Beast Kingdom and Diamond Comic Distributors are celebrating an iconic Marvel hero and Marvel villain with three new PREVIEWS Exclusive Egg AttackAction figures! Featuring the webslinger himself the infamous X-Men foe, these figures honor Spider-Man and Magneto.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker goes back to basics and is reminded that even without his advanced spider suit, he is still a hero! Wearing his homemade suit, he still manages to save the day and defeat the conniving Vulture. Beast Kingdom revisits the Egg Attack Action series with the latest cloth-clad 6-inch action figure:PREVIEWS Exclusive EAA-074 Spider-Man: Homecoming Homemade Suit. With a focus on detailed tailoring, this suit is the ultimate homage to Peter Parker’s very own ingenuity. Featuring 28 points of articulation and measuring about 6.5” tall, this action figure features not only 3 pairs of magnetic replacement eyes and 4 pairs of replaceable hands, but also a fully tailored suit with elasticity in the pants and t-shirt. Real fabric with real zippers makes this a perfect collector’s piece. Spidey also includes four varying lengths of webbing effects and a Homecoming branded base for easy display.
The Marvel Animated series from the 90’s introduced fans to some of the most iconic character designs of all time, and now, following the release of the popular Egg Attack Action Wolverine and Cyclops comes arguably their most infamous foe: Magneto! This highly articulated 6″ PREVIEWS Exclusive EAA-083 X-MEN Magnetofigure includes a magnetic helmet to protect Magneto from Professor X’s brainwave manipulation. With a focus on detail, the helmet has high grading paint-work using metallic like effects along with an impressive cloth costume that includes a cloak with adjustable built-in wiring, for the ultimate in possibility. Magneto even comes with effect accessories that include magnets built in for authentic magnetic action! Also included are two replacement faces, three pairs of replacement hands, a pair of magnetic Shock Wave special effect accessory discs, and one X-Men branded platform stand.
The PREVIEWS Exclusive EAA-083DX X-MEN Magneto Deluxe Version comes with the same accessories as the standard version – two replacement faces, three pairs of replacement hands, a pair of magnetic Shock Wave special effect accessory discs, and one X-Men branded platform stand – but also includes exclusive accessories, such as an additional Erik Lehnsherr expression face and a large sculped gravel ruin scene.
The PREVIEWS ExclusiveEAA-074 Spider-Man: Homecoming Spider-Man Homemade Suit (MAY198499; SRP $80.00), EAA-083 X-Men Magneto (MAY198500; SRP $80.00), and EAA-083DX X-Men Magneto Deluxe Version (MAY198501; SRP $100.00) are now available for pre-order at comic shops, with an expected release date of February 26, 2020.
The One:12 Collective Magneto is presented in a fitted suit with shoulder armor. The master of magnetism comes complete with two head portraits and a range of magnetic effects including a gun disassembling effect and magnetic force effects that are affixed to his interchangeable hands. Both magnetic force effects are imbedded with magnets, capable of holding small metal objects.
Magneto, also known as Max Eisenhardt, is a powerful mutant who has the ability to control magnetic fields at will. Using his magnetic abilities, Magneto helps other mutants replace humans as the dominant species, as he believes in their superiority.
THE ONE:12 COLLECTIVE MAGNETO FIGURE FEATURES:
One:12 Collective body with over 30 points of articulation
Two (2) head portraits
Hand painted authentic detailing
Approximately 17cm tall
Six (6) interchangeable hands including
One (1) pair of fists (L & R)
Two (2) pairs of posing hands (L & R)
Fitted suit with shoulder armor
One (1) gun disassembling effect (affixed to interchangeable left hand)
Two (2) magnetic force effects with imbedded magnets (affixed to interchangeable left & right hands)
It’s New Toy Day, and this week DST is shipping some highly-anticipated items to comic shops across the country! Select action figures of the Real Ghostbusters and the Muppets’ Swedish Chef are the definition of anticipated, with tons of fans waiting for them to make their appearances. And comic fans are anxious to get their hands on Gallery PVCs of Ant-Man, Wasp, Catwoman and a resin statue of Magneto!
DC Comic Gallery Catwoman PVC Diorama
A Diamond Select Toys release! How purr-fect is your Gallery? The DC Gallery line of PVC dioramas has an unauthorized visitor, as Catwoman breaks into the breakout series of collectibles from DST! Perched atop a massive Egyptian cat-headed statue, Selina Kyle steals the spotlight in this 9-inch-scale diorama, wearing her modern, curve-hugging black costume. Made of a high-quality plastic, and featuring a detailed sculpt and exacting paint applications, it comes packaged in a full-color window box. Designed by Shawn Knapp, sculpted by James Marsano! (Item # JUL182493, SRP: $45.00)
Ghostbusters Select Action Figures Series 9 Real Ghostbusters Asst.
