By 1975, the X-Men were pretty well out of publication with new stories being produced. The reprints kept the book somewhat alive, but there seemed to be little hope that the team would make a comeback. Hope arrived however in the form of writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, who penned a single issue entitled Giant-Size X-Men #1. This single, oversized comic book introduced a new team of mutants to join the original X-Men. Including characters from all over the world, it was by far the most diverse book of its time, bringing in the character Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Sunfire, and Thunderbird to join Cyclops in a dangerous mission to save his teammates. The issue, which was meant to be a quarterly book originally, was a massive success, and Marvel capitalized on it. Hiring writer Chris Claremont, Uncanny X-Men was back on the shelves with stories, and what happened next was one of the most historic runs in comic book history.
Claremont’s run established the X-Men as outsiders in the world of Marvel, their mutations the source of prejudice and hatred from the general population. This theme would become central to the X-Men for the next forty years, and is still prevalent today. Claremont explored this theme more completely than anyone had ever tried to, using the X-Men to address the hate-filled strife that plagues society, specifically the ludicrous idea of hating people for being born as they are. Such an environment created the perfect place for Claremont’s stories, introducing such villains as William Stryker, Cameron Hodge and Stephen Lang, humans that hated mutants with a passion, and would do everything they could to destroy them. He also brought forward such villains as Mr Sinister, the Hellfire Club, Apocalypse and Mystique, who would all become staples of the X-Men’s rogue gallery. In addition, hee further explored Magneto’s complicated relationship with Professor X, gave us the first stories with the Shi’ar and Starjammers, and created the love triangle between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. He also introduced dozens of new characters to the team, including X-Men mainstays Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Jubilee, Rachel Grey, Gambit, Dazzler, Longshot, and Magick among others. To compensate for this growing cast, Claremont would also create several offshoot teams, including X-Factor and the New Mutants, allowing for several crossovers with the X-Books themselves, something that was nearly unheard of at the time in comics.
Claremont’s run saw probably the greatest string of stories ever written for a team or character, many of which are considered classics of the genre and have been adapted in film and television. The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, God Love Man Kills, The Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, Inferno, The Muir Island Saga, all these stories and more were among the greatest comic book stories ever written, a testament to Claremont’s talent. At one point, Magneto, the X-Men’s long time arch nemesis, would join them, becoming the Headmaster of the Xavier School and teaching the New Mutants, this action helping mold Magnus into the single greatest grey character in comic book history.
Claremont’s run had numerous artists, the most prominent of which was John Byrne who became co-plotter on the book. After Byrne left the book, both Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee got their starts, Lee ending up staying on the book for quite a while and building much of his reputation while there.
Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Due to disputes with Bob Harrass and Jim Lee, Claremont left Marvel, his final action penning a story in which the X-Men and X-Factor would reunite and form a new X-Men team and move back to New York. Despite his abrupt departure, Claremont’s run on the X-Men was one of the single most defining runs on any character in the history of the comic book medium. Claremont made the X-Men a top tier team and franchise, introduced literally dozens of characters that are still prominent today, and penned some of the most memorable stories in comic book history. Claremont’s time on X-Men was truly the Golden Age for the mutant team, a feat that may never be duplicated.