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X-Men’s oldest and longest running villain. Good old Max Eisenhardt, good old
Erik Magnus Lehnsherr. Good or bad, Magneto has actually been both. In fact he’s
probably switch sides more than any other comic character in the Marvel U.
Magneto’s first appearance in the world of comics was X-Men #1 (now known as
Uncanny X-Men) where he tried to hijack some bombs with his mutant abilities to
control all magnetism which means that he can slap around all types of metals
and screw with the magnetic frequencies of the planet. The X-Men, then consisting
of: Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman and Beast stopped his evil plans, but
Magneto escaped capture.
It Has Begun
That was his first appearance, but Magneto’s story didn’t start there. For a long while there were details known about Magneto’s past, but the dots where never connected (much like Wolverine’s). Like how the hell did he have four kids? How did he survive World War II? How old is this guy to be exact? So Marvel produced a little book called X-Men: Magneto Testament; a story that clearly defined his origin. Essentially as a boy he was sent to Auschwitz death camp where he served in the Sonderkommando. After the war he started a family with a girl from the same death camp, but after exposing his mutant powers to try and save their first born daughter, she left him. Although it probably didn’t help that their daughter died in the process. His wife would later die in childbirth, giving life to Quicksilver and the Scarlett Witch.
Eventually he meets Xavier and they battle philosophy with each other. They become friends after a short time and then reveal their mutant powers to each other stopping Baron Wolfgang von Strucker or some such nonsense. They part ways when Mags realizes that he and Xavier have very different stands on the mutant race and its future in the world. Magneto leaves taking a bunch of gold with him to start the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants that included: Toad, Master Mind, Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver. Later the Brotherhood would add Blob and Unus the Untouchable (feel free to make your own joke here).
Other Than Killing a Lot of Humans, What Has He Done For Mutants?
Magneto may be a terrorist, but he’s also done a lot for mutants and the X-Men. He created Asteroid M which was a space haven for mutants. After that failed, due to his world conquest attitude, he eventually founded Genosha Island. A country of 100% mutants that could live and be free to use their powers however they saw fit. It was a paradise for mutants until the dead twin sister of Charles Xavier (Cassandra Nova) launched a bunch of Sentinels that attacked and destroyed Genosha killing 6 million mutants. Still to many he is their savior and a lot of mutants would follow him to the end of the earth.
Leader of the X-Men?
Mags has lead the X-Men several times, but only once in the reality of earth 616. During the 80’s Xavier was out of the picture, but he called in a favor and asked Magneto to lead the X-Men in his stead. Mags had to be the leader and lead the good fight for a time, but would not learn his lesson from this experience... or others. During the Age of Apocalypse he actually started the X-Men after Xavier died. He led the X-Men against Apocalypse who had finally succeeded in taking over the world. Recently in Age of X, Magneto once again led the X-Men and the entire Mutant race in a world once again created by Legion. In that world Mutants could be killed on site, Magneto created Fortress X and there he and the rest of the Mutant race took their last stand against humanity in a daily war that lasted seven days.
The Clone Saga
If there’s one thing that Marvel sucks at, it’s clones. Magneto tore out the adamantium from Wolverine’s bones which resulted in Xavier wiping his entire brain. Magneto then wandered the world clueless only to return to the X-Men going by the name of Joseph. Joey didn’t know who he was just that he had found a place for mutants. Later during Grant Morrison’s run on the X-Men, Joseph reappeared pretending to be Magneto, pretending to be the mutant Xorn. Confused yet? You should be, because even Marvel and its super fanboy’s don’t know anything definitive on Joseph. In reality I think that Joseph only existed after the editors didn’t like what had been done with Mags and thus a “clone” was created. It’s highly speculated that Magneto was in fact supposed to die at the end of Morrison’s run on X-Men, but that it was quickly back tracked so that Marvel could keep it’s number one mutant villain.
House of M and All That Jazz
After the Avengers Disassembled story arc, there was a question as what to do with the Scarlett Witch who had lost her damn mind and started killing friends as a way to deal with the loss of her imaginary children. With Quicksilver whispering in her ear, she created an alternate world in which Mutants were the ruling class and Magneto and his family were the top dogs. Eventually, Layla Miller and Wolverine go around waking up the X-Men and the Avengers so that they can charge the House of Magnus and kick Mags ass. Only to have it revealed that it was Quicksilver all along trying to save his sister. From there the words heard around the world were spoken and “No More Mutants” became the norm.
Basically Wanda turned off the mutant powers of nearly ever mutant and erased the gene from current mutants dna structure. As a result the mutant population dropped to around 210 mutants (although Marvel would have you believe that it was 198). Magneto himself has depowered, but eventually gained them back (kind of) from the High Evolutionary. Again, you can depower the number one mutant villain it's bad for business.
I Could Have Been A Contender
Magneto used to be Marvel’s number one bad guy. He was scary and he jacked up the X-Men on more than one occasion. The thing that made him scary was that he wasn’t fighting for money or to fund some crazy experiment that the rest of the world didn’t believe in. He wasn’t even fighting to get revenge on the X-Men for countless defeats against them. He was fighting for the Mutant race and to ensure that what happened during the Holocaust didn’t happen again. Unfortunately for Mag’s that two Mutant Holocaust’s happened as a result of his vision. The real difference between Magneto then and now, was that he was willing to do anything and sacrifice anything to achieve his goals and it was a big deal when he showed up. It made him scary and dangerous, but eventually he became the go to villain for everything and lost that persona along the way. Now he’s just another mutant being bossed around on Utopia under Cyclops’ regime. Although with the next big X-Men crossover he could be standing next to the very man who’s skeleton he tore out.
Look Maw, I’m In The Movies... Rosebud...
Magneto became a house-hold name when he was played by Sir Ian McKellen in movies like: X-Men, X-2: X-Men United and that really crappy third movie X-Men meets Rush Hour. You can see Magneto in X-Men: First Class played by Michael Fassbender this summer and hopefully the crazy spliced time-line they introduce will be interesting enough to save the franchise before it comes home to Mouse Pictures.
For more X-Men: First Class check out our review of the movie.