King and X: Ways and Means

Created in 1963 Marvel Comics’ X-Men has often featured social issues such as the exploration X-Men #1of the civil rights movement through it’s brand of superhumans called mutants. A mutant as defined in the Marvel Universe is the next evolutionary phase of humanity where people are born with a mutation that grants extraordinary powers. These manifest in abilities like flying or telepathy or can deform the persons appearance making them easy to spot and often ostracizing them in society. Over the years laws have been passed and overturned discriminating against mutants and over time general acceptance has been gained as well.

The original conflict in the series presented two sides to a similar coin. Should mutants co-exist with humanity, or should they use their powers to take their “rightful” place as rulers of the planet, enslaving mankind. The two sides are represented by Charles Xavier/Professor X (the leader of the X-Men) and the other side represented by Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto. Some have described Xavier as representing Martin Luther King Jr. or Ghandi while Magneto represents Malcolm X or Meir Kahane. While others have said Xavier represents both King and X while Magneto represents Louis Farrakhan or Nat Turner.

And in this post, on the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 40 years ago, the exchange below from X-Men: Legacy #209 caught me as appropriate. The two characters are asked whether Xavier or Magneto won their “perennial debate about ways and means”. I leave you with Xavier’s and Magneto’s conversation to ponder:

Magneto: So what do you think Charles? Force majeure versus love and peace and understanding. Which carries the argument?

Xavier: You and me Magnus?

Magneto: Yes, you and me. With the issues oversimplified for the sake of the easy soundbite.

Xavier: I — I think — I think — We cancelled each other out. For a long time. And then — Finally — We became irrelevent. The future walked around us.