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Drawing Crazy Patterns: A Collection of Claremontisms

We routinely collect examples of repetitive themes in comic books and post at least five examples of each one. We have a whole archive of them here. A number of them involve Chris Claremont’s “Claremontisms.” There are enough of them that I figured it might be wise to include them in their own special sub-archive, so here they are!

1. The Focused Totality of Psylocke’s Telepathic Powers!

2. The X-Men Playing Baseball

3. Cannonball Explaining That He Is Near Invulnerable When He is “Blastin’”

4. Wolverine and Colossus Execute the Fastball Special!

5. “No Quarter Asked, None Given”

6. “Bang. You Dead!”

7. “Body and Soul”

44 Comments

I would add:
1. Welcome to the X-Men, hope you survive the experience
2. Bondage gear

And of course, mental control is something that Claremont can hardly avoid for more than about three issues at a time.

Claremazons (Storm, Rogue, Rachel, Psylocke)

At least Claremont never did, “I’m baaaaaaack.” (or did he?)

He coined:

“I’m the best at what I do, and what I do ain’t nice.” Or was that Byrne?

“I’m the best there is at what I do but what I do isn’t very nice.” The first time I read it was in the Wolverine mini-series by Miller and Claremont. I contend that it’s a Miller line(he is the man that gave us,”Sometimes protecting your friends means killing a whole bunch of people” and “There’s nothing wrong with you that I can’t fix with my hands”) but who really knows…

“Touche”

“To Coin A Phrase”

“Asked an’ answered” is another one I recall turning up more than a few times.

Also, it’s been mostly forgotten since he stopped writing her, but Claremont tried very hard to coin the nickname “dark angel” for the Jessica Drew version of Spider-Woman. He really likes comparing characters to angels and devils in general.

Some of those can be excused because of the time period they were written. Once upon a time there was a theory that every comic could be someone’s first so concepts, characters and powers got introduced far more frequently than in today’s comics. Still, a pretty funny list.

@h.hellpop I may be wrong, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that the script was pure Claremont but both plotted the series.

How about “daemonic?”

Which I realize is the proper British spelling, but still.

I would include variations of “You could be killed or worsed maimed!” He really liked using the word maim.

@Mike Thanks for the info. It just sounds more like a Miller line than a Claremont one. No offense to the millions of Claremont. I’m a long time reader and IMHO Claremont’s best work was with John Byrne(also Byrne’s best work as well). The Hellfire Club. The Dark Phoenix Saga. Days of Future Past… They were magic together… God I feel old.

I hope – I PRAY – we get more of these

Rollo Tomassi

May 24, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I feel like that list is just scratching the surface. Claremont’s dialogue has a very distinctive cadence and rhythm to it, regardless of which character is talking.

I think my all time favorite Claremontism is the way he always has villains introduce themselves (which goes hand-in-hand with his penchant for having whole groups of new villains pop up every few issues). They always announce their name in big block letters in little speeches you can imagine them practicing in the mirror when they’re psyching themselves up to go out and get stabbed by Wolverine. Like: “I’m BLOODY BESS, and the name tells you everything you need to know about me!” or “Failure is something MISTER SINISTER doesn’t tolerate.”

Travis Pelkie

May 24, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Or “Damn, all this Claremont verbiage gives TOM ORZECHOWSKI carpal tunnel syndrome!!!”

I just saw Claremont at a con and went to his speaker session. He told a story of how he was asked to come to new york to look at a script for days of future past, and he liked it saying it was cool. Then something happened and the director at that time(dont remember the name) ended up not doing the movie, so they rewrote the script. Claremont then goes on to say he got a call from the new director and asked if he wanted to go to the red carpet to promote the move to which he was excited for. But fox didn’t allow of this because only cast members could appear their. Doesnt sound like fox appreciated Claremont for how involved he was with writing and part scripting of the series.

But to “Im the best there is at what I do, but what I do aint very nice” Claremont said he was excited to hear it in the wolverine movie saying “YES! thats my line” watcing it in the theatre, while people looked at him.

I think it came from wolverine the limited series in 1982 as well written by Claremont and pencilied by Frank Miller. Its the very first set of words on the first page. Byrne I think left Uncanny x-men in 1980 or 81.

“The X-Men’s stock in trade” and “You always know where the X-Men have been…”

There’s almost always an “accept your limitations” lecture from one character to another or a “that [mistake] will cost you your life!”

“And gravity does the rest” when someone’s flight power cuts out or someone is flipped, thrown or dropped.

