Welcome to the two-hundred and eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and seven.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com.
In honor the upcoming release of X-Men Forever, Marvel’s new series answering the question “What would have happened if Chris Claremont had not left the X-Men in 1991?,” today’s legends are all devoted to stories about what would have happened had Chris Claremont not left the X-Men in 1991!
Since so many of them impact each other, I’ll just list all of them up front and I’ll write about them all at once, like I did with all the Cable legends a couple of months ago.
COMIC LEGEND: Wolverine was going to be killed off.
STATUS: True and False
COMIC LEGEND: Wolverine was going to become a bad guy.
STATUS: True and False
COMIC LEGEND: Professor X was going to be killed off.
COMIC LEGEND: Mark Millar used Claremont’s Wolverine plot for Millar’s Enemy of the State.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
Around 1991, with the great success of the X-Men titles, and the recent debut of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man (which sold, I believe, ten billion copies), Marvel decided that they were going to launch a second X-Men title.
Writer Chris Claremont, who had been on the main X-Men title, Uncanny X-Men, since 1975, was going to continue writing both titles. Jim Lee would be drawing one of the titles (probably the new one).
However, Jim Lee wanted some more say over the story than he currently was getting. Claremont respected Lee and what Lee brought to the table, and was fine with co-plotting the book with him, but Lee wanted a little more control over that. Eventually, due to deadline crunches, Lee would often drop off pages with just enough time for Claremont to script them to get them in on time – whether Lee actually drew what he and Claremont had discussed or not!
When X-Men Editor Bob Harras was contacted to settle this situation, Harras ended up siding with Lee, who he felt was the most important part of the book (as Harras just saw a book written and drawn by Todd McFarlane, who had no significant writing experience, sell ten trillion copies).
Fed up, Claremont just sent in his plots and scripts for the first three issues of X-Men and he resigned from the title. As a result of this, Fabian Nicieza was brought in to finish Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men storyline with the Shadow King.
Naturally, after being given the control of the X-Titles (along with his fellow star artist Whilce Portacio), Lee was persuaded to leave Marvel anyways to help form a new creator-owned comic book company called Image Comics, and Harras ended up needing new writers within a year of the debut of the new X-Men series.
So that’s what happened.
But what WOULD have happened had Claremont not left the title?
People who had been reading Claremont’s X-Men for some time knew that he was a fan of drawn out subplots, and his two major plots of the first two years of the new series (which is about as far as he planned out, although he had some rough ideas beyond that) were both plots that had been percolating for some time already.
One of the plots was hinted at following the Siege Perilous storyline with the X-Men, and it involved the Shadow King.
The Shadow King was slowly taking possession of people, which was a major part of this story involving Storm and Gambit.
Claremont’s plans were for the Shadow King to slowly begin to possess more and more people (he already had taken hold of major parts of the United State Government). Claremont hinted at a future takeover of the Hellfire Club in an old issue of Excalibur…
The story that ended up taking place at Muir Isle with the possessed Muir Isle mutants was only supposed to be a prelude, with Shadow King seemingly defeated, but really he was just going to retreat and take over more and more pieces, like the aforementioned Hellfire Club, plus the Reavers.
In that Muir Isle story, Magneto also would have shown up to help (this is referenced in Uncanny X-Men #275, where we see that Magneto and Shadow King have some unseen history). Professor Xavier would not have lost the use of his legs again.
Eventually, the Shadow King would have gone after Gateway, with the hope of controlling the entire “Dreamtime.”
The Shadow King tried something along these lines in an X-Treme X-Men Annual.
Part of Shadow King’s plan is to get the anti-mutant Robert Kelly (who hates the X-Men because of the death of his wife back in the #240s – see what I mean about percolating subplots?) elected President of the United States. However, Val Cooper, who was under the Shadow King’s control, will turn out to be Mystique in disguise (just like it happened in the actual comics – just in a much condensed format) and take out Shadow King’s main US agent, Jacob Reitz.
