photo manipulation by nacrowe
the story of writer CHRIS CLAREMONT and his relationship with the X-MEN franchise is very much synonymous with the struggle between ART and COMMERCE. the documentary CHRIS CLAREMONT'S X-MEN (RESPECT, 2018) is effectively his accounting of that struggle.
originally a college intern to STAN LEE, CLAREMONT early in his career as a writer at MARVEL was handed over carte blanche control of a newly created but struggling franchise. interestingly, X-MEN was originally devised a means of exploiting an emerging global fanbase of comics enthusiasts with international mutant characters. under the guidance of CLAREMONT, as well as his enthusiastic and supportive editors and collaborators in LOUISE SIMONSON and ANN NOCENTI, came up with an expanding cast of characters that were both relatable and inclusive relative to what was available at the time via DC and even the rest of MARVEL. this included numerous female characters that were not token "girl" team members and, get this, storylines that dealt with issues like RACISM and XENOPHOBIA. these plots often centered around psychological motivations and the sense that these characters were players in an ambiguous moral universe like, say, real-life! who knew such was even possible in COMICS?
eventually 17 years into his run (which ended in 1991) the immense success of the franchise meant that CLAREMONT had to cease control involuntarily to new upstarts in JIM LEE and ROB LIEFIELD who made more palatable material that served the marketing agenda of MARVEL. this seems like an inevitability of sorts due to the nature of commerce. he literally created an economic engine that superseded his ability to control it.
one thing i love about COMIC BOOK culture is the active engagement of its readership. believe me, they know when a franchise has jumped the shark or has been successfully transitioned into a new era by a knowledgeable, creative new WRITERS, ARTISTS and EDITORS. the tenure of CLAREMONT with X-MEN, which is such an anomaly given that such as so singularly identifiable with a single writer over such an extensive period of time, will likely always been seen as its heyday, before the corporate hacks and vultures took their stab at the corpse. i give the readership that credit. they know that X-MEN was the project of an auteur in CLAREMONT. someone who traded in narrative, character and emotional depth, not mere spectacle.
ART versus COMMERCE. was there any doubt that COMMERCE would prevail? don't need some deep understanding of COMICS to figure that one out.