NY Mag’s Vulture blog recruited Marvel: The Untold Story author Sean Howe to chat with Chris Claremont about the Wolverine movie;

So, what did you think of the movie?

The first two acts were kick-ass, and they set this up to be a really exceptional, different movie. It was like the film took this giant step forward. I liked that it focuses on the essence of who Wolverine is and what he does. Hugh Jackman is eloquent, and he owns the character at this point. It’s a surprisingly multidimensional performance. The third act wasn’t bad, per se, but it was a different tone.

Howe is careful to note that Claremont didn’t create Wolverine—Len Wein and John Romita did—but it’s nice to see an OG Bullpenner spotlighted for a change.


  1. These 4-6issues were an example of perfect comics(+2 adding the Paul Smith X-men which closed out the story in awesome fashion), Comics were at another one of their zeniths on these books. This is Frank Miller & Paul Smith (on X-Men where story continued) at their very best-storytelling, design & art . Add to that, the excellent inks from Joe Rubenstein & Bob Wiacek, Glynis Wein’s coloring, letterer was great too. What was in the water then?

    Heard Joe Rubenstein on an old podcast embarrassed about his own inks on Frank Miller’s Wolverine art. Really think he’s being too hard on himself, they were excellent. Millers art was in top form here (in his sort of Neal Adam’s phase) I’ve always preferred the Rubenstein/KLaus Janson early inks , also his Ronin style (Moebius influenced) before he started inking himself in his inky Picasso phase, It all works for Frank Miller but the Wolverine series shows off his genius early a workman like way.

    Anyhow , these are comics at their post Silver Age finest. Trade is worth it.
    Hope the movie is good, It’ll be nothing like the exhilaration of the series but I ‘ll catch it , even if based somewhat on these books. I see the movie studios are now cherry-picking the best 80’s stories like this and Days of Future Past, then bringing them to light. Not a bad trend if they do them justice.

  2. I re-read that 1982 miniseries a few days ago. It holds up beautifully. I assume Miller inspired Claremont to write such terse dialogue (as opposed to the long-winded speeches — position papers, really — that filled too many issues of X-Men).

    Those four issues come close to perfection — a terrific blend of words and pictures working together. Anyone interested in comics should read them. Glad they’re forming the basis of a long-overdue movie.

  3. From the Howe-Claremont interview:

    The way I always describe Wolverine is, if you walked into Logan’s room at the X-Mansion, you’d be immediately struck that the room would be split almost literally in half. One would be a total shithole: clothes on the couch, beer cans wherever. This is a guy who doesn’t give a damn about anything; he just tosses it. There’s nothing sophisticated, nothing respectful; it’s altogether creepy. And then there’s the other half of the room, which is pristine, elegant, down to the bare essentials of what, for him, is life: a samurai short sword sitting on a desk, and maybe a few precious other items. You’d look at that side of the room and be instantly struck by the balance, the sensitivity. That’s the two sides of Logan.

    The balance strikes me as being artificial, an attempt to inject some virtues into the character. How many rednecks have any interest in etiquette or culture? Unless Logan has those virtues, he’s a totally unsympathetic character, an asshole whose first response to a threat is to try to kill it. How would he react to losing his powers and being an ineffectual asshole who could be dismissed by other paranormals?

    Claremont’s description does nothing to convince me that Logan is an actual hero.


  4. The new Wolverine movie opened at No. 1, but didn’t as well financially as expected. Audiences may be suffering from superhero fatigue.

    The movie seems to be doing much better overseas, which makes sense, because these franchise movies are made for the overseas market first and foremost.

  5. @george: I think Claremont had more range than people give him credit for. He didn’t just do the wordy stock-in-trade house style. If you open up X-Men comics from across his 17-year run, you’ll see that his style did evolve. And those Paul Smith issues had silent pages as well. Maybe here, in 1982, it was a case of Miller influencing Claremont, though. I tend to think that Claremont’s ’70s and ’80s work gets unfairly criticized as being too wordy. This criticism was unheard of before the Bendis/Millar/Johns stylistics of the ’00s. I don’t think we should take these more recent tastes as the norm and then project them back onto the past. All we’re really saying is that it’s tedious for grown adults like us, who have read this stuff a thousand times, to read text boxes that talk about how Wolverine has an adamantium skeleton. So what? That’s not a defect in Claremont’s writing. That’s the way things were done before wikipedia and when comics had a rolling audience of new readers every month.

