Alara Rogers (alara_r) wrote in idol_reflection,
Alara Rogers

Polar: The History of Magneto

Oh my God. I was supposed to do this by December 18th? I completely forgot about it; for some reason I thought it was supposed to be done in January. Mea maxima culpa. It's been a hell of a month.

Fandom: X-Men (comics)
Character: Magneto
Author: alara_r
E-mail: alara @ mindspring . com
Spoilers: Contains some spoilers throughout pretty much the entire run of the X-Men series.
Notes: I draw on the work of Rivka Jacobs and Tilman Stieve in all my discussions of Magneto. I am also basing some of this essay on emails from Paty Cockrum, the wife of artist Dave Cockrum, who worked closely with author Chris Claremont on some of the more important stories about Magneto's history.

This essay will discuss Magneto in the X-Men comics (mainstream Marvel universe, not Ultimate X-Men.) The movie and the two cartoon series are short enough to be easily accessible to the casual fan who wants to learn about the character, and I hate Magneto's portrayal in Ultimate X-Men. However, Magneto in the main X-Men comic series has been around since 1963, and has an unusually convoluted history, some of which is impossible to derive just from reading the comics themselves.

In Magneto's history, I will extensively reference the actual issues information appears in. However, Marvel has a bad habit of creating multi-part epics that span about eight zillion different comics, and rather than write those out I'm just going to list the arc name. Most readers will prefer to read these in trade paperback format anyway, and the trade paperbacks are usually named for the story arc.

There are three parts to this essay, and two parts to my bibiography:

Part I: The tortured past and complicated history of Erik Magnus Lehnsherr, aka Magneto

We know little about Magneto's earliest history and childhood. We aren't even sure of his name -- it is probably Erik Magnus Lehnsherr (the name is pronounced Lenz Herr, not Lensher; it's a German word meaning, roughly, "liege lord"), but there is ambiguity about this. We don't know what country he is originally from, though Germany and Poland make the short list. We know he had a large extended family, all of whom are dead, and that his nuclear family consisted of himself, his father, his mother and a sister (who looks like she may have been older, but it's never been established for certain.) We are fairly certain he was Jewish, since all the historical evidence points in that direction, but for a while characters in the series thought he was a Gypsy.

What we do know is that when he was very young, somewhere between 11 and 13 most likely, his immediate family was rounded up, shot and thrown in a mass grave by the Nazis. Young Erik (we will use that name for convenience) manifested his powers for the first time to protect himself from the bullets, though the shock caused him to lose consciousness and be dragged back into the grave by the fall of his family. Erik woke up in the grave, being buried alive, and frantically dug himself free, where he was recaptured by the Nazis. They sent him to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. (New Mutants Series I #49, Uncanny X-Men #275)

In Auschwitz, Erik was one of very few children to actually make it in the door, let alone survive any length of time. He evaded being experimented on by a camp doctor the other children called Nosferatu for his pale white skin (who was, in fact, probably the immortal X-Men villain Mr. Sinister), and ended up one of the Sonderkommando, the despised group of (almost entirely Jewish) prisoners whose job it was to sort the belongings of the dead, carry the bodies from the gas chambers to the crematoria, and in some cases, guide unsuspecting new arrivals into the gas chambers. While there, he observed many other members of his family being killed. Although the Sonderkommando were routinely purged every few months, Erik somehow managed to survive until the camp was abandoned by the Nazis. He rescued a young woman named Magda from being killed by the Nazis at the end of the camp's existence, before the liberation of Auschwitz by the Russian army, and the two fled into the woods and managed to make their way over the Carpathian Mountains, where they lived in a small village for many years. (Excalibur Series II #7, Uncanny X-Men #150, #274-275, Classic X-Men #12) Magda was most likely a Gypsy, for reasons that will be explained later. Because the Gypsies in Auschwitz were all killed four months before the camp closed down, if Magda is a gypsy Erik was probably responsible for saving her life earlier than this.

