X-Men writer Chris Claremont on the importance of strong female characters in comics

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 26: Screenwriter Chris Claremont attends day 2 of "Comic Con Paris 2019" at Grande Halle de La Villette on October 26, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Laurent Viteur/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 26: Screenwriter Chris Claremont attends day 2 of "Comic Con Paris 2019" at Grande Halle de La Villette on October 26, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Laurent Viteur/Getty Images) /

At Dragon Con in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend, famed X-Men writer Chris Claremont spent an hour-long panel talking about the importance of strong female representation in comics, his original idea for Dazzler, who he thinks is Jean Grey’s true soulmate, and how the first X-Men film was supposed to play out.

Claremont is responsible for some of the most prolific female-centered storylines, specifically for the X-Men, including The Dark Phoenix Saga and the time-tripping Days of Future Past –both of which were adapted for the big screen with varying degrees of success. He has created famous X-Men heroes and villains alike, including Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Gambit, and Mystique. Claremont is also known for his incredible contributions to other X-Men titles, like the Britain-based team of mutants Excalibur and The New Mutants, commonly referred to as “X-Men in training.”

During the Dragon Con panel, Claremont makes his feelings about the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe very clear. “If there was no X-Men, there wouldn’t be an MCU,” he stated. His comment is largely in reference to the 2000 film X-Men, which was based on the hit comic book series, which went on to break box office records at the time of its original release.

Although Claremont says the original vision of the film turned out to be very different than what made it to actual theaters. He also wasn’t fond of how creators seem to be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving credit in blockbuster MCU films. Claremont cited Captain Marvel specifically, as he helped develop the Binary iteration of Carol Danvers, which was used in part to develop the MCU version of the character.

The early inception of X-Men goes all the way back to 1988, with Claremont and Stan Lee meeting with Fox Studios and James Cameron about bringing the band of merry mutants to life. The early stages of the movie included a lot more female representation, both in front of and behind the camera, as Kathryn Bigelow was mentioned as one of the possible directors of the film. The team was originally supposed to be made up of a majority of female X-Men, with Angela Bassett being eyed to play the role of Ororo Munroe, a.k.a. Storm, and yes, Bob Hoskins was a first-pick to play Wolverine.

When asked why he was so good at writing female characters when others weren’t, Claremont simply stated that “No one was paying attention to {female characters}.” He went on to talk about how he based a lot of his “alpha women” characters on strong female figures in his own life, like his mother who fought to be a pilot in the military, and his best friend who went on to work for NPR. Like many readers, he would also become frustrated that subsequent writers would reverse the character development he had done with female characters after he had left the book he was working on.

He isn’t exactly Team Cyclops, either, as Claremont says that ultimately Phoenix, i.e. Jean Grey, and Wolverine are endgame. He even stated that he had originally wanted Logan’s story to end with Jean resurrecting Logan from his shallow grave and having them walk float off into the light of a Phoenix flare together.

Claremont also revealed the original plan for the X-Man Dazzler, which was to have her be an African-American rapper from Chicago who had a no-nonsense attitude and could be the antithesis of the calm and collected Storm. He was thinking of a character created in the image of model and actress Grace Jones. However, once Bo Derek became interested in portraying the character in a film that never made it through development, the entire image of the character changed.

He doesn’t hold back much when it comes to his agitation with the film adaptations of his stories. He talked about being angry that Fox couldn’t even use the word Phoenix or let Jean use Phoenix-like powers in the latest X-Men film Dark Phoenix because her power signature resembled Captain Marvel’s too much. (The films Captain Marvel and Dark Phoenix were released in close proximity to each other). Additionally, he felt like “Dani deserved a better film,” referring to last year’s New Mutants movie that received mixed reviews from both fans and critics alike.

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How do you feel about Chris Claremont’s opinions about the X-Men and their film adaptations? Let us know in the comments section below.