X-POSITION: Chris Claremont

Listen closely, Marvel Comics fans! In case you haven't heard, Wolverine is dead. Oh, and Magneto? He's pushing up daisies as well. And have you met little Nate Summers, the son of Cyclops who never became Cable?

How is any of this possible? Welcome to the world of "X-Men Forever" - a comic book universe where Chris Claremont's imagination is king. Today, his royal majesty is taking the time to answer questions from his loyal X-POSITION subjects, because...well, that's what we do here! So gather round, ye jesters and fair maidens, and let your queries fly!

We'll allow Joshua Hetherington to start things off. He sent in a handful of questions - one for each finger, as a matter of fact...

1) Can a timeline book of "X-Men Forever" be released? There seems to be some discrepancy in the timeline you're following and I think a lot of fans would be able to enjoy the story more if there was a book that helped fans "catch up" (much like "New Mutants Saga" did for the new "New Mutants" series).

In terms of basic timeline, it picks up where "X-Men" #3 left off. Figure the preview takes place maybe three days or so after everyone has returned from Asteroid M - probably within a week. They're dealing with the death of Magneto, the reorientation of their world, and what's going on. And from that point on, things begin to happen fairly rapidly.

The first five issues take place essentially in a single night, and the second five issues take place over the next two to three days; so, effectively speaking, the first ten issues or so leading up to Cyclops' departure is the first week of the series. After that, things slow down somewhat. Issues #11-14 happen within the second week with Kitty, Gambit, and 'Ro heading off to Russia to see why Colossus didn't show up for the funeral. Issue #15 picks up with what happened to Storm after she fled in issue #5, and we move on from there - where we move on to depends solely on the whims of Marvel management and sales.

The paradox with comics these days as opposed to when I did the "X-Men" originally is that nowadays things are, of necessity, much faster-paced and compressed. We can't assume that we'll have years to play out a scenario; we have to get onstage, say our piece, and move on, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our hope is always that the Gods of Publishing will smile and we'll go on beyond Year One. But comics today is run much more like TV than publishing, in terms of structural state-of-mind. Nothing is guaranteed; you have to look at work in short and defined arcs - and as I said, keep your fingers crossed.

2) When can Jubilee fans expect Jubilee to return to "The X-Men"? I know that you stated that Jubilee was originally intended to be drawn in to Logan's funeral scene, but was accidentally left out. So when might we see her?

There's an ongoing discussion with myself and (editor) Mark Paniccia on how the book should be treated. He is fundamentally committed to a minimalist and focused approach to the series and the characters. From his perspective, we have eight core characters. Those are the only ones he really wants to see dealt with in the arcs. All the others are - for better or worse - off-panel, no matter how much anyone may wish otherwise. That's the editorial mandate and, at present, there's really no room for discussion or alternative, it seems. This isn't an ideal situation for either party, but Mark has his responsibilities to the company and to the overall structure of the series, whereas I have mine to my own vision of the story and how best to tell it.

Nothing new about that, it's inherent in the relationship between writer and publisher that goes back to the very beginning. The key thing to remember here is that we're both of us working together to come up with the best possible stories and find the best ways of telling them that will provide both creative satisfaction and commercial reward. It's a collaboration, which means it's invariably best to look at the result and not the process. The one is hopefully joyous; the other, far too often to those on the outside, a chaotic mess. That's often, a surprising lot of fun. Go figure.

3) With regards to the apparent spin-off "New Mutants Forever" that is being planned, can you tell us if it will share the same continuity as "X-Men Forever"? Why or why not?

The spin-off is a different animal than "X-Men Forever." It's designed as a miniseries, so it's five issues and out. It essentially picks up exactly where I left off - it would be as if this was "New Mutants" issue #55 and it's the next arc. It's the continuity as it existed at that time in that series, consistent with the "New Mutants" and the world around it. It has no connection with "X-Men Forever" because, as far as that book is concerned, it takes place ten years earlier...well, in the continuity; in the publishing reality - in terms of continuity - some months earlier, if not a couple of years.