In the small village in the mountains, Erik and Magda were married and had a child named Anya, and began a new life together. But Erik wasn't content with a simple mountain peasant's life. He wanted an education, so the two of them went to the city of Vinnitsa, in the Ukraine, and Erik got construction work. When his boss attempted to cheat him of his pay, Erik's rage caused his powers to manifest without his knowledge, and he almost hit the boss with a flung crowbar. The man was frightened into giving Erik the rest of his money. When he returned home, however, he found the inn where he and his wife had been staying on fire. He went in to try to rescue his wife and daughter, and his powers manifested again to protect the two of them from being killed when a burning rafter fell on them. As they left the building, Erik was accosted by the police, who'd been sicced on him by his boss. Erik struggled to get free as they beat him, and begged to be allowed to rescue his daughter, but they did not relent. Anya's burned body fell from the window, and Erik, consumed by rage, electrocuted everyone near him, except his wife. He then began ranting hysterically about being better than humanity. Magda, having just seen her husband murder an entire street full of people, some of whom were innocent bystanders, became terrified and ran, and Erik was too weak from the sudden manifestation of his powers to pursue her. He looked for her for many years after that, at one point getting false papers declaring him to be a Gypsy, but never found her. (Classic X-Men #12, X-Men #72)

Magda actually made her way to Mount Wundagore, the citadel of a being called the High Evolutionary, who was engaged in making anthropormorphic sentients out of animals. Heavily pregnant with twins (which Erik had not known), she was tended by a cow midwife, Bova. She spoke of fearing her husband, of how he had turned into a monster. After giving birth to a boy and a girl, she fled into a blizzard, ostensibly to lead her husband away from her children, and probably died, although her body was never found. Someone, at some point, put a gravestone for her up at Wundagore. Her children were then adopted out by the High Evolutionary to a Gypsy couple named Django and Ana Maximoff, and were named Wanda and Pietro. (This is evidence for Magda being a Gypsy, as well as the fact that the daughter, Wanda, has later been stated to be a Gypsy by blood, though I don't have a ref for that because it happened in the Avengers.) (Vision and Scarlet Witch Series I #4)

Meanwhile, Erik, giving up his search in despair, went to Israel, where he worked as a volunteer orderly at a mental hospital for victims of the Holocaust. He called himself Magnus at this time (though possibly he was going by Erik Magnus, because he later told his close friends his first name was Erik.) Here he met Charles Xavier, who had come to help a patient named Gabrielle Haller, a victim of Dachau. Erik and Charles became close friends, and Charles became Gabrielle's lover (never mind the ethical considerations there.) They often discussed what would happen if a new race of people with superhuman powers appeared; Erik believed that humanity would hate and fear such a race, and that to survive the new race would have to make war on humanity, whereas Charles thought that peace was both possible and necessary. Neither got around to telling the other that they actually belonged to that new race until Gabrielle was kidnapped by a neo-Nazi terrorist organization called Hydra, where they used their powers to work together and rescue Gabrielle. Erik found a cache of Nazi gold that Hydra had been holding, and took it for himself to finance his war for mutantkind's defense. (Uncanny X-Men #161, Legionquest)

For some time Erik worked, using the code name Magneto, as a Nazi hunter, possibly for the CIA, possibly as a double agent for the CIA and Mossad. (In the real world, Mossad was the primary organization responsible for Nazi hunting, but the conversation with Erik's handlers leaves the overwhelming impression that he was working for the CIA.) He also began to suffer from severe headaches whenever he overused his powers. He consulted his doctor, Isabelle (no last name given), who suspected his powers might be overloading his system somehow. She attempted to seduce him (the writer of most of these books, Chris Claremont, is apparently unaware of doctor-patient ethical restrictions on romantic relations), but before she could, she was murdered by Erik's employers (apparently the CIA). He had gotten the wrong Nazi, one that was working against the Soviets, and his handlers had decided he was a liability, and came to kill him. Again consumed by rage, Erik murdered them all, declared himself better than humanity, and seems to have decided at that time to shift his allegiance in full from humanity to mutantkind. I believe he also decided he needed to conquer humanity at this point. (Classic X-Men #19)

He created his traditional costume, with helmet, and officially declared war to Charles Xavier at Auschwitz, a few months before the first mission of the X-Men (Uncanny X-Men -1), and then to the world by attacking a base called Cape Citadel, attempting to steal some (presumably nuclear) missiles. (Uncanny X-Men #1) The X-Men defeated him. Magneto then recruited a team of mutants to assist him, called the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. (This name was apparently created with ironic intent.) Two of the members were a pair of twins, young adult mutants whom Magneto had rescued from a mob, who didn't agree with his ruthless tactics or his goal of world conquest but who served him out of a sense of obligation. (Uncanny X-Men #4) They were, of course, his long-lost children Wanda and Pietro, but neither side found out about the relationship for many years.

