By Ben Morse
X-MEN: SCHISM has kicked off a startling metamorphosis in the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe that will split the Children of the Atom and lead to ReGenesis in the fall along with two new ongoing series, each featuring it’s own distinctive team: UNCANNY X-MEN and WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN.
With change in the air, here on Marvel.com we’ll be regularly gathering the creators and editors responsible for guiding the X-Men’s destiny to dissect each of their charges to examine what makes them tick and perhaps lend some insight into where they will find themselves once the Schism ends and the ReGenesis gets underway.
This week, we examine Magneto, the X-Men’s archenemy-turned-ally; how he fits—or doesn’t fit—into the team, who he trusts, his own ambitions past and present, and much more.
How would you describe the core of who Magneto is and what is most important to him?
Mike Carey (writer of X-MEN LEGACY): Magneto’s personality was forged by his war experiences: both the helplessness he felt when he and his family were prisoners in the Nazi camps, and the lengths to which he and the people around him had to go in order to survive. The weird mix of ruthlessness and idealism that drives him was born out of the extremes of courage and cruelty that he witnessed in Auschwitz. It’s because of those experiences that he cleaves so strongly to his own kind, and that his reaction when faced with prejudice or race hatred is to hit back 10 times harder.
Kieron Gillen (writer of UNCANNY X-MEN): What's most important to him? The easy answer is “Mutants.” And it's not an entirely incorrect answer, but the possible exceptions are interesting to ponder. Not that I'll actually say it, in case I ever want to do a story about it.
Nick Lowe (X-Men Senior Editor): Strangely, I think the core of who Magneto is and what he stands for is a lot like who Spider-Man is. Not the banter or lightness, but the power/responsibility part. I think Magneto is a man who takes responsibility for himself and his people and will use everything he has to serve both.
What is Magneto’s view of how the mutant race should conduct itself moving forward? How does this contrast or conflict with others?
Kieron Gillen: He still leans towards a lack of caring about what humans think of him personally, which extends to [how they feel about] mutantkind. “Why should we beg for their acceptance?” Even if he's backed away from the worst of his anti-human rhetoric, he just doesn't think you should pretend to be happy about mutants’ position in the world. In the short term, he's very much pro-Utopia and trying to bring back mutantkind. That he's shown special interest in Hope is telling.
Nick Lowe: As I write this—X-MEN: SCHISM #2 just came out—he definitely has gotten on board with Cyclops. He believes in the defense and support of the mutant species. He has left behind—or just downplayed?—a lot of the superiority of mutants at this point.
Mike Carey: Magneto has proved time and again that he can think the unthinkable and do the inconceivable. That includes changing his own position on fundamental things: he knows that to stagnate or get complacent is usually to die. His initial preference, as everyone knows, was for separatism—mutants pursuing their own destiny without hindrance from or interaction with humankind. But Professor Xavier was his best friend: he understands Xavier’s philosophy of integration and engagement, and he’s been its champion at times when he was called on to do so. Whether he can ever totally believe in it is a different question. He’s always preferred to bargain from a position of strength, and he’d probably say, if asked, that mutants should always try to meet humankind on their own terms wherever possible.
Why has Magneto joined the X-Men? What has changed his view on his place in the mutant hierarchy?
Nick Lowe: Magneto joined the X-Men because he saw Cyclops do what he never could: unite the mutant species. He definitely has taken a more subservient role, but that is because he sees that Scott has things well in hand.
Mike Carey: The bottom line is that he’ll do whatever it takes for mutants to survive. He’s working within the X-Men’s agenda because that agenda seems to offer the best chance right now and he’s doing his best not to rock the boat, even when his own instincts point him in a different direction.
Kieron Gillen: Cyclops [has come] close to [uniting] the mutant race. While in sheer numbers there [are] other previous mutant movements which dwarf the couple of hundred on Utopia, in terms of percentage of the mutant souls under his wing, this is unprecedented. This is one hell of a feat. And even if [Magneto] did think he should be in charge, he wouldn't risk destabilizing the situation by trying to take over. He'll follow.
Does Magneto truly believe in Cyclops or is there a part of him that still believes only he knows what’s best for his people?
Mike Carey: Magneto has a huge ego in some things, but he’s ultimately very pragmatic. He wouldn’t be subordinating himself to Cyclops if he didn’t believe that Cyclops had proven himself the better leader. But by the same token, if Cyclops ever fails or makes a bad call, don’t expect Magneto to remain loyal to him on any kind of personal grounds. Not going to happen.
Kieron Gillen: Mutants are important to him. He's got an enormous ego, but not enough to risk something like this. When the stakes are so high, he's happy to follow and try and offer as much help as he can. This isn't about him and he thinks Cyclops' record speak for itself.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Cyclops has increasingly brought Magneto into his confidence. You have to wonder how Magneto would act if he was pretty much ignored.
