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7/29 – Declarative Rabbit Says…

Whether you loved the change or disliked it, Chris Claremont dramatically (and retroactively) changed the characterization of the comic book character Magneto.

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37 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

July 29, 2008 at 10:34 am

Haven’t read Claremont’s Magneto since ….
…. since …..
…. since …..
awww, the hell with it! ;-)

Are you talking about post UXM #150 characterisation or something more recent that I don’t know about?

Agreed.

And I think it was a good thing for the most part. I wasn’t crazy about Mags taking over as the X-men teacher, but not because it wasn’t a logical character progression, just that it was around the time when the Claremont style was starting to get really predictable and Magneto ended up just talking in the exact same voice as Xavier. It would have been more interesting if he brought a bit more edge to his leadership, betraying the occasional ruthless instinct that would get him into conflict with the other X-men/New Mutants (kind of like what Cable did later). But again, it was an organic development and an interesting era in X-history.

All in all, Claremont made Magneto a great 3-dimensional character beyond the cookie-cutter megalomaniac he’d been shown to be up until then. The Claremont/Byrne two-parter in the volcano remains my favorite Magneto story ever (granted, he was still a hardcore villain at this stage, but a very interesting, level-headed and charismatic one, far from a cookie-cutter mold).

I liked what he did to the character. I dislike the fandom wankers who think anyone who portrays Magneto outside of Claremont’s standard as being untrue to the character.

“I liked what he did to the character. I dislike the fandom wankers who think anyone who portrays Magneto outside of Claremont’s standard as being untrue to the character.”

I agree with this.

Although, overall, I think Claremont himself didn’t understood what he had accomplished. He created a villain that completely stood out from the others, because he wasn’t evil in the common sense, had perhaps the single greatest backstory of a villain ever, could have generated thousands of great stories, and what does he do? He makes Magneto abandon his cause to be “a good guy” and take care of the New Mutants. And then he moved on to very evil villains again, like the Reavers and the Marauders (not that they weren’t awesome, of course).

Silver Age Magneto was a terrible, one-dimensional character. He was evil because he was evil and liked doing evil things, period.

I think that’s the reason why Morrison’s Xorn story rubbed ne the wrong way. With the exception of one very brief hint that there might be some regret down deep, it acted as if all those years of making Magneto into a more nuanced, complex, human character never happened. YES, Magneto’s has always done monstrous things. That still doesn’t negate the other stuff.

Captain Qwert Jr

July 29, 2008 at 11:47 am

The only thing i dislike about Claremont’s Magneto, is rooting him in the holocaust.

Aside from the discomfort of booing a concentration camp survivor, It ages him way to much, and will continue to do so. (Why didn’t he use his awesome powers to take over the world before super-heroes and plastics made it too difficult?).

Also, It doesn’t flow naturally that a man whose family was killed by a racial supremacist becomes one. Oh, you can make a up a story about a generic( for lack of a better word), brutalized man who rejects the human race for, in his eyes, a sinless new race, but the holocaust was a specific event that happened for specific reasons. Reasons that will be thrown into Magneto’s face every single day. Constantly saying “I’m rubber, your glue” to them doesn’t cut it, and never showing Magneto addressing them, insults the reader’s intelligence.

Hey, he’s the only Magneto I know, really. I like the Shakespearean touches.

“Also, It doesn’t flow naturally that a man whose family was killed by a racial supremacist becomes one. ”

Oh, yes it does.

I liked what he did to the character. I dislike the fandom wankers who think anyone who portrays Magneto outside of Claremont’s standard as being untrue to the character.

Yeah, that’s basically why I think it is worthwhile to note this bit occasionally.

QWERT: Magneto got de-aged in the Defenders before the X-Men were re-launched. He could have been in his early 20’s around the re-launch.

From my psycholocy classes, and from years of dealing with my ex-wife, I can say that Magneto acts like a standard self-righteous villain. He believes himself to be right and is unable to see that he is acting in the exact same way the nazis did. In his eyes, it’s 100% not the same. Mutants are a different race, not just another nationality. He’s acting in defense of his people, not trying to exterminate one group. Should some humans die, they’ll eventually be replaces anyway, so what’s the difference. He and his kind (mutants) have the RIGHT to rule mere humans, therefore his acrions are pure, noble, and just.

