It is widely known that Marvel, Stan Lee and company at the time, created the X-Men and their Mutant race as a forum to expose and comment on the civil rights movement of the 60s. The hatred and violence that filled television screens and newspapers of that era was depicted in the Marvel Universe as the Human reaction to the appearance of the Mutant race. Comic Books have often been a forum for social commentary. Creating a Mutant race enabled Marvel the freedom to do so. As that is, if one could see Professor Xavier’s mission for peaceful co-existence as a reflection of Martin Luthor King, then one has to draw the conclusion that Magneto was created as a reflection of Malcolm X and the embrace of the “by any means necessary” doctrine.
Magneto is cast as a villian, but in retrospect is he? Magneto more than any other character embodies the saying, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. It is true in comic lore that many of Magneto’s actions are in fact reactionary. An answer or rebuttal to the evil and injustice already done to his Mutant brothers and sisters by Humankind and their Governments. Look up Genosha in Marvel comics sometime. On the character of Magneto, Marvel all powerful father figure Stan Lee would say: “…did not think of Magneto as a bad guy. He just wanted to strike back at the people who were so bigoted and racist… he was trying to defend the mutants, and because society was not treating them fairly he was going to teach society a lesson. He was a danger of course… but I never thought of him as a villain…”
The character of Magneto first appears in The X-Men #1 and is quickly cemented as the primary arch enemy of both Professor X and the X-Men. He would appear throughout all the X-Men books and the Avengers as well, at times becoming the primary threat to Humankind. Magneto was born as Max Eisenhardt in the 1920’s and as he Nazis rose in power, he and his family fled to Poland and ended up in the Jewish Ghetto of Warsaw. Unfortunetly Max and his family would not escape the tyranny and hate of the Nazi regime and were shipped to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. His mother, father and sister are executed and buried in a mass grave. Max escapes the fate and is reunited with a Romani girl named Magda he has fallen in love with. They escape the prison camp and move with their newborn Anya to the Ukranian town of Vinnytsia and Max changes his name to Magnus. There his powers begin to manifest and in seeing them the townspeople burn his home to drive him out, killing his child Anya in the process. Magnus reacts and unleashes the full fury of his power, killing the townspeople and detroying the town. Magda, seeing the horror of his mutant ability flees him and later gives birth to their twins, Wanda and Pietro, dying soon after. Magnus knows nothing of the twins who will grow up to become, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Magnus takes on a new identity to hide his past and becomes, Erik Lehnsheer. Erik moves to Israel and meets and becomes friends with a young, Charles Xavier.
My favorite Magneto moment has to be in the Fatal Attractions storyline where Professor X and his team travel to the asteriod home of Magneto and the Acolytes, Avalon to confront Magneto after his attacks on Earth. During the battle, after being attacked in Berserker mode by Wolverine, Magneto stretches forth his hand and pulls the Adamantium out of Wolverine’s body. It is only Wolverine’s healing factor that keeps him alive. Professor X then retaliates and attacks Magneto, wiping his mind clear and placing him in a coma. This storyline begins Wolverine’s storyline where he is no longer the warrior he once was, without the adamantium.
This adversary/friend rollercoaster Magneto and the X-Men go through places their relationship in a role that is unique. Unlike Batman and the Joker, or Superman and Lex Luthor, or Captain America and Red Skull; there is a shared unity in their lives. A mission to fight for the lives and rights of their Mutant race. It is, in the end, the methods they use that makes them different and at times enemies. So Magneto is in this comic book world of villian and hero, something of an enigma. He is friend. He is foe. He is good. He is evil. He is, a terrorist and he is a freedom fighter.