Art by Philip Tan and Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Could it have been anyone else?
Born with the name Max Eisenhardt to a Jewish family, Magneto grew up during the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. He was hated, beaten, and belittled by his nationalist peers, and the Eisenhardts attempted to flee to Poland. The Eisenhardts were killed, leaving Max to be taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. After years, he escaped with Magda, a young Romani girl whom Max had fallen in love with.
The two fled eastward to a city called Vinnitsa inside the Soviet Bloc. Max changed his name to Erik Magnus Lensherr to hide his Jewish roots. Erik and Magda had a daughter together named Anya.
Erik began to control his powers for the first time when he threw a metal item at his employer, whom was underpaying Erik. When he returned home that day, he found the inn burning. His boss called the KGB on Erik, and he was held down while Anya died before his eyes. Erik killed the men responsible.
Magda fled, not revealing to Erik that she was pregnant again. She would later give birth to Pietro and Wanda Maximoff at Mount Wundagore and die soon after.
From Vinnitsa, Erik went to Israel, where he worked at a mental institution intended to help rehabilitate survivors of the Holocaust. Erik met Professor Charles Xavier here. The two became very close friends, though their views on how to help mutantkind were polar opposites. After an altercation with Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and Hydra, Erik left once again.
He began tracking down Nazi war criminals for western intelligence agencies. He was eventually betrayed by his superiors, and he retaliated. Finished with humanity, its selfishness, and its scorn towards mutants, Erik took on new goals. He met a woman named Cassandra Michaels, whom designed a purple and fuchsia suit for Erik to don with a new identity.
He established an orbital base upon Asteroid M (don’t ask me how, comic book logic) and assembled an activist group he called the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (later shortened to simply, “the Brotherhood”). Among his original team were his own children, Wanda and Pietro, though he didn’t know they were his children at the time. The other two founding members were the illusion-projecting Mastermind and the deformed Toad. He soon had another meeting with Charles Xavier. Xavier knew of the moves that Erik had been making with the Brotherhood. He pleaded with Erik to join him, but Erik declined. He had chosen his path.
His first debut as Magneto, the Master of Magnetism, brought him to clash with his old friend, Professor Xavier, and his X-Men at the Cape Citadel missile base. He next overthrew the nation of Santo Marco and proclaimed himself ruler.
Magneto and his Brotherhood clashed with the X-Men as well as the Avengers on many occasions following this. Erik even tried to recruit Thor and Namor to his cause, but both declined. Erik attempted to usurp Atlantis in retaliation against the latter, and he was defeated by Namor and the Fantastic Four. He attempted to manipulate Black Bolt to attack a government facility, and this turned on him as well when the royal family of Attilan intervened.
Pietro and Wanda left the Brotherhood to join the Avengers. Magneto attempted to coax the United Nations into creating a sovereign state for mutants, and he was stopped by the Avengers and the X-Men. Toad, the constant target of Magneto’s fury, left Magneto to die when their island base was being destroyed.
Magneto resurfaced in the Savage Lands, performing genetic experiments upon the locals and turning them into malformed mutates. These mutates came to worship Magneto. Eventually, the X-Men and the Avengers came after him. He held them off with mind-control technology, and it was up to the Vision to stop him.
He later stumbled across alien technology and engineered a being called Alpha the Ultimate Mutant. Alpha turned on Erik and reduced him to an infant. He was left in the care of Moira MacTaggert, who had the intention of helping offset the damage Erik’s powers had done to his mental health. A Shi’ar using the identity of Erik the Red was able to restore Magneto to his adult state.
He began temporary cooperation with Doctor Doom, and the two came into conflict with one another. Eventually the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Champions thwarted the two’s attempts at world domination.
He decided to end the nuclear arms’ race by threatening the world should they not cease creating these weapons. He was attacked by a Soviet nuclear submarine, and he destroyed it. He was next challenged by the X-Men, and he relented when he came face-to-face with Kitty Pryde, fellow Jewish mutant. He soon helped the X-Men face the Purifiers and Reverend William Stryker in a conflict that tested Professor Xavier’s faith in his own dream.
Erik was among the heroes and villains recruited by the Beyonder to participate in his Secret Wars. What perplexed the Avengers and, perhaps, even Magneto himself was that he was grouped with the heroes. After much distrust and inner conflict, Magneto relegated himself to a megafacility sequestered away from the Avengers. The X-Men as well as the Wasp, however, showed sympathy for Erik. While Magneto did aid the heroes, he mysteriously disappeared during the final battle, somehow returning home.
