Did Chris Claremont plot out Wolverine: Enemy of the State 13 years before its publication as a Mark Millar-penned storyline? Read on after the jump and come to your own conclusion!
Over the course of 16 years, writer Chris Claremont served as the driving force behind the X-Men comics franchise’s rise as one of Marvel’s most important properties. When Claremont took over the regular writing duties on Uncanny X-Men with issue #94 (August 1975), the title had just come back from near-cancellation (in fact, issues #67 to #93 of the series consisted purely of reprints of earlier stories). Working with artists such as John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, John Romita Jr., Barry Windsor-Smith, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Lee, Claremont crafted the quintessential superhero soap opera, a comic driven as much by relationship drama as it was by fantastical, physical conflict. By the time he left Marvel after scripting X-Men #3 (December 1991), the X-Men franchise was at the top of a comics market in the midst of unprecedented growth (the Claremont-scripted X-Men #1, released two months prior as a spin-off from Uncanny X-Men, set a record for most copies sold of a single issue that stands to this day).
Claremont’s departure from the X-Men titles (and Marvel) at the end of 1991 was the result of a long-simmering dispute with X-Men group editor Bob Harras with regards to his changing role in the creative process. Claremont had become little more than a glorified script doctor at that point, with plotting handled by Harras and artist Jim Lee. As their work relationship continued to deteriorate, Claremont and Harras stopped speaking to each other, sending messages back-and-forth exclusively by fax machine.
Claremont wasn’t alone in his frustration. As former New Mutants and X-Factor writer Louise Simonson recounted in a 1993 interview:
… what [the editor] did to me, to Chris Claremont, to [X-Factor writer] Peter David, and to [Wolverine writer] Jo Duffy was to nickel-and-dime us to death. He would change plots and blame it on the artists. He would change dialogue, and then say ‘I’m sorry but I tried to call you and you weren’t home’ or ‘I’ll be sure to tell you next time.’ He would change some of the dialogue but not the other parts, so the things people said wouldn’t make sense.
One of key disputes between Claremont and Harras involved Wolverine, the most popular X-Men character during Claremont’s tenure. The writer discussed the aborted plans for the fan-favorite character in 1993’s Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty Collector’s Edition:
… one of the bones of contention between Bob Harras and myself was that I had a story in mind for [Uncanny X-Men] #294 through #300 involving Wolverine being killed. I was planning [Wolverine’s death] for X-Men #3 and [his resurrection] as the Master Assassin of the Hand.
Bob’s objection was, ‘what do we do with [the ongoing Wolverine series]?’ My solution was easy for me to say, probably not easy for [then-Wolverine series writer Larry Hama] to execute. We do a book for two years where [Wolverine] was the villain, and the stories are how you deal with it because he is the villain in his own book.
You have him win a couple, and you feed him heroes every now and then. You go into the relationships why [Professor Xavier] always felt he was integral to the X-Men, why he was the first one contacted, what is his past, his present, his future, all sorts of ideas.
Basically, it floundered on the fact that it was too disruptive to the ongoing continuity stories involving Wolverine crossovers, Marvel Comics Presents: Wolverine, the whole nine yards. That struck me as absurd.
If Claremont’s canceled plans for Wolverine sound vaguely familiar, it’s perhaps because they seem to have been the inspiration for the Mark Millar-penned, John Romita, Jr.-illustrated Enemy of the State storyline that ran through issues #20–#25 of the renumbered Wolverine series in 2004. Here is the story synopsis, as printed on the inside dust flap of the Wolverine: Enemy of the State hardcover released in 2005:
With an adamantium-laced skeleton, mutant healing factor and razor-sharp claws, Wolverine has long been the X-Men’s most dangerous member. Even powerful villains such as Magneto and the Juggernaut have regretted facing off against this feared fighter. But now, this deadly living weapon has switched sides: Brainwashed by the Hand, Wolverine has become an agent of the ruthless ninja clan—slicing and dicing his way through the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the super-spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Battling against those he once called teammates and allies, will his former friends be forced to kill Wolverine to stop him?
Are the parallels between Claremont’s unrealized Wolverine story and Millar and Romita’s six-part narrative pure coincidence, or are they the result of an editor dusting off Claremont’s old notes and handing them to Millar and Romita? It’s difficult to say without direct confirmation from any of the involved parties, but the similarities, if you’ll forgive the use of the term, seem rather uncanny.