Over the course of the next several years, Magneto clashed with the X-Men and the Avengers (a team that Wanda and Pietro later joined after leaving him), as well as other Marvel superheroes, many times. He grew progressively more irrational and insane, until finally he was reduced to infancy by his own creation, a genetically engineered creature called Mutant Alpha. (Defenders #16) The infant was handed over to the care of Moira MacTaggert, a geneticist and expert on mutation who also happened to be a former girlfriend of Charles Xavier's. Xavier apparently planned to have Magneto raised with a clean slate. MacTaggert, however, had other ideas. She discovered while studying the baby that he had a genetic instability which would cause him to develop a mental disorder (apparently, something very similar to bipolar disorder, based on his behavior) as he overused his powers. So she performed an experimental procedure to correct the instability. (X-Men #1-3)

However, they were not going to get a chance to raise Magneto to adulthood with a clean slate. An emissary from the Shi'ar Empire who needed Xavier and his X-Men out of the way showed up and returned Magneto to full adulthood, at the prime of his health and power, with his memories intact. Magneto, still apparently insane despite Moira's manipulations, proceeded to capture and imprison the X-Men in devices that reduced their control of their physical bodies to that of 6-month-olds, in revenge for what had happened to him (which the X-Men hadn't even been present for, let alone responsible for...) (Classic X-Men #12, #18, #19 -- Classic X-Men was expanded reprints of old Uncanny X-Men issues with new material, and I draw on them rather than on the Uncanny X-Men originals when available) Magneto was defeated, and badly injured, and forced to retreat to his asteroid base (Asteroid M) to recover. When he returned, he was still interested in world conquest, still ruthless, still dangerous-- but, for the first time in the X-Men's experience, no longer insane. A calm, rational Magneto had developed a plan for world conquest which involved being able to control earthquakes and volcanoes. He also had a device which suppressed all mutant powers except his own. By working together, the X-Men managed to regain their powers, destroy the device and hold Magneto off-- but it wasn't until Magneto more or less accidentally electrocuted a mutant teen girl, who also happened to be Jewish, that he was defeated, not by being beaten up but by the internal realization that he had become what he hated. He revealed his Holocaust background for the first time to the X-Men (though Xavier knew it already), and saw in his own actions the acts of the Nazis. (Uncanny X-Men #150)

After this Magneto was not a villain again for some time, though he didn't give up the world conquest thing right away. He fought on the side of the world's heroes in a battle orchestrated by an omnipotent being, he helped the X-Men in a battle against anti-mutant religious bigots, he went hunting for his past and found that Wanda and Pietro were his children, and revealed this to them ("Secret Wars", "God Loves, Man Kills", "Vision and Scarlet Witch" Series I #4). And then he was badly injured in the random destruction of Asteroid M, was rescued by a human woman, fell in love, joined the X-Men, stood on trial for crimes against humanity, and took over from Charles Xavier as headmaster of Xavier's school and teacher of the next generation of mutant students, the New Mutants. (New Mutants #21-35, Uncanny X-Men #188, 195-200) This proved to be his downfall. He didn't understand the children, didn't get along well with them, and after an initial promising start, ended up losing control of them completely after they snuck out behind his back and one of their number was killed (NM #55-60). Magneto had agreed to join an organization called the Hellfire Club as part of an alliance between the Club, old enemies of the X-Men, and the X-Men, with Storm's help. Then the X-Men faked their own death, and didn't tell Magneto. Believing the X-Men to be dead, knowing the student Doug Ramsey to be dead, Magneto was sucked into the power plays of the Hellfire Club and fell back into, at least, the pose of villainy (though at one point he told the former X-Man Banshee that he was doing this to attract negative attention that might otherwise be turned against the children toward him). (NM #61-75, "Acts of Vengeance")