    I agree with you, though, that the Wolverine mini-series holds up. The Deconstructing Comics podcast spotlighted this and BWS’s Weapon X a few months ago. They loved the latter but totally trashed the ’82 mini as being an irredeemable product of its time. I strongly disagree. I normally bristle even when people dismiss a lot of Claremont’s ’80s work as being hopelessly wordy and boring or whatever (you have to remember that nearly a million children a month, literally, were reading and rereading all this stuff just fine), but the Wolverine mini-series was a notch above that. I think maybe the podcast guys were just offended because the story was set in a Japan that didn’t totally resemble the one they moved to and know in their daily lives (which presumably don’t include fights with ancient ninja cults).

    @SRS: Why do you think someone needs “etiquette or culture” to have virtue or be a hero? I’m pretty sure that a lot of “rednecks” have had a form of “Southern hospitality”, with a very deep sense of defending honor and living by a code of a man’s word being bond. And I’m pretty sure that, hundreds of years ago, in Africa and elsewhere, there were brave men who were the heroes of their tribes — and these tribes didn’t have much in the way of “etiquette or culture” as modern people know them.

    In regards to Wolverine, the dichotomy between animal and man has worked well for decades. Claremont did indeed inject some things into the character, but the potential was always there, with Wolverine having come to Xavier’s in the first place to figure out who he is and control his animal nature. What Claremont did with the “Samurai” aspect in particular created a good dynamic in which we see a character who is trying to (re)gain a sense of belonging, civilization, and even sophistication. The example of the Samurai obviously shows Wolverine a way to be violent and yet honorable and civilized. He was a man who fell into a violent animal nature and is now trying to learn how to be a respectable human again. But maybe you just mean he isn’t a “hero” because he isn’t an already self-actualized human being who has many faults. I can understand that. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Wolverine is a good role model.

  6. Dan Ahn: I actually like most of Claremont’s work from the late ’70s and early ’80s. His writing became unreadable, to me, starting around 1985. But from 1975 to 1984, he was certainly one of the best writers in comics.

    That said, some of Claremont’s shticks were so overdone and repetitive they verged on self-parody: The “Hear me, X-Men!” speeches. The “I’m the best there is at what I do” riffs. And “Yum!” And “Ah’m Rogue.” And “Fastball special!” Also, the “Kitty as Sigourney Weaver in ALIEN” plot got tiresome after it was done 3 times in 3 years.

    Of course, this repetition is more obvious when you’re reading a lot of stories back to back, in an Essential X-Men volume, than it was when the issues were read one at a time as they came out. Which is how they were meant to be read.

    However … you can’t dispute Claremont’s commitment to his characters. His obvious affection for them makes up for the repeated shtick. I think the real decline in his work started in the mid-1980s, when he spread himself too thin. As Sean Howe writes in his book on Marvel, Claremont wanted to write all the mutant books. As more and more spinoffs were added, it became too much for any one person to handle without quality slipping.

    That’s my opinion. What’s yours?

  7. Dan Ahn wrote: “The Deconstructing Comics podcast spotlighted this and BWS’s Weapon X a few months ago. They loved the latter but totally trashed the ’82 mini as being an irredeemable product of its time.”

    I’m really getting tired of fanboys trashing things for not being hip, modern and up to date. There’s a word that describes things from the past that have lasted. That word is “classic.” It certainly applies to Claremont and Miller’s Wolverine miniseries.

