For fans of comics and graphic novels, Butler is about to become home to a very special cast of characters, a group that is dedicated to saving a world that both hates and fears them.
Famed comics writer Chris Claremont, best known for his groundbreaking work on Marvel Comics’ X-Men series, has agreed to donate his comics archives of the last 40 years to Columbia. The archives will be housed as the Claremont Collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Butler.
Karen Green, librarian of the graphic novel collection and the ancient and medieval studies collection at Butler, called the donation “very fortunate.”
“I was referred to Chris by a mutual acquaintance last year,” Green said. She described her acquaintance with Claremont as “fortuitous,” calling both Claremont and wife Beth Fleisher “amazing people.”
Claremont, who has had the longest run on the X-Men from 1975 to 1992, is credited with playing a pivotal role in bringing added maturity to American comics, and helping to develop the graphic novel. As writer of the X-Men, Claremont created many classic story lines, such as “The Dark Phoenix Saga” (very loosely adapted by 2006’s “X-Men 3”) and “Days of Future Past.”
The comics writer and novelist also depicted strong characterizations of women, updating the profile of the African-American superhero Storm and creating the characters of Phoenix and Emma Frost. Claremont also created the X-Factor series, which in 1994 introduced Monet, a prominent female Muslim character. As for male characters, Claremont made Wolverine a fan favorite, especially with his catchphrase: “I’m the best there is at what I do … and what I do isn’t very nice.”
Green, who grew up reading New Yorker cartoons, Mad Magazine, and underground comics such as Heavy Metal, admitted that “if I read superhero comics, I would be most drawn to the X-Men because of its metaphor for being outsiders.” She also finds it ironic being so closely associated with superhero comics as a result of Claremont’s donation.
As for Claremont’s legacy, Green described him as possessing “a mastery of a series that few other story lines in mainstream comics can boast. He has an extraordinary sense of how to tell stories, and an inquiring mind about the world around him. I’m not sure if anyone else can do that.”
According to a Nov. 14 Publishers Weekly article, in addition to bringing Claremont’s archives to Columbia, Green is working on building a new research center for comics at Columbia, although she admits to being misquoted.
“My hope is that Claremont’s archives will lead other New York creators to donate their archives to Columbia,” Green said, “so that Columbia can become a kind of research center for comics.”
Green also writes the column “Comic Adventures in Academia” about her experiences as Butler’s graphic novel librarian on the comics site http://www.comixology.com. She highlighted that comics and graphic novels are currently enjoying tremendous legitimacy. “There are so many publishers, writers, artists,” she said. “Comics study is burgeoning. There’s academic interest, a general growing interest. I think it’s a true golden age.”
With so much growing interest in comics from both academia and popular culture, and with Claremont’s legacy of discussing many real-world tumults in the pages of X-Men, Green’s golden age sentiment seems to resonate louder than ever.