A Diamond Select Toys release! It’s time to get real! The Ghostbusters get animated in the newest assortment of Select action figures from Diamond Select Toys, with figures based on the classic Real Ghostbusters cartoon! Egon, Winston and Slimer make up the assortment, with the two ’Busters wearing their color-coded jumpsuits and packing cartoon-accurate gear, and Slimer coming with a support stand and three interchangeable faces! Plus, each figure includes pieces to build a larger diorama – collect all 15 figures in Series 6-10 to construct the firehouse headquarters’ sign front doors! Designed by Yuri Tming, and sculpted by Gentle Giant Studios! (Item #8441JUL182490, SRP: $24.99/ea.)
Marvel Movie Gallery Ant Man and the Wasp PVC Dioramas
A Diamond Select Toys Release! These PVC Dioramas are not actual size! If anything, these 9-inch scale sculptures of Ant-Man and the Wasp are much bigger than the characters will appear in their highly anticipated 2018 superhero sequel. Featuring the heroes launching themselves into action on a penny and a pair of wings, respectively, each sculpture features detailed sculpting by Dave Cortes. Each comes packaged in a full-color window box.
Ant-Man Diorama (Item #JUL182499, SRP: $45.00)
Wasp Diorama (Item #JUL182500, SRP: $45.00)
Marvel Premier Collection Magneto Resin Statue
A Diamond Select Toys release! Magneto, the Master of Magnetism, is sure to attract a lot of attention when you unbox this 12-inch scale statue! Measuring approximately 16 inches tall, this piece depicts the X-Men’s greatest foe-turned-ally hovering over a rocky promontory, summoning a translucent sphere of magnetic energy from the very ground beneath him! Limited to only 3,000 pieces, Magneto comes packaged in a numbered, full-color box with a certificate of authenticity. Sculpted by Phil Ramirez! (Item #MAR182430, SRP: $150.00)
Muppets Action Figures Swedish Chef Deluxe Gift Set
A Diamond Select Toys release! Bork bork bork! The Muppets are bork, with the first ever action figure gift set in the Muppets line from DST! The Swedish Chef does the honors, with a massive number of accessories, including a table, pans, pots, food (talking and non-talking) and even a chicken, to make Chicken in the Basket. Packaged in a full-color window box, this figure is in scale to all Select action figures. Sculpted by Gentle Giant Studios! (Item #JUN182316, SRP: $29.99)
Welcome to Graphic Policy’s First Impressions where we take a look at a handful of comics in order to discern just how accessible they are for new readers, because every comic could be somebody’s first – and that’s the first question that’ll be answered with this feature. The second is whether you should start there because sometimes a book could be accessible to new readers but the quality could be less than average, and so each comic will receive a score out of ten based upon Graphic Policy’s typical ten point scale.
Where possible we’ll also be providing recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in, assuming we’ve read any part of the story thus far. All comics were provided for review purposes unless otherwise noted.
X-Men Black: Magneto #1 (Marvel)
Can you start here? Yes
Recap & Review: I’ve been terribly lax with my X-Men reading over the last few years, and as such I really have no idea what Magneto has been up too lately. However, that’s ultimately irrelevant as this comic contains one of the most powerful and timely stories you’ll read in a long time. Bonus, the back up story (that contnues across the X-Men Black series is also well worth reading).
Cosmic Ghost Rider #4 (Marvel)
Can you start here? Yes
Recap & Review: So Frank Castle is the Cosmic Ghost Rider? What rock have I been living under that I didn’t know that? A big one obviously. Without recapping the entire comic, because I can’t, this is still an awesome read. And one that’s good enough for me to want to read the previous three issues.
Superior Octopus #1 (Marvel)
Can you start here? Yes
Recap & Review: There’s a lot happening in the Spider-Verse lately, and this is just another comic that could get lost in the shuffle. Which would be a shame for any who enjoyed the Superior Spider-Man series. Yes, there’s a lot of Secret Empire references here, but you don’t need to have read that series to be able to enjoy thi. I didn’t.
Shatterstar #1 (Marvel)
Can you start here? Yes
Recap & Review: Eh, it wasn’t bad. A lot of words and narration in this issue which actually serves very well in setting the stage for what’s next, but it didn’t really strike my fancy.
What If? Spider-Man #1 (Marvel)
Can you start here? Yes
Recap & Review: As with all What If? stories, the only prerequisite here is you know Spider-Man’s origin. That way you can enoy this otherwise largely forgettable story.
