Magneto (comics)

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Magneto (real name unknown, alias "Erik Magnus Lehnsherr") is a comic book character, a mutant in the Marvel Comics universe. He has at various times been a supervillain, a superhero, and an anti-hero, and in his role as a villain - arguably his most famous role, though not his most complex - he is the primary antagonist of the X-Men. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and first appeared in The [Uncanny] X-Men #1 (1963).

Contents

Character history

Early life

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Magneto and Magda escape from the death camp.

Magneto is a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp. As a young boy, with his power over magnetism not yet developed, he and his family were persecuted for being Jewish. Magneto witnessed the murder of his family by the Nazis during the Holocaust. He alone survived and was sent into the camps, forced by the Nazis to work in the Sonderkommandos.

Magneto has since been tormented by the fact that, had he only been aware of his full powers at the time, he could have put a stop to the entire process; the entire Nazi military would not have presented an insurmountable challenge to Magneto in his prime. However, since he was malnourished and sickly while in the camps, he may not have been in a condition to use his powers even if he was aware of them.

Magneto with Magda.
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Magneto with Magda.

After World War II, he married the gypsy Magda, a fellow survivor of the Nazi death camps (the two had managed to escape beforehand), and sired a daughter, Anya. Magneto consciously used his mutant abilities for the first time to protect Magda and himself from a fire. Unfortunately he was unable to rescue his daughter from the blaze due to his inexperience coupled with interference from a mob of angry humans. He unleashed his powers to decimate the human crowd in revenge. Terrified by Magneto's powers, Magda fled.

Months later Magda would discover that she was pregnant and would die giving birth to the mutant twins Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, under the auspices of the artificially evolved cow midwife named Bova at the foothills of the demonically empowered Wundagore.

While searching for his wife during this time, Magneto, realising that his name was known to his pursuers, paid a forger named George Odekirk to create the cover idendity of "Erik Magnus Lehnsherr" for him. His true name remains unknown.

Magneto made his way to the newly created nation of Israel. There he befriended Charles Xavier while working at a psychiatric hospital near Haifa that tried to help traumatized Holocaust victims. Neither revealed to the other the fact that he was a mutant. The two held lengthy debates hypothesizing what would happen if humanity were to be faced with a new, super-powered, race of humans. The two friends revealed their powers to each other when they prevented Nazi Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and his HYDRA agents from obtaining a large cache of Nazi gold. Magneto had presumably killed Strucker by dropping the cave in on him, but Strucker somehow managed to survive and resurfaced much later. Realizing that his and Xavier's views on mutant-human relations were incompatible, Magneto left with the gold.

Rise of Magneto

Magneto's experience in the death camps has shaped his outlook on the current situation that mutants face in the Marvel Universe. Determined that such atrocities will never be committed against mutant-kind, he is willing to use deadly force to protect mutants. He has several times expressed the belief that mutants (whom he calls Homo superior) will eventually become the dominant life form on the planet but are in of someone like himself for this to come to fruition. He constantly wavers between wanting to exist in harmony with Homo sapiens, wanting a separate homeland for mutants, and wanting to enforce his superiority over all humanity. Magneto's status as hero or villain is a complex one. His methods are often extreme, but his goals are often noble at their root.

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Magneto's debut in The [Uncanny] X-Men #1. Art by Jack Kirby.

Magneto came to the public eye as a genetic terrorist with an attack on the American military base at Cape Citadel (his first comic book appearance, in X-Men #1). He was thwarted by his old friend Xavier's mutant students, code-named the X-Men. He briefly conquered the tiny South American nation of San Marco after forming the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (which included his children Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch, though their familial ties were unknown to all three at the time). He invaded in the hopes of establishing a mutant homeland there, but was thwarted by the X-Men. He went on to create an orbital base of operations in an asteroid which he dubbed "Asteroid M", in which he and his mutant followers had hollowed out a large habitat for themselves.

