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Friday, June 3, 2011

To Better Know A VILLAIN: Magneto

Real Name
Max Eisenhardt

First Appearance
X-Men #1, Sept. 1963

Nicknames and Alias
Erik Magnus Lensherr, Master of Magnetism, Erik the Red, Michael Xavier, Creator, Grey King, Buckethead

Powers and Abilities
Magneto has the ability to manipulate electromagnetic energy, principally magnetism, allowing him to move and control magnetic metals from small (the iron in blood) to large (a nuclear submarine). Magneto can also manipulate other elements of the electromagnetic spectrum, including light, electricity and gravitons, which enables him to, amongst other things, fly, generate protective force fields that block out matter and energy, create electromagnetic pulses and grant him limited immunity to telepathy.

Basically, he can do anything so long as the word "magnetically" appears before it.


He has also exhibited limited telepathic and astral projection abilities, though it is unclear how much of those skills are native to him or a result of technological assistance.

In addition to his powers, Magneto is also a skilled geneticist and engineer, capable of manipulating genetics to create super powered beings as well as designing and constructing advanced robots and space stations.


Weaknesses and Achilles’ Heels
Young Jewish girls, reality-altered Chinese imposters, super-powerful mutants of his own design.


Gadgets and Accessories

Magneto's helmet is designed to block telepathy, and his costume is made of a fine chain mail mesh.

Magneto frequently makes his headquarters aboard Asteroid M (and later Avalon), a floating space station in orbit around Earth.


During periods when his powers were weak or absent, he utilized various devices to augment or replicate his powers, such as an exo-skeleton featuring laser guns and jet packs or a costume which absorbed and transferred energy from other mutants to him.


Friends and Allies
Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff, his son), Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff, his daughter), Polaris (Lorna Dane, his sometimes daughter), Professor X and the X-Men (sometimes), Nanny and Ferris (robotic assistants), Exodus, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Hellfire Club, the Acolytes, the Savage Land Mutates


Foes and Antagonists

Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Polaris, Professor X and the X-Men (other times)


Movies and Appearances
Magneto shows up just about anywhere the X-Men do in terms of other forms of media and merchandising, from the one shot "Pryde of the X-Men" cartoon to the 90s animated series to the live action films, where he was first played by Ian McKellan and now Erik Fassbender in the new X-Men: First Class.


One-Sentence Origin
A mutant survivor of the Holocaust, Max Eisenhardt later came face to face with humanity's fear and of and prejudice towards mutants and determined the only way to prevent the genocide of mutants was to conquer humanity, and took the name Magneto to lead mutants in the subjugation of humankind.


Memorable Moment
X-Men (vol. 2) #25 October 1993: After he unleashes an electromagnetic pulse on Earth, the X-Men invade Magneto's orbital base, leading to Magneto ripping the adamantium from Wolverine's bones and Professor X mindwiping Magneto.


Teebore’s Take
Magneto is, arguably, Marvel's most well-developed villain, thanks in large part to the work done on the character by Chris Claremont. In the course of his fifteen year run on X-Men, Claremont managed to take a fairly one-dimensional Silver Age super-villain and craft him into a three dimensional character who believably straddled the line between hero and villain.


When Magneto debuted in X-Men #1, he was a fairly generic super-villain. He had a gimmick (magnetism) and drove around in a magnet-shaped car, ranting and raving about world conquest, with little motivation beyond a generic desire to rule the world. The subtext of X-Men at the time, the idea of mutants as a new race destined to supplant humanity, helped grant a little dimension to Magneto, setting him up as voice for mutant rights that differed from that of Professor X and the X-Men, but at that point he was far from being the Malcolm X to Professor X's Martin Luther King Jr. at that point (an analogy commonly used to describe the relationship between Xavier and Magneto these days).


After Claremont came aboard and settled in, he slowly began deepening Magneto's character, closing out the character's Silver Age villain routine with a fantastic story we'll begin covering in "X-aminations" next week. Then, taking advantage of a goofy plot point from before his time on the title (Magneto's de-aging by Alpha in Defenders 16), Claremont brilliantly established Magneto as a survivor of the Holocaust, adding deeper motivation, poignancy and irony to his quest for mutant superiority. Claremont also developed the relationship between Xavier and Magneto, adding details to their past together and strengthening the connection between the two men as would-be shepherds of mutantkind with differing goals and methods. As Magneto's motivations and background deepened, his stance softened as the character began to wonder if his approach to mutant rights truly was the best. As such, Claremont had Magneto take over for Professor X as mentor to the student New Mutants and ally to the X-Men. Ultimately, Magneto determined Xavier's path wasn't any more effective that his earlier, more extreme, one, and he turned his back on the situation, retiring once and for all to Asteroid M. In Claremont' final X-Men story, he dealt with the ramifications of Magneto's decision and ended the story (and Claremont's time as the X-Men's writer) with Magneto sacrificing himself to save Xavier and the X-Men.