What If? X-Men #1 (Marvel)
Can you start here? Yes
Recap & Review: As with all What If? stories… yeah. This isn’t worth your time. It’s kinda like the Matrix, but not as fun as the sequels.
Knight Models has unveiled its latest releases for their Marvel Universe Miniature Game and Batman Miniature Game. The Marvel Universe Miniature Game gets some much-needed “bad guys” with two releases, plus a figure that was teased in images last month.
The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants make their debut along with Sabretooth. The Brotherhood consists of Magneto, Pyro, Toad, and Lady Mastermind. Also debuting is Iron Man Hulkbuster MK44 which is just in time to take on last month’s Hulk release.
As I discussed last issue, Silver Age Magneto was a very different kind of antagonist than the ones that fans of the X-Men are familiar with today, due to changes put in place by Chris Claremont. It’s surprisingly how quickly this happened; only eleven issues into his run, Claremont had begun a conscious and sustained effort to transform the character. (Then again, that was very much his style, with Jean Grey dying and coming back as Phoenix all happened within the first eight issues of his run.)
So how did Claremont turn Magneto from a Silver Age Snidely Whiplash into this?
Magneto as Milton’s Satan
First and foremost, Claremont invested Magneto with a sense of personal presence and dignity that made him a villain to be respected rather than despised. Rather than a cringing coward who ran at the first sign of danger and who primarily relied on his bullied subordinates to fight the X-Men, Magneto was re-imagined as a fearless antagonist who would fight the whole team by himself:
Both writers and artists were key to this change – in X-Men #111, Claremont has Magneto politely wait for the X-Men to free themselves from the thrall of Mesmero (indeed, he casually defeats Mesmero off-panel just to get him out of the way) before challenging them himself. At the same time, John Byrne depicts Magneto as a powerfully muscular figure who looks like he could put up a challenge to an entire team of superheroes. Indeed two issues later, Magneto will actually trade punches with Colossus himself and hold his own.
In addition to his physical improvement, the un-de-aging of Magneto (one of the stranger but ultimately highly productive ret-cons in X-Men history) enhanced his mutant powers to the point where, rather than being repeatedly foiled as he was in the Silver Age, he defeated the entire team on his own, making him an adversary to be feared:
Power level is enough to make a villain a genuine threat, but it’s not enough to make a villain memorable – Doomsday is a powerful villain, but he’s not exactly a villain that anyone really cares about. Equally important, therefore, is creating a personality that makes the villain a memorable character. And Claremont went out of his way to make Magneto not only compelling but almost admirable. Firstly, he removed Silver Age Magneto’s sadism (a trait that works for a lot of villains, but isn’t suited to a villain who’s supposed to be Xavier’s ideological equal and opposite number) and emphasized Magneto’s idealism:
Secondly, he emphasized Magneto’s willpower as a core part of his personality. Whereas previously Magneto’s ability to fight off Xavier’s telepathy was explained by Stan Lee’s lack of understanding of magnetism, now Magneto was simply so strong-willed that he could go up against the strongest telepath on Earth and hold his own:
Willpower is a great attribute of classic arch-enemies. While you can have good weak-willed enemies (think Bizarro or Juggernaut), their more straightforward natures limit the kind of stories you can tell about them, which makes them better secondary threats. But to give your heroes (and your readers) an arch-enemy they can really sink their teeth into, you need someone with iron resolve who will keep on fighting to the bitter end. It’s probably the main reason why Doctor Doom is one of the best villain characters ever created, because no matter how despicable he may be, there’s still something admirable about him. (Incidentally, one of the best Doctor Doom moments ever was that he defeated the Purple Man through sheer willpower, because Doom kneels to no one!)
Thirdly, and this turned out to be the most fruitful change, is to give Magneto emotional depth. Whereas Silver Age Magneto wanted only to be feared rather than loved, Claremont’s Magneto had a tragic backstory (at this point, confined to a lost love) that showed he had a softer, one might even say, human, side:
What all of these categories have in common is that they’re ideal for a Villain Protagonist, a character who could share a stage with Professor Xavier in political debates, who could challenge the X-Men not only in combat but also to reconsider their previously held notions, and who could change in interesting ways throughout the course of Claremont’s run.
