Legendary comic book writer Chris Claremont recently appeared on Reddit's /r/comicbooks community for an AMA. He answered questions from X-Men fans and, in doing so, inadvertently provided Bleeding Cool with essentially our entire Thanksgiving weekend's worth of comic book clickbait. To be honest, we're not sure why we love Chris Claremont more: because he created the single greatest comic book run of all time that has brought joy to our life for decades… or because he made it so we could take it easy on Turkey Day and not worry about writing comic book news articles. It's really a tough choice.
Asked whether the plot should drive characters (as we see in many current comic book stories *cough*Hickman*hack), or characters drive the plot, Claremont had an easy answer.
"Stories derived from characters are more fun," Claremont said. "Plots can be predictable. It doesn't mean that they don't have value or can be fun; it's just that if you're building off a character, you can catch the reader by surprise because the writer can be caught by surprise. If it's just "How are we going to break into the vault?" it's a been there, done that, kind of thing. How many time can Galactus take over the world before it becomes repetitive?"
"I'm reading over the Marvel Made anthology, where Rachel confronts her time as a Hound while trying to save the world," he continued. "There's a full-page and double-spread sequence where John Romita Jr. just blew the walls off the building. It's just wonderful, looking at it now. But it's all about the characters, and the relationships between them, and the choices made along the way. When Rachel goes up to all her friends and asks them to save the universe and asks them to die, they all say yes, knowing that they won't come back. And they trust her and say 'yes.' But Rachel has doubts along the way: 'Am I psychotic, what If I'm wrong? I'm killing my friends; I'm destroying my family, is this the right thing to do?'"
"It's as Jim Shooter said years ago about AVENGERS ANNUAL #10," said Claremont. "Michel Golden and I did a sumptuous Annual where the Avengers are wiped out off the bat, and you've got the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the X-Men going up against each other, and I think it's just cool. And you get to page 28, and as Jim was fond of saying, page 30 is the start of the story. The first 30 pages are just set-up, and the actual story is a conversation between the Avengers and Carol Danvers about the sequence of events that led to her marrying Immortus and heading back to his dimension and how big of a mistake it was. It has everything to do about friends needing to trust friends. And what are the consequences when that trust is betrayed?"
"That to me is storytelling," he concluded. "Instead of giving readers the cliché of 'fight fight fight' it's like, 'What's going on beneath the hood, what's going on with Spider-Man, or his relationship with MJ?' The Fantastic Four trying to keep themselves from going broke… that, to me, is the cool stuff. You know, we all know, at least in the days of the Comics Code, the heroes will win every time. But there's a lot more that can go on beneath the surface during the fight, after the fight, that readers might find interesting. And, as a writer, that's the ocean I want to fish in. And I figure, egotistically if I'm having fun—then maybe readers are too."
Or, you know, you could just come up with an idea for a super-mega-crossover event or a cool, brainy concept and then twist all the characters to fit it until they're completely unrecognizable. You know, whatever works.