Legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont has just explained how he'd bring the X-Men into the MCU. For the unfamiliar, Claremont is undoubtedly one of the most important comic book writers of all time. He's best known for his 16-year run on the X-Men franchise, which spanned from 1975 to 1991, and radically reshaped Marvel's merry mutants.
Claremont was responsible for some of the X-Men's most important stories. He broadened the X-Men's world, even taking them on cosmic adventures alongside space pirates like the Starjammers; he transformed Jean Grey into Phoenix, and then Dark Phoenix; and he turned Wolverine into the mutant legend he is today, writing many of the most iconic and unforgettable Wolverine stories of all time.
Surprisingly, though, in an interview with Newsarama Claremont has revealed that - in his view - the key to the X-Men work is to return to the Dark Phoenix Saga once again. That will come as a surprise to viewers who thought they'd seen enough Phoenix raptors on the big screen - but there's method to Claremont's madness.
Why Fox's Dark Phoenix Saga(s) Didn't Scratch The Surface
Fox has attempted to tell their version of the Dark Phoenix Saga twice; in 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, and in this year's X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The first was a disappointment to say the least, with one of the X-Men's most famous stories relegated to a subplot alongside an arc about a mutant cure; it came close to killing off the entire film franchise. The second was a critical and box office failure, heavily adapted in reshoots to avoid being too similar to Captain Marvel, and it grossed just $252.4 million worldwide - the worst-performing X-Men film of all time. In spite of that, though, Claremont still feels the Dark Phoenix Saga is the story to tell.
Claremont doesn't feel there's any need to worry about the prospect of repeating a story that's been done before - because, frankly, he doesn't feel that the Fox movies have explored the story's potential in the slightest. "All the characters and the stories that Dave Cockrum and John Byrne and Paul Smith and I told," he explains, "the surface and structure have barely been touched." Part of the problem, he notes, is that nobody expected comic book adaptations to become so big. As a result, many of Fox's X-Men movies are tentative, hesitant to really exploit their comic inspiration. "My problem with both iterations of Dark Phoenix onscreen," Claremont observes, "is, I don't think you can do it effectively in 90 minutes." He's undeniably got a point; the Claremont era was famous for its ongoing narratives, which sometimes ran for years before they came to fruition. Under Claremont's watch, the X-Men became seen as a sort of superhero soap opera, where you really couldn't miss any issue. He was aware that there could be first-time readers picking up a given issue, but it didn't stop him from telling his ongoing narrative. And that just doesn't translate well into single films.
The MCU X-Men Should Learn From Game of Thrones
Claremont believes that Marvel should take a tip from other popular franchises. "The challenge is, in terms of a canon like X-Men, it's more like Harry Potter and Hogwarts, or Game of Thrones. It needs time and space to evolve." As he notes, the X-Men require a very different approach to the likes of the Avengers; you probably can't do a Cyclops movie, a Storm film, followed by a Nightcrawler flick, simply because this is a team franchise. You need to spend a great deal of time allowing the characters to interact, encouraging viewers to become emotionally attached to them.
This is why the Dark Phoenix Saga went down in comic book history; it ended with Jean Grey sacrificing herself, essentially committing suicide for fear Dark Phoenix would be unleashed once again. Readers had been enjoying Jean's adventures for years, and as a result they were deeply invested in the character. When she died, their hearts broke along with Cyclops'. And a 90-minute feature film doesn't necessarily have the time to develop that same kind of emotional connection.
In truth, Claremont doesn't seem to think that the big screen is the ideal setting for the X-Men. Rather, he'd envision eight-to-twelve episode big-budget TV shows, with each episode like another issue. "You create the world and introduce the characters, and let the audience fall in love with them as you go along," he explains. Newsarama rightly suggested the model he was proposing matched with Marvel's Disney+ TV shows, but Claremont isn't sure. "Ask me once the service is out and we’ll see how it plays," he responds. "Needing access to those streaming services to watch a show like that could be an obstacle if the product isn’t worth the money. There’s too little time in life."
Why Now Is The Right Time For The X-Men To Enter The MCU
In Claremont's view, there are two reasons that now is the perfect time to incorporate the X-Men into the MCU. As he notes, the people who grew up reading his X-Men comics 40-odd years ago have grown up now, and are in positions of power and influence. "Everything has its evolution," he observes ironically, "and in our case, the people who grew up reading the book and loving the story and characters have now become the people making the decisions." It's hard not to think of Josh Boone, who pitched New Mutants by taking in clippings from the comics that he loved.
The second, sadly, is that Claremont feels the message of the X-Men - a message of tolerance, a battle for equality - is as timely now as it ever was. He remembers a story featuring Magneto in which the US Government had been separating families, putting children in one facility and parents in another, holding them until such a time as it was determined whether or not they're a threat to the country. The political parallel is pretty on the nose, but that's typical Claremont; this is the writer who penned "God Loves, Man Kills," for example, or who created a searing critique of Apartheid Africa in X-Tinction Agenda. For good or ill, the X-Men are the comics that explore these painful issues of social justice - and, in Claremont's view, that's just the way it should be.