Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chris Claremont on Evolving the X-Men, Part Two

Words: Christopher Irving
Pictures: Seth Kushner

In 1982, Claremont teamed up with Frank Miller for the ultimate Wolverine story, a four-issue mini-series that placed the enigmatic X-Man smack in the middle of a war with ninjas and the Yakuza. It had a hard-boiled feel to it that the regular X-Men comics couldn’t allow and was a successful marriage of the creators’ respectable sensibilities. Claremont first came in touch with Miller in 1978, on the artist’s second job for Marvel: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #18.

            “The Assistant Editor of the book was Jo Duffy, who brought him in and gave him his first hit, and I gave him his second,” Chris says. “I remember looking at his work and going ‘Holy cow!’ 

“In a lot of places in the John Carter story, Frank gets overwhelmed by the inker, but overall you see all the hallmarks that you recognize from Frank since then come into play. He sat down and worked out a four-handed fighting style, so he can choreograph the fight scene. The script just said ‘Tars Tarkas fights with guy,’ and I tossed into my suggestions, because this wasn’t a script but a plot. He figured out how it would work, how you could present both the action of the figure and the way the panel was shot, in where you place the camera and set the figures in the background and foreground. How do you make it work? The cool part was watching all the pieces come together and then trying to figure out ‘If he’s going to challenge me this way, then I have to find the way to be the equal of that.’”

            Miller hopped on board as artist of Daredevil the next year, eventually taking over as writer.

“Frank turns in his first Daredevil script and Shooter is in his office, being Jim,” Chris tells. “Denny O’Neil walks through the office, basically utters a string of primal profanity, and the script down on Jim’s desk. He says ‘This is Frank’s first script for Daredevil.’

            “Jim asks ‘What’s wrong with it?’

            “Denny says ‘Nothing! He has no right being this good, this young!’ Denny was outraged because it took him at least a couple of weeks, if not years (in his own mind), to get that good and Frank just nailed it right off of the bat.”

            Miller’s Daredevil took a second-tier title and redefined it with heavy crime elements, introducing (and subsequently killing) the assassin Elektra, and pushing the title character to his limits and beyond. It was a commercial and critical success for Marvel, and bolstered Miller to becoming one of the most distinctive and revolutionary cartoonists in 1980s comics. When the two united for Wolverine, it was the blending of Claremont’s brand of character pathos blended with Miller’s own brand of visceral tough guy action. 

            “Because I was trained to work with people like Dave, Frank, or Walter, why should I write a full script?” Claremont points out. “These guys tell stories better than almost anyone, certainly better than me. Just point them in the right direction, give them all the key emotional and physical elements, and turn them loose. 

“The quintessential story I tell was from when Frank and I were doing Wolverine. The pitch meeting was the drive from San Diego to Los Angeles, and getting stuck in a huge tailback because Customs was looking for illegal immigrants, even back then. He was trapped, and I was driving, and I was just telling him the story—what I wanted to do and how I wanted to tell it, and who Wolverine was. I didn’t want to do what we did in the X-Men, because we do that every month and I wanted to go somewhere different with it. When it came to structuring out the story, the first issue I did for him was twenty-two pages of script, single spaced, for a twenty-two page story. The fourth and last issue was something like a twenty minute phone call and a page of notes.

            “The point being, by the fourth issue, all the stuff that was in the first plot (i.e.: Who was Wolverine and why was he doing things?). The structural subtext wasn’t necessary, because Frank and I were on the same page, we had the same compatible vision of the character. I didn’t need to tell him over and over again the things he needed to know; all we needed was to figure out the choreography and how we get from point A to point Zed, and then you set him loose. That was the value of getting two people together for a requisite amount of time, is that all the base crap is taken care of early on, and you can focus on what we’re doing that is new, exciting and different, and brings the characters and situation alive for the reader and draws them in. Hopefully it keeps them there.”

            Wolverine was what every mini-series should be: an outside of the box view of another facet of an established character, and a chance for readers to see characters outside of their usual element. The story is the main source of the upcoming Wolverine film, The Wolverine, a sequel to the critically-panned Wolverine Origins. Claremont gives his seal of approval, having read the script by The Usual Suspects writer Chris McQuarry. 

“[I like it] very much,” Chris says. “That’s all I can say. Chris McQuarry is brilliant.”

