By Brandon Pascall
Marvel has had a pretty packed NYCC with their announcements, including Donny Cates becoming the new Thor writer and Al Ewing taking over for Guardians. The publisher slowed things down today, though, with the “Marvel Fanfare” panel. Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski and the legendary X-Men scribe Chris Claremont joined forces to talk about their personal journeys in comics and answer questions from the fans.
To kick this panel off, Cebulski started with his own origin story and told the audience that he grew up a comic book fan; the first comic he ever read was Uncanny X-Men #121, which was written by Claremont.
Next year marks Claremont’s 50th anniversary at Marvel, and Claremont recounted his time as at intern: “In the bullpen we did 30 books a month and the only door in the office was Stan’s.” Growing up in England, he didn’t read much Marvel, but was addicted to the local strips until they got cancelled. During his sophomore year of high school, he got into reading Fantastic Four (#48, to be exact, which was the Coming of Galactus arc).
Leading into his formative years as a young man, Claremont recounted how he got his Marvel job through his parents’ friendship with Al Jaffee (of MAD fame). Claremont asked to work for MAD out of high school, but Jaffee told Claremont that his parents would never forgive him. He called Stan Lee and got Claremont a job at Marvel instead.
As an intern, Claremont said he did everything, and even rejected a Tony Isabella story before he worked at Marvel. Five years later, when he became an assistant editor, Isabella ended up being Claremont’s boss. He never let Claremont forget that he rejected his story.
Speaking about his experience before working on X-Men, he tried his hand at becoming an actor in the evening while working his day job at Marvel. After the then-current X-Men writer left, Claremont asked to tackle the book for the summer, “and fate decided to gut punch me” with the success of the book. His first credited issue was #94, which was about getting rid of Krakoa, the living island (sound familiar? That’s because you’re reading Jonathan Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X).
According to what Cebulski and Claremont said at “Marvel Fanfare,” the similarities of how Marvel decides what stories to publish are shockingly similar from past to present. Claremont broke down the routine that they had, which consisted of writers and editors going out for dinners to discuss future stories and plans for the characters. In today’s age, Marvel writers and editors don’t get treated to a nice dinner, but instead have a weekend-long retreat around three times a year at the Marvel HQ to plan out the future of the Marvel Universe.
This turned the conversation over to fan favorite Kitty Pride, who was created at one of these meetings and became the entry point for new readers. Claremont discussed how Kitty Pride was created and he talked about how every X-Men was an adult and didn’t need to be in a school for gifted youngsters. So, they brought in a kid to learn from the rest of the X-Men. Claremont talked about wanting to find a way for X-Men to work for a younger crowd.
“Superheroes are easy but the people are the hard part,” he said. He urged any creators in the crowd to steal from real life and said Lee created the Marvel Universe in the real world for a reason — “and the rest, they say, is history.”
To finish things off, Cebulski wanted to know about what Claremont thought when the X-Men was being turned into a feature film back in 2000. Claremont made a memo on how Fox should focus on the real stories and characters instead of focusing on the action. The only regret Claremont has is that he wishes that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko were here to see that the X-Men are home at Marvel Studios. He also said he can’t wait to see what happens next and what Marvel Studios has in store for the X-Men.