Villain Spotlight: Magneto
Today we turn the spotlight to a man who, for all his ups and downs, is perhaps the finest villain in the Marvel Universe.
Magneto has definitely evolved from the madman who first appeared in the pages of X-Men #1. Originally, he wasn’t too far removed from the fascists who we would later learn had set him on his course to misanthropy. He led a goose-stepping army in his tyrannical crusade toward the destruction of another race and showed no signs of humanity.
The character famously underwent a drastic change in the 1980s. When Chris Claremont took the reigns the X-Men mythos, he slowly but surely recast Magneto as a tragic figure; A man made a monster by forces beyond his own control. The beautiful irony of it all was that the man who so deeply hated humanity was perhaps the most human of all Marvel’s villains. The newly sympathetic version of the character was so much more the hero that not only was no longer a caricature of villainy, he actually served for a spell as the headmaster of Xavier’s school.
One of the things I love most about Magneto’s history with the X-Men (and let’s not forget that it’s a history as long as the book itself) is that, for the most part, his appearances have been reserved for events and turning points in the series. In the Stan Lee days he appeared far too frequently, and when he was on the team he was naturally a fixture, but as the conflicted villain he tends to only show up when it really counts.
For instance, in the Claremont era of the book, he was revealed to be alive and de-aged during the early adventures of the All-New, All-Different X-Men. After attempting to exact his revenge on his barely-recognizable foes, he vanished for a few years of publication. Then he showed up again around issue 150 as a squatter on an Atlantean island and sank the soviet submarine Leningrad. He saw trial for these crimes in issue 200,and when Xavier seemingly died he set aside his quarrel with the man and took over the school. After filling that role for a bit he took off to the Savage Land and nailed Rogue. Finally, he high-tailed it to space to get away from all of the noise on this planet and, after mankind exported their penchant for violence to his very doorstep (that’s how he put it), he raised the Leningrad with the intent of using its nuclear payload on humanity.
And that was over the course of about 175 issues. Think about all of the things that happened to Wolverine in that time-span, or even to Nightcrawler. Magneto, for the longest time, was in the “Goldilocks Zone” in terms of frequency of appearances. Not too often that you’d get sick of him, not so rarely that he’d cease to be the X-Men’s most noteworthy villain.
The 90s were unkind to Magneto, as they were to nearly every character in comics. Let us not even discuss his heroic twin Joseph, but focus instead on the end of the decade when the UN granted him sovereignty over Genosha after “The Magneto War”. As cool an idea as that was, it was all the more powerful when he, the poster boy for mutant rights, was (seemingly) killed in a Sentinel attack on his nation. After all, it’s why this shirt exists:
But, as is the nature of comics, he’s been brought back to life at least one time since then, and has actually once more joined the X-Men in the aftermath of Charles’ death. Really, it’s sort of shockingly similar, but long as he doesn’t find his way back into his disco outfit I think we needn’t worry too much.
And in media outside of comics, Magneto has become exponentially more powerful via a secret technique in which all studio executives are trained; Find a way to make him young and hot. In X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, Michael Fassbender plays a younger version of the role originated by Sir Ian McKellan. While there are doubtlessly oodles of folks who find the septuagenarian McKellan insanely attractive, Fox felt that Fassbender would probably have a broader appeal. Well, it looks like they gambled and won!
I DON’T EVEN HAVE TO LOOK TO KNOW THERE’S SOME TIME TRAVEL SLASHFIC OUT THERE.
Try though they may, however, they will never eclipse the two most perfect depictions of Magneto in media.
1) The Menace of Magneto – a 1978 episode of the Fantastic Four cartoon
The Master of Magnetism, taking some time off from his pro-Mutant agenda and instead touring this great nation in a floating car. He stops at a rural gas station and asks for directions to the Baxter Building, and when the attendant suggests he fill up while he’s at it, Magneto becomes outraged! He prattles on in the third person while driving, even when there is no one within earshot. A “No Parking” sign offends him so deeply that he destroys it. He really does come off as an old man with dementia who wandered off into Manhattan one day and ran afoul of the Fantastic Four.
He challenges Reed to single combat, and as terms of his victory takes leadership of the Fantastic Four and uses them to prevent bank robberies by taking the money before the criminals arrive. All the while, mind you, he complains of being offended and delivers tiresome monologues about his superiority. Perhaps my favorite part is that he’s just after money. “The money is paper, so I can’t lift it with my magnetic power”, He says to absolutely no one while he’s loading up his magnetic car with bags of cash.
So Reed confronts Magneto with a wooden gun, and Magneto’s inability to move the gun with his mind throws him into a panic. Convinced that he has lost his power, he surrenders to Reed, and even after being told how he was deceived, he keeps his word and allows himself to be arrested!
2) The X-Men Arcade Game.
WELCOME TO DIE!!
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Posted on June 9, 2014, in COMICS!, Features, Geekology, Villain Spotlight and tagged chris claremont, COMICS!, Days of Future Past, magneto, Marvel, New Mutants, Villains, X-Men, X-Men First Class. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.