 “What was the point of the death of Phoenix? She just came back. So then, what do you say to all the readers who were moved by that?” Claremont points out. “I went to a number of signings and conventions and had people in tears, because of that. As a writer, it’s intensely flattering, but at the same time your response is ‘If I’m going to provoke that level of response from a reader, then I have to rise to the occasion and come up with something better next time. But one thing I will not do is cheapen it by saying ‘We were only fooling!’’ Again, these are comics, and one person might try to do something but find themselves trumped by someone else who has a totally different agenda.”

While out on a lunch meeting with editor Ann Nocenti and artist Barry Windsor-Smith, Claremont learned of Shooter’s plan to bring Jean back from the dead for a new X-Men title, X-Factor, which reunited the five original X-Men team members. 

“She tells me, and I went outside to call Jim…and I couldn’t remember his direct line and the office was closed,” Chris says. “It wasn’t the smart thing to do, because I would have yelled at him.

            “I went in Monday with an alternative. I’d taken this short story I’d done the previous year with Jean and her sister. I said ‘Okay, you want a Grey. How’s this? Sara Grey. What’s her power? Her power is to detect mutants. She knows where they are. She can find them and even manifest their power in advance, so they’ll know who they are. If you’re going to do this with X-Factor, here’s the person. Here’s why: She’s a Grey, okay, but she’s not affiliated with anyone. Suddenly you have the girl at play for all four guys. 

“Scott might feel ‘I’m torn. She’s Jean’s sister, but I love Jean and can’t betray Jean. Jean is dead.’
“And Warren? ‘Hey, you’re cool.’
“Bobby? ‘I’m not a kid anymore.’
“Hank? ‘Why not? I’ll get some action.’

            “‘Suddenly you have physical and romantic tension that you don’t have with Jean. With Jean it’s reasserting everything that existed. With Sara, you have ‘Do I want to get involved with these guys? If I get involved with these guys and something goes wrong, what happened to Jean could happen to me, or worse. And yet, do I really want to spend my life running around in a skintight suit?’’

            “I did a three-page pitch and had developed it all there. Jim read it and said ‘You know, this is pretty good.’

            “I said ‘Well?’

            “‘But the whole giggle point of  X-Factor was the resurrection. If you don’t have that, it looses the Whoomph factor.’

“My attitude, then and now, was ‘Been there done that, let’s come up with something that echoes the trope but takes us in a new direction but also opens up possibilities.’ Sort of like killing Johnny Storm,” he points out, citing the recent death of the Fantastic Four team member. “If you’re going to do it, do it. If you’re going to take the consequence of the moment, then come up with a rational way of what happens next. The other side of the coin (just sitting here and playing off the top of my head) is that you’ve got the FF and something happens to Johnny and he’s dead…

“You can then run the shockwaves through three surviving characters, have them come to a decision, and maybe it’s a temporary or evolutionary decision. It’s letting the shockwave roll through and seeing how the consequences play out. Otherwise, what’s the point? The challenge is in how are you going to play this and where are you going to take it? That, I would submit, is the rationale between any good fictional character: You want to put them in reality and present a little conflict, and then what happens next? 

“It’s taking life and putting it in the fiction, and then seeing where it goes from there. Again, the challenge and frustration with comics, especially if you stick around too long, is that you see the tropes playing out along the same tracks over and over and over again. You don’t ever trust that, if it gets twisted off somewhere new, will it last?”

“I’d been doing the book for seventeen years, and had made it the most successful comic in modern comics history,” Chris says of Uncanny X-Men. “We were scoring numbers that were very breathtaking. The only time we weren’t at the top of the heap was when Frank and I were going at it (in a metaphorical sense) toe-to-toe, with him on Daredevil and me on X-Men. I figured that I had earned a level of stature and respect, and I was wrong.”

As 1991 approached, Claremont had been masterminding X-Men for a record run, as the book consistently sold in high numbers. Marvel was then celebrating their new breed of “hot” artists like Amazing Spider-Man’s Todd McFarlane, New Mutants’s Rob Liefeld, and Uncanny X-Men’s Jim Lee. As the trio’s art continued to boost sales in what was a speculator’s market that was glutted with “collector’s issues” such as poly-bagging with trading cards, multiple covers, and special “holographic” or “chromium” covers, Marvel started putting more focus on the artists rather than the writers. McFarlane was given his own adjectiveless Spider-Man title, Liefeld was allowed to reboot New Mutants into X-Force, and Claremont and Lee launched a new adjectiveless X-Men title. 