Since the focus on the book is exclusively the New Mutants, the X-Men don't show up at all. In contrast to "X-Men Forever," for example, Magneto is alive and is headmaster of the School for Gifted Youngsters and is serving as one of the four Lords Cardinal of the Hellfire Club along with Shaw, Emma and Selene. So it's consistent with the overall X-Men continuity, but it is not the same moment of continuity that "X-Men Forever" occurs in.

4) Who can we expect to see in the "New Mutants Forever" series? Would it be safe to assume Cannonball, Sunspot, Moonstar and Wolfsbane, as they appeared at Logan's funeral?

At that point in the continuity, Shaun has just left the team, and 'Berto and Warlock are off in South America. So the cast we're left with in New York at this point is Sam, Dani, Rahne, Doug, and Amara. And then, once the story starts, all things can happen and everyone is at risk.

The story starts literally three minutes after issue #54. They're still at the Hellfire Club, it's still that fateful Christmas where they've just come back from their two issue team-up with the Hellions, Magneto's in conference with the other Lords Cardinal, and they're trying to figure out where to go from there. It's essentially the next issue.

5) Issue #10's last few pages had a reveal that I wasn't expecting - you know, the one involving Cyclops, Corsair, His Grandmother and...Cyclops' son, Nathan?!? How did this happen? When, how, and why did this happen? So many questions...

Ideally, Mark and I are still bouncing this back and forth - you can follow the blood trail across New York - but sometime after New Year around issue #18, we plan to touch base with Scott and his family up in Alaska and hopefully surprise the readers with more insights and revelations concerning the characters and their lives. I'm trying to resolve a lot of my loose ends - things that ended up happening the way they did in part because of the unexpected separation which occurred back in the day.

In my original conception of the series, Nathan was never supposed to go into the future - it was part of the argument that precipitated my separation at the time. So it's trying to remain true to the foundation concept of 'X-Men Forever,' which is this is the X-Men as I was hoping to execute it back then...and hopefully I'm doing it now. Mind you, for better or worse, I suspect artistic flourish might lead to a character coming across as older here than was anticipated back in the day, so we'll probably have to explain why Nathan has pulled a "Franklin Richards" and suddenly jumped a couple of years, but there you go - the magic of comic books.

What's interesting, of course, and what makes this fun is that when you start down what seems like the most simple and straight forward of paths, they can often lead you off in directions that you never consciously intended, but which were lurking just off-panel in the collective shadows of your imagination. And when the mix goes from concept to execution, you have to remain aware of these impulses and be ready to at least present them for consideration, to see how others react, and then decide whether or not they're worth playing with. And from there, of course, see what happens next.

Just as "X-Men Forever" is allowing you to continue with your vision for a book you once worked on, Hunter Lambright is hoping for a continuation of another series that you once penned...

Knowing that you plan your stories for the long run, it seems obvious that you had a lot planned in your Genoshan "Excalibur" series. As an avid fan of that title, is there any hope of you returning to those mysteries that were being set up, or has the door been shut? If so, can you let us in on what some of your plans were?

You mean the abruptly truncated "Excalibur" version three?

We had a really rich tapestry established with the series and we were hoping for at least twenty-four issues - two years, we figured we had that in terms of sales - and that that would be enough time to develop the relationship between Charles and Magneto, and to develop the conflict between what Scott and Emma were doing back in New York and what Charles and Magneto were trying to do in Genosha. And it was me trying to follow through on the original concept I had of Magneto growing/evolving/maturing beyond the psychotic/haunted/tormented villain. I wanted to turn it into a real, almost battle of wills between Xavier and Magneto as to which one was right - which one was the better course as to the future of muntantkind, and the idea of playing it out in Genosha surrounded by twenty million dead mutants - their own version of the Holocaust, which for Magneto has a double-resonance.

It was meant to be a morality play, and ideally the reader would be kept guessing right to the end as to whether Magneto would yield to the better half of his nature and join with Charles, or the reverse might happen - that Charles might decide that another, harsher approach was necessary. But we got shortchanged, and I guess it was felt that "House of M" was more viable - certainly, senior editorial loved that idea more - and that was the way it went. That was that. But the key thing to remember, always, is that nothing actually dies. The series had a fair shot and a final issue that I'm actually proud of, in terms of what I wanted to say about the characters. You play the hand you're dealt, the very best you know how, and you move on.