Magneto joined up with Xavier out of sympathy for his old friend, as Charles was weakened and unwell. He led the New Mutants for a time, and, when Xavier pleaded with him, took over the school as well as the X-Men. When the Beyonder took an interest in Earth once more, Magneto helped the X-Men drive him away.
He aided the New Mutants and the X-Men through the murderous rampage of Mister Sinister’s Marauders. He also helped broker an alliance between the Hellfire Club and the X-Men by becoming a White King in the organization.
When pieces of Asteroid M fell to Earth, he went to retrieve some of the technology aboard the base. He was intercepted by the Avengers, and this led to a clash between the X-Men and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. After the extended battle, Magneto was able to retrieve the tech, and he revealed that he was searching for his helmet, which held a device that would allow him telepathy through his magnetic powers. He wanted to remove prejudice against mutantkind from the world, and he tested it out on Captain America. He was shocked to learn that Steve Rogers held no ill-will or prejudice against mutants. He allowed himself to be arrested and taken to trial before a global court. He feared that his execution would cause more strife between mutants and humans, and he used his helmet to get himself released.
He destroyed the helmet and returned to the Xavier Institute. He befriended Illyana Rasputin aka Magik during this time. However, after a number of X-Men died while battling Apocalypse, Magneto became paranoid that he may lose more students, and this caused a rift between he and the New Mutants. He wanted them to cease using their powers without his permission. This and his collaboration with the Hellfire Club pushed his students away even further. He faced conflict from the Club as well when Sebastian Shaw challenged him. Magneto soundly defeated him, revealed his plan to amass a mutant army that would stand together in the coming war between mutants and homo sapiens, and declared himself the Gray King over the Hellfire Club. The New Mutants left Magneto’s tutelage and were left alone by the Hellfire Club on Magneto’s orders.
Magneto rebuilt Asteroid M and admitted to Moira MacTaggert that he knew he could never be a true substitute for Professor Xavier. He wanted to become the mutant threat that the world feared and focused upon. He would be the evil mutant that kept them afraid.
He was a part of the Acts of Vengeance plot put together by a number of notable rogues such as Doctor Doom and the Mandarin. The Nazi war criminal Red Skull was a part of this ploy as well, and Magneto buried him alive.
He became weary of warring for a time, and he attempted to turn Asteroid M into a place where mutants could be safe. This was challenged by the governments of the world and even the X-Men. He was angered by this and restarted his crusade, this time with a cult of Magneto-worshippers calling themselves the Acolytes.
The world governments feared the return of Magneto and activated “The Magneto Protocols,” a series of satellites that would use the Earth’s magnetic field to keep him away. He retaliated by destroying the satellites and temporarily deactivating every electronic device on the planet. The X-Men attacked Magneto and his Acolytes. During the fight, Magneto pulled the Adamantium from Wolverine’s body, and a rejuvenated Professor Xavier shut down Erik’s mind in response. He was braindead for some time after, being taken care of by the Acolytes. When Asteroid M was destroyed once again, he was saved by the Acolytes.
Magneto returned, reawakened and rejuvenated. He was ready for a fight once more. He went to the North Pole and used his powers to begin manipulating the magnetosphere. He demanded a sovereign nation for mutantkind, and the United Nations allowed him to take over Genosha. He took the country and started a dictatorial government in the nation. He began augmenting his powers through various means, both technological and biological. This started driving him mad once again,
He wanted to start a new army within Genosha, and he was met by the X-Men once more. During the battle, Wolverine severed his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist-down. He was aided by the former X-Man, Polaris. He soon discovered that she was actually his daughter.
Humanity struck back at Genosha and sent a number of massive Sentinels to destroy the island. Thousands of mutants were massacred while Magneto was forced to watch from a wheelchair. He was believed to be killed in the attack, and he quickly became a martyr in the mutant community. The phrase “Magneto Was Right” became commonly used.
He had survived though, and he was found by Professor Xavier. The two began rebuilding Genosha and their friendship.
This was short-lived, as his daughter, Wanda, was becoming increasingly powerful and unstable. She, coaxed by her brother, recreated reality in such a manner that mutants were the dominant class. The family of Magneto were royalty in this reality, and humans were hunted. A coalition of X-Men and Avengers challenged them and Scarlet Witch repaired reality. However, with the words “no more mutants,” she reduced the world mutant population to hundreds. Magneto himself lost his powers due to this.
Quicksilver attempted to repower mutants with the Terrigen Mists of the Inhumans (really ironic considering current stories), and Magneto attempted to stop him. This led to a conflict where Pietro beat his father nearly to death.