Of course, the death of Magneto could never last and before long he was back. Without Claremont guiding the character, the 90s weren't as kind to Magneto. He vacillated wildly between a noble fighter for mutant rights and the raving Silver Age villain of old, depending on who was writing him, though some creators did manage to do some interesting things with the character from time to time (such as when the United Nations ceded political leadership of the mutant nation of Genosha to Magneto). These days, after suffering through a handful of retcons and de-powerings, Magneto has settled in to a fairly consistent role as an anti-hero, one who willingly works alongside the X-Men (whose methods lately have begun more and more to mirror Magneto's own) even while his belief in mutant superiority and the means of ensuring the survival of mutantkind remain extreme.

19 comments:

  1. Max Eisenhardt?? I know I've seen that name tossed around here and there, but I'm not sure where it originated. Regardless, what was wrong with Erik Lenscherr? I know it was retconned into an alias (after being originally retconned as his real name in the first place), but couldn't they have ret-retconned it back to his real name?

    Look at it this way -- in 1992, we were told that Magneto's real name was Erik Magnus Lenscherr. In the late 90's, we were told that was an alias, but that didn't stop the movies and various other sources from continuing to use it as his real name. What's the point of dumping it now after a decade of millions of moviegoers being told that's his name? The move seriously makes no sense to me. If anything, I feel like you'd want to reinstate it somehow.

    And speaking of making no sense, on a semi-related note, I've always hated that, right after we learned his name was Erik, Xavier starts calling him by that name almost exclusively. He'd always called the guy Magnus before; why couldn't he keep doing that even though we, the readers, had learned his true name was Erik? Seems like very sloppy writing to me.

    Lastly, I'm sure we'll get into this in greater depth when the issues come around, but I do not like the reformed, headmaster version of Magneto. I have no problem with him being a holocaust survivor or a colleague of Xavier's gone bad or even an "anti-hero" (though that's not my first choice of a role for him), but the legitimately reformed and repentant version of the character was one of the worst mistakes Claremont ever made, and is a huge reason (even moreso than "punk Storm", which I despise) why I'm not a big fan of the mid-late portion of his original run, nor of a great deal of The New Mutants.

    But just so this post isn't entirely negative, I like that his helmet in the new movie looks more like the comic book version than did McKellan's.

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  2. @Matt: I know I've seen that name tossed around here and there, but I'm not sure where it originated. Regardless, what was wrong with Erik Lenscherr?

    Yeah, I have no idea where "Max Eisenhardt" came from, I just know that's apparently his real name now. If I had to guess, it was probably established in one of those "Magneto origin" limited series over the past several years (like "Testament").

    I too have often wondered what was wrong with "Erik Lenscherr", even before the "Max Eisenhardt" business, when they first retconned it to be an alias.

    Like you said, it seems especially odd now that the movies are using "Erik". I mean, the comics declared Rogue's real name to be "Anna" because that's what the movies did; why not Magneto? It truly does not make sense.

    He'd always called the guy Magnus before; why couldn't he keep doing that even though we, the readers, had learned his true name was Erik? Seems like very sloppy writing to me.

    At the time, I was just a stupid teenager too excited about learning Magneto's real name (I was oddly fascinated with stuff like that early in my comics reading) to notice how sloppy it was to have Xavier suddenly switch to calling him "Erik", but it certainly sticks out to me now.

    Lastly, I'm sure we'll get into this in greater depth when the issues come around, but I do not like the reformed, headmaster version of Magneto.

    Ah, yes then, we'll have some lively discussions when the time comes, as I love the arc of Claremont's Magneto, including the "Headmaster Magneto" phase (the issue of New Mutants where he takes on the Avengers is one of my favorites). :)

    There are different phases of the character arc I enjoy more (especially the "ah, the hell with it" Magneto of Uncanny 274-275 and X-Men (vol. 2) 1-3) but I still like the Headmaster stuff (at least until the X-Men "die" and he goes all crazy in New Mutants, but I chalk that up to the larger problems with that title at that time).

    e, I like that his helmet in the new movie looks more like the comic book version than did McKellan's.

