God Loves, Man Kills OGN
Classic X-Men # 12, 19
I'll be covering every appearance of Magneto (of relevance) as I struggle to find the Magneto that I know and love.
If you've been following my blog from the very beginning, you'll notice that I have been tracking Magneto's evolution (or lack thereof) closely. The Magneto I was familiar with (from the more common adaptations) is a very nuanced character who is often at odds with the X-Men, but will just as quickly support them if they are in jeopardy. The following quote from Claremont from Comic Creators on X-Men shows his thought process on the character
If X-Men is a series about evolution, the characters should also evolve. Why not use him (Magneto) as a means to transcend your origin?
In the documentary "Claremont's X-Men," Claremont expands upon his thinking with Magneto:
"In MacBeth, the villain comes out as a bastard from the start. Who cares? But if you see that he starts out as a noble hero, a trusted knight and suddenly he’s walking down a path that makes perfect sense to him, but you’re watching the degradation and corruption of someone who could have been a noble hero. It’s the essence of great tragedy. The villain, the guy who turns out to be the monster, has to have something wonderful to lose."
"So with Magneto, what led him to this position. He’s a young man in Auschwitz, he lost everything, he survived. Each step of the way leads him towards putting on the suit and leading the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. I’ve tried playing by the rules. Fine. I’m going to impose my rules and you’ll behave yourselves. I’m going to be the dad now, and not the servitor. "
Evolution through time
Magneto in the Stan Lee era (#1 - 93) was a one dimensional psychopath.
Magneto in the Claremont era (#94 - Current) started off on a similar path, but has started to show some nuance in the last twenty issues. He began dropping hints of having a wife back when he was terrorizing Muir Island, but it was during his recent creepy floating island arc (#150) when he showed his first real heel-turn. He was driven to bring destruction to the humans, but when he accidentally hurt a child (Kitty) he abandoned his plans and began questioning himself.
I've been fascinated with tracking Magneto throughout this journey and since he's starting to become the character I recognize, I figured it's time to give him his own feature.
You can tell that Claremont felt guilty about taking so long to Magneto where he is not, so in the later 80's he tried to retcon the Magneto stories with some extra backstory. It's here that we'll start with Classic X-Men # 12.
Classic X-Men # 12
We learn that Magneto had a wife (Magda) and a daughter. He was happy.
His powers didn't manifest until adulthood, but when they did it was in front of a cop who was trying to shake him down. I believe this was somewhere in the Soviet Union, perhaps Poland.
Later that day he was excited to tell Magda about his powers when his apartments were on fire.
He was able to save his wife, but when he went back for his daughter, the policeman he had assaulted earlier interfered by coming after him with reinforcements. They started beating him up before it was too late to save his daughter from burning.
It didn't go well for them.
His wife lived, but she ran from him too, thinking he was a monster. This is certainly one way to instantly radicalize someone. The Apocalypse movie tried to do a version of this, but that movie was terrible and I would rather pretend it was never created. (Fingers crossed that the MCU can do better!)
Classic X-Men # 19
In Classic X-Men # 19, we see Magneto saving Jewish families in need.
He's also hunting down Nazi's.
But, of course, when he finds happiness again, tragedy finds him. The Nazi's decided to strike back by killing his new love. Poor guy can't catch a break. This is pretty violent too.
Uncanny X-Men # 161
The main Uncanny storyline took a break in the middle of the Brood saga (while Charles was in a coma) to show us the story of when he first met Magneto. He is called to a hospital to help a unique patient and it turns out our buddy is working there as a volunteer.
This is the first time it's mentioned that Magneto was in Auschwitz as a Jew in the concentration camps.
The patient who needs help is Gabrielle Haller. Haller...I know that name. I watched the Legion TV show and I definitely know that name! She will eventually bear Charles's son who is one of the most powerful mutants in the world, yet also very sick.
He is able to enter the Astral Plane and save her. When she comes out of it, they grow close. You can see Charles thinking about how his beliefs different from Magneto's.
The three of them became close friends and you can see more ways that they disagreed philosophically.
Well, this is a comic book so eventually someone evil shows up (in this case Hydra) to ruin the day. It turns out that Gabby knew where there was a stash of Hitler Gold and they needed her to find it.