I seem to remember them saying “outlaw band of mutant heroes” a lot during Claremont’s run to describe the X-Men. Which I really wish that Storm, Wolverine, and the others would remember in more recent storylines when they talk about “Evil Cyclops.” For about fifteen years, the X-Men almost always had to avoid or defend themselves against the authorities. It’s really not new. These days I either laugh or stare incredulously at the page every time I see someone explain how Cyclops needs to be stopped because he was seen opposing a law officer or someone from the military to defend a mutant. Especially when it comes from Storm, of all people, as she led the “outlaw band of mutant heroes” who were “protecting a world that hates and fears them.”

Which reminds me, if you want to be reminded of Claremontisms, read the new Nightcrawler. I dropped it after issue #1 because it felt like someone had chopped up old comic book speech bubbles and sent them through a time warp. I feel bad because I’m a huge X-Man fan in large part because I grew up reading Claremont. But I just can’t read Claremont any more.

Kevin Oliphant

May 25, 2014 at 9:09 am

Dont forget “Murphy’s Law bub” That was a quote about every other issue in X Men for a few years.

We talk about Claremont dialogue tics a lot, but I’d love to see some Claremont Tropes discussed more. Things that aren’t pieces of dialogue but pop up repeatedly in his work, like the guy who has weird speech patterns and creates weird nicknames for people, i.e. Caliban and Warlock and various villains. Guys who have their own peculiar annoying dialects similar to Jar Jar Binks. Claremont loved guys like that.

Yeah, Claremont’s well of tropes included a lot more than just repetitive phrasing. I honestly think it’s to his credit that he kept going with fresh storytelling for so long, because his writers’ bag of tricks seems awfully limited even in comparison to other writers with a signature style.

(This is not to rag too much on him, mind you. I think that original run is one of the most significant in all of comics).

I think we actually had a thread listing various writers’ pet tropes back on the old forum; hopefulyl someonbe somewhere saved it?

But Claremont Tropes? Just off the top of my head, and not all of these are necessarily bad things:

— Orientalisms like villains with a bushido-like “code of honor” who always obey their supposed obligations; samurai and ninjas can outfight superhumans
— Characters being subjected to involuntary body modification (the Ani-Men, Wolverine, half the time Proteus uses his powers, Psylocke (twice!), Tom and Sharon Friedlander transformed by the Demon bear, Mirage’s parents *are* the Demon Bear, Fat Karma, the Brood, Genoshan skinsuits, Masque of the Morlocks every time he/she appears, arguably Rogue and Carol Danvers)
— Hints of attraction between female characters, one of whom is usually Storm (Storm and Yukio, Storm jealous of Kitty Pryde’s ballet instructor, Mystique and Destiny (eventually confirmed as partners), Viper and Sat-Yr-Nin at the Hellfire Club, Storm and Callisto in X-Treme X-Men, etc.)
— Literal Magical Ethnic People (Mirage’s grandfather is a shaman, Forge is a shaman, Shaman of Alpha Flight is a shaman, Gateway is a Magical Australian Aborigine, Margali Szardos and Amanda Sefton are Romani mystics, etc.)
— Characters, especially women, who are forced to adopt “darker” personalities and end up liking it (Phoenix, Psylocke again, Tyger Tyger, Magik, Storm on a few occasions, Wolverine to an extent)
— Gothic and Lovecraftian horror (the very third issue of the 1970s regular series brings in the N’Garai, and from then on you get periodic things like Dracula, Belasco, the Inferno crossover, Magneto’s island base implied to be R’Lyeh, etc.)
— Alien slavers (Lilah Cheney sold into slavery to aliens, Mojo wants slave-actors for big ratings, Tullamore Vogue)
— “Hidden” civilizations (the lizard-like “people” from Ms. Marvel, the Morlocks, Nova Roma, the Neo; K’un-Lun doesn’t count since it predates his time on Iron Fist and is baked into the premise)
— Non-native English speakers use exactly three phrases from their original language, but otherwise are just Americans
— Planes always crash, airports always get trashed

Yeah, Claremont’s well of tropes included a lot more than just repetitive phrasing. I honestly think it’s to his credit that he kept going with fresh storytelling for so long, because his writers’ bag of tricks seems awfully limited even in comparison to other writers with a signature style.

Claremont has a lot of obvious tropes, but I wouldn’t say he has a limited range. Look at people like Geoff Johns, who as recently described by commenter Dean Hacker can be basically boiled down to like one major theme/trope. That said, I do think Claremont’s tropes call more attention to themselves, especially on account of how strange they are.

Omar –

I think we should separate what are “Claremont tropes” from what are “Bronze Age Superhero tropes”. Hidden lands are pretty much a part of the superhero idiom, and gothic horror also entered it in the Bronze Age at Marvel Comics.

