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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Magneto is a Gypsy?

All throughout December, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today, we look at Magneto’s gypsy history.

Enjoy!

When Chris Claremont first examined Magneto’s background, it seemed clear that Magneto was meant to be Jewish.

Here is a bit from Uncanny #150…

Here is a bit from Uncanny #199…

But then X-Men Unlimited came out, making Magneto a gypsy…

A few years later, this was retconned in X-Men #72…

And he has been Jewish ever since.

34 Comments

So, there’s Magneto as the allegedly complex anti-hero! Murdering a man for….doing exactly what Erik (I mean “Magnus”) asked of him, decades ago!

No Neil, murdered for failing to do what was asked, as people found out the identity was a forgery.

Which is arguably even more idiotic.

According to that story, the guy’s forgery held up for nearly 25 years. The whole point of the forgery was so that Magneto could dodge murder charges while looking for Magda. Except in those 25 years Magneto had done a whole lot worse under his “fake” identity than under his “real” one. One murder charge versus…geez, how many crimes had Magneto committed publicly?

Magneto had absolutely no reason to kill the guy by that point. If anything, Magneto should have been using his real name to dodge the law, because he’d be safer being wanted for a single 25 year old murder than all the acts of terrorism and crimes that he’d since committed.

Another Abandoned An’ Forsaked that was the culmination of bad retcons. A bad “fix” to a pointless change, and all ultimately causing nothing but confusion to people in the long run.

It might be worth mentioning that Magneto’s background as a Holocaust survivor was itself a retcon by Claremont, don’t you think?

I never saw any logic in making Magneto a Gypsy. Dr. Doom should have sued him for origin infringement.

I was aware that Carlos Pacheco has improved a lot over the years, but seeing these old pages again so soon after seeing his recent work in Uncanny X-Men makes me realize his improvement has been more dramatic than I remembered. His art was so much worse back then, and it’s so much more subtle and well-rendered now. For example what’s up with Magneto’s weird meaty calves?

Billy Bissette, I never read this original story but after reading your explanation…wow are those dumb retcons. Just…wow.

It might be worth mentioning that Magneto’s background as a Holocaust survivor was itself a retcon by Claremont, don’t you think?

I figure that most people know that Claremont invented the Holocaust stuff.

This is one that always bothered me. Changing a character’s ethnicity (by which I mean denying their previously established ethnicity in order to give them a new one, not making them of mixed heritage to add new ethnicities without removing the old ones) is the kind of thing that’s so fraught with pitfalls that it should never be done without a really compelling reason, and the reasoning behind this one always felt like “Gypsies are all exotic and cool! Let’s make Magneto a Gypsy instead of a boring old Jewish guy!” I was glad the retcon was reretconned (the should be a word for that, like “preconned” or something. But something better than that). Too much of Magneto’s previous characterization only made sense if he was supposed to be Jewish. If someone felt it they had a story worth telling that really required Magneto to be of Gypsy heritage, they should have just said that he was of mixed Gypsy and Jewish heritage.

(And I know, some people will insist that “Gypsy” is offensive and “Roma” is the correct term, but I’ve also heard that people that are actually of that heritage use the word “Gypsy” and find “Roma” patronizing, so I’m just using the term the article uses.)

Weren’t Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver supposed to be gypsies? (Or raised by them or something…) The change to Magneto’s origin was probably supposed to simplify things by making all three of them the same. But it just muddied things up.

“It might be worth mentioning that Magneto’s background as a Holocaust survivor was itself a retcon by Claremont, don’t you think?”

Adding background to a character when it doesn’t change any of the pre-established information is not a retcon.

The term “retcon” can be applied pretty broadly. Anything retroactive can be termed a “retcon,” although yeah, I personally tend to stick to using the term just for when it contradicts previously established continuity.

I’ve seen two reasonable enough theories posited for why Marvel made the change from Jew to Gypsy…

1. Since Magneto was about to take center stage in Fatal Attractions as more of a villainous character, Marvel did not want to come off as Anti-Semitic

2. They were just flat-out worried about possibly being seen as Anti-Semitic period, and not specifically because of an upcoming storyline.

Since the 1990s also saw a Superman comic book set during the Holocaust actually avoid using the words “jew,” “Nazi” and “Holocaust” specifically because of a desire to avoid offense, I can believe either one.

While I can totally believe that Marvel’s intent was to avoid seeming anti-Semitic, “we made him a Gypsy because we didn’t want to suggest a Jew would do terrible things” is, like, a whole other level of unintentionally offensive.

