Chris Claremont... 'nuff said!
Wow... Really??? Two words, that's it. I mean, there is soooo much I can write about. Maybe I could a Top 10. Naw, Goodwill Hunting already did that. And, I must say, I do like some of his choices. Maybe I could do something creative? Nope. Retro Toy Safari has got that covered. Still waiting to see if she was able to figure out the drawer pull problem. And I know someone was going to write about their favorite superhero. Lo and behold, Fortune and Glory (Days) did not disappoint. These are all great articles by members of the League, but I still didn't have a topic of my own. Then it hit me.
The day I met the greatest X-Men writer of all-time - Chris Claremont! (Insert Thunder and Lightning effects here.)
Thanks to my dad, I've been collecting comic books since the early 70s. Being on super-tight budget, I was limited in what I could purchase. I ended up collecting Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men (UXM). Both were well-written and I felt I could relate to Parker (being a nerdy kid with glasses) and I wanted to aspire to something greater (Professor X's dream). Throughout the years I collected and stopped collecting multiple other titles, but the two constant titles were always those two titles.
Fast-forward a couple of decades. In 1991, Mr Claremont left X-Men and Marvel over a dispute with Bob Harras. My world falls apart. I stop actively collecting all X-Titles.
Another quick fast-forward to 1995. Mr. Claremont wants absolutely nothing to do with Marvel. It is very important to remember this, it'll come up later on. He is writing Sovereign Seven (S7) for DC and has written the novel Shadow Moon (SM), the sequel to the movie Willow. I refused to purchase S7 but I did pick up SM. Now, SM was a very interesting but difficult read. This is also important to remember. I was still purchasing Uncanny X-Men, but the love was no longer there.
Sometime in the latter half of 1995, I found out that Mr. Claremont was going to be at a local comic store for a signing. YES! I grabbed a bunch of UXM issues and SM and made way to the store. I'm standing in line waiting, comics in hand, when the announcement is made.
"Mr. Claremont will only be signing five items. He will NOT be signing any X-Men or other Marvel related products. He will sign all three issues of S7 in addition to whatever other comics you may have. No posters, no art pages., nor anything else."
Again, my world threatens to fall apart. As I'm making my way through the line, I can see that they weren't kidding with that announcement. Mr. Claremont won't even look at any Marvel stuff. "Is ok," I thought, "I still have my novel, SM." I put my comics back in my backpack.
As I get to the front of the line I see a well-oiled machine. The Handler takes your items and hands them to Mr. Claremont. Mr. Claremont signs the stuff, barely looking up, and hands it off to the Finisher. The Finisher takes your stuff, adds a flyer and pre-signed mini-poster and hands it back to you. This is going to be tough. It's my turn.
I approach Handler and say, "Look, I know you guys said only comics but the only thing I have is this novel..."
Handler cuts me off, "Sorry, Mr. Claremont is not signing any novels."
"Please," I say, "If I could just talk to him briefly."
Handler looks at me and then looks at security and I'm thinking I'm in trouble. Mr. Claremont has noticed there is a nothing in front of him to sign and looks over to Handler and me and asks what's going on? Handler explains what's going on. Mr. Claremont looks at me asks, "Have you read the book?"
He just spoke to me. I stutter, "Y-y-y-yes sir."
"What have you read?"
I tell him where I am in the book. I tell him the main plot points and main characters and what was the last thing I read. He asks me what I think of the story. I tell him that it is an interesting but difficult read. He takes the book from Handler and asks me to spell my name. I give it to him and when me gives it back there is an inscription:
Jathniel, May the stars be your guide and the winds be at your back. Fantasy forever, Chris Claremont.*
I don't remember how many times I said "thank you" but I'm sure it was quite a few. But the story is not over. Mr. Claremont then asks, "What else do you have for me to sign?"
I explain to him that all I have are UXM and he had said that he isn't signing those. With a wave of his hand he tells me to give them to him. I ask him how many will he sign. He tells me all of them. I pull out all the UXM I have and Mr. Claremont goes to town. Handler, Finisher and the store staff all get a little upset. I guess he wouldn't even sign any UXM for the store. In the end, in addition to the book, I got 7 UXM books signed. Among those he signed include "Days of Future Past, I & II", "The Death of Jean Gray" (the first time she died.)
I walked out a very happy man. Yet, this story is not over.
About a year later I'm in California for a SciFi convention. I got to meet Mark Hamill, Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno (all stories for another day) and, you guessed it, Chris Claremont. I had brought some more UXM with me, you know, just in case.
I approached his table, which was surprisingly empty, and struck up a conversation with him. I was surprised that he remembered me from our previous encounter and asked if I had finished the book. I had, and we talked about it. We shot the breeze for a few more minutes and then he asked me, "What do you for me today?"
I smiled and handed over my stash. He happily signed, another 6 UXM, including "The Brood is Back", "Mutant Massacre" issues, and "Death of Mariko" issues. We continued talking for a while. I thanked him, profusely again, and went on my way. I've met other high profile stars, artists and athletes. But none of them, and I doubt anyone ever will, be as amazing as Mr. Claremont.
(While writing this post, I attempted to look for the book, Shadow Moon, and the UXM books that were signed by Mr. Claremont. Unfortunately, due to moving into a new house, not all of my boxes are unpacked so I couldn't find the book. And I didn't have time to dig through 24 short boxes of comic books to locate the 13 issues signed. When I do find them, I will update this post.)
*-I can't find the book so the quote my be off a word or two.