A being born of the M-Day catastrophe, called the Collective, which was formed from the resonant energy of the powers removed from mutants, bestowed Erik with his magnetic powers. The being was revealed to have the identity of Xorn, a mutant who had masqueraded as Magneto in recent years. He took control of Magneto and had him battle the New Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. Magneto was defeated and taken into custody, and the Collective was launched into the sun. Magneto managed to escape, but his powers were lost to him once more.
High Evolutionary was the one who would, at last, permanently restore Magneto’s mutant abilities. Among the first things he did after this was surrender to the X-Men on Utopia (which is actually a floating chunk of Asteroid M). He rejoined the X-Men and their cause. He soon began garnering public opinion in his favor when he held together San Francisco during a particularly violent earthquake.
He soon had to contend with the return of Joseph, a clone of himself. Joseph had taken the identity of Magneto and began murdering humans with a new Brotherhood team composed of clones of the original team. Magneto did not take kindly to this and killed the entirety of team with the exception of Joseph, who was taken into custody.
When Cyclops and Wolverine split the X-Men apart, Magneto stayed with Cyclops. When the Phoenix Force returned to Earth, Cyclops had convinced himself that it would somehow save mutantkind. Both teams of X-Men, with the exception of Wolverine, Beast, and Hope Summers, rallied to his side and battled the Avengers, whom were afraid of what the Phoenix would do to Earth. The war led to the death of Charles Xavier at Cyclops’ hands. Cyclops would be declared a fugitive for his crimes and was captured. However, he escaped and formed another team of X-Men. Magneto stayed with him through all of this.
This team of X-Men was dedicated to freeing all mutants held by the governments of the world. However, Magneto began feeling hostile towards Cyclops, no small part due to his murder of Charles Xavier. He gave a tip to S.H.I.E.L.D. on how to track down Cyclops’ team and left.
His powers now severely weakened, Magneto began working alone. He began establishing a new Genosha, and used mindless clones of the Marauders as foot soldiers. He had a partner and lover in Briar Raleigh, a human with a leg crippled by one of Magneto’s previous rampages.
When a clone of the Red Skull with the telepathic powers of Charles Xavier began performing monstrous experiments on Genosha, Magneto attempted to kill him. This allowed the clone of Schmidt to transfer his mind to a reborn Onslaught. Erik gathered a group of rogues to battle this being. The Red Onslaught was eventually defeated by Scarlet Witch and Doctor Doom accessing the remnants of Xavier’s psyche. Because of this, Magneto had one last conversation with his old friend. Charles broke his heart by telling Erik that he was right all along.
He continued to restore Genosha after this. However, when the Final Incursion took place, Magneto teamed up with Polaris in an attempt to keep the two Earths apart. Magneto used a mixture of technology and Mutant Growth Hormone to power himself up enough to accomplish this. He failed and perished in the process.
When the world was reformed by Reed Richards, mutant kind faced a new threat. Black Bolt had released a Terrigen Cloud that was spreading worldwide. It awakens Inhumans, but it is poisonous to mutants. To save what is left of mutantkind, Magneto, reborn in this new world, has formed a new X-Men, consisting of Sabretooth, M, Archangel, Psylocke, Fantomex, Mystique, and himself. They will stop at nothing to save their people.
Magneto is among the most fascinating characters to ever have been created by comics (in the realm of Black Panther, and you know how much esteem I hold for T’Challa). To me, he is a true antihero. Wolverine and Batman do not qualify as antiheroes to me. They are simply violent heroes with a lot of anger and brooding. Magneto’s intentions are truly pure. He wants to save his people, but humanity hates them. Therefore, he will battle humanity to the bitter end to save mutants. His methods are bloody and qualify as terrorism. However, this is what seems necessary to him to accomplish his goal. This is the true definition of an antihero: a character with pure intentions but ghastly methods.
He is incredibly complex and sympathetic. He has seen the very worst of humanity, and he does not want mutantkind to fall victim to the bloodlust of mankind. He is capable of love and compassion, and he never stopped considering Charles Xavier a friend. But their paths are too different, and Erik could not betray his own ideals. Everything he has done was for the benefit of others, never himself. He also has a taste of theatrics that I find fantastic, and, when he is crossed, his rage and thirst for retaliation are boundless. He is capable of seeing when his methods aren’t working, as he is not so enslaved to his crusade that he cannot see when a new path must be followed. This passion, ambition, intelligence, and ferocity are the qualities that make Magneto my absolute favorite Marvel Villain of all time.