I didn’t realize the gypsy version was that relatively recent. My guess would be, besides the reasons you offer, Brian, that Kevin Street’s notion of “matching” him with Pietro and Wanda may have played into it. Maybe too with Magda, his wife — wasn’t she a gypsy?

What about the stories from Classic X-Men that got reprinted in Magneto 0? Didn’t they concern the Jewish/gypsy heritage question to a degree? (Ah, looking it up on the GCD, under Magneto:The Twisting of a Soul, I see that those XMen Unlimited pages from above were reprinted in that.)

Also, the Magneto Testament series from several years back plays into this, a little. It firmly (iirc) establishes Magneto as Jewish and a Holocaust survivor. It also refers to the boy who would become Magneto as “Max Eisenhardt”. I read the collection from a local library, and it included back matter suited for classroom instruction, but I’m not sure how much of it is canon at this point.

While I can totally believe that Marvel’s intent was to avoid seeming anti-Semitic, “we made him a Gypsy because we didn’t want to suggest a Jew would do terrible things” is, like, a whole other level of unintentionally offensive.

Oh yeah, I know, it definitely is.

Bernard the Poet

January 2, 2012 at 3:08 am

If you are being charitable, I think you could argue that making Magneto a gypsy achieves two aims: 1) it dovetails neatly into Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch’s background and 2) it is a laudable attempt to publicise the often forgotten holocaust that the Nazi’s perpetuated on Gypsies. In those terms, I don’t think it is a terrible ret-con.

If the ret-con was a case of Marvel wanting to undo Magneto’s ‘Jewishness’, then I doubt that it would be simply because they didn’t want a Jewish supervillain. What probably made then nervous was that it is possible to draw parallels between Magneto and Israel’s foreign policy in the post war era.

These parallels are certainly there. I read an interview with Claremont not long after he had made Magneto headmaster of Xavier’s school, in which he compared Magneto to Ben Gurion. And in the story, we see Magneto stand before the World Court accused of Crimes Against Humanity, his defence centres on his right to defend himself and his ‘people’ from aggression. An argument that Israel uses to this day. Also it cannot be a coincidence that Claremont chooses Gabrielle Haller to be Magneto’s lawyer.

When Claremont left the X-Men, Magneto’s character changed, he became less a anti-hero and much more of a straightforward foam-at-the-mouth, psychotic supervillain. In those circumstances, I can see that Marvel might have feared that a political allegory could still be drawn. Afterall, if there is one thing the entertainment industry knows, it’s that politics is bad for business.

If you continue this feature, please consider the heritage of Ice in the Justice League. She was presented as a Norwegian ice goddess. The Justice League even visited her family after she died. But in Generation Lost, she retells her origin and says she lied about her heritage and was from a human family — even though in a previous story we had seen her family of gods. Generation Lost was a good story, but that still contradicts what has gone before.

Dan, Ice’s new origin is just…awful. Don’t get me started.

Good thing Generation Lost doesn’t exist in continuity anymore, eh?

>I figure that most people know that Claremont invented the Holocaust stuff.

Brian claims Chris Claremont invented the Holocaust; discuss! ;-)

If you are being charitable, I think you could argue that making Magneto a gypsy achieves two aims: 1) it dovetails neatly into Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch’s background and 2) it is a laudable attempt to publicise the often forgotten holocaust that the Nazi’s perpetuated on Gypsies. In those terms, I don’t think it is a terrible ret-con.

While I don’t like the first retcon of making him into a gypsy, it did have some good parts of it as mentioned above. To me the worst part was the re-retcon that made him Jewish again, as I think his reasons for killing the guy who created the identity for him 25 years after the fact were exceedingly stupid as Billy Bissette points out above.

Turning Magneto from being jewish into a gypsy, because they didn’t want a jewish supervillain is assinine! I will now be offended that Eddie Brock, as Venom, was a catholic supervillain and demand he be retconned into…..oh, I don’t know….being protestant. It’s the same “logic”.

Magneto is Romany? Or Jewish??

Funny. I just re-read Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and I could have sworn he was Chinese….

Is it not possible that he could be a gypsy AND Jewish? Roma are an introverted society within/alongside society, characterised more by lifestyle, customs and folklore than ethnicity and European Jewry at that time was similarly a microcosmic subculture within wider society, an identity defined along either ethnic and/or religious lines to a greater or lesser extent… Is it not possible that his mother was Jewish and married into a gypsy community? It’s rare, but it’s not unheard of and it did happen and it certainly would have made his situation all the more precarious in the camps…

Re-reading the text from the Unlimited issue, it occurs to me, there’s actually no reason Magneto can’t be a Jewish Pole Sinte Traveller. And gay.

