Dear Marvel: Please Keep Magneto Old
Much like Apple products, some superhero origins need to be updated every once in a while, or they just stop working. The next Fantastic Four movie probably shouldn't keep the part about Mr. Fantastic being a world war veteran trying to beat the USSR on the space race unless it's a period piece or some very dramatic geopolitical stuff happens within the next couple of years. Likewise, it's probably for the best that the Punisher show didn't try to convince us that Jon Bernthal fought in the Vietnam War when he was -1.
We're all for changing and updating classic comic book origins, especially when it's stuff like "Shang Chi was a racist caricature's son" or "The Falcon used to be a pimp." That said, there's one iconic origin Marvel should never touch: Magneto's. If you're not familiar with the character's tragic backstory, then we're guessing you haven't watched too many X-Men movies because two of them start with a young Magneto at the Auschwitz concentration camp, and a third one shows flashbacks to that moment:
Magneto being a Holocaust survivor is one of the few consistent parts in the unholy mess of retcons, resurrections, and duplicate characters that is the X-Men cinematic franchise -- but perhaps not for long. With the confirmation that Marvel Studios is flushing X-Men film continuity down the toilet and starting anew, there's been online chatter about reintroducing Magneto and Professor X as young people to keep the franchise fresh. Like, maybe Magneto is a survivor of a more recent genocide, and Professor X finds mutants via viral TikTok videos instead of using a telepathic helmet. But doing that would be a massive, massive mistake. (The Magneto part; call us if you liked that TikTok idea, Marvel. We can call it TixTox.)
Admittedly, Magneto's origin wasn't there when the character first appeared, but it was there when the character first became interesting. Originally, Magneto was your average megalomaniacal comic book supervillain who spoke exclusively in phrases like "Cursed do-gooders! You shall pay for defying my plans" In fact, in an early issue, he takes over a country and immediately goes full Nazi, deploying an army of SS-looking soldiers with "M" armbands.
Magneto was we know him was created when X-Men writer Chris Claremont was trying to find a way to make this Dr. Doom wannabe more interesting in the early '80s. His solution was to reveal Magneto had been at Auschwitz as a kid, which would also "tie in the super-concept of the X-Men as persecuted outcasts." The turning point is the issue when Magneto hurts Kitty Pryde (incidentally, another Jewish character) during one of his world-dominating plans and realizes he has become the very type of fascist douche he swore to destroy.
And it worked: Magneto went from showing up sporadically (at one point, he went three years without appearances) to becoming a central part of the X-Men franchise. This also turned him into one of the few Marvel characters with a very defining historical moment, like how Steve Rogers is forever tied to World War II or how certain other X-Men should have never left the '90s. Looking at you, Adam X the X-Treme.
In Magneto's case, Claremont wisely realized that having a mutant who experienced the Holocaust first-hand made the "hated and feared" part of the X-Men's central premise a lot more powerful. Magneto is a living reminder of the horrifying consequences of human intolerance. That's even more relevant today when Nazis have somehow wormed their way back into mass media, aided by the misguided idea that "we gotta hear both sides," even if one side wants to pretend the systematic extermination of millions of people never happened. Yeah, this is definitely not the time to change your most notable Holocaust survivor into something else, Marvel. Read the room.
You might be wondering: "How can the new X-Men movies be any good if one of the most important characters is impossibly freaking old?" Hmm, good question.
But, remember, these are mutants -- saying that Magneto ages at the pace of a tortoise "because magnets and stuff" isn't any crazier than saying he can lift cars with his mind. Or maybe he breaks the laws of physics the first time he uses his powers and gets thrown into a time vortex, or he died in 1963 and got accidentally snapped back into existence in Endgame because Star-Lord farted near the Infinity Stones or a thousand other possible explanations. A similar scenario could easily be concocted for Professor X ... or, you know what, go ahead and de-age X while keeping Magneto old, which would only heighten the whole "older cynicism vs. youthful optimism" dynamic they've got going on.
Point is, logic shouldn't be a reason for erasing the most important part of Magneto's identity, because after all, these are superheroes stories. Logic barely matters here.
Follow Maxwell Yezpitelok's heroic effort to read and comment every '90s Superman comic at Superman86to99.tumblr.com.
Top image: Marvel