Charles and Magneto both out themselves as mutants to save Gabby.
Look at this awesome panel! Magneto defeats Hydra and is then like "Well, they won't be needing this gold." I actually wonder if this is how he funds his antarctic bases, nanny droids, or Asteroid fortresses?
God Loves, Man Kills: Marvel Original Graphic Novel
From time to time, Marvel slows down and writes a longer graphic novel. Many times, the chief editor's themselves will write the OGN's, however in this case Claremont took the lead. It's also an opportunity to tackle more mature themes and that the typical comic lines may not address.
God Loves, Man Kills is a really important moment for the X-Men as it not only solidifies that Magneto could be an ally, but it ups the stakes in regards to the human/mutant relationship.
The Graphic Novel begins with a few young mutants being killed by an anti-mutant militia group and Magneto not showing up in time to save them. Right off the bat we are seeing more adult content with kids being killed.
To continue with the edge content, one of the boys in Kitty's dance class is talking smack about mutants and Kitty gets in a fist fight with him. She's one tough cookie!
Oh shit. I'll let you read this panel for yourself.
Colossus suggests that Kitty didn't mean what she said...
All of this anti-mutant sentiment has been stirred up by Reverend William Stryker. You may remember him from the second X-Men movie played by Brian Cox. However, in the movie he is part of the military and here is a reverend. He is preaching that mutants are not natural and he is drumming up fear. Professor X faces off against him on a talk show aired during prime time.
It's actually been pretty chilling reading this in 2021 while there is some pretty serious and effective fear mongering happening in America today. It's scary how quickly people can go from being ashamed of their fear and hatred until the right words make them feel as if it's acceptable to express it. It gets even scarier when people feel it's ok to act on it.
It turns out that Stryker is not all talk. He's in charge of a paramilitary group that has been responsible for mutant executions around the country, including kids. Stryker uses the interview as a way to locate Charles, Scott, and Storm. He attempts to execute them on the way home.
They are believed dead.
The other X-Men are under attack and fighting for their lives.
Until someone else shows up to help them.
It's Magneto. Everyone's jaws hit the floor as he shows up and saves the X-Men from Stryker's attack. We've always known that Magneto wants the mutant race (Homo Superior) to reign over Homo Sapiens, however this is the first time that he's partnered with the X-Men.
Unsurprisingly, Professor X is not dead. They are running tests on him for some unknown purpose.
We learn a twisted backstory for Stryker. He recounts a story of his pregnant wife giving birth on the side of the road to a mutant. He was so disturbed that he killed his wife and baby right then and there. This is pretty damn messed up. Clearly showing us that this Stryker guy is not someone who is messing around.
Magneto, the X-Men, and an injured police officer leave the battle and head to a nationally televised event where the Reverend will be speaking.
Styrker starts preaching his hate.
While he's giving his speech, it turns out Professor X was being manipulated for a massive attack. The National TV broadcast was a way for Charles to connect telepathically with all mutants around the world. This should look familiar, because this was also adapted in the second X-Men Movie. All of the mutants started feeling a strong headache and blood started coming out of their ears.
Magneto breaks into the speech to stop him.
In a stunning twist, it turns out that Stryker's top military leader is bleeding as well. She never knew that she was a mutant, after years of being the one to commit countless executions.
Without any hesitation, he pushes her off the stage and she breaks her neck.
The last draw happens when Kitty directly confronts him (still on national TV) and Stryker doesn't hesitate to kill her himself.
But before he can shoot, someone else shoots him. It turns out that one of the policeman working security was appaled by everything he saw and decides that Stryker is the enemy, not the X-Men.
When all this is over, Xavier actually comes to the conclusion that Magneto's methodology has been right all along!
This is a HUGE moment that I NEVER thought I would see. Charles had seen such terrible things that he decides to give in. I never knew this happened in the comics. I see why he may be tempted, but this is one more strike against the comics version of Xavier. I'm still waiting to see if I ever start liking him.
It actually takes a giant monologue from Cyclops for Charles to realize that he made the wrong decision. Another step here in Cyclops becoming the true leader of the X-Men, which is a theme we'll see a bit more of in upcoming issues.
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