  8. It is funny how in today’s anti-culture of traffic, strip malls along parking lots, products and services made to break down and take our money *instead of work and last*, more traffic, and carcinogens in our food/water we bitch and moan in blogs and post comments while when physically at work, or out and about our discussions contradict this behavior. While we are out and around others our talk is totally opposite of our blogs as we make ‘attempts’ to cast 21st Century ‘magical’ spells/expressions, as if saying things related to “Think Positive”, and “I’m special” are going to change or make the anti-culture suddenly tolerable. No one knows how to really articulate their concerns and need for solutions to frustrations when at work or out, as we pent up our dislikes and frustrations and ignorance with these “Don’t be negative” impressions we try to install in others and ourselves. How can we accept others if we cannot accept ourselves? Just as Logan was willing to stuff himself away in an attempt to stuff away the awful things he thinks he has done, we all stuff ourselves away in an attempt to be ‘acceptable’, ‘positive’, ‘special’. If we do not recognize our environment and hide behind expressions, we deny us our own SELF and a culture that cultivates a healthy community. As a consequence, there is no *big picture* thinking that arises or that is ‘enabled’ in 21st Century culture, because that would involve considering oneself *and everyone else* as not only an integral part of a community that directly affects the perpetuation of the integrity of one’s culture, but in doing so makes one also identifiable as being accountable for the integrity as well. Early 21st Century American ‘culture’ is >> we now are either consumers in an anti-culture of profit/cost savings and sitting in traffic, or when at work we become an economic unit comprising a ‘person’. We do not see ourselves as actual people / neighbors / a community. The man up in the mountain that Logan was at the beginning of the movie almost lost his humanity, just like we all are beginning to now -even though he consciously was giving up on life, we all are ‘inadvertently’ letting profit/cost savings seep into and begin to replace any realistic type of livable option when looking for a place to live / raise a family. Today, the state of our homes and economy is at a turning point, like the cusp that Logan was teetering on just before Yuriko interfered and saved Logan from killing that consumer-bigot hunter. With the inevitable *50% unemployment* looming over us, we all will be reaching a point of ‘what is the use any more’, ‘why give a care’-just like the beginning of the movie… So all I’m saying is – Oh well, too bad none of us have healing factors, let alone have a stable job… let alone one with health insurance. Smoke ’em while ya got ’em everybody! ;-) I do know that this movie made me happy to be alive, because my consumer self as a kid found this comic in 1982 that had this guy who never bitched and moaned nor snitched on people that “looked suspicious”, because he was assertive and cool and had character, and could handle himself –I wish more Americans were like this 100+yr old Canadian mutant.

  9. I’m not one into trades but the one on this Wolverine series is terrific (Claremont/Miller/P. Smith) Put together with a lot of care. No benefits of having original issues in this case except for collectors. I had some of the originals and the related X-men issues but the fading, cheap paper was distracting. The printing of the trade on nice modern paper with crisp colors makes such a huge difference. Easy to enjoy. Everything works here.

  10. I think the early Claremont work is unjustly criticized today. Yes, it was “wordy,” but that’s not a bad thing. Character developed over time and the richness of the X-world would not exist without the foundation he built.

  11. He was a man who fell into a violent animal nature and is now trying to learn how to be a respectable human again. But maybe you just mean he isn’t a “hero” because he isn’t an already self-actualized human being who has many faults. I can understand that. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Wolverine is a good role model.

    The biggest problem with Wolverine, by far, is that he is a character created to be put in stories, rather than a character featured in an excellent story. Claremont’s hackneyed, repetitious X-Men stories (I read UXM for years) turned what could be strong points into aspects of an overused, burned-out character. Like other serial characters, if a writer comes up with an idea for a single story, glues that onto Wolverine’s character, and proceeds to write a decent story, that story, in isolation, might be pretty good, but Wolverine’s history will remain a mess because the various parts, all created for the sake of individual stories, don’t mesh together.

    Those systemic problems might not be worse with Wolverine than they are with other characters who exist in various versions, but at the core, the other characters are people. Wolverine is nothing without his claws and mutant powers; subtract them from the character concept and the remainder is zero, if not a negative number. The fantasy of Wolverine is as insubstantial as a ghost.


  12. Re: Wolveerine vs. the Silver Samurai
    (by Paul Smith & team)

    That was one of the most incredibly drawn battles in comics. Following a genius, Frank Miller who must of had a half a dozen by that point. Paul Smith went supernova with his art those 2 books, then left the X-Men a few issues later. Maybe knowing that he was following Miller brought that out in him.

    Just goes to show, if you leave the X-Men like Byrne and Paul Smith did, go out with style. Do a “Wolverine vs. Silver Samurai” or “Days of Future Past” and leave one for the ages, That they are making movies about these issues 30 or so years later is no mistake. Need to see more of that.

  13. Mike Mitchell: “Character developed over time and the richness of the X-world would not exist without the foundation he built.”

    Exactly. Characterization was Claremont’s great strength. It makes up for the speechifying, the repetitive catch phrases and the recycled plots (don’t know if that came from Claremont or was a directive from editors).

  14. So again the creators of the original story don’t even get a thank you on the screen? Wow. I know, this is legal, but it is still morally reprehensible.

  15. Agree with AndyD, to not give Claremont, Miller, Smith & company any props at all in the credits is beyond obnoxious. . Just like Kirby and the Avengers movie. Hollywood has no moral center in these matters while they pontificate on everything else at a long Oscars show. They just take at will when the lawyers give the OK but they are the first to cry foul when its their ideas…. Fans , if they can’t bring themselves to not see the movie at the theaters should make it known that this is not OK, boycott DVD, streamed movies and all secondary merchandise till they fix that problem. Then things might change.. Codes of honor only exist in comics these days.

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