Monday, 14 September 2009
Ok, I'm ready. I'm currently writing this post from the safety of an adamantium bunker buried six miles underground at an undisclosed location. I'm wearing protective headgear and I'm armed to the teeth. I'm finally ready to tell you why I have a problem with Chris Claremont.
Firstly, lemme start with saying it's just The Claremeister's Bronze Age work we're talking about here. If Chris has written The Great American Novel in the last couple of years, sorry, but I missed it.
Secondly, I have to preface by saying that, as a plotter, I think Claremont's fine. Of course I enjoyed his deservedly classic X-Men run with John Byrne just like everybody else. Along with Frank Miller's Daredevil, it was one of the main reasons I kept reading mainstream comics at a time I might otherwise have given up.
BUT it doesn't alter the fact that Chris is the most irritating writer I've ever read.
Like I say, that whole run on X-Men, that defined our mess of merry mutants ( and particularly Wolverine ) for years to come was one of the best ongoing serials in comics at the time: The Hellfire Club, Mutant X, Dark Phoenix, Alpha Flight, Days Of Future Past. The whole thing as exciting and action packed as comics could be. But that's the plots.
It's the dialogue that gets me. And more importantly Claremont's bag of writer's tics.
Maybe I just notice it more with him, maybe every writer has stock phrases and setups he uses for every occasion, but Chris sure has a bundle of 'em he's willing to share.
Let's look at the one that drives me absolutely bug-fuck crazy: I don't know the literary term for this, but I'll show you a few examples and you'll see what I'm saying.
See what I mean? He sets up a proposition in one caption, then caps it off with that same type of punchline in, well, it seems like every single damn story. I'm sure it's supposed to be deadpan or cool or something, but it's just incredibly annoying. I think it all started with a panel in X-Men where Nightcrawler was falling off a cliff, or had to teleport farther than he'd ever done before, or something. It went: He teleports farther than he ever has before. ( pause / seperate caption ) The effort nearly kills him.
I thought it was cheesy then, and everytime I've seen it since, it's like fingers on the blackboard of what I laughingly like to call my soul. And he does it ALL. THE. TIME. It's a tic. And worse, it's a lazy tic.
Here's another one:
Again, Chris uses that line all through The Bronze Age, regardless of which character is speaking. It's the same thing that annoys me about Tarantino. All his characters speak exactly the same way regardless of who they are. It's really, really lazy writing. I can't--I won't--face that again.
You're still staring at me like I've grown antlers. Still not feeling the fire. Ok, a smaller point, that I can live with 'cos I know it's down to me and my lack of tolerance, is Claremont's sheer cheesiness. Before X-Men, Chris & John worked on Iron Fist, another great character. And it's a really good, involving, exciting series. But the way the characters talk to themselves is so cheesy.
Who would ever refer to themselves in the third person as 'Young Dragon'? Do you guys secretly call yourselves 'Middle-Aged Comic-Book Fan' 'cos I sure as shootin' don't. It's just painful. And here he is, doing the same thing with Ms. Marvel.
Stop it! NO ONE, Kree or human, calls themselves 'warrior' EVERY TIME they think a thought! I know, I know it's me, but I just really hate it.
And I don't need to know every emotion and every thought a character is experiencing in every panel either. I know Chris kind of made an art of that, particularly in X-Men, but it got really old, really quick for me. Everybody, and I mean everybody, was touchy-feely and in touch with their emotions, and was more than willing to share them with the world at large. Everybody? Really?! It became like the superhero equivalent of 30 Something, just reams & reams of thought balloons full of emotional minutia. I felt like I was being spoonfed story points. At first it was refreshing, but he just stuck with it too damn long. It became a cliche, and all his characters became the one Chris Claremont character.
How many panels have you read EXACTLY like that?
And I also know, and accept, that all of this is down to a matter of personal taste. All of these things that drive me crazy about Claremont's writing, I'm sure no one else even notices, but I just can't get past 'em, dammit. I honestly think he's a very lazy writer, happily stuck in a rut, repeating himself over and over ( at least he was in The Bronze Age ). A really good plotter, if only he'd sort out his dialogue.
Here's one last example, which I hope shows what I'm saying. In Marvel Preview 11, Chris & John took over the character of Star-Lord from Steve Englehart, who'd scripted the origin in ish 4. Now, Marvel Preview 4 is one of my favourite comics ever, and Star-Lord a character with bags of potential, but that honestly doesn't matter in this instance. (No really!)
What does matter is the introduction to Star-Lord's second appearance. In his origin, this character was an absolute unredeemable arsehole. By the second time round, he was ( you guessed it ) in touch with his emotions and happy to tell all and sundry about them, like some intergalactic passive / aggressive holistic therapist. Here's editor John Warner from that introduction: We also set the story some bit of time after Starlord's first appearance. We did so because both Chris and I felt uncomfortable with Quill being quite as twisted as he was in the first story.
In other words, rather than try and work with an unsympathetic character by another writer, and try to change him gradually while still being true to what's gone before, let's go forward enough in time so he can be a totally different character. A touchy-feely Chris Claremont character, exactly like all the others. Lazy.
' You're my friend. Something that Peter Quill never had. ' BLEEURGH. You two wanna get a room? So that's why Chris Claremont irritates me. BUT it is just comics. As I've said in other posts, I don't waste my time getting angry about this stuff, too old and ugly for that. And if you think Claremont rocks, fair play to you. And anyway, I bought Essential Ms. Marvel and Essential Iron Fist, and I'm sure I'll buy Essential X-Men. In fact, I love that Iron Fist run, so he must have something I like, but he's so irritating!!! I could go on, and mention how Claremont loves to go on (and on) about his Irish heritage, what with Ship skin-crawlingly referring to Star-Lord as 'M'Love' and every other character in every other comic doing much the same, but I feel like I'm losing the room here and maybe I should try a few magic tricks or something, get you back on my side. As I say, I know all this is nitpicking at best, but I JUST CAN'T GET PAST IT. Am I the only one? C'mon, I can't be, can I?