Dabbling in genetics, Magneto created an artificial humanoid whom he named Alpha the Ultimate Mutant. Unfortunately, as often happens with artificially created creatures, Alpha rebelled against his creator. Alpha reduced Magneto to infancy using his powers. Magneto was placed in the care of Xavier's former love interest, Professor Moira MacTaggert, at Muir Isle. It was later revealed that MacTaggert tinkered with the infant Magneto's genetic code, in an attempt to remove any genes that might cause him to become the "evil" mutant he would become in adulthood. She claimed that she had hoped to cure both Magneto and her own young son, Kevin, of the problems and dangers that their mutancy caused them. However, any genetic tampering lost it's effect once Magneto first activated his powers again. Later, Magneto was eventually found at Muir Island and restored to early adulthood by the alien Shi'ar agent Davan Shakari, who normally goes by the code-name "Erik the Red".

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Magneto goes on trial for his crimes in Uncanny X-Men #200. Art by John Romita Jr.

Redemption

Magneto returned to his attempts at global conquest, being opposed time and again by the X-Men and a number of other heroes. In his most audacious attempt to conquer the world he threatened the governments of the world with earthquakes and volcanic activity. Though he had no qualms about sinking a Russian submarine killing all aboard after the submarine had attacked him and then raising a volcano in the city of Varykino as an abject lesson, he did give time for a mass evacuation before lava swept over the city. Likewise, he was shocked when he physically struck down the adolescent X-Man Kitty Pryde in battle. Remorseful at how he had almost killed such a young girl, Magneto put an end to his attempt at world conquest and retreated to rethink the path his life had taken.

Magneto later discovered that former Brotherhood members the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were actually his children, but when he tried reaching out to them they pushed him away, saying they couldnt forgive him for his past actions and being related wouldn't change that.

Magneto found himself allied with Professor Xavier and the X-Men when a group of heroes and villains were abducted to an alien world to participate in the Secret Wars. He was next called upon to aid the X-Men in battling the nearly omnipotent yet frustratingly short-sighted being, the Beyonder. His association with the heroic team softened his views on humanity and Magneto surrendered himself to the law in order to stand trial for his past crimes. A special tribunal was organized and Magneto intended to abide by whatever verdict was brought. The trial started well for Magneto, as the tribunal chose to strike all charges against him from prior to his "rebirth", deeming that this had constituted a figurative death of the old Magneto. However, it was then interrupted by the attack of Fenris, the twin children of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Fenris was defeated but Professor X was brought to the point of death due to the strain of battle and previously sustained injuries. Xavier asked Magneto to take over his school and the X-Men. Xavier told Magneto that doing so would make amends enough for his past crimes, although Xavier was at this point an observer at the trial and had no authority to do so. Magneto agreed and chose not to return to the courtroom. Instead he took over Xavier's school under the assumed identity of Michael Xavier, Charles Xavier's cousin, and was a fugitive from justice. Seeing him try to reform, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver later tried accepting him as their father.

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Magneto comforts Magik.

Though Magneto made a substantial effort as the headmaster to the New Mutants and an ally to the X-Men, his tenure was disastrous. He was forced to deal with the death of all of the younger students, the New Mutants, and their traumatic return to life after being slain by the godlike Beyonder. He was manipulated by the White Queen, mutant headmaster of the rival school the Massachusetts Academy, battled legally recognized heroes such as the Avengers and the Supreme Soviets, was unable to prevent his students Roberto Da Costa and the alien Technarch Warlock from running away from the school, saw the death of the young mutant student Douglas Ramsey and witnessed on national television the apparent death of all of the senior X-Men. Feeling that desperate measures needed to be taken, Magneto forged an alliance with the X-Men's enemies the Hellfire Club and went so far as to oust longtime co-chair Sebastian Shaw in order to establish himself as the Hellfire Club's Grey King.

