble whatsoever. They felt that this was getting way out of hand "it's too much aggravation, could you please do something else?"
So I did something else. Again, it's their toys their sand- box they have the right of ultimate approval or disapproval. Actually, I think the rewrite on that issue is a better story, a more appropriate one for the series. The first version was a terrific piece of self-indulgence which happens every now and then! But that's why you have editors to look at them and say, "EEENHH!! Noo, I don't think so! That's a piece of bullshit! Go away!"
Ulrik Kristiansen: There seems to be a lot of different opinions about the general market situation and quality compared to what it was for instance 10 years ago. What's your lowdown on it?
Chris Claremont: My lowdown on this: the mid-80's, The Uncanny X-Men sold 400,000 copies a month. There were a dozen books that sold over a 100,000 copies a month. Now, there are a dozen mainstream titles that barely sell 20,000 copies a month. Major companies are publishing titles that when I started in 1973 would be cancelled in a shot, because the sales were so low! They don't even begin to cover the cost of printing the books. I think the market is in a very difficult place right now. I think, like the stock-market of the 80's, a lot of the cynicism and bad business-practises of the last ten years have come home to roost. I think, the fact is that many publishers, and many creators, have forgotten their obligation to their readers to provide good, solid, exciting, engrossing stories every month every month! You can't just do 3 books a year and expect people to be interested. You need the dependability, the quality, the passion You need the commitment. You can't half-ass (?) this thing. You can't assume the audience will always be there. You can't take them for granted any more than they should take you for granted. And I think unfortunately we're paying the price for that. The sad thing is, there's no easy or quick fix to this; you have to rebuild the relationship of trust and commitment one brick at the time. Unfortunately, with some companies being public and having quarterly reports to the stock- holders... it doesn't give them a whole helluva lot of flexibility. Or a margin for error, or safety in that regard. If they don't show a fast turn-around of the numbers, they're in deep trouble! And this is an industry that isn't good at short- term fixes. Yeah, you can kill Superman, or you can change the X- Men's reality... but then what? I mean, if you take a major character that people have loved for 30 years, and you latterly announce that the last 20 years of that series has been a lie, because the character is a clone...
Ulrik Kristiansen: Who would that be?!
Chris Claremont: No comment! Well, the point is, you take the emotional investment, the care, the passion that a whole generation of readers have given this series, and you say: "It's a lie! Tough! Move it on. You're outta here! Who cares?" Then you have driven a stake through the heart of one of the core elements in our relationship: that you can trust a publisher. That what happened, happened; that truth is truth.
If you're saying that John Smith is not Hero-Man, that he is a xerox of Hero-Man, and the real Hero-Man is named John Jones, and has been running around off-stage for 20 years... how do we know that's the truth? What's to prevent someone coming in, in 2 years and say: "OUP! We lied! John Jones is really the clone, and John Smith is really the real Hero-Man... Nope! There's a third guy: John Bairsford-Tipton, who's the real Hero-Man!"
Why should you care? And if you don't care, why should you bother reading the book? [As a publisher or creator,] You're asking for a lot of money. You're asking for a lot of commitment. You're asking for a lot of effort on the part of the reader; a lot of passion. If you don't give that in return, then the contract is broken and if the contract is broken, they'll find somewhere else to go, and somewhere else to invest their money, and their time.
Ulrik Kristiansen: I think it's about time for that ultimate, last just- between-you-and- us question...
Tue Sørensen: What was your original intention with Mr. Sinister?
Ulrik Kristiansen: He's been around for a hundred issues and we still don't know anything about him!!
Chris Claremont: Ah yes, you do! Sinister was Scott's boyhood friend in the orphanage. He's an 8-year old kid he's always been an 8-year old kid. He ages one year for every 10 of everybody else!
Tue + Ulrik Kristiansen: Awright!! (Finally the truth comes around!)
Chris Claremont: So he's a 50 year old guy in a 10-year old's body and boy is he pissed!!
Chris Claremont: That's why he works with clones. It's the only way he can deal with the adult world because he is not gonna be an adult for another 50 years... at the earliest!!! And that's why he takes a long view of things; because he's going to be around for a 1000 years, give or take a few... at least!
(Chris regains a hold of himself and we catch our breath for laughter).
And... you know... Sinister, the Shadow King... I was trying to build up a whole network of people who were using the concept of mutants, evolving the threat to the X-Men from pure prejudice to the realization on the part of the world at large that mutants are exploitable commodities. That to have a telepath working for you is a good thing. And that the danger now is going to come from governments, corporations, and organisations trying to get the earth's governments and the Russians worrying about a mutant gap, which is what the Shadow King was all about, and the Hand with Tsuriyaba was all about and what Sinister was all about.
Tue Sørensen: It's very interesting.
Chris Claremont: It's interesting, but from what I gather in terms of the current X-Men, it's not part of the mix. The key to it was always to deal with them in terms of how they interacted with the real world; that they were a part of the real world, that they lived in the real world, that they had a future in the real world. That at some point Storm might well marry Forge and go off living happily everafter or not. That Nightcrawler and Amanda had a future. That Kitty would or would not become the new Saturnyne. All these elements were there.
The problem was that for me, putting an ancient Roman city in the jungle was Edgar Rice Burroughs meets Arthur Conan Doyle. It was a hoot! This is fun! Actually it was a Roman-Incan city, so you had mixed elements... [Anyway,] That didn't sit well with the new writers on the book... so they blew it up. And you know, Sam Guthrie came from basically a family of Appalachians, of Harlan (?) County coal-miners "No, he's a super-being from another universe!" Fine...
Tue Sørensen: Did they say that?!
Chris Claremont: Yeah, he's some sort of god-being, or something... That's what I heard.
Tue Sørensen: My God!
Chris Claremont: Ask Fabian [Nicieza]. It was his idea.
Tue Sørensen: Actually, we heard that Fabian has been taken off the X- books...
Chris Claremont: Yeah, he has.
Tue Sørensen: Do you know why?
Chris Claremont: I have my suspicions, but you should go to the source for that. Or better yet: interview the editor on the book, and ask him why he has so much trouble keeping writers.
Tue Sørensen: Actually, we did make an interview with Bob Harras, and he said about your leaving the book that it was so long ago that he couldn't remember what happened.
Chris Claremont: That's very discreet of him.
Ulrik Kristiansen: Ok, that about wraps it up for now. Chris thank you very much for your time. It was great talking to you.