In a way, the structure of "X-Men Forever" is - from my way of thinking, perhaps - looking back in retrospect, a better way to deal with it. My vision of Magneto is dead, the world he represents - the hope, the horror - is all off the table. It's time for something new. rather than keep repeating the circle over and over again. I mean, after a while, no matter how many different writers try to play through the scenario, one runs the risk of facing the reaction of "been there, done that."

That's part of the reason when we decided to do "X-Men Forever." I made the decision that I didn't want to do the stories that I had talked about doing, like Wolverine being taken over by the Hand and coming back as a master assassin - partly because it had already been done (by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.). From my perspective, it's flogging a dead horse. It's better to move on...and try to come up with something wholly different and ideally - as every writer hopes to - better.

Andre4000 wrote in about a project of yours that recently came to fruition...albeit in another country.

I've recently seen images posted around the web of the X-Men book you've done with Italian artist Milo Manara - "X-Men: Ragezza In Fuga" - and I had a few questions:

1) How did this project come to be and what is the story about?

The project came to be because Marvel's publisher in Europe - Panini - have a relationship with Manara. They wanted to do an original X-Men piece over there, and they wanted me to write it. Only an idiot turns down a chance to work with someone as gifted as Manara, so I leapt at the chance. The only downside to the entire equation was, because of his incredibly phenomenal work schedule, it took six years to get the book done. It's a standalone one-off story - forty-eight pages of Manara doing what Manara does best, which in this case is taking a half-dozen of the most charismatic and photogenic X-Men and turning them loose. It's quite a lovely story, visually speaking. There are some scenes in it that are just breathtaking.

Essentially, the ladies show up at a house Rogue inherited from Destiny in the Mediterranean for Rogue's birthday. They're celebrating, one thing leads to another, and the next thing you know, they're off to Genosha to rescue Rachel, who's been abducted by appropriately heinous villains who plot all manner of global destruction and annihilation. And in their attempt to save the day, our heroines suddenly find themselves stripped of their powers, so they have to save the day but they have to do it as normal folk.

2) Do I need to buy a copy of the Italian book on eBay? Or will a version of the comic be released here in the United States? And if so, when?

Marvel missing a chance to make a couple of bucks? My understanding is that the Italian edition will be out from Panini around the end of the year, although I don't know the specific dates. I don't know their plans for any other European editions, but I believe Marvel has plans for the English language edition in mid-2010. I believe Manara is going to be a guest at San Diego next year, so I would assume it will be sometime in the summer. But ultimately pub-schedules and dates are a Marvel corporate decision.

3) Knowing Manara's past works include a lot of "adult" material, will the book need to be censored if it's released in the U.S.?

No censoring needed. Manara knows the rules. We're playing with Marvel toys and the Marvel rules. It's a perfectly respectable story. Good or not is in the eye of the beholder, but there's absolutely nothing in there to be self-conscious about.

That concludes the emails from our readers, so now it's my turn for this week's "Behind the X" question, which allows the fans to learn a little about you as a fellow non-mutant. So, as long as we're discussing Italy and the Mediterranean, what is your favorite country to visit outside of the United States?

I'd say...one I haven't seen before. There's a whole world out there I'd like to have time and resources to go wandering in. I couldn't chop it down to one at this point. It'd be like choosing a favorite X-Men - every time I'd say one, a reason would come up for me to think, "Well, except for this one...and then there's that one" - too many to choose from.

The cheap answer is Genosha. The second one is, maybe, Madripoor...or the other way around.

Next week, we leave the kingdom of Claremont and get to frolic with writer Matt Fraction ("Uncanny X-Men"). Between battles with Dark Avengers and Nation X, I'm sure readers have plenty of questions. As usual, send them my way as quickly as you can, and I'll happily pass them along. Put an "X-Position" in the subject line, and I'll sprinkle a few extra marshmallows on your candied yams. See you in seven!

Marauders Reveals the First Nation to Attack the X-Men's New Status Quo

More in Comics