Seeing that mutantkind was to be confronted with far more perilous times than ever before, Magneto began seeking allies in order to protect mutants from humanity. Towards this end he participated in the "Acts of Vengeance" alongside such established villains as Doctor Doom, the Wizard and the Mandarin. He also confronted Red Skull, an unrepentant Nazi war criminal, on whom Magneto took revenge by entombing him alive. He worked alongside the American intelligence agent Nick Fury as well as a number of Russian operatives in order to re-establish peace in the Savage Land. Tired of the constant state of strife, Magneto built a second orbital base where he hoped to live a life of quiet seclusion. He was by this point a figurehead for the cause of mutanthood and was sought out by a number of new mutants calling themselves the Acolytes.

Avalon and Genosha

After this, Magneto set his sights significantly lower than world conquest; he sought only a haven for mutantkind. He first attempted to make the orbital base known as Avalon such a haven but was opposed by the governments of the world and the X-Men. The X-men did not know if Magneto was returning to his villainous ways or not, and so they confronted Magneto. At the time the X-men were divided into the Blue team and the Gold team. Xavier made the mistake of sending the Blue Team, led by Cyclops, who had never trusted Magneto, not even when Magneto had reformed (Cyclops actually quit the team in protest over Xavier's forgiveness of Magneto).

Without giving Magneto a chance to explain himself, Cyclops ordered the others to attack. During the battle Wolverine (who had been friends with Magneto when Magneto had been on the team) attempted to kill him, much to Magneto's shock. With the exception of Rogue, none of the X-Men were any different.

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Xavier mindwipes Magneto. Art by Andy Kubert.

Feeling betrayed by his former allies, Magneto fled. He later discovered how Moira had tampered with his mind when he had been de-aged as a child. Magneto felt enraged, feeling that his redemption had been a lie. Though it was later revealed that the genetic tampering had lost its effect when he had first used his powers after being re-aged, and thus his actions had never been influenced by Moira's tampering, the damage had been done. He became the X-Men's enemy once more.

Later, the United Nations Security Council, in response to a resurgent Magneto, voted to activate the "Magneto Protocols" - a satellite network (in slightly lower orbit than Avalon), which skewed the Earth's magnetic field enough to prevent Magneto using his powers within, preventing him from returning to the planet's surface. In response to the activation, Magneto generated a massive electromagnetic pulse, not only destroying the satellites, but deactivating every electrically powered device on Earth within eleven minutes. The X-Men responded, hacking into Avalon's own systems to teleport a small team to the station (aided by Colossus, who had joined Magneto) and engaged him in battle. Finally, Wolverine launched a killing strike at him, leading Magneto to respond by ripping the adamantium from his bones. This act of self-defense enraged Xavier to the point where he mindwiped his former friend, leaving him comatose (an action which later led to the creation of Onslaught).

Magneto then remained in this state in Avalon, worshipped by his Acolytes, under the leadership of Exodus, until Avalon itself was destroyed; during the destruction, Colossus placed him in an escape pod, sending him back to Earth. This pod was intercepted by Astra, a former ally of his who now desired his death. She cloned him, and when the clone was ready, she restored his mind, since she felt there was no point in killing him unless he knew it was her doing it. After a pitched battle, Magneto triumphed over the clone, sending him crashing into a Mexican barn. However, weakened by this, he went into hiding, while the clone became known as Joseph and eventually joined the X-Men.

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Cover to Magneto Rex #1, featuring Magneto with Rogue and Quicksilver. Art by Brandon Peterson.

Magneto then took this time to plan, since the world believed Joseph to be the real Magneto. He engaged in a pair of brief diversions, first posing as "Erik the Red" and revealing Gambit's past crimes to the X-Men, resulting in Gambit's expulsion (although he was later re-admitted); then, when his true identity was on the verge of being discovered by Sabra and Gabrielle Haller, killing Odekirk to prevent this.