Is he dead wrong? Yep. He’ll never admit it, though… not even to himself. Were he to do so, the weight of his actions would bury him. He’d have to admit that his entire existence and that everything he has ever believed and done has been wrong. That’s a nearly impossible thing for a stable person to do, much less a self-righteous egomaniac.

Here’s an interesting thought: Mutants AREN’T a different race, merely a different breed of humanity. Consider that different species of animals can’t breed. Cats can’t mix with dogs, who can’t mix with birds, who can’t mix with fish, who can’t mix with monkeys, who can’t mix with humans. Mutants CAN mix with humans, therefore they are not a different species, but a different breed. A cocker spaniel can mix with a lab because they’re the same species, just like humans & mutants.

I just wish people would stop going back on it.

I like A Doctor Doom who would actually do a terrific job ruling the Earth (just at the cost of everyone’s freedoms) and a Lex Luthor who would actually do a great job of helping everyone (so long as he could take credit for it and Superman wasn’t around) a whole lot more than the EVIL EVIL EVIL PETTY PETTY PETTY versions.

I like it when the villain has a point.

Adding on that(since I didn’t actually talk about Magneto there), I don’t mind it when we do get a different take on Magneto (hell, even Bendis’ take where he was just frustrated and tired from all his failures. There are parts of House of M that are actually pretty good character-wise. It’s just paced all wrong).

So long as the take is well-thoughtout and complex, I’m for it.

MATT D: Check out the Emperor Doom graphic novel. Doom used Purple Man and some kind of amplifying crystal to take over the world. He wins, end of story. He made a pretty good ruler, too. But… he got bored & dejected, so he quit. IIRC, Daredevil had something to do with the end of his reigh, but I’m not sure. It’s been a few years since I’ve read it, so it’s entirely likely that I’m monkeying up something, but I’m 100% that Doom uses PM & a crystal & takes over the world.

There is no other pound-head-against-wall thing in the entire X-canon than Marvel’s continued ignorance of Claremont’s Magneto. And at this point, it’s not even a comic-book ignorance, considering that every mainstream portrayal of Magneto — from McKellan’s movie version to the animated version — uses Claremont’s as a template. Look, I love the Claremont/Byrne era as much as the next guy, but Claremont didn’t leave when Byrne did, and the X-franchise is more than just pastiches of the dozen Lee/Kirby issues. There are actually people out there who read an X-book after 1981 and liked it, and Claremont actually wrote something other than 22 monthly pages of annoying Claremontisms for 17 years. The fact that Magneto became an interesting, even POPULAR character shouldn’t be discounted simply because it happened after “Dark Phoenix.”

It’s no big secret that Clairmont was at his best when Byrne was on the book. To me, it’s pretty clear that he needs a creative mind to bounce ideas off of. Someone to help guide or to tweak things, or just to keep things on track. Kirby was like that, too.

Yeah, the 22 pages of annoying Claremontisms didn’t start until, like 1987, 88.

And I wish creators *and* fans would remember that, for all his vaunted intellect, Doom is still a raging megalomaniac and petty tyrant who’s been obsessing over a ridiculous grudge for twenty years.

Doom-fandom runs way too close to “Fascism isn’t so bad, after all” to my tastes.

I read in an interview once MANY years ago, to the effect that John Byrne emphatically disagreed with Claremont’s characterization of Magneto as a quasi-good man. Byrne felt that Magneto was just pure evil, worthless. Can’t source that, sorry. The Claremont characterization is far, far, far richer and more interesting.

I think the fact that Claremont’s writing deteriorated into parody so long ago, makes people more willing than they should be to dismiss his work. The entire X-franchise as fanboi’s know it today rests on a foundation of Claremont’s ideas and work. Plus his Marvel Team-Ups were awesome. ;-)

Claremont/Byrne were a formidable team all over the Marvel U in the late 70s / early 80s, not just on X-men. Sad when their partnership dissolved. But the Claremont / Paul Smith X-men were also amazing.