“There were people in the Marvel management pantheon who felt a measure of concern that the book had become so significantly identified with me, and what would happen if I dropped dead or stuck around for twenty to twenty-five years? It would be a difficult thing to shift over,” Chris continues. “They were looking at it from the Gunsmoke model, whereas James Arness stuck around for twenty-four years! But time takes its toll; it’s not like Doctor Who, where you can shuffle in a new guy every few years (which is a model comics would prefer). More importantly, this was the book people wanted to write. You want to be able to offer your premiere title to a new guy. If you want to lure Garth Ennis from DC, you offer him X-Men. But if I’m still there and writing it and producing 500,000 copies an issue, that’s an awkward situation.

“What was also happening was that editors had become substantially more integral to the process of creating comics. Tom Brevoort was building his career, and has moved up the food chain twenty years later. Bob [Harras] was taking over on editing the X-Men, and they’d just brought in Jim Lee. Bob and Jim were very simpatico.”

Amongst the most memorable issues of the Claremont and Lee run was in the author’s handling of Magneto as a tragic and misunderstood heroic figure trying to atone for his past misdeeds, not a static villain.

“The problem was that I had evolved the book and taken it in directions that not everybody was comfortable with: Magneto had started out as the X-Men’s premiere villain, and I was getting to the point in the late ‘80s where my goal was to kill off Charlie (probably around #300) and replace him with Magneto. It would show the evolution.

“The in-house perception was that I had sacrificed the concept’s premiere adversary, like if I’d made Doctor Doom a hero. My approach to the X-Men had always been that you could start the book with issue #100, and if you then later picked it up with #200, you’d see some changes. If you come back with #300, you’ll see a lot of changes from #100. Cyclops will be married, and he and his wife will have a kid; as a function of that, he’s going to go back to Alaska with his parents and start a life. He’s going to grow up. They are all going to grow up. New Mutants would evolve to a point where one or two of them might become X-Men, or not. It’s the same way with Kitty: it would be a slow evolution of age, but it would happen.”

            Claremont’s direction as writer was more akin to the Gasoline Alley template, where characters aged and moved on through the evolution of the strip. 

“If I’d stuck around, and if the book got to #500, it’s conceivable that the only common element might be Wolverine, because he’s functionally immortal. The idea was that things would grow, would change, and would spin-off. We could pass characters over to create Excalibur to try something new. But the driving force was that reality has changed and that we should pay attention to that, if for no other reason (from a practical standpoint) that the core of the series would remain the same, so that long time readers would always have a bedrock structure of characters that they could relate to. Each generation of new readers would have their own new favorites that they can bond with and root for, and invest emotions and concerns and tension, and watch what happens. If they left the comic after that, well, then we’ll bring in some new ones and start again.”

Despite Claremont’s keeping X-Men a long-running success for Marvel, and despite the first storyline of the new X-Men book (recognized for the Guinness World Record for highest comic book sales in 2010), Claremont left the X-Men behind.

“Jim and I did our story with #1, and it blew the lid off of things and created a World Record,” Claremont notes. “I walked because what was happening was Bob and Jim were the point men on getting the book back to basics. They wanted Magneto back as a villain. I think Jim wanted a chance to draw the stuff he’d bonded with as a kid, and I was saying ‘Been there, done that, at least three times. Let’s do something new.’ Bob was bonding with Jim because Jim was the fire that was drawing all the attention. The art was considered the key, not the script, at this point. It got to the point where no one was willing to find a middle ground and everybody went separate ways. I went away and, after a year, Jim and company went away to found Image. 

“X-Men went into chaos and then the industry collapsed. The fantasy in ’90 and ’91 was ‘If we could launch with #1 at sales of 8.5 million, wouldn’t it be cool if we could come back with #12 in a year, and were still doing 800,000 or maybe a million? If we hit this high mark and didn’t drop back to the base number, and used it as a way to draw new readers in and expand the base, to bring it to a vaster cross-section of the reading populace….’ That was the hope and ambition. It didn’t quite work that way, and so it collapsed.”
            “There’s a significant difference between the world that existed up until I left in ’91, and the world that I came back to six years later.”