Then a new threat arose-- a woman with magnetic powers, Zaladane, living near the South Pole, who intended to seize control of the magnetosphere, an action with the potential to destroy the Earth. Magneto teamed up with the X-Man Rogue, and a number of other Marvel characters such as Nick Fury and Ka-Zar, to stop Zaladane. However, Magneto killed her, an action his new allies disapproved of, and then declared that "a kinder, gentler" Magneto could not save mutantkind. (Uncanny X-Men #274-275) He fled to Asteroid M, where he brooded for a time, until a mutant named Fabian Cortez showed up on his doorstep with a bunch of followers, claiming they had come to serve Magneto. By manipulating Magneto ruthlessly, putting him in a bad position with the world government, turning him against MacTaggert and Xavier by revealing MacTaggert's earlier genetic manipulation, and amplifying Magneto's power enough to push him toward his manic side, Cortez engineered Magneto's final break with the X-Men and apparent death. (X-Men #1-3) When Magneto reappeared, he was quite insane ("Fatal Attractions"). Interestingly, Magneto's plan in both X-Men 1-3 and the Fatal Attractions series was a fairly good one-- he wanted to create a mutant homeland on his space station-- and the actions of the X-Men and the world government in opposing him did as much to precipitate the crises caused as Magneto's behavior itself. It didn't help that he'd gone insane again in Fatal Attractions and was doing things like threatening to kill 1,000 humans for every mutant that died of a plague a mutant had created, but a careful reader cannot see Magneto as an unambiguous bad guy here.

This arc ended up with Magneto being mind-wiped by Xavier, and for a while he was a vegetable. Part of his psyche, embedded in Xavier, was responsible for merging with Xavier's own dark side and creating a psionic entity called Onslaught, which attempted to destroy the world. Magneto cannot really be held responsible for this, though, as Xavier has a bad habit of going insane and doing this kind of thing on his own, and it certainly wasn't his idea to have Xavier mindwipe him. Around the same time, a former Brotherhood member (who we'd never met before), a teleporter named Astra, rescued Magneto and restored him to sentience, though certainly not sanity, and then set him to battle his own clone. Magneto managed to fight off the clone and knock him unconscious. The clone woke up with tiny fragments of Magneto's memory and misinterpreted them as amnesia; he adopted the name Joseph, and his quest to find his own memory ended up with him meeting the X-Men as they battled Onslaught. Everyone assumed Joseph was an amnesiac, de-aged Magneto. ("Magneto Wars", "Onslaught", Uncanny X-Men #327)

The next time Magneto reappeared, he was a thorough nutjob, putting Gambit on trial for crimes against mutants, quite possibly spying on Gambit and Rogue having sex (I prefer to think this didn't happen), attempting to brainwash Joseph into taking up his personal cause, and in general acting in such an uncharacteristic manner that for years I was in denial that that really *was* Magneto (UXM #348-350). Magneto's behavior from this point on ranged from erratic to positively insane. In the series "Magneto Wars" he fought Joseph (who ended up dying in an attempt to fix a problem he and Magneto caused by fighting), and ended up being granted the country of Genosha, a nation which previously had gained great wealth on the backs of mutant slaves, and which had been suffering from mutant-human civil war for many years. Magneto turned Genosha into his mutant homeland, and while he started out being largely interested, apparently, in rebuilding his country and improving the lot of the mutants in it, by the end he was using it as a staging ground for world conquest, after which he got his ass kicked, after which Genosha was destroyed by mutant-killing robots and Magneto couldn't save them. There is, thus far, no real explanation how Magneto survived this. ("Magneto Wars", "Magneto Rex", "Magneto: Dark Seduction", "Eve of Destruction", New X-Men #115-6, Excalibur Series III #2).

For a while it was believed that Magneto, in his most insane mode yet, had been masquerading as an X-Man named Xorn, a position he used to conquer New York City and kill a whole lot of people before finally getting his head cut off by Wolverine (New X-Men #146-150). Recently however it has turned out that that wasn't Magneto (or Xorn), and in fact Wanda, Magneto's daughter, appears to be responsible, though I'm not clear on the details yet. Magneto has been appearing in his sanest mode yet in a book called "Excalibur" (it's the third series of the same title and has nothing to do with the original two), where he, Xavier, and a handful of Genoshan mutants are trying to rebuild Genosha.

Part II. The real-world Magneto Wars

When Magneto was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, he was a stock villain for a stock superhero team, a poor ripoff of Dr. Doom, one-dimensional and, aside from his cool power, wholly uninteresting. The team of Roy Thomas and Neal Adams managed to make the character both physically more attractive and behave in a slightly more interesting manner in Uncanny X-Men #62-63, but mostly, Magneto was a lame Silver Age villain.