Nick Lowe: It’s hard to say, but I think that Magneto is behind Cyclops 100%. Does he disagree from time-to-time with Cyclops’ decisions? Sure, but not enough to motivate him to take matters into his own hands.
Has Magneto reconciled his views with Charles Xavier’s or does conflict remain between them even if it’s not overt?
Kieron Gillen: They disagree. That's not going to change. But the argument between them isn't the argument that's important right now. They're both big egos, and you can see them snipe with each other—I loved writing the pair butting heads in a quiet way in GENERATION HOPE #5—but it's more theoretical now. Xavier doesn't quite trust Magneto, and Magneto does know in his heart of hearts that he's right to feel so.
Nick Lowe: Both viewpoints have been a bit beside the point while they were fighting for survival. As the mutant species begins to repopulate that question will very much come better into focus.
Mike Carey: Their positions remain incompatible, if only because Professor X works and plans on the basis of what people are capable of at their best; Magneto knows what the worst aspects of human nature look like and he assumes that they’ll show themselves sooner or later in any situation. That’s why in his earlier days he was so totalitarian in his outlook: there was only one factor in any equation that he could totally trust, and that was himself.
What experiences in his life have most significantly shaped Magneto?
Nick Lowe: Well certainly the events of World War II played a big part. The experiences that he and Magda had after the end of WWII are also hugely important. Meeting Professor Xavier and becoming friends. So many things!
Mike Carey: The camps. Belonging to a persecuted minority. Knowing the extremes of helplessness and empowerment. Losing his wife. Loving a human woman. Living his entire life—or a significant portion of it—twice over. Agreeing to stand trial for his past actions against humanity. Being entrusted by Professor X with the running of the school. Leading an entire nation. Those things stand out.
Kieron Gillen: Let's not [dance] around it: the Holocaust. Talking personally, that's one of the things which towers above and warps my view of the whole 20th century. It's a lens which colors everything we can think about humans and what humans can do to one another. And I've no personal connection to the Holocaust, bar basic humanity. How would that shape someone who was there?
Who among the X-Men does Magneto trust?
Mike Carey: I think he trusts Cyclops. And Rogue, who’s become a sort of moral litmus paper for him. In a different way, he trusts Professor X. He has strong links with some of the young mutants he taught, despite the intervening years. It’s not a long list, though.
Kieron Gillen: There [are] levels of trust. Magneto, for all his passion, is an intellectual. He knows he's a follower of Cyclops—so to constantly, explicitly fight his own corner every time, he has to trust Cyclops decisions, because he knows intellectually that's how command works. Hell, Cyclops even talked him into posing for some PR photos. He didn't like it, but he realizes that there's a plan.
So, sure, he's got an ego. But he's also got a super-ego that keeps that nailed down as much as it can.
He'll trust anyone he needs to trust as far as he should trust them. But I don't think absolute trust comes easy to him. And with his life experiences, I can see why.
Nick Lowe: Honestly, I wonder if Magneto every really trusts anyone. One of the things I loved so much about MAGNETO: TESTAMENT was what happened to Magneto’s father. He fought for Germany in World War I but the men who leaned on him abandoned him quite quickly when Hitler came into power. That is a heck of a lesson for a kid to learn.
What is Magneto’s role in the X-Men?
Nick Lowe: Magneto is Cyclops consigliore. He’s Cyclops right hand man, really and he embraces that.
Mike Carey: He’s the biggest cannon in their arsenal. He’s also a brilliant strategic thinker who’s ironically shut out of most of the strategic planning. And I think he probably thinks of himself as first alternate in the leadership stakes.
Kieron Gillen: The word “Consigliore” leaps to mind. And that's a position he's actively developed for himself. I suspect he would see himself more of a consigliore than he actually is, but, as I said, he's developing it.
Clearly, the more that Magneto advises Cyclops, the more worried other people may be. And rightly so.
Is Cyclops the only leader among the X-Men that Magneto would willingly follow or are there others?
Mike Carey: There are potentially others, but if Cyclops fell or withdrew, anyone setting themselves up as leader would have to prove to Magneto that they could do the job better than him.
Nick Lowe: I see that as a situational question. He probably never would have thought he could follow Scott. I could see him following Storm. Not many others, though.
Kieron Gillen: I think he'd honestly follow almost anyone who was able to keep the mutants together.
X-MEN: SCHISM #3 hits stores August 17, ReGenesis commences this fall, and the X-Perts reconvene soon right here on Marvel.com! And be sure to visit our X-Men: Schism event page!