Research at the RBML | Nadav Millman investigates the Chris Claremont papers

Nadav Millman recently visited the RBML to dive into the papers of comic book writers and novelist Chris Claremont, which include works in progress, discarded story ideas, and unpublished manuscripts. Nadav describes finding correspondence with editors discussing some of Claremont’s best-known plots.
Chris Claremont papers, 1973-2018, RBML MS #1593
Chris Claremont papers, 1973-2018, RBML MS #1593

What brings you to Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library?

When I heard that Chris Claremont was donating all his material to the University I knew that I had to go check it out. Even though CU is not exactly ‘around the corner’ from my home. I wanted to have a look behind the curtains — his work process; nixed ideas; unpublished stories… any and every cool piece of information I could mine during those few days.

How long have you been using RBML materials (for this and/or previous research)?

A few days in December 2019, right before the world turned upside down in 2020. And again for a few more days in 2023. If I could, I’d go more often. There is still some material I’d like to cover.


Chris Claremont papers, 1973-2018, RBML MS #1593
Chris Claremont papers, 1973-2018, RBML MS #1593

What have you found? Did you come here knowing this material was here?

A more appropriate question would be what I didn’t find. Chris donated plots and full-scripts of some of my favourite (and less favouirte) stories. Proposals for arcs and projects that didn’t get greenlit. Correspondence with editors. Character models by some of the industry’s best pencilers. Essenetly, I think he dropped off virtually almost every scrap of paper he’d ever had including and not limited to cheques, grocery lists, address books, personal correspondence, etc. It’s wild.

What have you found that’s surprised or perplexed you?

I did expect this, but to actually see it — how detailed his plots are — and the way that he describes his characters to the artists. I knew he loved these characters but to actually read his descriptions of them. It also confirmed/validated my own interpretation/understanding of the characters. Here’s an example:

“Sage: the team Mentat (if this reference from Dune means anything), their equivalent of Spock. Cool, calm, collected, outwardly emotionless, incredibly elegant in manner and appearance, she dresses and looks the way she does because while you can take the woman out of the Hellfire Club, you can never wholly take the Hellfire Club out of the woman. No matter what she wears, there will always be that instantly recognizable air of Wickedness and Euro-Decadence that’s the hallmark of Hellfire. She’ll always be the hero who could most automatically be mistaken for one of the Bad Guys. She always looks perfect, never a hair out of place. (so that when we come to a moment where she does look mussed up, it’s a Major Big Deal.) If she falls in a mudhole, when she stands up she’s totally clean, as though the mud realizes that it doesn’t dare mess with her. Same with people, she makes them nervous, or outright scares them. When she smiles, watch out! The team doesn’t quite trust her, but they can’t live without her.”

Additionally, I was surprised that he’d kept my design-sheet that I sent him through Marvel — and even used it in an issue! But the higher-ups made the creative team take it out and replace it with something else for legal reasons, despite the waiver attached to it. Oh well, at least I got to see it in his archive.

Chris Claremont papers, 1973-2018, RBML MS #1593
Chris Claremont papers, 1973-2018, RBML MS #1593

What advice do you have for other researchers or students interested in using RBML’s special collections?

With regards to the Claremont Archive? Come ready. Pick a specific character or several, or/and an era(s), project(s) that you’re most interested in to focus on in your research. Make a *list* of what you want to see. Pick the boxes wisly. Be as organised and as focused as possible otherwise I think that you risk being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff. Like I said, he essentially donated *everything.*

Kudos to Karen Green for making sense of everything and making it all approachable.

Also — get comfortable; come as early as possible, leave as late as possible. And have fun!