Marvel’s Inability To Properly Trade Chris Claremont’s X-Men Run
I’ve ranted before about Marvel’s strange and erratic trade publishing methods and schedule, especially for older material. The newly minted Epic Collection is seemingly trying to correct that a bit and focus on publishing material that is either hard to come by or hasn’t ever been traded before. Each volume associated with a character or team is numbered but not being put out in chronological order. So for instance (at the time of writing) Daredevil only has one volume published, which is 18. This covers the Fall From Grace storyline from the early 90’s. The X-Men have one volume of the Epic Collection released thus far and it’s Volume 1 which contains the first 23 issues of the 1960’s Stan Lee era.
So what’s my gripe?
Chris Claremont’s X-Men run has yet to be collected as a whole in color. Yes, there have been 11 volumes of the Essential series reprinted in black and white that cover the run and 9 volumes of the Marvel Masterworks in color. The Masterworks series is far from complete though and has taken 12 years to get through about the first 100 issues or so with another 100 to go. Two Omibuses cover the first 60 issues and the Jim Lee/Claremont ones cover the last 40.There are plenty of in print and out of print trades that cover pivotal storylines or highlight different artists, but even if you managed to track them all down you’d pay a fortune and there would still be large gaps in between issues.
I understand that it’s a lengthy run to cover, but it’s easily the most important and influential in the X-Men’s history. Stan Lee created the core concept and the team’s founding members but Claremont in his 17 years as writer took care of virtually everything else. Not only are the stories great but it’s important to the historical context of both Marvel and the X-Men. During his tenure the series went from being in reprints and fear of cancelation to being the hottest selling book on the Marvel line and becoming the massive juggernaut (no pun intended) that it is today. What gives?
A few years ago Marvel introduced the Ultimate Collection line of trades as well as the Complete Collection where they began doing this exact thing. It put together a writer’s entire run on a book in digestible and affordable softcover trades with sometimes 20 or more issues per trade. It’s how I read Bendis’ 45 issue Daredevil run spread across 3 trades. I also just wrapped up Rick Remender’s excellent Uncanny X-Force 35 issue run in 2 trades. It was perfect and avoids the hassle of having to pick up 7 individual 5 issue trades the release first. (Side note: it seems like Marvel’s master plan for releasing trades in this day and age is as follows: 5 issue hardcover trades shortly after the storyline wraps up, 5 or 6 months later release the exact same trade but in soft covers. A year after the last softcover is released if it’s a popular run that’s definitively finished release an Ominbus. A year after that put out some kind of Complete or Ultimate collection split over multiple trades).
One problem in collecting Claremont’s massive run is the inclusion of crossovers. Simply put in order for the issues to make sense they would need to be augmented by other issues from various X-Franchises. The Essentials would have to work as the template here since they were able to do this coherently. This of course means beefing up the size of an already pretty massive collection of trades, but not by much. My guess is this could be done in about 12 or 13 volumes of the Ultimate or Epic collection.
Now this may be a pipe dream, but it would go a long way for my morale to be able to own the entire Claremont X-Men series in trade form and not have to dig through the individual issues to augment the massive gaps in the currently released trades (but my collection is far from complete anyway). The Epic Collection does seem to be a possible light at the end of the tunnel. It looks like the the plan is to release more throughout X-Men’s storied history which is great although I groaned at the choice of releasing issues #1-23 first. The only downfall is that since these won’t be published in sequential order who knows what we’ll get. The next installment could damn well be a prime Claremont chunk of issues but after that we could get part of Scott Lobdell 90’s run or (god forbid) Chuck Austen’s early 2000’s run. These seem to be coming out pretty quickly with Spider-Man having 4 out in the span of a year and half and mostly focusing on the late 80’s and early 90’s adventures.
This gives me hope, since the Epic Collection was designed to put out previously untraded gaps but eventually having everything collected. It makes me think we will see some Claremont stuff next stuff that hasn’t been put out yet. Perhaps Uncanny X-Men #180-200? Out of print or not, I don’t think any of those issues have really been traded. I still have my fingers crossed that some day Marvel will realize it’s mistake and give Claremont his due with a series of trades dedicated to his X-Men work but until then I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the Epic line will get some of the work done.
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