Random Stranger

July 29, 2008 at 3:37 pm

“Also, It doesn’t flow naturally that a man whose family was killed by a racial supremacist becomes one.”

I’ve known way too many Israelis that fall under that heading to be surprised by it at this point. Being a victim doesn’t make one into a saint.

I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned that Claremont’s Xavier was as big of a change from Lee/Kirby’s as Claremont’s Magneto was. Xavier as he was written in the Silver Age was as much a ruthless zealot in his own way as Magneto, someone very willing to lie, brainwash, and put people in harm’s way for his cause of mutant/human integration. Just as Claremont softened Magneto from villain to zealot, he softened Xavier from zealot to mentor.

Mike Loughlin

July 29, 2008 at 4:23 pm

I think it makes sense for Magneto to go from concentration camp survivor to would-be mutant dictator. In his mind, if one takes the idea of “never again” to the ultimate extreme, the only way to prevent another holocaust is to become the ruling power. Xavier & the X-Men are weak appeasers who cowtow to a human race that will never accept them. To Magneto, it’s domination or extinctition.

In Claremont’s version of the character, however, Magneto comes to see his actions as too extreme. He lets that doubt manifest itself when Kitty Pryde gets injured, and it grows into a new philosophical outlook. He may not care for humanity, but he realizes he has become a monster. Xavier sees his change, sees the good in him, and (in a heroic act of faith) makes him his successor. Claremont’s Magneto experienced real growth and change, unusual in serialized fiction, Of course, it was undone years later, but the character arc was still impressive.

Anyone else remember the Joe Kelly & Alan Davis issue, in which Magneto decides whether or not to attack humanity again based on the actions of one man? I liked that one.

Magneto was a good villain when Claremont and Byrne were writing him, but he came a better character once Claremont started the arc that lasted from the 2nd Cockrum run all the way to the JRjr run. The Holocaust back story works for Magneto because, as Mike mentioned, he realizes that that he has basically turned into a Nazi. What made the story greater was that it wasn’t an overnight conversion either. A great issue was #193 (I think, not 100% sure about the issue number), wherein Rachel wanted to kill some humans who had almost killed Kitty and Charles…and Magneto, of all people, is the one who talks her out of it.

The problem I have with the portrayals of Magneto by Morrison, Lobdell, and others after Claremont is that they simply returned him to a raving batshit homicidal maniac without taking into account anything that happened with the character under Claremont, or even under Louise Simonson when she wrote him during New Mutants after Claremont left. I don’t have a problem with Magneto being a villain, – as others pointed out, it’s not about being a fandom wanker who think anyone who portrays Magneto outside of Claremont’s standard as being untrue to the character isn’t really true – I have a problem with people who portray Magneto solely based on his 60s characteristics while ignoring everything that happened to the character during the 80s. That’s what made the Morrison arc disappointing for me, in that he didn’t do something new with Magento the way he did with the franchise as a whole.

And yes, I realize that was his point, that Magneto’s way was old and outdated, etc, etc….but I expected more, that’s all, or at least, a new, fresh, unique take on the character (the closest we saw was maybe during the end of the Kelly/Davis story, the Magneto War, where I saw lots of potential of setting up Magneto as a mutant Ben-Gurion, sadly that went nowhere). Magneto setting up human concentration camp style furnaces works if the 80s never happened, but those stories did happen, and to ignore them does a disservice to the character. But, that’s just my opinion, others can (and will) disagree…

Brian, what exactly did Claremont retroactively change about the character? I don’t really recall Magneto having much of a back story before he began working on him, so there wasn’t much to change, was there? And one of the bigger retcons was that Magneto was the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, but Claremont didn’t write that story…

Claremont added the “sometimes Magneto’s powers make him crazy, which is why sometimes he acted totally evil” retcon, which is a pretty significant change to Magneto’s characterization.

