On a comparatively peaceful corner in a bustling Brooklyn neighborhood, lives a tabby named Bruce. Large and stocky, with flowing grey fur atop a sea of white, he rules his two-story domain like the feline king of the brownstone jungle.
Although an admittedly attractive tom, bearing a voluminous tail of which any fox would be envious, his true magic lies in his coveted secret: he shares his home with the originator of two of the most beloved epics to grace the graphic literature medium within the last 50 years – a legendary littérateur for nearly four decades – none other than Chris Claremont.
Bruce is a rescue and like many other aspects of the author’s abode, his story exudes an air of heroism.
Scores of superhero-laden parchment litter his kitchen isle as a laptop stands open amidst the literary chaos, a modern touchstone of a writer’s work.
Aside from penning the now legendary “X-Men” stories, “Days of Future Past” and “The Phoenix Saga,” Claremont’s tenacious mark on the sphere of comic books extended to the stalwart pages of “Batman,” “Captain America,” “The Avengers,” “Iron Man,” Thor,” “Spiderman,” “The Justice League” and a number of other acclaimed titles.
Having traipsed the realm of narrative literature, as well, his first novel, “First Flight,” a piece of hard science fiction features a remarkably capable female lead in Nicole Shea.
Wunderkind women seem to be his niche.
In spite of his abundant success, the scribe did not always aim to wield the fabled majesty of the pen.
Instead, he opted to explore the fervor of the masks of drama.
“I went to university intending to major in political theory with a minor in acting,” said Claremont, 58, his bright, blue eyes reflective as he reminisces about a crossroad past. Soft, white tendrils coat the contours of his face and head, adding stark detail to the piercing quality of his sharp gaze. At once, he looks kindly and sage – a scholarly scribe with years of experience from which to draw.
“As it turned out, because of the way the school was structured, I ended up with a major in acting and a minor in political theory, but I never thought twice about writing. If I had a desire – in avocation – it was to act. Writing was just something that came naturally, much like breathing.”
With his first foray into the realm of fiction manifesting in the “Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction,” scores of stories followed and the hitherto aspiring actor found himself at a professional crossroad, culminating in a profound epiphany.
“I woke up one morning and realized: I wasn’t an actor. I was a writer,” said Claremont, whose 17-year-run on “Uncanny X-Men” has been the longest in the title’s history.
And in the wake of this fateful realization, the London native grew to construct some of the most memorable story lines in graphic literature, not the least of which are the much-imitated “Phoenix Saga” and “The Days of Future Past.”
No less impressively, Claremont had been among those responsible for the ongoing evolution of the female superhero, effectively gathering a repertoire of some of the strongest X-Women to date. Although not his original creation, it was his Jean Grey that single-handedly invoked the celestial guardian of the fabled M’Kraan Crystal, the Phoenix, to save mankind. It was his Storm who – while stripped of her awesome powers – defeated the great leader of subterranean Morlocks.
Aside from breathing an active assertiveness that would make Betty Friedan proud into the already existent heroines, he spawned a new generation to rival the resilience of yesteryear.
He had created Rogue – a mutant blessed with the ability to absorb another’s psyche with physical contact, though cursed with the inability to control it, Shadowcat – a bright young girl from a surprisingly ordinary family, thrust into an extraordinary world and Psylocke, a young woman born into a life of privilege, who nevertheless takes up the mantle of a hero.
Each fundamentally three-dimensional and entirely engaging, Claremont’s strong X-Women dominated the venerable pages of the allegorical series for decades. Though often practiced in contemporary comics, it was during the Silver Age that the spirit of feminism leapt valiantly onto the pages of “X-Men.”
“It’s just that the male characters, especially in comics, have been so well-treated over the years by a variety of writers that doing a strong, dynamic male character doesn’t seem as great a departure as it does when you’re doing that with a female character,” he said.” “I just try to write characters that I like – people that I want to know.”
Happy and humble, the creator continues to be astounded at the success of his run, as it attracts the attention of not only the standard comic aficionado, but a wealth of female readers, as well, many of whom found role models in Claremont’s strong sirens in their youth.
With Wolverine’s permanent death in his present ongoing series, “X-Men Forever” – taking place immediately after his initial departure from the core X-Books in 1991 – and the introduction of a new evolutionary theory, in which mutants may not potentially be the next step in mankind’s development, the writer certainly has his enclosure engaged.
In fact, Panini, an Italian publishing company, has plans to release his collaboration with Italian illustrator, Milo Menara, filled with princes, pirates and “quasi self-indulgent silliness that looks absolutely brilliant.”
On the other end of the literary spectrum, Claremont continues to work on his latest novel, the urban fantasy, “Wild Blood,” though the sage scribe maintains a measure of mum on further exposure to its premise.
Yet, keeping his vast life experience operational, he continues to draw from his educational endeavor, infusing an air of theater into his work – through constant movement, struggle and internal conflict.
It is with this tempered grace that Bruce scours the tile foundation of his expansive kitchen, bringing truth to a whimsically inquisitive art-form. With his precocious, large eyes on the coveted pages yet to be released, he claims a privilege many fans desire.
“I must be doing something right,” said Claremont, in unassuming awe of his success. “But, God, that means I have to keep it up. It’s a challenge.”