The difference between the two versions of Magneto is akin to the difference in the portraits of Satan in Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. While both epic poems depict Lucifer as a powerful figure, the former is far more limited than the latter, not only because Dante’s Satan is literally stuck in the lowest ring of hell, but also because there’s a limit to the kinds of stories you can tell about Satan as a giant red monster with giant wings and three faces. By contrast, Milton’s Satan is imbued with a strong sense of individualism and drive that he can function as the protagonist of Paradise Lost, and such a rich and complex personality that William Blake argued “the reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”
Magneto as Holocaust Survivor
In addition to these changes, most famously, Magneto’s backstory was given a central focus that has defined his character to the present day. While earlier generation of Marvel creators like Jack Kirby had been passionately anti-Nazi in the 1940s, Chris Claremont was part of a younger generation of New York Jews (Kirby grew up on the Lower East Side in the 1920s, whereas Claremont grew up on Long Island in the 1950s) who were more comfortable with describing characters as Jewish or discussing the Holocaust. And so, starting in Issue #150, Magneto was revealed to have been a Holocaust survivor – and this wasn’t an incidental reveal but something that would be developed substantially over time:
Rather than a coded or vague allusion, Magneto’s identity was made clear in both visuals and text – not only did he bear the tattoo of a concentration camp inmate, but he named the most famous death camp of them all, Auschwitz, as the place where he “grew up” and where his family died. And while there’s always been a degree of ambiguity to his coding as Jewish, the fact that this detail is revealed when Magneto meets Xavier in Israel as an immigrant volunteering in a psychiatric hospital for survivors made it fairly clear at the time.
To me, this is an example of why retcons can be a positive force in comics writing. By placing Magneto in a historically-specific environment, not only does it has significant implications for his political ideology (more on this in the next section), but it also provides a much deeper connection with Professor Xavier. The man whose political opposite he now embodies was once a friend and colleague in a common project aimed at healing the wounds of the most profound act of violence directed at a genetic minority in modern history. And to me, this is how the “mutant metaphor” works best – not with mutancy acting as a stand-in for real-world hatred, but rather historical examples of oppression (for both us and characters in the X-Men universe) providing context for mutants dealing with anti-mutant prejudice (as I’ll discuss in the next section).
For Magneto, this element of his backstory ties together all the other elements of his new personality. He is fearless because he’s already experienced the worst fear imaginable and survived it; he’s powerful because he’s profoundly driven to never be powerless again; he is strong-willed because if he wasn’t, he would be dead. And finally, his experiences add to his emotional depth by making a personal loss something more universal – in contrast to the “inciting incident” for most comic-book villains.
And for Chris Claremont, who wanted organic character development – where, rather than being trapped in status-quo stasis, characters would mature and change even to the extent of leaving the X-Men – Magneto’s new past was something that could motivate him to change:
In X-Men #150, when Magneto constructs a volcano-machine on his island fortress (which I’ll discuss more later), Kitty Pryde disrupts the machine with her phasing power and “Magneto ruthlessly responds, ending a lethal charge of electricity through her.” Magneto immediately recoils, realizing that realizes he has become what he has hated and feared, having (seemingly, because this is still Comics Code era Marvel) killed a mutant child. And it’s not an accident that the target of his wroth and the reason for his change of heart is Kitty Pryde, who isn’t just a mutant but is also openly Jewish. It’s not a particularly subtle scenario, but it lends the scene a certain energy and power.
It’s also a scene that the Silver Age Magneto simply wasn’t capable of acting in. However, the question remains, what is the reason for this change?
The Ideology of a Mutant Revolutionary
The purpose of all of these changes wasn’t to make Magneto so sympathetic that the reader would view him to be the hero (although as we’ll see in the future, it did put him in a place where he could become the headmaster of the Xavier School), but rather to make him a villain of prominence who could function as Xavier’s ideological equal and opposite. When Claremont had Magneto move from confronting the X-Men to once again engaging in super-villainy, he presented him as a revolutionary extremist:
The costume – red jumpsuit, purple gloves, cloak, and briefs, stylish helmet – is the same, and the demand for world conquest and threatening global destruction is the same as Silver Age Magneto, arguably a direct homage to his public addresses in X-Men #1. What makes the difference is that Silver Age Magneto was a plain and simple tyrant whose thinking went no further than crude Social Darwinism, whereas Claremont’s Magneto has a larger political agenda driving his demands:
There is a lot to talk about with this page, which is rather unusual for Marvel Comics (and not just because it does really weird things with the 180 degree rule). To begin with, it depicts actual politicians – Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Leonid Breshnev, and Zhou Enlai (although it should be Ye Jianying and Zhao Ziyang) are all recognizable (although the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Kenya seem more generic) – positing that Magneto is an actor in real-world global politics. Moreover, the layout of his speech posits that different nations are being singled out for Magneto’s particular political issues – Magneto points the finger of blame for anti-mutant prejudice at the United States and Great Britain (possibly a reference to Reagan and Thatcher’s less than friendly policies to racial and sexual minorities), of nuclear war at the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, and lists his demands for disarmament with leaders of the third world.