It’s perfectly possible to be all of those things at once.

I’m most interested in Gabrielle Haller’s grey sweatshirt! How does Sabra know it’s in her top drawer? There’s a mystery afoot!

The thing that bugged me about the “Magneto is a Gypsy” idea (beyond the fact that it was at odds with what Claremont had been doing), was that it meant that the two top (arguably) villains in the MARVEL U (Doom and Magneto) were now Gypsies. Talk about unfortunate implications! Actually, didn’t someone at MARVEL actually mention the unfortunate implications angle as being part of the reason for retconning the Gypsy identity?

“It might be worth mentioning that Magneto’s background as a Holocaust survivor was itself a retcon by Claremont, don’t you think?”

Adding background to a character when it doesn’t change any of the pre-established information is not a retcon.

Yeah, because it makes total sense for a Holocaust survivor to do, say, take over an entire country using minions that look almost exactly like Nazi stormtroopers (scroll to the middle of the page):
http://images.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=39357&PN=98&TPN=2

I know Byrne wasn’t all that taken by Claremont’s decision to add the Holocaust to Magneto’s background

From the infamous collection of his quotes:

“I kinda wish the internet had been around. Or at least some major force that could have screamed “Why are you turning Magneto into a half-assed clone of Doctor Doom?” and cataloged each and every way in which this transformation violated the long standing continuity.”

Claremont really just added a contempory touch to Doom’s origin. Priest also kind of poked fun at it in Black Panther

Oh please John Byrne

Can you imagine the movie without the Auschwitz scene?

“I was aware that Carlos Pacheco has improved a lot over the years, but seeing these old pages again so soon after seeing his recent work in Uncanny X-Men makes me realize his improvement has been more dramatic than I remembered. His art was so much worse back then, and it’s so much more subtle and well-rendered now. For example what’s up with Magneto’s weird meaty calves?”

Urggg…this is right around the time period that I got back into the comics and one of the main reasons I bought it was for Carlos Pachecos art. I’m a millennial so I got into the comics with xmen 1 and then back into them around operation zero tolerance. I memorized his and Salvador Larrocas names and would try to draw like Pacheco, often.

Is it nostalgia that I miss his art like this? More cartooney and in line with your criticism? When I got Uncanny 1 last month I felt like his art was too subtle and not as distinctive- which is exactly your criticism blah :)

I have to disagree, T – Pacheco was better in those days. These days he’s so much more generic, eliminating most of the stylization that made him unique in favor of homogenizing his work to better fit in these days of “realism.” What you call subtelty I call dull. Comics are all about over the top, and over the past three issues of Uncanny X-Men, I’m relieved to say some of Pacheco’s stylization has returned, along with a much brighter and less photoshop-effect looking color palette. Realism is fine for a few artists, but when everyone emulates it, the medium turns bland and lifeless. Stylization is an ineherently much better fad since it by nature leads to art that is unique to the artist, it’s his “style.” Otherwise, why even credit the artist?

As for the Wanda/Pietro thing, they and Magneto had NO IDEA they were related until the 1980s. If Wanda and Pietro were born in Wundagore (I’m assuming this is still canon) The High Evolutionary (and his New Men) would likely have had no interest in the ethnicity of his guests. When they were given to the Maximoffs to raise (again, I’m assuming this is still canon), they were raised as Gypsies. Magneto could have been a Unitarian for all that it matters, because he had no part in their upbringing.

I am not too familiar with Sabra … does she have some kind of mutant sweatshirt location power? Or does she know what is in any top drawer in any room? If that is the case, if I were to remove the top drawer, would she then know what was in the drawer immediately below said drawer, as that is the new top drawer?

I would have preferred that they left Magneto as a gypsy, but kept the rest of the origin. As someone else pointed out above, it’s too often forgotten that the Nazi Holocaust targeted lots of different groups, including Roma. Magneto’s origin could still work as Claremont imagined it and give a bit of attention to a long-forgotten and disparaged group.

I’m with Shaun. Although it does annoy me that while gypsies have their own culture, superstitions, traditions, rituals, etc., we never see any of this in comic-book gypsies. It could be rationalized (Silver Age Magneto seems like someone who’d consider any ethnic differences trivial compared to Mutant/Human) but it still bugs me.
That does remind me, in one old Invaders story, Doom sabotages one of Hitler’s projects when he hears him ranting about purging the world of gypsies/roma.

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