How Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne fell apart

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

It’s always a bit sad when a great artistic team can’t get along with each other:

For more than a few comic-book readers, it doesn’t get much better than the run writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne shared on Uncanny X-Men at Marvel in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The nearly four years they spent together chronicling the adventures of the Children of the Atom produced some of the most beloved Marvel Comics stories of all time, including “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” “Proteus” and “Days of Future Past,” and more than 30 years after their collaboration on the title ended, it’s still considered among the best partnerships not just in the history of the X-Men, but in the history of superhero comics.

Behind the scenes, though, producing such legendary stories wasn’t always easy. Shortly after taking over as artist, Byrne also began co-plotting the Uncanny X-Men stories with Claremont, and greatly influenced the book and its many characters. (Happy that Wolverine is such an integral part of the X-Men even today? Thank John Byrne.) The collaboration was fruitful, but not without struggles and disagreements over the direction of the book. One aspect of the partnership in particular seems to have really gotten to Byrne, though: He had a hand in determining the book’s plot, but scripting duties were Claremont’s alone, and he didn’t write the book’s dialogue or captions until after Byrne had penciled it (this is a variation of the “Marvel Method” made famous by the likes of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s), giving him essentially the final say in how characters and situations were presented.

…”Every issue there would be what I called my ‘ARGH!!’ moment, when I came across something Chris had written that went against what I had drawn, or what we had plotted. The cumulative effect was numbing to say the least. Here I went ‘ARGH!’ on the very first page,” Byrne said. “Can you tell why?

“Specifically, it was the way I had drawn Colossus easily ripping that stump out of the ground, replete with flying clumps of earth and speed lines versus the way Chris scripted it. I saw that page, printed, and just threw up my hands. ‘Can’t do this any more!’

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