The content of his speech is also worthy of discussion. First, Magneto presents himself as a mutant nationalist, who believes that his powers “set me apart, and above, humanity” and who will act to safeguard his people from the threats (both intentional and inadvertent) that human beings pose. To this end, Magneto also presents himself as a non-aligned political actor, taking on both the Western world, the Soviet bloc, and the developing world, at a time when the Cold War was in one of its most tense periods. Second, Magneto takes a strong anti-nuclear stance at a time when the nuclear freeze movement was at its height in the U.S and Europe, but again from a perspective of mutant nationalism as his primary concern is that “in the process, you might destroy my people as well.” Magneto’s aims go even further than nuclear disarmament, however, demanding total disarmament of conventional military weaponry as well as the threat of obliteration by volcano.
Moreover, as we learn from Magneto’s conversation with Scott Summers and Lee Forrester in the same issue, Magneto’s agenda goes further than just being a really militant anti-nuclear activist. His demands for total political control of the earth are not merely a reverse Cincinnatus drive to eliminate war and then resign:
Rather, Magneto sees himself as an enlightened tyrant, uniquely capable (due to his mutant powers) of bringing about a global golden age by redistributing the peace dividend to end “hunger, disease, poverty.” At the same time, so convinced is he of his own righteousness and capability that Magneto sees no need for compromise, dissent, or even the formalities of democracy. Again, we see the strains of extreme individualism and pride of Milton’s Satan at work, shaping his vision of utopia. The purpose of all of this is to create a villain whose goals are so admirable that we can’t help but feel that he has a point, but whose methods are so extreme and flawed that the X-Men can not only fight Magneto, but also offer a philosophic critique:
Thus, not only do the X-Men swing into the fray to face down Magneto and destroy his volcano-machine on Octopusheim, but Magneto has his “what have I done?” moment that makes him question his actions, because the best X-Men stories are about more than punching people.
At the same time, in order to make Magneto’s newly-developed ideology seem authentic, Claremont also tied in his backstory as a survivor to explain why he “believes that homo sapiens and homo superior can never live together in peace:”
As Claremont’s narration makes explicitly clear, Magneto’s political beliefs are founded in his experience in Auschwitz – he’s seen human beings hate and fear a racial minority to the point of genocide, so it seems perfectly reasonable that the same could happen with mutants, a racial minority with actual super-powers. As I said above, I think this is a case of how the mutant metepahor functions best with using the real world to provide context for mutancy; in Lee and Kirby’s run, anti-mutant prejudice was an infrequent and poorly-explained element of the X-Men’s story, especially in a world when superpowered beings like the Fantastic Four and the Avengers were enthusiastically embraced by mainstream culture. But anti-semitism is a real social and cultural phenomenon that has shaped world history both in our universe and in the Marvel Universe, so it gives weight to Magneto’s beliefs.
This is especially the case when you consider that in the Marvel Universe, Nazism is a far more persistent threat than it was in our history. In the same issue in which Magneto and Xavier meet in Israel and set out their ideological disagreements, Baron Strucker of HYDRA attacks the mental hospital in which they work, in order to abduct Gaby, a Jewish concentration camp survivor who is also a mutant whose power is to turn things into gold, in order to use her powers to finance the Fourth Reich in a plotline that has strong allusions to gold stolen by Nazis and hidden in Swiss bank accounts or abandoned in train cars in Poland. Xavier and Magneto thwart Baron Strucker and HYDRA, Xavier because that’s what heroes do and Magneto because no matter how much of a villain he might be in the moment he’s anti-Nazi first, but in a way that elucidates a lot about Magneto’s worldview and the roots of his ideology:
To begin with, we can see that Magneto holds a profoundly cynical view of “the essential goodness of man” rooted in his experiences that “hate is more popular than love, fear more prevalent than trust.” The extent to which this attitude and the attendant belief of the inevitability of genocidal conflict between humans and mutants are rooted in his experience of the Holocaust is made explicit by his parting words to Xavier that “mutants will not go meekly to the gas chambers – we will fight and we will win.” Magneto’s vision of the future, therefore, is essentially his past rewritten, with humans taking the position of the Nazis and mutants of the Jews. (And as we’ll discuss in future issues, given the dystopian futures of a Sentinel-driven mutant Holocaust predicted in Days of Future Past and future comics, he’s not far wrong.)
One of the themes that will be explored periodically in X-Men comics, therefore, is the fact that Magneto seems to have internalized much of the worldview thrust upon him in the camps – the major difference between Magneto’s and Strucker’s view of racial conflict is that Magneto takes the side of the mutant and will work to see their victory. To that end, he’s willing to use any means necessary – including here stealing Nazi gold to finance his revolution. At the same time, there seems to be an unexplored contradiction in Magneto’s thinking – for all that he claims to “care nothing for…homo sapiens,” Magneto clearly had enough of an attachment to his Jewish identity to move to Israel in the 1950s, and in X-Men #199 we find that he participates in annual gatherings of Holocaust survivors. Does he view those survivors as homo sapiens who he must destroy lest they destroy him?