Following this, he constructed a machine with which to amplify his powers and blackmail the world into creating a mutant nation. The X-Men and Joseph - who had fallen under Astra's control again - opposed him, but even as the X-Men defeated him (leaving his powers severely depleted as a result of over-strain), and Joseph sacrificed his life to restore the Earth to normal, the United Nations, manipulated by Alda Huxley (the United Nations mutant affairs officer), ceded the island nation of Genosha, which had no recognised government, to Magneto. Magneto ruled that nation for some time with the aid of many who had previously opposed him, including Quicksilver, Polaris, and the founder of the Acolytes, Fabian Cortez.

Despite the UN's hopes that Genosha's ongoing civil war between humans and mutates would destroy, or at least occupy him, Magneto managed to crush all opposition to his rule and rebuilt the nation, forming an army of mutates dedicated to his cause, with yet more mutants coming from all over the world to seek sanctuary in Genosha.

Eventually, he managed to use the Genegineer's equipment to fully restore his power. Intending to declare war on humanity, Magneto captured Professor X, using him as a symbol with which to rally his troops. Jean Grey recruited a new lineup of X-Men to assist Cyclops and Wolverine in rescuing Xavier and defeating Magneto. Taking the opportunity to get his revenge, Wolverine attacked the defeated Magneto, leaving him with serious injuries and crippling him for a time.

Xorn and Magneto

Soon after this, Genosha was decimated by yet another rogue mutant -- Cassandra Nova Xavier, Charles Xavier's previously unknown dead sister, who Xavier had killed in the womb. Magneto and 16 million mutants who were gathered at Genosha were reported deceased. Months after the event, a team of X-Men searching in the debris found what was apparently a recording of Magneto's last words. Mutant-supremicist ideas, attributed to him, became wide-spread in the mutant community, with some holding him as a martyr of the mutant cause.

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Kuan-Yin Xorn, posing as Magneto, kills Jean Grey.
Meanwhile, the mutant known as Xorn had joined the X-Men after being rescued from captivity in China. Xorn was said to be a Chinese mutant with a "star for a brain", and wore a face-concealing metal helmet with a skull-like motif. He also possessed nebulous healing powers, although the only time he was shown to heal anyone was when he deactivated a number of microscopic Sentinels and simultaneously restored Professor Xavier's ability to walk. He eventually removed the helmet, revealing Magneto's face beneath; it was alleged that Xorn never existed, and was simply an identity conceived wholly by Magneto. Having "exposed his deception", he then schemed to destroy the X-Men and reverse the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field, increasing his power with the use of a mutant drug called "Kick". He recruited the Special Class and Esme from the Xavier School to serve as his Brotherhood of Mutants, though most eventually turned against him. Before being decapitated by Wolverine, "Magneto" killed Jean Grey using a lethal electromagnetic pulse that caused her to have a massive stroke and devastated much of New York City.

Some time later, the X-Men found another Xorn, who identified himself as Shen Xorn and revealed that the "Magneto" who devastated New York was Kuan-Yin Xorn - his brother - and said that he believed that someone else was controlling his brother. Who, as yet, remains unknown.

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Magneto returns.

Rebuilding Genosha

With the launch of a new Excalibur series, Xavier met up with the real Magneto, who was actually alive. Xavier had with him Kuan-Yin Xorn's corpse. When asked who was in it, Xavier explained how the imposter had killed over 5,000 people (including Jean Grey). Magneto was shocked and angry that people thought he was capable of committing such an act.

Xavier: The latest death count in New York is 5,000. Slaughtered simply because they weren't mutants, as a demonstration of will and power.
Magneto: And they think me capable of such a thing? Do you think me capable of such a thing?
Xavier: Well, you do have a certain... reputation.
Magneto: Not for THIS!

Xavier and Magneto put aside their differences to rebuild the island nation, rekindling their friendship in the process. But tragedy struck before long.

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Cover to Excalibur #14. Art by Aaron Lopresti.

House of M

Magneto's daughter Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, suffered a mental breakdown over the loss of her children and started to warp reality in order to recreate them, inadvertently resulting in random attacks on the Avengers. The Avengers confronted the mentally unstable Wanda, and Doctor Strange put her in a coma. Over in Genosha, Magneto heard Wanda's psychic cry for help. His powers possibly enhanced by her, he created a wormhole and was transported to Wanda's location. Before the Avengers could do anything, Magneto grabbed his daughter and flew away.