Ah yes…from X-men Vol. 2…I’ll have to reread those, since I can’t remember the details, since I remember he also retconned something about Moira programming him to be ‘better’, but it didn’t stick…that he eventually made the same choices he would have made anyway or something.

Also, It doesn’t flow naturally that a man whose family was killed by a racial supremacist becomes one.

That’s actually one of my favorite parts of his characterization and far from lacking in real world examples as well. One of the main reasons Israel still doesn’t have a constitution after all these years is because they can’t seem to draw one up that falls into agreement with the overzealous religious part of their population without being basically fascist (The ‘Jewish country strictly for Jewish people’ versus the more secular ‘equal rights for all citizens’ debate).

Captain Qwert Jr

July 30, 2008 at 7:33 am

I will concede the argument I gave, though i don’t think every reason against it was vaild.

But, I did not quite express the argument i wanted to give. I didn’t feel ‘the victims becomes no different from his tormentors’ scenario fit Magneto. He did not became a Jewish Supremacist. He became a Jew who sought the extermination of Jews.

As for Magneto’s moral status, or anyone’s, It takes a lot of discipline from writers to deal with any kind of moral ambiguity.
Most can’t, especially in the Marvel U of today, where hurt feelings can absolve you from any crime.(chilling if it’s that’s a reflection of the fans). Anyway making him too bad, has been addressed satisfactorily, in the above comments.

OTOH Making him too good, as Claremont did at times, can be worse than making him too evil. Showing a human side, or having been wronged does not absolve evil deeds, past or present or future. At the very least making a wanted man head of your school, is a tad irresponsible. And that most X-men seemed to accept the introduction of a wanted murderer into their lives, didn’t say much about them. Were they afraid to question Prof. X, or just they just didn’t care if he killed a bunch of norms? It seriously weakened the X-Men’s moral authority, which is all that separates outlaw heroes from militia groups.

To take another villain, Dr. Doom’s awesome talent and charisma, his personal code of honor, and his occasional lapses of human feeling, should only make people think has the answers. To make emotion overide reason. (Really, there should be a communist-like secular cult around Doom. If there was a guy who had true super-science at his command, wouldn’t he get a following?)
But, Doom is still driven primarily by anger and arrogance, not altruism. He may be greatest man in the Marvel U (That is how he should be written, not as the joke he is today, but I digress) as far as talent goes, but he still wastes them in his low, squalid hatred of Richards, and his selfish need to have everyone bow to him…as it should be! Good impulses may flesh a villainous character out, but they should never overwhelm there the flaws that make them villains.

One more thing on Mags, it began to make create an Arch-villain vacuum with the X-men. A vacuum of such force that it called into being one lame baddie after another in it overwhelming need to be filled.

I think that this discussion goes to show both the advantages and the limitations of working on the development of a character in open-ended and continuous fiction. Now, I’m not an expert on Magneto or the X.Men mythos, but I guess I know enough to follow the discussion. It seems that the charactoer has gone though a period of development and maturation: At the beginning it was basically your regular moustache-twirling bad guy, until a very interesting backstory and motivation were given to the character, turning him into a great tragic figure of a villain. It is at this point that the character ripened. However, since there’s no end to the story and you have to keep using the character (being hte most important X-Men villain and all) the creators are forced to find new settings and scenarios for the character to play with which, even if they can be interesting (some of the times), are not nearly as satisfying as that ripe, quintessential version of the character. It’s no surprise, then, that that’s the version used in other media. No surprise, either, that the comic book creators cyclically try to find ways to return the character to the status quo.

Of course, this trapping doesn’s concern only Magneto, but basically every comic book character that has an open-ended, in.continuity story. But Magneto happens to be a particularly good example of the phenomenon.

Ironic Fascist Magneto is the only good Magneto.

“He may be greatest man in the Marvel U”

No, no, no, no, NO! Wrong! Doom is NOT the greatest man in the Marvel Universe, because Reed Richards is a better man than him in every way that truly matters. That’s the whole POINT.

People keep saying super*heroes* are adolescent power fantasies. I always wonder if they’ve taken a good look at the super*villains* lately.

