In case you missed it, 20th Century Fox designated yesterday as X-Men Day to celebrate America’s favorite mutants. In honor of this special occasion, the studio released a promotional featurette in which longtime X-Men writers Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson discuss the fan appeal of Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix.
“The interesting thing I realized writing the X-Men is I always had a sense of where I was going,” says Claremont. “With Dark Phoenix, Jean had the greatest power imaginable, and how was she going to deal with that? And the thing I learned, I guess from Stan [Lee], was that actions have consequences.”
The multiple award-winning, Eisner Hall of Fame writer authored “The Dark Phoenix” saga as part of an extended arc in the Uncanny X-Men. The 2019 live action film that Fox will release on June 7 directly adapts the Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix arc from Claremont’s story.
“We wanted to demonstrate what she could do, and she ended up saving the universe. We wanted her to be the heart and soul of the team,” says Claremont.
After being exposed to radiation from a solar flare, Jean develops incredible powers, becoming one of the most powerful mutants in the X-Men universe. When her powers spiral out of control, Jean becomes a danger to those around her. This causes rifts in her relationships with the other members of the team.
Claremont says that the key was creating characters that were “as relevant and real to the audience as I can make them, put them in situations that everyone could identify with and recognize.”
“In Dark Phoenix, Jean found herself wrapped up in a series of circumstances that she was unprepared for,” explains Claremont. “She makes a moral choice, and for better or worse, that’s the only way she could find to make amends for what she’s done.”
According to Simonson, her work with Claremont was so character-driven that it was the reason why the two were so simpatico.
“Jean was his total favorite,” says Simonson, “partly because he’d given her such a hard time through so many issues, and he’s seen how strong she could be.”
Claremont was one of the longest tenured writers for Marvel. His nearly two-decade run on the Uncanny X-Men turned a flagging series into one of Marvel’s most profitable franchises. As a writer, Claremont gave his female characters unusual depth and complexity. His groundbreaking stories brought inclusivity before it was even a thing and tackled subjects of race and sexual orientation head on, using his mutant characters as mirrors of society.
Claremont says: “For me as a writer, I want them to fall in love with these characters, I want them to see them as real echoes or parallels of their own lives. Dark Phoenix is the ultimate expression of the darkest shadow in everyone’s soul…and there you go.”