X-Men went through a small army of writers in an attempt to tie up any narrative loose ends and impose a status quo on a comic book that had always had a loose one, at best. On top of that, X-Men premiered as a Saturday morning cartoon in 1992, adapting several of Claremont’s stories. Claremont worked for DC for a few years, on his creator-owned title Sovereign Seven. Claremont returned to Marvel a few years later, but it was a much changed company, barely holding on after the collapse of the comic book industry and suffering a bankruptcy caused by their junk bondsman of a former CEO. 

            “When I came back in ’98 as Editorial Director, it was a shithole. The numbers were falling, every issue. You might have an issue that would hold on a little bit; I know that the eight or nine issues I did in 2000 managed to hold their own. We stopped a measure of a fall, but then after that? It’s depressing…The advantages of my being a mature contributor is that I remember that a book that only sold 75,000 copies got you cancelled without a second thought.

            “X-Men is doing in the mid-60s. That’s Uncanny. X-Men Forever’s last issue sold twelve, and maybe not even that. That doesn’t even cover the cost of printing. That’s obscene, and what it says is that we’re clearly not offering work that a significant number of readers (potential or otherwise) are willing to find.”

            Another impact felt by Marvel, since ’91 was the loss of a newsstand distribution system, which wound up taking a huge chunk out of sales figures.

“It’s only offered to comic book specialty stores. In the old days, a third of X-Men’s monthly sales were newsstand. The rule of thumb when I was writing Uncanny, was that we made our nut—the cost of the creative freelancers, putting the book together, and printing it—were paid for by the newsstand sales. We were selling 125,000 copies of an issue, which meant all of the direct market sales were gravy. Once they killed the newsstand, that all went away.”

“I love Joss Whedon’s writing. It’s just that when he’s writing my characters, it’s hard, especially when he’s writing my characters that I can’t write because he’s writing them. But, by the same token, that phrase in itself points out the dichotomy of the media, because they’re not my characters, and they never were” Claremont says of one X-Men successor. “It’s foolish to bond with them, even though in most cases one can’t help it, because the company doesn’t give a fuck. They may like you personally as a creator, and respect you tremendously as a contributor to the cannon, but in the structural reality of publishing, they go with the guy that works here and now. They go with the concept that works here and now.”

As the main X-Men books were taken over by A-list writers like Grant Morrison and Joss Whedon, Claremont returned to regularly writing X-Men with spin-off book X-Treme X-Men, launched with artist Salvador Larocca. The creative team lasted for two years, until Larocca was pulled from the book by higher-ups at Marvel—primarily Marvel’s publisher, Bill Jemas. It was not like Claremont’s earlier days in comics, where keeping a creative team together was paramount.

“A lot of times, if you get people in for a long pace, someone steals them,” Chris says. “Salvador Larocca and I had a great thing going, first on the FF, and then on X-Treme X-Men. It was brilliant, until Bill Jemas loved his stuff, and he was suddenly off to work on Sub-Mariner, and that was that.  The evolution of things became seeming like I was being used as a farm team to get an artist to a certain level of ‘This guy’s good,’ and then yanking them away.”

Croatian artist Igor Kordey came on board as Larocca’s replacement until the book’s cancellation, and the pair were to go to a new permutation with a new Excalibur title.

“The idea, when X-Treme was cancelled, was that we were going to move over to a new Excalibur, with the original idea that it was going to take place on Genosha. We were trying to build a ruined culture. Igor is a brilliant artist and we never got a chance at Marvel to see much of it before X-Treme, because everything that he had to do was done on a one-week deadline. The problem was that it came back to haunt him, because everyone thought that became the defining element. It was a total shame. The work he did on Excalibur was totally unlike anything being done in American comics. To me, it was done beautifully. The character presentation was top-notch. Superhero action/adventure? No, he wasn’t the second coming of Jack Kirby, but who cares? That shouldn’t be what we need.

“Moving over to Excalibur, it would have been cooler, because the idea was to take all he knew about Croatia and Sarajevo. I have friends who work for NPR and there’s nothing like listening to a gunfight on the street of Sarajevo being broadcast, and knowing ‘Shit, they’re shooting at my best friend!’ Thank God it wasn’t live. We were very simpatico on my wanting to create a very real sense of this ravished city that had been hammered by this giant robot. I honestly couldn’t think of anybody who could convey that as elegantly as Igor, because it would have taken what he knew. I was like ‘Oh, man, this is going to be so cool.’ He was up for it, I was up for it, and he did a half-dozen pages. Then the regimes changed and then he was taken off the project. Then the book got slit up by House of M,” Claremont notes a huge crossover event that affected the entire X-Men line.