Note how even the ardent Claremont supporters merely think that the detractors place the point at which he became annoying to read too early, not that they think it never happened at all. Nobody thinks that.

Also, this whole fuss over whether it’s “wrong” to show a few sympathetic traits in the villains is just silly, and really kind of a non-issue. Giving a _fictional character_ a few extra dimensions, including a positive or relatable trait here or there is a harmless writer’s tool, and to suggest that it’s turning people into real-life fascists is utter nonsense. By far the vast majority of “Doom fans” I’ve come across are those who thinks it’s funny to talk in florid, melodramatic egomaniacal statements while pretending to hold a giant goblet. There exist no “Doomists” who’ve been seduced by the shameful, insufficiently rigid sympathetic portrayals of irresponsible writers, simple as that.

“He did not became a Jewish Supremacist. He became a Jew who sought the extermination of Jews.”

How do you see that?

“OTOH Making him too good, as Claremont did at times, can be worse than making him too evil. Showing a human side, or having been wronged does not absolve evil deeds, past or present or future. At the very least making a wanted man head of your school, is a tad irresponsible. And that most X-men seemed to accept the introduction of a wanted murderer into their lives, didn’t say much about them. Were they afraid to question Prof. X, or just they just didn’t care if he killed a bunch of norms? It seriously weakened the X-Men’s moral authority, which is all that separates outlaw heroes from militia groups.”

They weren’t all accepting. Cyclops was very against the idea (tho he left a couple of issues later, so kind of a moot point), and Wolverine and some of the others would occasionally let their feelings be known that, while they were willing to give him a chance, they wouldn’t forgive and forget so easily. Interestingly enough, the New Mutants were far less accepting of Magneto, it felt like whenever he sneezed, one of them would freak out that he was “showing his true colors again!”…

Captain Qwert Jr

August 1, 2008 at 10:58 am

Guido: I do think in Magneto’s case you can ALMOST walk the line with him, though he should always be in the villain category. He should have valid, if cold-blooded arguments on his side. which should serve to only make him more insidiously threatening to Xavier’s Dream.

Michael: Yes, yes, yes, yes, Yes! Doom discovered time travel! Doom seized the Power Cosmic! Bested the devil in Hell. Doom dares all! He is the most capable, brilliant, dangerous man the world has ever known. He could do it all! A new Julius Caesar or Sammy Davis Jr!

wwk5d:
On Question 1:I actually have to point out, that Jews are part of the human race?

On Question 2: occasional mutterings are not a rejection. They did forgive and forget extremely easily. He never should have got through the front door.

Based on your unclear statement, you may have had to. And what a stupid thing to insinuate, that I don’t consider Jews part of the human race. I was referring to the fact that your statement/assessment of Magneto was just plain wrong. “He did not became a Jewish Supremacist. He became a Jew who sought the extermination of Jews” doesn’t quite work. If we follow your train of thought, he DID become a Jewish Supremacist because he did want to all Gentiles. Of course, replace Jewish with Mutant and Gentiles with non-Mutants.

With regards to question 2, I agree if he had suddenly showed up on the front door, out of the blue, in #201 saying “Hi, I heard Charles isn’t around anymore and you guys have an opening for a new headmaster. How about it, guys?” If you taker into account his character arc from # 150 to # 200, it does make a little more sense. The Magneto pre #150 didn’t deserve it.

Of course, I actually have to point out, that Jews are gentiles are part of the human race, while mutants are fictional comic book characters?

Sorry, Jews AND gentiles.

While I like Claremont’s portrayal, I think he essentially went too far too fast. Magneto should have spent years on his own, probably with some sort of prison time, before ever being accepted amongst the X-Men. He certainly shouldn’t have been put in charge of the New Mutants while still trying to figure out his own beliefs.

I’ve always wanted to see a storyline where he realizes that he’s actually not a very good leader, at all. He mainly attracts fanatics, criminals, and the desperate. Anyone with real courage, decency, and common sense eventually leaves. He doesn’t inspire others. He preys on their zealotry, greed, and fear.

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