Arno Bogaerts writes for Bleeding Cool
Friday was Marvel Day at New York Comic Con. The publisher kicked off a series of panels in Room 1A18 celebrating its 75th anniversary. Things got started with the X-Men. X-editor Mike Marts gathered some legendary creators of the mutant books, including Rick Leonardi (New Mutants), Walter and Louise Simonson (X-Factor), Fabian Nicieza (Cable & Deadpool), Len Wein (Wolverine) and Uncanny X-Men legend Chris Claremont, introduced as "some guy".
Marvel upcoming "No More Mutants" event was announced just moments before in the previous panel, but it seemed that most fans didn't hear yet. It never came up once. Nevertheless, the celebration got off to a great start with some of the biggest names in 70s-80s-90s X-Men history bantering and joking away.
Marts asked the group where they first got started. Len Wein, of course, created Wolverine for The Incredible Hulk. It was easy, Marvel wanted a Canadian superhero. Wein came up with a character based on a wolverine or, in his own words, a "nasty, hairy, scrappy little creature that takes on creatures ten times their size". Sums up Logan quite nicely. Another fun fact: Wein created him to be 19 years old. That didn't pan out.
Chris Claremont started as a Marvel "go-for" (an intern) and overheard Roy Thomas' problems trying to get rid of the Sentinels. He suggested burning them into the sun and eventually Roy used the idea. Louise Simonson got the books handed to her after the whole Phoenix debacle, while Walt Simonson wanted – and eventually got – the job of drawing the 1982 X-Men/Teen Titans crossover because Darkseid was in it. His one X-Men issue, Uncanny #171, featured Rogue's transformation from a villain to a good girl and ended up being the most reprinted issue of his career.
Fabian Nicieza bought Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975 of a spinner rack and bought every issue since until the mid-eighties. Then he started working for Marvel and just got the new issues for free.
Marts then asked the panel to talk about their memorable and favorite moments in X history. Walt Simonson said that he's always mistaken to be the creator of Apocalypse. "Actually Jackson Guice drew him first, I just steroided him up in his next appearance". Today even Guice himself tells everyone that Walt is the co-creator.
Rick Leonardi loved the X-Men franchise because he got to work with the best artists. X-Men always got the best Marvel artists in the business, he said.
Another memorable moment for the X-office was when Peter David kidded about Magneto finally ripping out Wolverine's adamantium skeleton. They were looking for their next X-over anyway, and the joke became reality in Fatal Attractions.
On the subject of multiple crossovers, Louise Simonson said they're all Chris Claremont's fault. He tried to get rid of the "too many Morlocks" problem and the office crafted the "Merry Marching Marvel Mutant Massacre" (which ended up becoming just "The Mutant Massacre"). It sold so well in the formerly off-month September, that they were tasked with creating X-overs every year. It ended up becoming bigger and bigger, but in that first one, there were only three creators crafting it and that's why it worked. The later "Inferno" crossover, where the Goblin Queen and a couple of demons invade New York City, was actually supposed to be the "funny one". Louise Simonson said they did crossovers for fun and had a great time with it. Chris Claremont said that the collaboration spirit in crafting these stories was very fun for him.
Len Wein talked about the secret origin of Storm. Originally joining Thunderbird, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Wolverine in the 1975 international X-Men team were Tempest, who could control the weather, and the Black Cat, an African superheroine with good luck/bad luck powers (this was before the name was given to Felicia Hardy in the Spider-Man series). The characters didn't really work, so the powers of one were given to the other and they became Storm. Which immediately explains the occasional cat eyes Dave Cockrum drew her with.
Wein didn't really care for the backstory Chris Claremont created for Storm though, accusing him of it being too close to the origin of Modesty Blaise. "If I was Peter O' Donnelly (Blaise's creator), I'd have punched you out", he said.
A fan asked the panel about their favorite villains. For Louise Simonson it was Apocalypse because she created him and he's fun, for Walt it was the same (only everyone thinks he created him). Fabian Nicieza liked the depravity of Mesmero, Len Wein likes Krakoa and Leonardi liked Emma Frost's academy. For Chris Claremont it would be a villain he hasn't invented yet. Leonardi also added that Professor Xavier is interesting as a villain as well. They laughed about imagining pitching the X-Men story today: "an old professor who can read/alter minds, collects kids and puts them into sexy spandex costumes. Across the street there's another academy with a sexy dominatrix who does exactly the same"
Some story ideas that were never developed came up. Like when Wolverine lost his adamantium, he would become a villain and eventually the leader of the Hand. Jean Grey went to stop him, and ended up becoming the next leader of the hand. Nicieza said that he could never start a story with the X-Men and finish it, because of the crossovers happening every 15 minutes in the 90s and Scot Lobdell writing the bigger storylines. He was grateful for writing some quiet, more intimate moments between Gambit and Rogue though.
The Simonsons added that they never got to do their version of the Twelve, while Claremont said he was really proud of God Loves Man Kills, although it ruined graphic novels for him since he said everything he wanted to say in that one story.
The panel sniggered at Marvel editorial in a couple of ways. "We're older", Louise Simonson said, "so we can get away with it". Apart from some frustrations with how X-crossovers and some plans for longer storylines worked out, one quote stayed with me. From Walt Simonson, about editors criticizing Chris Claremont's long-running plot threads in the book in favor of more done-in-one stories: "You want to take your best-selling comic and screw with it? You can be editor-in-chief!"
It was an amazing panel, full of laughs and tremendous respect from the crowd.
Arno Bogaerts writes about comics, superheroes and philosophy. He is an editor for Belgian pop culture blog Brainfreeze and Glitch Magazine and contributed to several "Superheroes and Philosophy" publications.