In spite of what some people have argued (and smarter people have corrected), very little of this resembles the ideology of Malcolm X, outside of the fact that both are drawing from nationalist thought traditions. If anything, Magneto’s ideology is much closer to some of the more militantly right-wing tendencies of Revisionist Zionism that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s – the belief in an inevitable racial conflict for control of territory, the disdain for democratic systems, and especially the rhetoric of the gas chamber and other symbols of the Holocaust used to justify violent action.
But to see how someone with those views could later become Headmaster of the Xavier School, you’ll have to wait until A People’s History of the Marvel Universe covers…the Trial of Magneto!
 Which makes it interesting that most of Magneto’s aggressive actions in the Claremont run are directed against the Soviet Union, which liberated Auschwitz on January 27th, 1945. Something that might be interesting for writers to explore.
 Incidentally, one of the things that I’d love to see developed more in comic books is the exploration of how world politics is different in the Marvel Universe, given the presence of powerful non-aligned nation-states like Namor’s Atlantis, the Black Panther’s Wakanda, Doctor Doom’s Latveria, and the Inhumans’ Atillan.
 One could also argue that Magneto’s experiences also lead him to believe in the inevitability of all forms of conflict – hence his identifying nuclear war as a present danger to mutants. Indeed, the idea of a nuclear apocalypse is a running theme in the X-Men, a subject I’ll be addressing in a future issue.
When it comes to the intersection of politics and Marvel comics, the X-Men’s “mutant metaphor” is justifiably at the forefront. Up until now, I’ve danced aroundthe topic a little because I lost a detailed set of notes that I had made on the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby X-Men and Chris Claremont’s entire run and am still in the process of reconstituting my research.
This means that my discussion of the “mutant metaphor” will have to build gradually, which is actually rather appropriate because I intend to argue in several succeeding columns that the “mutant metaphor” was something that took a good bit of time to emerge in the X-universe and as a theme ultimately owes far more to Chris Claremont’s work than to Lee and Kirby.
One example of this is the character of Magneto, the X-Men’s original antagonist who is often held up as the Malcom X to Professor Xavier’s Martin Luther King. There’s a lot of problems with this analogy, as I’ll discuss in future issues, but to the extent that there’s any truth to it, it’s entirely the result of Claremont’s run, because the original Magneto from the Lee and Kirby years is unrecognizable from his appearance in X-Men #114 through #161, and is frankly not that great a villain.
To begin with, Magneto’s motivations in the Silver Age are so generic and opaque that he decides to name his mutant revolutionary group the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. This kind of stuff is the weakest part of the Silver Age, because the adage that “everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story” speaks to a truth of human nature. Almost everyone, even sociopaths and sadists, feels the need to construct ideological frameworks and narratives which justify and legitimize their actions. But the closest that Silver Age Magneto gets an ideology is a crude Social Darwinism which posits an inevitable race war between humans and mutants in which mutants must rise up and subjugate humanity (which becomes more problematic when you consider the Silver Age depiction of anti-mutant prejudice…more on this in a future issue):
Despite these shortcomings when it comes to motivation, Silver Age Magneto could have been a more impressive antagonist if he was presented as a figure with some dignity (like Doctor Doom) or wit (like Loki). Unfortunately, Lee and Kirby depict the Master of Magnetism, the would-be messiah of mutantdom, as a straight-up Snidely Whiplash villain. To begin with, Magneto is repeatedly and habitually abusive to his underlings, especially to the cartoonishly obsequious Toad, who he makes wear a metal belt specifically so that Magneto can torture him with his mutant powers.
In addition, he’s also a lousy manager. He shows a blatant disinterest in his subordinates’ safety, makes it blatantly clear that he will throw each and every one of them under the bus the moment it can gain him the slightest of advantages, and repeatedly abandons them in moments of peril to save his own skin:
It’s not that these qualities can’t be part of a villainous background, but it doesn’t particularly fit a villain who aspires to be the leader of an entire race of people. At the end of the day, there’s just not enough Toads in the world who would be willing to follow someone who calls them cannon fodder to their face. The only way that Lee and Kirby explain why anyone would ever follow this guy, especially why they would continue to follow him after the first time that they get foiled by the X-Men, is that he’s a consummate gaslighter and emotional manipulator. Hence his long history of constantly holding over the heads of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch the one time he “helped” them, as well as pretending to be the father of both (plus Polaris):
Again, this isn’t adding to the portrait of a villain who impresses anyone. Add onto that the way that Magneto compounds this callousness with a sadistic streak that runs to the quasi-genocidal (which I think is where, if we’re in the mood to be charitable, Jeph Loeb got his idea from for Ultimatum), and you’ve got a real heel:
But of all of Silver Age Magneto’s personal behaviors, I find none so foul as the occasion where, to put it bluntly, he decides to pimp out the Scarlet Witch to Namor to gain his support.
