Marvel Comics‘ Magneto has battled hatred his entire life. As a Jewish boy growing up in Germany during the aftermath of World War I, he witnessed the Nazi’s rise to power. Years later, he and his family were sent to one of their horrific concentration camps. Magneto’s family perished, but he survived the hellish ordeal, emerging from it with a fierce determination to protect his people by any means necessary.
The Master of Magnetism’s determined belief that mutantkind should rule humanity led to multiple clashes with the X-Men, a team founded by his former best friend Charles Xavier. Years later, X-Men leader Cyclops impressed Magneto by uniting mutantkind in the aftermath of the M-Day that devastated its numbers. So much so, he joined the X-Men and since then has tried to walk a more heroic path.
This March, Magneto returns to the more extreme form of justice he originally practiced as he embarks upon a solo quest to ruthlessly eliminate the enemies of mutantkind, chronicled in a new ongoing “Magneto” series by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta.
CBR News: Cullen, you’ve explored the X-Universe before, but you’ve never had the chance to write Magneto.Â What do you find most interesting about the character? Which aspects of his personality do you really want to explore?
Cullen Bunn: Magneto has seen horrible crimes against both humanity and mutantkind, and he’d do anything to make sure such atrocities don’t befall mutants again. In his quest to save mutantkind, though, he has done some pretty ghastly things to the world at large. I’m interested in knowing if Magneto is blind to the inherent evil in his own ruthless pursuit of justice. Or, if he does see it, does he view his actions as necessarily evil?
Part of the draw of writing a “Magneto” book is the title character, but what other elements of the series appealed to you? What sort of potential did you see in a solo “Magneto” series? What’s the mandate?
I’m drawn to the idea of a more grounded Magneto, a dark angel who has had his wings clipped to some degree. He’s drifting from place to place, staying off the grid. He’s investigating threats to mutants, taking them out in their early stages, before they become more dangerous. And he’s acting with extreme prejudice.
There is so much room to really delve into Magneto as a character — to look at the things that make him tick in some new ways. And the story has so much room to explore the Marvel Universe, to grow and expand. There’s opportunity here to tell some quiet stories as well as really epic tales.
Another thing I’m excited about is the idea of Magneto as this urban legend — almost like a ghost story that is told on dark nights. Magneto is a scary, scary guy, and when he makes an appearance it leaves scars.
Magneto currently is part of Scott Summers’ faction of the X-Men, but I understand that in your series he will have parted ways with that group and be on his own. Can you tease what happened to cause him to break with the X-Men?
I can’t really tell you too much about Magneto’s decision to strike out on his own. I think it’s best just to say that he’s haunted by disappointment and betrayal. After being with the X-Men for so long, he now feels that he can be of more help to mutants on his own. He feels as if his involvement with the X-Men has taken his eye off the real prize.
What can you tell us about Magneto’s mindset and sort of guiding philosophy when your series begins?
Magneto sees himself as the ultimate deterrent. If you mess with mutants, he’ll find you — and that’s a meeting that will not end prettily. He will not tolerate even the most minor slight against his people, because he feels that the tiniest leniency just opens the door to be stabbed in the back. With new mutants popping up all over the world, he doesn’t feel as if he has the luxury of mercy.
In terms of plot and themes what is your initial “Magneto” story about?
Initially, we’ll be playing with the theme of power versus powerlessness. Why do people want power? What are the unexpected consequences? What will they do with this power? These are questions for Magneto as well as others. Right now, Magneto’s powers are out-of-whack. He’s weakened, and he has to curtail his activities accordingly. In going after these “lesser” threats, though, he’s tapping into a brutal side of his personality.
The question then becomes — if Magneto is pitiless and hardcore when he is low on power, what on Earth would happen if he ever reached his full potential again? Would he temper it back? Or will there be too much blood in the water by that time?
Who are some of the supporting characters we’ll see in “Magneto?” Will your protagonist have any regular allies that he interacts with?
At first, Magneto will be on his own. He will, however, soon realize that he needs allies. He will utilize his own network of contacts, and there will be some new characters showing up. We’ll see a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who are hounding Magneto. And we might witness the rise of a new band of Acolytes.
I think the Acolytes will spark a lot of conversation — eventually. To begin with, though, we’re pretty focused on Magneto.
What about obstacles and adversaries? What are some of the threats Magneto will run afoul of in the opening issues of this series?
As for the threats Magneto faces, he has no crystal ball. He cannot see the future. He is dealing with facts, probabilities, and (in some cases) blatant guesswork. He doesn’t have the time or the desire to let the enemies of mutantkind be tried in a court of law. He’s bringing the gavel down himself, sometimes preemptively.
In the first arc, Magneto is on the trail of a murderer — but he quickly discovers that there is much more to the killer — and to the forces that drive him.
There are dark forces at work behind the scenes here, puppet masters who are guiding some of the threats to mutants. Sooner or later, Magneto must face them — but they may be too powerful for him.
We’ve talked about story; let’s start to wrap up by talking about the work of your collaborator artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta. What do you feel he brings to the book as an artist?
Gabriel might be an unexpected choice for this book, but I think he’s a perfect fit for the tone of these stories. His work is moody and provocative.
Also, I think he makes Magneto look a little like me. You know, really cool and good looking.
Okay — bald — but I’ll take what I can get.â€¨
[Laughs] Finally, in terms of location and story, where do you want to take Magneto in this series? What places and types of stories do you want to explore with the character?
Magneto is wandering the Marvel Universe in this series, so he could go pretty much anywhere. The first tale is a little more subdued — Magneto in small town America — but it can (and will) go to some wild places from that point.
I’m hoping that when readers start following this series, there is some lively debate over this question:
Is Magneto right?
“Magneto” debuts in March from Marvel Comics.