Meanwhile, Tessa of the Hellfire Club will turn out not to be possessed at all, but secretly was a spy working for Professor Xavier (Claremont used Tessa, now called Sage, in this capacity when he returned to the titles in 2000).
Xavier’s son Legion would be the main focal point of Shadow King’s plans, and ultimately, in a big battle at Muir Isle, Xavier and Magneto would take on Shadow King (this is likely Uncanny X-Men #300) and in the end, Xavier would defeat the Shadow King once and for all, but in the process would be killed along with the Shadow King.
The X-Men would then more or less lead themselves (as I believe Claremont’s take was that they outgrew NEEDING a Professor), but Magneto and Gateway would stick around as sort of mentor figures.
That was ONE major plot.
The OTHER major plot was set up when the Hand put Psylocke into an asian ninja’s body.
This is the beginning of A. A big Hand plot and B. Wolverine losing a step.
When the X-Men took Psylocke back, they were worried about perhaps her being a sleeper agent for the Hand. However, Wolverine vouched for her.
Claremont had been writing Wolverine as having issues with his healing power for some time.
And he was only getting worse (remember that was a bit plot point in the battle against the Warskrulls, that Gambit seemingly had a step on Wolverine).
This would lead to a battle in the early issues of the new X-Men series (#3, I believe) where Wolverine would be fighting Lady Deathstrike, and since he was so exhausted, she would actually kill him.
Wolverine would be dead, and that would be the case for the next year (I have no idea how Claremont intended on reconciling that with Wolverine’s ongoing series – so really, even if he had stayed, this storyline certainly would have been nixed by Harras).
Finally, in Uncanny X-Men #294 (the 200th issue of the All-New, All-Different X-Men), Wolverine would return, only he was now brainwashed by the Hand! As it turned out, it was Wolverine who was the sleeper, not Psylocke!
So for a little while, Wolverine would be kicking ass all over the Marvel Universe.
Jean Grey would go in undercover to get close to him.
Along the way, Wolverine would begin purging his adamantium as his healing powers push it all out of his body.
Colossus and Wolverine would have a big fight and in it, Colossus would tear Wolverine’s claws out of his body. The Hand would give him new artificial claws, but over time, it would turn out that Wolverine’s body makes its own claws, and the claws are replaced.
Eventually, Wolverine would fight off the brainwashing and return to the X-Men, now sans the adamantium and with natural claws (that would work in ways much similar to the adamantium claws).
He and Jean Grey will have gotten very close during this whole deal, to the point where Cyclops’ psychic rapport with Jean Grey would be getting quite unpleasant for Mr. Summers.
If this sounds familiar to you, it’s very similar to Mark Millar’s Enemy of the State storyline in Wolverine.
When asked about it, Millar denied having heard about Claremont’s story before the story was already under way and someone mentioned the similarity.
While obviously I can’t PROVE it either way, I tend to believe Millar.
Especially since the X-Men titles, before Enemy of the State, ALREADY did a storyline where Wolverine “died”…
and then came back as a bad guy…
So I just don’t buy the idea that Millar would lie about coming up with the idea on his own when it had already been DONE in the X-Men titles! So it wasn’t like Millar was getting points for originality here!
Since Claremont has been so open with his original plans and since he’s already used some of these ideas in other places (like X-Treme X-Men – for instance, the whole “searching for Destiny’s Diairies was originally going to take place during the early 90s, when it was actually not that far removed from the whole story with Destiny’s death in Uncanny X-Men #255, but Claremont ended up using it in X-Treme X-Men instead), I bet X-Men Forever will be more or less a lot different than what Claremont hinted he would do originally! Should be interesting to see what happens!
For the heck of it, here’s a Jim Lee drawing from around this time that looks like it might have something to do with Claremont’s unused stories!
Thanks to CBR member David R for the immense amount of research he’s done cataloging Claremont’s intended plots! I literally couldn’t have done this week’s piece without his research.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you likely know by now, this Tuesday, April 28th, my book finally came out!
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…
See you next week!