There’s not really another way to interpret this scene, especially with the way that Kirby depicts Magneto pawing and leering at a shrinking Scarlet Witch in the manner of a cliffhanger serial villain tying a damsel in distress to the train tracks. All of this is truly despicable on a personal basis, but the reason why I argue that, in all the ways that really matter, Chris Claremont created Magneto as we have come to know him, is that Lee and Kirby’s Magneto is a Nazi (and I don’t make that claim lightly):
As I’ve mentioned before with reference to Captain America, Jack Kirby especially was not a man to make such comparisons lightly or accidentally, given his anti-fascist sympathies and service in the European Theater in WWII. Each visual detail – from the goose-stepping soldiers wearing M armbands and knee-high patent leather boots to the WWII era Stalhellms and forage caps and submachine guns – is meant to evoke not just fascism generally but Hitler specifically. And this is simply not compatible with the identity that Chris Claremont would develop of Erik Lensherr, the Holocaust survivor who bases his belief that humans will inevitably attempt to exterminate mutants on the fact that he saw genocide against supposedly dangerous genetic minorities first-hand. (Arguably there’s an interesting story to be told of a survivor so traumatized by their experiences that they seek to become the figure of their own nightmares, but that’s not a story that Lee and Kirby were telling.)
However, there are a few redeeming virtues of Silver Age Magneto that explains why he was revived when other antagonists like Unus the Untouchable were left in the circular file of history. The costume’s red with purple accents and the distinctive helmet are an iconic Jack Kirby design that would be carried forwards for decades (although in recent years he’s been rocking an all-white variation of same). And while Stan Lee didn’t have that good a fix on Magneto’s political ideology, he did have something that almost made up for it – a complete lack of understanding of how magnetism actually works. This allowed for some truly wacky moments while giving Magneto a useful power set for a powerful villain:
While the Magneto-turning-guns-against-their-wielders trick is a good one (that predates X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past by several decades), this is basically magnetism-as-telekinesis, which Magneto will use to block Cyclops’ eye-beams or fly through the air. And it only gets goofier from there:
While I’m willing to grant Lee and Kirby that there might be enough dust with a high content of iron or nickle or the like to spell out a giant skywriting message (and the cursive signature is an uncharacteristically dashing touch), Magneto’s hypnosis-by-magnets is clearly a callback to the long-discredited ideas of Franz Mesmer, who believed that you could use magnets and one’s own “animal magnetism” to cure diseases and mental illnesses.
However, a snazzy costume and a lack of understanding of magnets work is a thin reed to build a major antagonist on, which may be one reason why Lee and Kirby kept marooning Magneto on alien planets or de-aging him into baby. To make Magneto something more than a Snidely Whiplash, Chris Claremont would have to do some rewrites…which we’ll discuss the next time A People’s History of the Marvel Universe covers the X-Men!
Wednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!
We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.
Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.
Top Pick: Cyborg #1 (DC Comics) – Some things are changing for Cyborg, his armor is evolving some how. The series puts the spotlight on this founding member of the Justice League. The creators have also said they plan on examining real world issues, and how an African-American superhero (who’s literally a weapon) would have to deal with them.
The Blacklist #1 (Titan Comics) – The television show gets a comic tie-in that actually is in continuity. The writers have nailed Red’s quirkiness in what feels like an unaired episode.
Fight Club 2 #3 (Dark Horse) – With each issue it feels like we go down the rabbit hole more and more. That’s a good thing. The third issue makes everything a bit more interesting as we continue our journey through Tyler’s world.
Prez #2 (DC Comics) – The first issue had me regularly laughing as it skewered modern politics and gave us a new celebrity in Corn Dog Girl.
Transformers #43 (IDW Publishing) – Soundwave is building something around Jupiter. Is it a peaceful commune, or is there some other plan? Cosmos is on a mission to find out what’s going on, and the results are intriguing. The series stands out when it gets philosophical and political, and boy does it here.
Top Pick: C.O.W.L. #11 (Image Comics) – One of the best series out there, Kyle Higgins’ C.O.W.L. takes place in the 1960’s in a world where superheroes are unionized. A fascinating take on the superhero genre, Higgins also touches on the corruption that was rife during that period in America’s history. This issue was delayed by a few weeks, and the wait to get it in my hands has been a long one.
