It’s impossible to overstate the impact Chris Claremont has had on Marvel's mutants.
From 1975 to 1991, Claremont wrote every issue of UNCANNY X-MEN, guiding the newly formed team through 16 years of trials and tribulations, victories and defeats, tragedies and triumphs. He helped create iconic X-Men like Rachel Grey, Psylocke, Forge, Gambit, Jubilee, Danielle Moonstar, Emma Frost, Cannonball, Sunspot, Kitty Pryde, and Rogue, thus growing the fledgling franchise from one scrappy title in the late 70’s to a whole family of titles—including NEW MUTANTS and EXCALIBUR, two series he also wrote—by the end of the 1980’s.
Claremont kicked off the 1980’s with UNCANNY X-MEN #129, the first chapter of “The Dark Phoenix Saga.” The story would culminate with a knock down drag out fight on the surface of the moon in UNCANNY X-MEN #137, complete with an emotional and shocking ending that really did change the X-Men for the remainder of the decade—if not forever. By the time “Days of Future Past” hit in UNCANNY X-MEN #141-142, the work of Claremont alongside artist and collaborator John Byrne had become synonymous with not only the X-Men, but excellence as well.
UNCANNY X-MEN, a book that had been canceled just a decade prior, continued to grow after Byrne’s departure. Claremont collaborated with one genius artist after the next—Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, John Romita Jr., Alan Davis, Rick Leonardi, Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee—as the X-Men became the breeding ground for the industry’s biggest names. But even as the artists changed and the team of heroes swelled and shrank, Chris Claremont's voice—his passion for nuanced characters, earned emotional growth, and thrilling adventure—remained constant.
To celebrate Chris Claremont’s unbroken decade of dominance, we asked some of Marvel’s current crop of creators to speak about the issues from the legendary writer’s 1980’s output that remain important to them.
AVENGERS ANNUAL #10
Brian Michael Bendis (writer, UNCANNY X-MEN, ALL-NEW X-MEN): “I’m going to cheat a little and talk about my absolute favorite Marvel Comic: AVENGERS ANNUAL #10. It’s not an UNCANNY X-MEN issue by Chris, but it is a Marvel comic by Chris that came out during what I consider to be his X-Men heyday, and is very influenced by events and goings-on in in the X-Men. This issue saw the first appearance of one of the most popular mutants he ever created or co-created: Rogue. It saw the reinvention and reconstituted Brotherhood of Evil Mutants—versus the Avengers. It saw Ms. Marvel—Captain Marvel—Carol Danvers making her return after being sent away in such terrible form in AVENGERS #200. In fact, what I like about this comic is that it pretty much has one writer—Claremont—yelling at another writer for their treatment of a character in the body of the work. I have never seen anything like that before. Carol would soon become a mainstay fixture in UNCANNY X-MEN [starting in UNCANNY X-MEN #162] as she tried to rediscover herself. All this and it’s the best issue starring Spider-Woman ever made, and it’s one of the best illustrated superhero comics of that era—and I think of all time."
UNCANNY X-MEN #161
Marguerite Bennett (co-writer, NIGHTCRAWLER): “It’s impossible to pick a favorite—but UNCANNY X-MEN #161 has been on my mind a great deal lately. Nearly the entire story is a flashback to Xavier and Magneto when they were friends, aiding in the rehabilitation of a Holocaust survivor in Israel. The reality of human evil is so clear through the issue, and you see the wedge being driven between the two friends, who begin to embody the two perspectives of victims after trauma: the one who tries to draw on a sense of forgiveness and inner morality to overcome victimization, and the one who tries to draw on physical strength and brutality in the assurance of never being victimized again. It’s stuck with me for a long time.”
UNCANNY X-MEN #170
Russell Dauterman (artist, THOR, CYCLOPS): “One of the first trade paperbacks I remember owning contained UNCANNY X-MEN #170 and this amazingly badass fight scene with one of my favorite comic characters, Storm. That page [illustrated by Paul Smith] where Storm stabs Callisto and then walks over her body as it falls to the ground—incredible. My runner up was the issue where the X-Women save Jubilee at the mall [UNCANNY X-MEN #244].”
UNCANNY X-MEN #186
David Marquez (artist, MILES MORALES: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, ALL-NEW X-MEN): “Claremont’s work on the X-Men in the 80’s is so chock-full of seminal stories that it’s incredibly hard to pick just one, but if forced I'd have to pick issue #186, ‘Lifedeath,’ drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith and Terry Austin. In that issue you really see a distillation of what made Claremont’s work so gripping: the characters, the melodrama—love and betrayal. And, paired with the right artists, the story just sung.”
UNCANNY X-MEN #190
Cullen Bunn (writer, MAGNETO): “It’s next too impossible for me to single out one issue of Chris Claremont’s UNCANNY X-MEN as my favorite. Those books were very important to me, because collecting all those back issues was something my dad and I did together. Maybe if there was one ‘era’ of that series I loved the most, it was while John Romita Jr. was drawing them—and of that era, issue #190, with Kulan Gath basically taking over the entire world, blew my mind. In just a couple of issues, Claremont created an entirely new world. It was a testimony to the fun and mayhem that could be unleashed in a comic book.”
UNCANNY X-MEN #201
Todd Nauck (artist, NIGHTCRAWLER): “One of my favorite Claremont issues is UNCANNY X-MEN #201. Seeing Cyclops battle a powerless Storm for leadership of the X-Men blew my 14-year-old mind! And a classic X-Men baseball game along with the awesome art of Rick Leonardi and Whilce Portacio are the icing on the cake.”
UNCANNY X-MEN #209
Kieron Gillen (writer, IRON MAN, UNCANNY X-MEN): “I didn't actually read American comics when I was a kid regularly, just due to accessibility. Therefore the few I did read stand out sharply. The second part of the Nimrod vs. X-Men vs. Hellfire Club story, where Rachel [Grey] is wandering around stabbed. To someone jumping on at that point, it was just this wonderland of imagery and ideas. The Bishop’s death was strong, and Nimrod was scary in a way which is hard to believe considering its hot pink color scheme.”