    Ditto.

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  3. Max Eisenhardt came from Testiment. They had to come up with a new name, since it had been pretty well established by then that Erik Lenscherr was an alias AND 'Lenscherr' isn't a Jewish name.

    But in the comics today, Mags still uses Erik Lenscherr as if it were his real name (even tho everyone knows it isn't). Mags keeps his real name secret, so his actions will not cause any reprisals against any surviving members of the Eisenhardt family.

    So far all intents and purposes, Erik Lenscherr is his real name. It's certainly his legal name. The fact that his real birth name is Max Eisenhardt isn't going to come up anywhere -- except in profiles like this :)

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  4. @ShadZ: Max Eisenhardt came from Testiment.

    Ah, thanks. I had a feeling that was it, but wasn't sure.

    Mags keeps his real name secret, so his actions will not cause any reprisals against any surviving members of the Eisenhardt family.

    Okay, that makes a little more sense, and helps the whole situation seem a little less dumb and unnecessarily-complicated. I missed that somewhere along the way.

    The fact that his real birth name is Max Eisenhardt isn't going to come up anywhere -- except in profiles like this :)

    Ha, yeah. In fact, I had to look it up in the Marvel Handbook. I knew it was something other than Erik, but like you said, it isn't like people are running around calling him "Max" these days.

    Thanks for the comment!

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  5. Good thing i read all the comments, cuz otherwise i would have been like "Wtf is up with Max being his name?"

    The memorable moment you chose is one of my all time favorite runs i x-men. FACT.

    Did you see First Class this weekend? We were going to, but then didn't due to being tired

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  6. I agree with Teebore; that explanation for the Max Eisenhardt name makes a little more sense. I still think it was unnecessary, but at least they made it plausible.

    I saw First Class on Friday night. I have mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, I'm disappointed that they're continuing the existing movie continuity, which, especially since X3, has become one of the most divergent comics-to-film adaptations I can think of.

    But in spite of that, I really enjoyed it for what it was. The chemistry between Xavier and Magneto was perfect, and I particularly loved Fassbender. He was great as Magneto, and this was pretty much exactly how I like to see the character, in any medium -- not exactly evil, but misguided. But most likely not a guy who would "reform" and go to work at Xavier's school years later!

    Lastly, I wish January Jones would dress like Emma Frost on Mad Men. Her wardrobe helped make up for her terrible acting skills.

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  7. @Sarah: The memorable moment you chose is one of my all time favorite runs i x-men.

    I have mixed feelings on it. I LOVED it when I was younger, and I still think it has a ton of cool moments (like that one), but now it really bugs me how wildly out of character Magneto is written from issue to issue of the story.

    But I definitely think the Nizieza/Kubert run on the whole is underrated. It suffers from many of the same things that plagued all comics in the 90s, but the worst excesses aren't quite on full display yet.

    Did you see First Class this weekend?

    I did. On the whole, I enjoyed it, though I did have some issues here and there. I especially thought the pacing was a bit off, such that it seemed to jump from scene to scene a lot and I found myself thinking "could we just stay here for a couple minutes?".

    @Matt: I'm disappointed that they're continuing the existing movie continuity, which, especially since X3, has become one of the most divergent comics-to-film adaptations I can think of.

    Yeah, I'm no fan of the existing movie continuity, especially the fact that it can't even keep itself straight, let alone synch up with the comic's. I don't mind that Kitty Pryde is played by three different actors in the course of three movies (that's just the realities of movie making) but there's some stuff in this one involving Xavier that totally contradicts things in the Wolverine movie (which I'll be vague about since I know people haven't seen it yet).

    So I generally tend to enjoy the movies (at least the first two and this one) independent of its continuity.

    I really enjoyed it for what it was. The chemistry between Xavier and Magneto was perfect, and I particularly loved Fassbender. He was great as Magneto, and this was pretty much exactly how I like to see the character, in any medium -- not exactly evil, but misguided.

    Agreed on all counts. The Magneto/Xavier relationship was the core of the movie, and it worked really well. Fassbender was fantastic, but MacAvoy was too, and I thought he did a great job of bringing in shades of the character's future while still crafting a unique performance.