The writer Chris Claremont and the artist Dave Cockrum revamped the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #93 and 94, bringing in new characters to revitalize the team (they worked with Roy Thomas in the beginning, but soon took over themselves.) They decided to rejuvenate Magneto to bring him back as a more powerful villain. Before long Claremont was working with John Byrne, who had a taste for old school bad guys, and they created the story in which Magneto gets revenge on the X-Men for something they had nothing to do with.

But Claremont apparently wasn't satisfied. He was kicking around ideas for Magneto's backstory, and then the big round number issue #150 came up, in 1981. Paty Cockrum (Dave's wife) remembers it this way:

"Dave {Cockrum} is slower than molasses running uphill in January cuz he wants every damn line he puts down just perfect...and all the backgrounds filled, he was always late.  He had gotten the synopsis for one fifty and was preparing to start on it when the powers that be decided that it would be a double sized issue. Weezie {Louise Simonson, the X-Men editor} called Chris {Claremont} in to revamp the plot and make it a reallllly big fight between  the x Men and Magneto for the anniversary issue.

"At the time, I was working on staff and went in and out every day, so it was easier for me to ferry things than to messenger it...fax not existing in those days... So Chris dropped the new, double sized synopsis off in my office for me  to take home. I asked him if he minded if I read it and he said go ahead and tell me what you think. When he came back a while later, I told hem he had thrown away his whole story in one panel on the...fourth page...I think it was.  He said how so? I told him that here...where Mags asks  Scott who this Lee Forrester  woman is and where is Jean? Scott tells Mags Jean is dead and Mags offers condolences. Scott blows up like the jerk he is, and says what does Mags know about grief...and Mags  says HE KNOWS what grief is! right there! sez I to chris. that's your story!  How does he know grief? what has happened to him?  what has formed him into the man he is? Is he just the raving maniac  we have seen heretofore or is he a person with  hopes and dreams and you said here? who IS Magneto?

"The story went on from there to be just another big fight between the X Men and Mags.

"I told Chris that THERE was his story.  That this issue wasn't just another fight scene...that this was the issue we find out about Magneto as a person...not a villain...and he had a double sized issue to do it in!!!!  Light bulbs went off over  Chris's head! You could see them!  He grabbed the papers outta my hand and ran out the door. I didn't know whether I had pissed him off  or not, he was gone that quickly. I figured if he didn't want my opinion, why did he ask me for it? He knew I would tell him exactly what I thought...always had...

"Couple of  hours later, Chris came back in, thrust a sheaf of papers into my hand and said..."Read that and tell me what you think!"  He had rewritten the synopsis to be the story you can read in X Men  one fifty today. He had obviously wanted to do  this, but knew  he would get flak from Byrne, so he put it on the back burner.  I figure I jogged his memory and told him now was the time to do that backstory he wanted to do...and He, knowing Dave would run with it, finally did what he had wanted to do  for a long time."

(correspondence on the Magneto Mailing list, May 8, 2003)

In a single issue, Claremont gave Magneto motive, dimension and complexity. He single-handedly redeemed the character from being a poor man's Dr. Doom to being a villain one could sympathize with. And for a while, the Powers That Be at Marvel gave Claremont his head, letting him do as he wished with the character. Magneto's redemption arc brought the character 180 degrees from being a villain to being one of the heroes.

Unfortunately, Magneto wasn't a woman. Chris Claremont had a chronic problem; all his high-powered badasses were women. He could write a tough male hero if the guy's power levels were comparatively low (see Wolverine), but all his high-powered characters-- Storm, Jean Grey, Rachel Summers, Rogue-- were women. He could write high-powered men sensitively and with great complexity to their personalities, but he couldn't then have them go kick ass. Plus, Marvel, unlike DC, has always structured its villains to be more powerful than its heroes, and its heroes to work in teams. Taking a man who used to be able to fight the whole X-Men team to a standstill and putting him in the X-Men was dramatically difficult; reasons had to be found why Magneto couldn't waltz in and save the day single-handedly. Since Magneto wasn't a woman, Claremont went overboard in the opposite direction, making Magneto headmaster of the school, a domestic father-protector figure who, like the dad in many sitcoms, couldn't really do anything right but obviously loved his kids. When Magneto did work with the X-Men, things that should never have been able to take him out walked all over him. This gave people who'd never liked the notion of redeeming a villain ammunition; fans were starting to grumble about Magneto washing the New Mutants' laundry, and Magneto's wussification was blamed on the fact that he'd become a good guy, not the fact that Chris Claremont cannot write ultrapowerful male heroes to save his life.