“The frustration is that (and I think many writers and artists, perhaps, feel the same way) you come to a point where you want to play on your own turf and follow your own instincts and see what happens. You run headlong against the management structure that looks on it like ‘Well, yeah, but we’re paying for it. That means we need this, and you need to divide that.’ The challenge is finding a way to balance the two, finding the way to get the things you want while giving them the things they want.’ Or, as Frank used to put it, we can do anything we want provided we use a bit of subtlety. I find it very amusing the protestations and announcements of ‘We’ve dropped the Comics Code and can use profanity, and use nudity, and do comics that are more adult.’ I’m sorry, but you can find in the best of ‘30s films moments that are entirely obvious what’s going on. You just have to think a little, and it’s not right in front of you. To me, I find that more fun.”

            Since Claremont started in the 1970s, superhero comic books have largely become less accessible and more “adult,” with situations and content that wouldn’t pass muster twenty years ago.

“I freely admit that I’m a greedy sop,” Chris admits. “If I can do a scene that is balanced so that a twelve year old can read it and not get the double entendre, and a thirty year old can read it and totally get the double entendre—the key is that they’re both reading it. Or a twelve year old can read it years later and go ‘Now I get it!’ It increases the fun element and the bonding element of it. I think that’s a legitimate want. 

            “My conditioning as a mass market troll is that I want as broad an audience that I can get my hands on. I don’t want to be niche. I want to be mainstream. I want to be mass market, and for everyone to read this stuff. I think the joy and value of what we’re creating will entertain. It’s like one can appreciate Comedy Central, but the old days where you can get 68 million people all watching [I Love] Lucy? That could’ve been fun. Why can’t we do it again? But that’s me being greedy and selfish, but there are legitimate rationales.” 

            Claremont, earlier in the interview, had reflected on what made a great comic in the earlier days, that pre post-modernist, primarily direct market, phase of the 1980s:

            “The key is that you want to keep readers coming back for more. You do it by enticement, by creating characters that the readers care about and want to see what happens next, and then putting them headlong into peril. Hopefully the reader will empathize. It’s a challenge but it’s also a helluva lot of fun. 

“The frustration is when you don’t see that happening. 

“The second frustration, which is more primal, is that you ask yourself ‘Is this because it’s not there? Because I’m of a different generation, I don’t see the mesh of the script and visual in a way that I did when I was twenty, which is a whole other level of realization and insight, or non-insight. There’s no real answer for it. The kinds of prose books that I loved ten years ago, I look at now and go ‘Ewww’.  I looked through Neil’s stuff, Jack’s stuff, John’s stuff (Senior or Junior), and I see what I love. I look at modern presentation and the magic isn’t there. 

“It becomes, then, an honest question that one has to ask: ‘Is it me or the medium? Have I changed? Have they changed? Have we both changed and drifted apart? Is this a flaw, or do you just move on?’ I don’t know if there’s an answer for it. I think this is the whole sugar idea, where you keep trying until you get it right. Archie’s point was ‘If you fuck up, in three weeks you have another try, and we’ll give a No-Prize.’ The beauty of a periodical is that, as long as you’re in print, you’ll always get a second chance. You just have to figure out how to put the pieces together and turn them loose and avoid clich├ęs.”

            “One problem for me, as a reader, that I see in the modern presentation of comics, is the evolution of things to trades. What you have now are five issue bursts. Why? Because everything’s going to go into trade. I find that counter-productive; I want the flexibility and luxury of being able to expand a story by an issue if it’s working well, or cut it by an issue if it’s not. I don’t want to sit there and be locked into a defined format, which would make it awful for me to be a TV writer.”

            Since Claremont’s departure in ’91, the industry started to follow more of a trade paperback collection model, treating single comic book issues as part of a greater whole story arc, and radically changing the direction of the periodical comic book. Gone are the days of letting a series organically evolve from issue to issue, as writers must plan ahead several issues in advance. Claremont encountered this while working on X-Men Forever 2, his second series that takes the X-Men characters in a direction he’d wanted years back—Wolverine is killed by Storm and replaced with Sabretooth, Shadowcat takes on more ninja-like qualities, Rogue and Nightcrawler switch powers, and Nick Fury has become an ally of the mutant team. The series’ was unfortunately cancelled due to low sales.

