On the face of it, Friday’s Spotlight on Chris Claremont panel at C2E2 didn’t look set to be one of the most controversial panels of the entire show; in fact, the last-minute panel – a replacement for the X-Men: Classics & Legends panel that was to have featured Claremont and Art Adams talking about their collaborations, canceled when Adams had to pull out of the convention due to injury – might have been considered by some to be little more than a trip down memory lane, with Claremont talking about his past works and teasing the upcoming X-treme X-Men reboot he referred to as “X-Treme 2022.” As responses on social media have shown, that wasn’t exactly what happened.While his comments about abandoned plans for his late-2000s series X-Men Forever – plans that would have seen Kitty Pryde transformed by the Panther Gods of Wakanda into being the daughter of Ororo and T’Challa, calling herself the Shadow Panther – and dismissals of Marvel Studios’ recent movies have drawn the majority of online attention, and with good reason, the panel as a whole was a fascinating glimpse into how one of the creators arguably responsible for the superhero genre as it exists today sees the contemporary superhero landscape… and his place in it. Rise of the Shadow Panther Let’s get the Shadow Panther thing out of the way first, shall we? The subject arose in response to a fan asking about the creation of Gambit, who they claimed as one of their favorite characters. Claremont, as he did more than once during the panel, talked about his surprise that the character had been romantically paired with Rogue after he left the X-Men franchise, revealing that his original plan for the character was to have him pursue Kitty: “Rogue was totally out of the picture, because Remy’s assignment – because he was a bad guy at the time – was to seduce the leader of the next generation of the X-Men and lead her to destruction.” It was, he said, a play on what the Hellfire Club and Mastermind had attempted with Jean Grey in the Dark Phoenix Saga. He had planned to return to this idea in the X-Men Forever series from 2009, in which he wrote the X-Men as if he’d never left the series in 1991; in that version of the plot, he said, he was going to build on the idea that Storm had become ruler of Wakanda, a plot development from earlier in the series, by having her reject the Panther Gods of that country. They, in turn, would take revenge by transforming Kitty Pryde into their agent, transforming her from her original self into the Black child of Ororo and T’Challa in the process. It was, he admitted, a racially insensitive idea, one that he joked he could get away with “because I’m English and we’ve been doing this for a thousand years” – but it was also an idea that was intentionally ridiculous. “The whole point is that you get to page 20 and you think, how many days until the next issue comes out?” he said, arguing that his dream as a writer is to have fans think, “this is totally stupid and I can’t wait to see what happens next… The thing about comics is, you get all the fun of going to the movies, and you only have to wait 30 days, and it only costs, what, $3.99, $4.99?” The point of the Kitty transformation plot, he teased, was that it would put Gambit on course to try to restore Kitty to her original form, thinking that the Panther Gods were essentially interfering and preventing him from completing his mission… because, again, this version of Gambit was at heart a villain. “It could have been fun, you know?” he mused. Spoilers For Wanda's Fate The pursuit of fun was a running theme throughout the panel. He was repeatedly critical of Marvel Studios’ output post-Avengers: Endgame. He joked about imagining adding supporting character Ricochet Rita to the MCU, saying, “That would make Thor interesting!” before covering his mouth as if he’d said something he shouldn’t. He criticized Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – “I find it disconcerting that all of the post-Infinity War films – not the TV shows – have sort of been like, ‘Hi, Doctor Strange, will you save the world from Wanda?’ So what happens at the end, a giant rock falls on her. It’s like, come on guys!” – and repeatedly criticized Eternals, making fun of the choice to have a never-aging child character when the actor would, obviously, age between appearances. “I want to love this stuff. I really, really, really want to love this stuff,” he said, while expressing his frustration at the recent movies. “How hard can it be? Okay, I did see Justice League, both of them! So we’ll step back from that.” He was thankfully more complimentary about the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, although he admitted surprise over the tease that she was the first mutant of the MCU. “What the fuck? I didn’t see that coming,” he told the crowd. “What the heck is she doing in Jersey City? She should be in a school.” Comics Should Be Fun Perhaps Claremont’s most surprising comments came when he was addressing Marvel’s current comic book output, and his place in it. “In many respects to me as a reader, Marvel has become late ‘60s, early ‘70s DC,” he said at one point, referring to a time when DC was seen as a dull establishment publisher afraid to do anything unexpected with their characters. “There’s so much to my eye that could be done [with the current comic book Marvel Universe] that would be interesting,” Claremont said, listing ideas relating to the current Krakoan set-up in the X-Men titles. (Primarily about how it would feel for mutants who didn’t want to leave their everyday existences to move into the mutant utopia and abandon their human relationships.) At another point during the panel, he said, “Part of me is thinking, I could have such fun playing in the back alleys of Krakoa… I’m like, I’m fine. I’ll play. I’ll play by your rules, for Christ’s sake!” Marvel, he made clear, isn’t interested in him doing anything like that, however. He talked to the crowd about his current contract with Marvel, which he likened to being paid to do nothing “like Congress.” His frustration at not being given the chance to do more at Marvel was evident, as was his frustration with what he sees as the wasted potential of the medium in today’s market.
“Comics is fun and so cheap, and if you have the right artist, you really can do anything,” he argued. “You should want to go to the store every third Thursday to buy the next issue of X-Men!... Even if you hate it, you just wait 30 days and we’ll make it right. That’s what it’s all about. It shouldn’t be this hard, and it shouldn’t be this manufactured!”Claremont ended the panel emphasizing this message, underscoring both his desire to do more for the fictional universe he clearly loves, and how upset he is at not being given that opportunity, despite his history with Marvel. “It’s weird working for people who weren’t hired when I was fired the second time,” he said at one point during the panel. “Now I know how Stan [Lee] felt in the later days of his career.”
Catch up on everything coming out of this weekend's convention with our comprehensive C2E2 round-up.