Bob Harras rose to be Editor-In-Chief at Marvel, and he squeezed Claremont out of control of the X-Men, first getting him off the New Mutants book (and promptly having Magneto go psycho in that book), and finally forcing him off the X-Men entirely. Harras, backed by figures such as John Byrne, wanted Magneto to be a uni-dimensional villain, and also objected to his Jewish Holocaust history. Byrne's stated reason for opposing these ideas is that Magneto is a "rat bastard" who should never have been given dimensionality, and that Magneto acted too much like a Nazi to be a Jewish Holocaust survivor. I don't know what Harras' reasons are, although Rivka Jacobs and Paty Cockrum both say that under Harras, depictions of Jewish identity faded out of the Marvel universe entirely.

Since then Magneto's entire career in the X-books and all the spinoff products-- toys, games, two cartoons, two movies, a second comic series rebooted from scratch-- has careened wildly between the two extremes of "rat bastard" supervillain, insane and destructive, and sane but tormented antagonist/antihero who genuinely believes he's doing what must be done, and who can sometimes ally with the X-Men. It's all due to power struggles between people behind the scenes at Marvel. Generally, as soon as Magneto becomes a good guy, he is wussified to make him fit in with the rest of the X-Men (the Joseph arc is a case in point; Joseph, who when created was supposed to *be* a de-aged amnesiac Magneto, was pretty feeble in comparison to Magneto, and though his amnesia was a good reason for it, fans hated it and demanded a strong Magneto back-- so the Joseph arc was cut short and pretty much destroyed by the retcon that Joseph never *was* Magneto in the first place, after which the character was killed off.) When he's a bad guy, he often starts out reasonably sane, although ruthless and fanatical, but then proceeds to behave in increasingly erratic uber-villain ways. The most rapid pendulum swing we've seen thus far is Grant Morrison's "Planet X" arc, in which a Magneto who managed to simultaneously be an incredibly devious and capable villain and an utter idiot takes over New York City and creates concentration camps for humans, and gets decapitated, followed by Claremont's "Excalibur" series in which that was an impostor and the real Magneto is living in Genosha. Neither is healthy for the character; the extreme evil of Morrison's portrayal didn't work (the combination of deviousness and cluelessness doesn't work with anyone, and it doesn't fit with Magneto's history), but the notion of Xavier and Magneto working together with barely any mention of the horrors each has visited on the other is too much whitewashing for many to take.

Part III. Alara's obsession with Magneto

I saw Magneto for the first time in the first issue of X-Men I bought, Uncanny X-Men #196. He was a white-haired but young-looking man who talked about having done things that could not be forgiven, who tried to talk Rachel Summers out of murdering a human who'd tried to kill Professor Xavier. The X-Men were suspicious of him, and he admitted they had every right to be. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a former villain. Also for guys with white hair who aren't old. I fell in love with the character at first sight.

Since then, however, I've developed some slightly less idiosyncratic reasons for liking Magneto. I like the complexity in the character-- the fact that this is a man who has built houses and cleaned bedpans for the mentally ill, and has also built world-conquest devices, and has also built robots that pick up teenagers' laundry. I like his addiction to his own power as a flaw, and his strong protective streak as a strength. I like the fact that he is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe, and yet he cries at his wife's gravestone. I like the fact that every so often he starts talking about himself in the third person and saying things like "I am POWER!", and clearly it's all an act he puts on out of insecurity and a desire to reject his own humanity. I like his close love/hate relationship with Charles Xavier, and the fact that, except for Xavier, he invariably gets along better with women than with men. I like the fact that he shows up to his daughter's house with a gift for his 2-year-old granddaughter, and conversation stops dead because everyone in the room is a superhero who's fought him once. I like the contrast his beliefs-- protect mutantkind by any means necessary; pre-emptive strikes may be necessary -- provide to Xavier's humanism (though, make no mistake, my politics put me on Xavier's side. I wouldn't vote for Magneto if he was running for office.) I like the fact that he presents himself as proud and unyielding, a typical "noble supervillain" type, but in fact to survive Auschwitz he would have had to lie, cheat, steal and bow his head to those he hated. I like the fact that the man carries his angst around with him, both his history as a Holocaust survivor that he can never escape, and the terrible things he himself has done. I like the fact that his reaction to romantic relationships is often to run away before the woman can dump him, and that he's hiding deep scars in that area. I like when he plays straight man to Xavier's occasional snark-- Xavier never gets to be snarky except with Magneto.