    I wish January Jones would dress like Emma Frost on Mad Men. Her wardrobe helped make up for her terrible acting skills.

    I've not seen Mad Men, but is she as bad in that as she is in everything else I've ever seen her in? I mean, I didn't *mind* having her slinking around in those outfits, but every time she had to actually do something I felt like I was watching someone who was sleepwalking.

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  8. glad for the whole Max explanation because i had never even heard that

    I'm like Sarah and i always loved when he rips the Adamantium out of Wolverine's body- it happebned right when we were really getting into comics, and so i understood that it was huge, but not until later did i really get HOW huge that was.

    i love the fact that all of his foes/antagonists are also on his friend list. it's like- make up your mind- quit being a flake

    I also really enjoyed when we was basically given Genosha

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  9. @Anne: i love the fact that all of his foes/antagonists are also on his friend list.

    Yeah, that's what happens you get someone who isn't easily defined one way or the other. I debated what to title this column (hero or villain) since Magneto's been both, but ultimately went with villain cuz that's how most people think of him.

    I also really enjoyed when we was basically given Genosha

    Me too. I like the stories that force the character to really test out the mechanics of his beliefs and methodology; you think mutants should rule the world? Fine, try ruling a country first. Much more interesting than another "I'm going to destroy the world!" plot.

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  10. Teebore: Yes, January is (in my opinion) the weakest link on Mad Men. She was practically a nonentity in the most recent season, and I barely noticed her lack of screen time.

    By the way, you really should watch it. I love the show to begin with for the period atmosphere of the 60's -- the fact that it's brilliantly written and acted is just a bonus! It's pretty much tied with Justified as my favorite drama on TV right now.

    Back to Magneto -- I also liked the Genosha status quo. I feel like Marvel didn't get nearly enough mileage out of it. If I recall correctly, he ruled the country for over a year (real time), but pretty much all we got out of it were two limited series that were only tengentially tied to the ongoing X-Men continuity. I really think that situation could've stayed fresh and interesting for a decade or more.

    (And maybe it's just the fanboy in me talking, but could you imagine an extended storyline where Magneto's Genosha and Dr. Doom's Latveria go to war or something? That would've been insane!)

    In fact, if I was going to design an "iconic" X-Men continuity for a movie or a video game or something, that's probably the status quo I'd use for the character. And now that I think about it, that's exactly what the producers of the recent Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon did!

    And I also really like the Nicieza era of X-Men. From what I gather, Lobdell and Harras were calling a lot of the shots at that time, but even so, it seemed like all the important stuff happened in Nicieza's book.

    I haven't read those issues in a long time, though I relived them in synopses over on Not Blog X. Someday I want to sit down, start with X-men #1, and go up to the end of the Alan Davis era around 1999 and see how it all holds up. I suspect I'll see a lot more holes than I remember, but I also have a feeling I'll like it better than the bulk of Marvel's current output anyway. Plus I'm an extremely nostalgic person, so that'll help a lot.

    (I am really not a fan of modern Marvel. It just doesn't feel like the Marvel I grew up reading for so many years.)

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  11. @Matt: By the way, you really should watch it.

    I really want to. It's very near the top of my "catch up on DVD list".

    I feel like Marvel didn't get nearly enough mileage out of it. If I recall correctly, he ruled the country for over a year (real time), but pretty much all we got out of it were two limited series that were only tengentially tied to the ongoing X-Men continuity.

    Yeah, they didn't use it as much as they could. There were the limited series, then Lobdell's last story arc before Morrison came in and blew Genosha away. I think that was pretty much it.

    could you imagine an extended storyline where Magneto's Genosha and Dr. Doom's Latveria go to war or something?

    That would have been awesome. We came very close to it, actually, in Christopher Priest's Black Panther around that time, in which there was a tense standoff between Doom's Latveria, Magneto's Genosha, Panther's Wakanda and Namor's Atlantis. It was a very cool "political thriller set in the Marvel Universe" kind of story.

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  12. yeah i totally miss the Genosha stuff, and like Matt said, it was that era that made Wolverine and the X-men so great, even despite it's flaws

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  13. "We came very close to it, actually, in Christopher Priest's Black Panther around that time, in which there was a tense standoff between Doom's Latveria, Magneto's Genosha, Panther's Wakanda and Namor's Atlantis."

