The Secret to Writing Good Comic Books by Chris Claremont
I’m here with writer Chris Claremont, most famous for having saved the X-Men and his 17-year run on the title, and author of a lot of creator-owned works and fantasy novels.
Mr. Claremont, I’d like to ask you a few questions.
Chris Claremont: My pleasure – fire away.
Carl: I read that in college you wanted to be an actor. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer instead?
Chris Claremont: Actually, I graduated with a degree in acting, and I started out in New York to be a professional actor, both on stage and in television. But, to pay the bills, I started working – one of the things I did was writing. And I never really considered writing as a profession, any more than you consider breathing to keep yourself alive. It’s just something you do. Writing was something I did. And, so I got a job at Marvel part time, and I thought, “This is cool, I’ll stay here for six months, earn enough money to pay my rent, and go off and do summer stock.” But then they made me full time. And then I got the X-Men. And then about five or six years later, I looked up and realized I wasn’t acting anymore, I was writing full time. And I’ve been doing it ever since. Now, 40-plus years. On the other hand, with Days of Future Past, I just restarted my acting career, so what goes around, comes around, I guess. It just takes a while.
Carl: How did you get the idea to give a new start to the X-Men?
Mr. Claremont: Actually, I didn’t. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum did, working with Roy Thomas and Stan Lee. They did the first issue, which is Giant-Size X-Men #1, and then Len had to leave the book, and he said he wanted to know who was going to, wanted to write it. I didn’t even give him a chance to ask the question; I just kicked down his door jumped on him, and said, “I’m doing it!” Because I helped him with a couple of little moments along the way in Giant-Size and I wanted to work with Dave Cockrum really badly.
Mr. Claremont: It’s not different at all. It’s just no one had ever done it yet, when I started.
Carl: Cool. Is there a difference in how you work on writing a comic versus writing a novel?
Mr. Claremont: Well, writing a comic involves short-hand, basically. My job is to tell the story, the actions of the story, to the penciller, so he can create exciting, visual pictures. In a novel, my job is to tell the entire story, to create the visuals, the pictures in your mind with words. So, a novel requires me to be eloquent. Comics require me to be clear and precise. So, it doesn’t read at all like good writing or good fiction writing when I am writing a plot, but that’s because the artist’s job is to tell story. My job is to tell him the story so he can do it.
Mr. Claremont: Like writing a screen play.
Carl: What comic books did you read when you were a kid?
Mr. Claremont: English comic books mostly. Dan Dare, Sky Pilot, or The Spaceways things like that. I didn’t really get hooked on American comics until I was a senior in high school, and I started reading the Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Mr. Claremont: Me too! He gave me my first job.
Carl: What comics do you read now?
Mr. Claremont: None, I’m afraid. ☹.
Carl: Why not?
Mr. Claremont: Not enough hours in the day and yeah basically that. I’m too busy writing my own material. Which is now a days is all prose on comics.
Carl: One last question: Are you having fun at Comic Con?
Mr. Claremont: Always! Are you?
Carl: YES!!! 😊
Carl: Thank you for answering my questions. It was nice to meet you.
Mr. Claremont: It’s a pleasure- the pleasure is mine.