Bibliography: Non-Fiction:

Magnetic Levitation, or, Magneto's powers aren't as implausible as you'd think: This is a site discussing experiments in levitating non-magnetic objects, such as a frog, with sufficiently powerful magnetic fields.

The Mischlinge Laws, the Law of Return and the Sonderkommando: By Rivka Jacobs. At the time that Marvel had retconned Magneto into a Gypsy (which is not only historically inaccurate-- the Gypsies in Auschwitz all died, and none were in the Sonderkommando-- but is downright silly when you consider that Dr. Doom is a Gypsy. The characters are supposed to be *diverging*, not turning into each other.) Rivka was prolific with articles summarizing research on the history of the Holocaust she had done, and how that tied in with Magneto's history, as part of a campaign to prevent Marvel from retconning Magneto's Jewish background.

Magneto and the Holocaust Q & A: By Rivka Jacobs and others. A good summary of the history of the camp as it relates to Magneto's background there.

The Hunt For Magneto: By Greenstool (Michael Lavin). Incomplete; it was intended to be a 12-part document describing all Magneto appearances in the comics as of 1998 or so, but it only got three parts done before Mike stopped posting it. However, those three posts cover Magneto's early history from Uncanny X-Men #1 to #188.

The Magneto Mailing List: You have to join to read the posts, but it's an active list that contains fanfic and discussions. In particular, if you're interested in the history of Marvel Comics' internal wars over Magneto, check out posts by Paty (magnetorampant) and Rivka (rivkalj).

Diagnosing Magneto: By Rivka Jacobs. Rivka's real life job is as a social worker, and for a class she had to diagnose a fictional character. It's amazing how well these diagnoses explain Magneto's flipping back and forth between rationality and insanity in the comics.

There are a number of other non-fiction resources linked at my Magneto site on the FAQ page.


Here are some fics I particularly recommend.


Fishing Trip by Andraste. Xavier and Magneto fake their deaths so they can go fishing. Much snark ensues.

Rogue 1/2: The Scent of a Mutant by Jaelle and Orla. Extremely goofy anime-style humor, but well done. Revolves around the pairing Magneto/Rogue.

Magneto's Cold by Lori McDonald. Colds are never any fun. They're worse when they result in uncontrollable magnetic surges...


Transatlantic Crossing by Dr. Benway. The first meeting of Magneto and Xavier. It's not canon, but it is very intense.

Devil's Diary by DarkMark. DarkMark is one of the Old School types who prefers the mad, bad Magneto, but here he does a fantastic job of linking Magneto's insane days to his history.

Through the Valley of the Shadow by Darqstar. Set in Magneto's headmaster days, he and Wolverine go to the rescue of an imprisoned mutant, but even they are troubled when they learn her power...

Ashes In the Wind by Chris Delaney. Magneto and the X-Men must work together to defeat the Shadow King. Very, very dark and violent.

Kid Dynamo by Connie Hirsch. This is a rather famous classic of New Mutants fanfic with Magneto as headmaster. Yes, it's a Mary Sue, but it's a well-done Mary Sue by a writer who later went pro.

Obligation by Indigo. Magneto must carry out an obligation to a student he has failed.

A Lampshade by Poi Lass. Magneto hunts down a Nazi.

The Satan and Lucifer series by T. W. Lewis. An alternate universe in which Xavier and Magneto work together from Israel on.


Good Friends by Sigil. One of the earliest Xavier/Magneto slash fics.

Midnight Sun by Tilman Stieve. An extrapolation of the Rogue/Magneto sexual tension in Uncanny X-Men #274-275. Explicit het sex.

Shelter from the Storm by Sequoia Swennes. An alternate universe in which Jean Grey had her powers taken from her, and Magneto gave them back. Jean/Magneto, explicit het sex.

There are lots of other fics available at my Magneto site, which, sadly, has not been updated (in three years???? My GOD! I am such a scrub), so some of the links are probably out of date.

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