Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Dark Shadows of the X-Men

I'm going to climb out on a limb and argue that Chris Claremont was a fan of Dark Shadows.

Claremont spent most of his career writing for Marvel Comics and is best known for his landmark work on the various X-Men titles. He didn't invent the X-Men, but he might as well have, writing almost every X-related title for Marvel during a 17-year period. He's had one of the most influential, not to mention controversial, careers in comics.

He's been so prolific that it's hard to say where his influences begin, and where coincidence ends. When you write several comics a month for almost 20 years, you have to expect the occasional story to resemble something familiar, whether it's intentional or not. I'm not suggesting Chris Claremont ever "stole" anything from Dark Shadows, but circumstantial evidence suggests the Brooklyn-raised writer has seen a few episodes of the original series.

Exhibit A: This is a flimsy piece of evidence, so I thought I'd lead with it. See that image at the top of this post? It shows a group of villains who called themselves The Hellfire Club. It was a private group of ne'er do well "mutants" who dressed like fans at a Dark Shadows Festival (except for the ladies, who dressed like they're going to ComicCon.) This is pretty thin, but might be more compelling when you weigh the following evidence.

Exhibit B: The classic 1981 X-Men tale, Days of Future Past, shows a dystopian future where most of the book's characters are dead and the world is in ruins. The heroes must find a way to change the course of history to prevent this future from happening.

If this sounds familiar to you, it's because Dark Shadows did an extremely similar story in 1970. Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman are transported to an alternate future (1995) where Collinwood is in ruins and the Collins family is dead or insane. Barnabas and Julia travel back in time to try to break the chain of events that leads to the family's ruin.

Exhibit C: When Wolverine was first introduced in the 1970s, he was an intentional man of mystery. It was slowly revealed that he'd lost much of his memory following a government experiment, and that he was potentially much, much older than he looked. Also, bullets and knives didn't bother him too much. I think he and Quentin Collins would get along nicely. They could even trade grooming tips for their sideburns.

"It's easier if you just glue them on, Wolverine."

Exhibit D: Sebastian Shaw. If you're a Dark Shadows fan, you're thinking about the hippy psychic played by Chris Pennock. But remember that image at the top of this story? The Hellfire Club? That dapper looking guy in the middle is also named Sebastian Shaw, and has been a thorn in the collective asses of the X-Men since the late 1970s. The two characters don't have anything in common besides the name (which is also shared by one of the five guys who played Darth Vader) but is it a coincidence?

Again, these are minor details. I'm not arguing "Ermahgerd! Claremont stoled from Dark Shaders!" but I'd bet a modest amount of cash that he watched the show on a regular basis as a young man.

I apologize for wasting your time with this post. Please continue about your business.


Efe X said...

Kinda far-fetched but fun nonetheless. X-Men rule!

Mitch said...

And let's not forget the Dark Pheonix, who would make Laura Collins blush

Anonymous said...

Actually, Claremont based the Hellfire Club off of an Avengers (British John Steed & Emma Peel Avengers) episode. Sebastian Shaw was modeled off of actor Robert Shaw. But! Quentin most certainly would have been at home in the Hellfire Club, and you have caused my personal head canon for the Hellfire Club to include the fact that Quentin was the founder of the New York Branch!

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