Orientalism and Magical Ethnic People also are sort of mandatory for superheroes in the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age whenever you focus on any character that isn’t American or Western European. At DC Comics you have plenty of sensei and wise masters in the 1970s for Wonder Woman, Deadman, Batman, etc. Ditto for foreign characters with a few catchphrases. It shows more on Claremont, because he had a main cast with such characters.

Authentic Claremont-only tropes would be:

– Involuntary body modification (at least once every few months, part of Claremont’s fantasy S&M scenarios)
– Mind control AND slavery (see above)
– Characters going to the dark side and liking it (another fantasy S&M thing)
– Plane crashes
– Covert (and not-so-covert) lesbianism

A few more Claremont tropes:

– Characters forced to fight naked or wearing bondage gear. Interestingly, it avoids usual comic book sexism, because men are victims as often as women, and Wolverine in particular.

– Major bad guy is attracted to Storm, and the feeling is mutual. Happened with Dracula, Doctor Doom, Arkon, Loki… Essentially the opposite of the usual hero attracted to femme fatale.

– A hero is thought dead by the world or his friends, and the mistake endures for several months of publication. Different from the usual comic book death, because the readers are shown that the hero is alive.

– Normal human policemen or government agent that is friends with the hero. This is really more of a general superhero trope, but it’s usually more common at DC than Marvel. Claremont used it a lot at Marvel.

– Hero must do something by him/herself to regain his/her confidence. Teammates will stay out of it, with one wiser/older teammate telling the others to “stay out of it, because he/she needs to do it alone, or else he/she will always depend on us, or something.”

I’ve just thought of another one

— Characters suffer long-term depowerings but continue to appear in heroic roles. The famous example is Storm, but it also happens to Carol Danvers in between her Ms. Marvel and Binary phases, Sean Cassidy (who becomes minor supporting cast rather than just vanishing), Jessica Drew turning up as supporting cast in the Wolverine solo series after Roger Stern depowered her, and Colossus losing his memory and spending a healthy stretch as a civilian.

I think we should separate what are “Claremont tropes” from what are “Bronze Age Superhero tropes”. Hidden lands are pretty much a part of the superhero idiom, and gothic horror also entered it in the Bronze Age at Marvel Comics.

I’d argue that a lot of them are Bronze Age tropes in part because they’re Claremont tropes, and it’s worth noting that he kept using them long after other writers had stopped. For instance, I really can’t think of anywhere nearly as many uses of Gothic horror in an otherwise “sci-fi” superhero book in the same period. There just aren’t that many Gothic horror Avengers stories, Spider-Man stories, and so forth as there are Gothic horror X-Men stories. Yeah, Dracula and Werewolf by Night did the guest-shot rounds, but usually only once in a given comic.

Claremont’s X-Men seem distinct in that they somehow ended up with *recurring* villains in that mold, many of which figured into the dense origin stories and ongoing plotlines of the comic in a way that didn’t happen elsewhere anywhere nearly as often. The Scarlet Witch is an anomaly in the Avengers, but Claremont gave us Magik, Mirage’s Valkyrie phase and the Demon Bear stuff, Nightcrawler’s stepmother and stepsister turning out to be witches, and so forth.

Maybe it’s fairer to say that Claremont was rather bigger on genre blending than his peers; as John Byrne found out to his chagrin (if not ours), Claremont was perfectly happy to take the X-Men into a science fiction film or a low fantasy adventure for months on end if the mood struck him.

But then, I’d argue that your entry about “letting the hero do it alone” is less a Claremont trope than a general Bronze Age trope. How many times did Denny O”Neill use it, as in the famous GL/GA story where a brainwashed Black Canary almost shoots Ollie while Hal deliberately stands aside?

Well, you got a point there. Claremont being so much a symbol of the Bronze Age that it’s hard to tell them apart sometimes. The late Bronze Age sometimes feels like the Claremont/Wolfman age, really. Wolfman’s Teen Titans also had a lot of genre hopping.

By the way, I was reading Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men the other day, and I realized how Whedon wrote Colossus’s dialogue in a much more naturalistic way. You see, when people use a second language, they usually don’t pepper their talk with expressions from their first language. They talk using only words from the second language, but the word choice and sentence construction is slightly odd and hesitant or over-elaborate.

And that is how Whedon wrote Colossus. But it’s the sort of thing you only notice if you really pay attention. It took me two readings to notice it. And then I wonder if it’s worth it, to go to all the trouble, and people will not realize it?

