By Jim Beard & Ben Morse
A hero can be best measured by the opposition they face, and in the Marvel Universe, the tyrants, thugs and cosmic menaces thrown against our champions clearly mark them as the greatest of all.
Yet “villain” often proves too shallow a term when it comes to the antagonists stacked against the Avengers, X-Men, and others. Their motivations frequently run deeper than mere lust for power or desire for destruction. In many ways, they’re the heroes of their stories.
And in other ways, they’re just pan bad guys.
Join us for a week of examining some of Marvel’s greatest villains and the threats that will define our heroes in the days to come, reliving their histories and peering into their futures.
The world looks upon the man known as Magneto and sees one of the most heinous villains in history, yet, in truth, he stands as one of its most complicated. At times he’s sought no less than the complete subjugation of the human race by his own people, whom he’s dubbed Homo superior, but his purposes remain multi-faceted, their roots found in the middle of one of the worst atrocities ever perpetrated on mankind.
|MAGNETO: NOT A HERO #1 cover by Clay Mann|
Max Eisenhardt lost his entire family to the Nazi juggernaut during the dark days of World War II, though while being forced to work at a Polish concentration camp he found love. After he married the gypsy girl named Magda, Max’s mutant abilities first manifested: the power to manipulate all forms of magnetic energy with a high degree of skill. Unfortunately, he first used his “gift” to kill a group of people while his own daughter died in a blaze. Magda, unable to cope with what her husband had become, ran off into the night.
The young man found his way to Israel where he met someone who would make an indelible stamp on his life, fellow mutant Charles Xavier. During long and heated talks with Xavier, Max’s strong views on human-mutant interaction grew into a twisted philosophy which did not look kindly on those unlike him. Then, he crafted for himself a new, larger-than-life persona, Magneto, and took on the entire world. The press soon labeled him “evil,” yet the Master of Magnetism claimed he only wanted his kind to fulfill its ultimate destiny; to become the dominant species on Earth.
Charles Xavier set up a school for young mutants and founded a team of specially-gifted individuals whom he dubbed his “X-Men.” They opposed Magneto from the start and in a short span of time grew into their roles as mutant protectors of mankind. The young heroes clashed multiple times with Magneto, attempting to halt his crusade against humans, and after each seemingly-apocalyptic battle their foe would rise again to bedevil them. Soon, he clashed with other of Earth’s champions and his legend engulfed the planet.
Max’s mind began to deteriorate after a time and on several occasions his anti-human stance softened to the point where his actions could be seen as “heroic.” At one point, he even led the X-Men and renounced his past ways, yet, inevitably, his old persona reappeared and Magneto the villain once more sought to crush all opposition.
|MAGNETO: NOT A HERO #1 preview pencils by Clay Mann|
Recently, Magneto saw the decimation of mutantkind by his own daughter, The Scarlet Witch, and strife cut through the heart of the X-Men. For the time being, he has once again migrated to the side of angels, finding a home on the mutant haven of Utopia among his longtime rivals and even saving human lives during a recent natural disaster. However, the ambition and beliefs that drive this force of nature have never lain dormant for long.
Following the events of Schism, early reports have Magneto choosing to stay loyal to Cyclops in the pages of UNCANNY X-MEN with the onset of Regenesis in November. But starting in December, writer Skottie Young and artist Clay Mann offer their own perspective on this complex figure with the limited series MAGNETO: NOT A HERO.
“Magneto is going to be doing a little soul searching,” says Young. “By ‘soul searching’ I mean throwing blows with someone almost as powerful as him. I'm just really wanting to do some comic bookin' with him and hopefully that's what Clay and I will do.”
Come back tomorrow as we look at the new INCREDIBLE HULK series and ask just who the villain of the piece might be.
Join the conversation with your thoughts about Marvel’s bad guys on Twitter with the hash tag #TheBestVillains