Old Man Logan #3 (Marvel) – Old Man Logan is one of the best Wolverine stories this century, and while I was originally nervous about Marvel revisiting it, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how good the series has been so far.
Top Pick: Power Up #1 (BOOM! Box/BOOM! Studios) – Kate Leth’s Post Modern queer feminist take on the Magical Girl genre. And it’s cuuuute!
Grayson #10 (DC Comics) – The last issue was my first and this is a new arc. It’s Grayson as a double agent Bond and the return of Huntress in a new role as head of a secret agency Grayson has infiltrated at Bruce’s request. And now Bruce is dead and Dick is on his own. Manifesting my dream casting of Rosario Dawson as Huntress this new 52 incarnation is bi-racial!
The book is suspenseful yet charming. But I’m a bit concerned that it may be engaging in queer baiting with its lead breaking the 4th wall last issue to ask if he was straight (or if that was just his tie). In 2015 its long past time comics stopped queer baiting and started having actual queer representation especially among A List characters.
I’ll delve into these issues in my review of the new issue.
Infinite Loop #4(IDW Publishing) – Teddy confronts her archenemy: her former boss, Tina, and launches a series of unprecedented temporal attacks to force Tina from her hideout, putting the safety of the world at risk!
Spider Woman #9 (Marvel) – Last issue Jessica made a socially enlightened decision in spite of being brutally attacked by the formerly abused wife of a costumed villain.
Jess is going to let this new Utopia for the escaped families of super villains continue as a safe haven.
Now we are only a few months from Jess being pregnant as her All New All Different cover shows. Let’s see how she gets there. I’m reserving judgement since writer Hopeless’s run has been strong and feminist.
Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde #1 (Marvel) – This better be mostly Kitty…
Top Pick: Grayson #10 (DC Comics) – Agent Dick Grayson. Super Hero Lex Luthor Nuff round two. Nuff said. This should be fantastic!
Cyborg #1 (DC Comics) – New team, New tech, New Start and art by superstar Ivan Reis. This one is worth at least a beta test.
Deathstroke #8 (DC Comics) – Slade contracted to kill some gods and Diana interferes. Just some good ol’ beat em up, slash em up action! Grab the popcorn and let your brains go for this one.
Old Man Logan #3 (Marvel Comics) – Basically Clint Eastwood with claws roaming the desert kicking ass. 1-2-3 Snikt!
We are Robin #2 (DC Comics) – Social Media Super Saviors? We shall see. It takes more than a color scheme and pinning a letter on yourself. Time to see if the kids got what it takes.
Top Pick: Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde #1 (Marvel) – I have been following this couple in Guardians of the Galaxy and All New X-Men, so naturally I’m excited to see this title. But what really has me interested is the cover showing Shadowcat from Age of Apocalypse…is Kitty with Peter, or against him?
Magneto #20 (Marvel) – This title is showing how Magneto is trying to deal with the incursions, wanting to be the saviour of the planet so mutants can carry on. Polaris is also along for the ride, helping her father but also looking after the humans her father is stepping over while he tries to save the day. This title will more than likely be ending when the Marvel Universe gets its reboot, and I am looking forward to see how Magneto goes out.
Marvel Zombies #2 (Marvel) – Issue 1 was fun, and I really enjoyed Elsa Bloodstone as the main character we follow. I only know her from the stories she’s guest starred in, and I’m glad to be seeing more of her and what kind of character she is. Plus, who doesn’t like zombies?
Top Pick: Fables #150 (DC Comics/Vertigo) – I heard that this world shattering story was coming to an end in a big way during last year’s SDCC, this is one of those stories that every comic book reader needs to read yesterday and am interested to see if this ends in typical Fables fashion….
Archie vs Sharknado #1 (Archie) – It has been quite a few months for Archie. He has fought zombies, died, fought Predator and now he fights Sharknado !!!! Nothing else to be said
JLA: Gods and Monsters : Batman #1 (DC Comics)- I loved the prequel series on Machinima, and can’t wait for the movie, but will settle for prequel comic book set in this alternate world, where Kirk Langstrom ( known to Batman devotees as Man-Bat) is Batman, should be interesting!!
Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde #1 (Marvel )- longtime readers know them as , *insert pun* “star crossed lovers”, but this takes place within Battle World, so one is curious to see if their love is the same or are they mortal enemies?
Wolf #1 (Image) – I love hardboiled detectives, but hardboiled detectives who deal with the supernatural, (i.e., John Constantine, Harry Dresden) is a special breed, enter Antoine Wolfe.