Back at Genosha, Magneto kept Wanda in a bed, taking care of her. He became more withdrawn and angry, refusing to let anyone into the house with the exception of Xavier, who he believed could help her. When Xavier returned from a mission he was on, he was enraged that Magneto blew his cover in front of the entire Avengers. Magneto begged his old friend to help his daughter, and Xavier agreed to try.

Xavier spent several months trying to help Wanda, to no avail. Not even Strange's magic would do anything for her. Worried, he arranged a meeting for the X-Men and the Avengers to decide what should be done. Some of the members said that the only option was to kill Wanda. Quicksilver, Magneto's son, rushed to Magneto and told him that the two groups were planning on killing Wanda.

Xavier took the two groups over to Genosha, only to discover that Wanda was missing. Suddenly, one by one members of the group started to disappear.

Powers and abilities

Arguably the most powerful man on the planet, Magneto is a mutant with the superhuman power of magnetokinesis. He can shape and manipulate magnetic fields that exist naturally or artificially, allowing him to lift and move heavy objects, control ferrous particles in the atmosphere, and even alter Earth's magnetic field. It is unclear, however, whether he must draw magnetic force from outside himself (if so, then he can do so over vast distances).

Although Magneto's primary power is magnetism, he seems to have some ability to project or manipulate any form of energy that is related to magnetism. He can fire bolts of electricity and create enough intense heat as infrared radiation to destroy a metal door, as he is able to manipulate the entire electromagnetic spectrum. In addition, he can create an anti-gravity field, and does so whenever he levitates a non-magnetic object. However, Magneto almost always uses only magnetism since it is more difficult for him to manipulate other forms of energy.

Magneto's ability to wield his superhuman powers effectively is dependent upon his physical condition. When severely injured, his body is unable to withstand the strain of manipulating great amounts of magnetic forces.

Magneto is an expert on genetic manipulation and engineering, with knowledge far beyond that of contemporary science. He is considered to be a genius in these fields. He can mutate humans in order to give them superhuman powers, or create adult clones of human beings and then manipulate the genetic structures of these clones during their development. He has created artificial living beings, designed magnetically-powered skycraft and spacecraft, complex robots and computers, and magnetically-powered generators.

Magneto is a skilled strategist and has more than a rudimentary knowledge of hand-to-hand combat.

Appearances in other media

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Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto in the sequel X2.

Magneto was played in the movie X-Men and its sequel, X2, by Sir Ian McKellen. Magneto's powers in the movie appear to be subtly different than in the comic books. In particular, Magneto's powers appear to only affect metals, and to have a limited range, though he is still one of the most powerful mutants on Earth. In the movies his primary goal is to ensure the survival of mutantkind, and he is willing to kill all non-mutants or change them into mutants to ensure this. A Magneto movie is in the works, though Ian Mckellen will not be in it. A small article from Entertainment Weekly has information on the movie:

"It's going to take place from 1939 Auschwitz up to 1955 or so," says writer Sheldon Turner of his just-announced "period" prequel to Fox's X-Men franchise. An exploration of villain Magneto's "psychological roots," Turner's script will also shed light on the youthful mutant's friend-then-nemesis Charles Xavier. Just don't look for Ian McKellen, 65, to get his helmet on."

Magneto's voice was provided by David Hemblen in the animated television series X-Men. His voice was provided by Christopher Judge in the animated television series X-Men: Evolution.

The album Venus and Mars by Wings includes a song about superheroes called "Magneto and Titanium Man". It is probably more than just a coincidence, especially since the song also references the names of two other Marvel villains (Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo).

Another album to feature Magneto is the Tearjerkers' album Through the Back Door, in which one of the lyrics in the song titled "Comic Book Heroes" is "Doc Ock, Von Doom, and Magneto, don't wanna be like them".

External links

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