    Interesting; I had no idea. That certainly sounds like an entertaining story.

    I've heard so many good things about Priest's Black Panther, but except for glancing at an occasional issue here and there, I've never given it much of a look. Someday I'll have to get ahold of the whole thing and check it out.

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  14. just one more reason why the Wolverine and the Xmen cartoon kicked ass, and why i'm sad they cancelled it (especially since they were on the verge of going into AoA)

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  15. For the most part I liked Wolverine and the X-Men; I just didn't buy the totally random idea that Wolverine had to be the team leader because it was his destiny or something. They could've still used that title and made him the main character without also making him the leader.

    And their treatment of Cyclops was disgraceful. One of the great things about the character is that no matter how badly fate treats him, and no matter how messed up his personal life is, he's still -- to borrow a catch phrase -- the best there is at what he does (except for UXM #201, of course).

    But otherwise, I liked it quite a bit!

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  16. Oh, and I hated Cyclops's stupid duster, too.

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  17. @Matt: Someday I'll have to get ahold of the whole thing and check it out.

    I haven't gone back and read it since it initially came out, but I remember really digging it at the time.

    I just didn't buy the totally random idea that Wolverine had to be the team leader because it was his destiny or something.

    Yeah, I never checked it out, and that was one of the big turn offs.

    And their treatment of Cyclops was disgraceful. One of the great things about the character is that no matter how badly fate treats him, and no matter how messed up his personal life is, he's still -- to borrow a catch phrase -- the best there is at what he does (except for UXM #201, of course).

    And that suggests I was probably wise in avoiding it...

    (oh. X-Men 201. Don't get me started...).

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  18. @Teebore: Yeah, I have no idea where "Max Eisenhardt" came from, I just know that's apparently his real name now.

    I have no idea what issue it is, but it's been retconned that after he escaped the concentration camps he paid a forger to craft him a new identity, which is where Erik Lenscherr came from.

    At the time, I was just a stupid teenager too excited about learning Magneto's real name (I was oddly fascinated with stuff like that early in my comics reading) to notice how sloppy it was to have Xavier suddenly switch to calling him "Erik", but it certainly sticks out to me now.

    It's not a perfect explanation, but Professor X did first meet him as Magnus in Uncanny #159, so you could assume that he didn't find out Magneto's name until the same time as the readers.

    It suffers from many of the same things that plagued all comics in the 90s, but the worst excesses aren't quite on full display yet.

    In general, I find 90's comics to be either really really good or really really bad. There's not too much middle ground to be found.

    @Matt: Back to Magneto -- I also liked the Genosha status quo. I feel like Marvel didn't get nearly enough mileage out of it. If I recall correctly, he ruled the country for over a year (real time), but pretty much all we got out of it were two limited series that were only tengentially tied to the ongoing X-Men continuity. I really think that situation could've stayed fresh and interesting for a decade or more.

    There was also a crossover arc (between X-Men Vol.2 and Uncanny X-Men, I believe) called Eve of Destruction, but the less said about it the better.

    I just didn't buy the totally random idea that Wolverine had to be the team leader because it was his destiny or something...And their treatment of Cyclops was disgraceful...

    I didn't mind too much, because it felt like a bit of a role-reversal: Wolverine was now the leader who had to learn to train the team, whilst Cyke was the bitter, grumbling loner. Although now that I think about it, yeah, they would be better in their original roles.

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  19. I too find Magneto to be a well developed villain. My only problem with him however, is that he seems to be very over powered and extremely lucky. I've read several comics where heroes are gaining the upper hand on him, and then, all of a sudden, he defeats them. For example, Storm has proven multiple times that she could defeat him single handed. In one comic, she unleashed a blizzard at him, and was near killing him, but she held back at the last second, and he took that opportunity to beat her. I wouldn't have minded the outcome of that confrontation so much, if it hadn't happened again later on. In another confrontation, Storm sucked Magneto into a tornado, and was about to suck the air out of him, but Storm had the terrible luck of having Colossus in the fight as well. Magneto used Colossus's metal form to smash him into Storm.
    As a villain, I think he's very well developed, and I really like him in the movies. In fights however, I feel he shouldn't brag about his power so much, because there are plenty of heroes, especially some of the X-Men, who could beat him by themselves. Especially if Storm was in her ultra-powered form like in Uncanny X-Men #147. There would be no contest then.

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