Another Claremont trope: the heroes travelling to another country or city, and Claremont being rather more detailed in describing the geography, history, and mood of the place than usual for a superhero story.

Also: “Oh, gosh! Oh, golly! Oh, WOW!”

“Caper” was a favorite word of Claremont’s. The X-men and the New mutants always talked about their “Capers” . Claremont even had an Excalibur Storyline called “the cross time caper”

Maybe another one: the overuse of Colossus’ second name Nikolaievitch. He’s often addressed with his full name by his sister, his teammates, and in pretty much every caption text box.

Daniel O'Dreams

May 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I can’t believe no one has brought up, “Hi,” “Hi yourself.” Which I pulled off exactly once in real life. Another example of cutesy talk between lovers that was overused. For that matter referring to your significant other as “lover,” who does that?

The one that I remember seeing time and again is “By all that’s holy…!”

How about “Charles [or whoever] is speaking to people’s hopes, [anti-mutant bigot] is connecting with their fear” followed by a statement fear always wins.
The idea that going to the dark side makes you hypersexual is a trope that drove me nuts, as it implies Evil=Sex. I’d love to see someone write a story where being possessed by evil makes someone an utter repressed prude (“Sex is disgusting! The warmth, the affection, the happiness—I wanted to vomit!”).
Omar I’ll give you the Gothic but Hidden Lands is definitely not a Claremont or even a Bronze Age trope–it goes back all the way to the pulps, with Doc Savage and Tarzan, for instance, finding them all the time (though Tarzan usually appeared in slick, upscale magazines). Even in the Silver Age we have Gorilla City, The Great Refuge, Paradise Island to name three.

@Fraser: Yes, Going dark = sexual repression would make for a very refreshing twist on that tired old trope.

Forgive me if I missed it, but, It looks like everyone’s forgotten the one Claremontism that always, more than any other, drove me absolutely crazy — and it seemed like it occurred every issue of X-men:

“With all my heart” (occassionally “From the bottom of my heart”???)

I really dug his and Cockrum’s and Byrne’s and Cockrum-again’s and Smith’s X-men, but this one nearly had me out in the streets, naked, ranting, frothing at the mouth and throwing hula hoops at anyone I passed…

Matthew

Fraser and V. –

I agree with you both, but the problem is that there is too much hanging in that tired old trope.

Not only the usual suspect, Christianity, but Platonism (that informed Christianity and suggested that enlightened beings are not interested in “coarser” things), Buddhism (though eastern religions don’t really say that sex is bad, they say that becoming too attached to anything is bad, yes, even becoming too attached to chastity, but they are easily misread as “sexual passion is bad”), Atheistic Materialism, very influenced by Darwinism (with the mechanization of sex as being an instrument to procreate), Libertarianism (on the surface, sex-positive, but actually very worried about losing control, about being logical and not-emotional, to really let go), Freudian psychoanalysis (sex as pathology).

In short, is any tradition defending that sex is something of warmth, affection, and happiness? Surprisingly, only a few anarchists, like Grant Morrison, and moderate socialists, like George Orwell, that write about the evil side being sexless. From the top of my head, I can really only remember Orwell’s 1984, as one example of how being brainwashed into evil makes you lose interest in sex.

@Nathan- Strange that he couldn’t get into the movie because he wasn’t a cast member when he’s IN the movie.

— Non-native English speakers use exactly three phrases from their original language, but otherwise are just Americans

I don’t expect a different one for each one of those Russian/German/Southern/etc. catch phrases, but we could have one combined column with all of them.

Somewhat in Claremont’s defense, I’ve always gotten the impression that his use of the “being evil makes you hypersexualized” plot point was tied more to his whole interest in the S&M culture than it was based in any sort of sex-is-evil moralizing.

True, Mr. Speck.

But it’s been often said that S&M could not exist if sex weren’t seen as a forbidden fruit.

Rene, I agree there’s a lot of sex negativism in the world, but that doesn’t make Claremont’s particular trope any more palatable. There doesn’t have to be a tradition to present sex as a good, positive thing–a variety of people do and have done without claiming they’re drawing on tradition.
And there are, in fact some traditions that are pro-sex or at least pro-sex within marriage. The early American Puritans presented sex within marriage as a very good thing, and something both spouses were entitled to, for instance.

The one that always sticks with me: someone does some solo beserker rage thing (destroying the Danger Room, single handedly taken down a pack of aliens/ninjas/morlocks). Then as its over, another character will be standing at the back and say, “Impressive.”

M-WOLVERINE
I just saw DOFP, and definitely noticed claremont in the movie as a member of the senate/government official. HA he got us, he told us to see the movie. Now i got a good story to tell

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