            “We sat down last spring and blocked out the next twenty-four issues [of X-Men Forever], and we had it all laid out. The next eight issues would’ve been a helluva lot of fun, leading up to #24, but the plug got pulled,” Chris laments.

            According to Claremont, American comic books can learn a thing or two from their cousins across the world:

“The problem, unfortunately, is the diametric difference between the way it’s conceptually approached in the United States as opposed to Europe or Japan,” he says. “Here the industry is defined by corporate ownership—DC’s core characters and Marvel’s core characters—and that’s it. When you had Image, it was based on characters owned by the companies involved, whether it was Wildstorm or Top Cow. You licensed them to guys who would come in and write them and draw them. Whereas, in Europe, there’s much more of an independent creator-owned aesthetic. From that you get a relative degree of variety and creativity that you don’t have over here. The problem is how many times can you reinvent Superman, reinvent Batman, or reinvent Fantastic Four?

            “Case in point being, they just killed off Johnny Storm,” he cites of the Fantastic Four character, knocked off the same week of this interview and yet another superhero death inevitably reversed a few years down the line. “So what?”

“The paradox is that if we hadn’t resurrected Jean back in ’85, if we’d killed Jean and she’d stayed dead,” he elaborates. “If we’d kept that going, if we said ‘Someone dies in any book in the Marvel Universe, they stay dead. End of story. We’re not bringing back Captain Marvel, we’re not bringing back so and so.’ Would that have made a difference? When you do a story like this where you take Johnny to the brink and throw him over, when a character makes a decision ‘I must sacrifice my life,’ there is a consequence. There is no get out of jail free card. Would that be better?

“The flipside, as I was saying before, is that it at least opens the door for a new character to be introduced who might do as well, if not better. As you said, like a Gambit, or a Deadpool. Imagine if we did kill off Wolverine and replaced him with Deadpool. That would be an interesting thing to play with. 

“Now what you’ve got is ‘Johnny’s dead,’ but the subtext to everybody who reads it and reviews it is ‘Yeah, he’s dead this week.’ Then a year from now, someone will come along and bring him back, or even more amusingly when the new FF film hits, Johnny becomes successful in that and it’s a matter of ‘Oh, shit, we’ve got to match the movie.

“It’s the machinations of the structure are too often on view. You can’t get swallowed by the story’s reality. The thing with the X-Men is that you had some characters who couldn’t fit in the movie, but you could divert attention to them and look at New Mutants or Excalibur instead. How many times has Captain Britain died and been resurrected? Not to mention Betsy, not to mention Jean!

            “There again, it’s become the joke now. So they bring Jean back. They brought Kitty back. I was pissed off that she died, but I went ‘Okay, leave her dead, or have her be alive in space and do something with her there. But don’t just magically pop her in the book.’ But they wanted her back, so why is there any meaning in anything that happens. Conan Doyle ran into that with Sherlock Holmes going off of Reichenbach Falls. There needs to be a better way to do it or to approach it that is satisfying to both readers and creators.”

            Chris Claremont helped redefine comics through X-Men alone; instead of making the mutants more than just superheroes with static quo personalities and emotions, he crafted human beings with evolving personalities and constantly conflicted emotions. X-Men was very much a victim of the changing marketplace, as long-term storytelling gave way to shorter bursts of decompressed stories.

            “Things change, grow and evolve, and you don’t necessarily like them, but that’s what makes it a horse race. Or, you can find a way to do it your way, but better. And then find some idiot publisher,” Chris laughs. “But that’s the nature. The main challenge of mainstream, and the creators in mainstream, is that you have to reinvent yourself every X amount of times. The challenge now is the hope that there’ll be an audience out there to appreciate the work when the latest version takes place.”

            So what’s in the future for Claremont? He’s actually dusted off notes from an aborted Marvel ‘70s comic, the one he worked on with Frank Miller:

            “You look at things from an evolutionary and structural standpoint. I was just writing a short story for an anthology last week, based on Jon Carter [Warlord of Mars]. The story I sent in was adapted from my original notes for what would’ve been a second year of my run on Warlord of Mars. It was a cool adventure with John Carter, Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas in Arizona in 1870, with Tom Jeffers, Cochese, the end of the Apache Wars. ‘The Ghost of the Superstition Mountains’. Good fun.“

Special thanks goes out to Beth Fleisher for setting up our interview with Chris.