It’s a question that’s been asked regularly since 1963 – who wins, the Avengers or the X-Men? Both teams debuted in the same month, September 1963, and have been pitted against each other in a number of crossover issues and big event limited series. Fifty years into their career and the rivalry still remains, except now the hypothetical battlefield is often the big screen instead of the printed page. MTV asked James McAvoy, who reprises his role as Charles Xavier in X-Men: Days of Future Past which super team would win in a big screen brawl. McAvoy’s answer should surprise no one.
“There’s like 40 of us, and like five of them,” he said. “And one of them’s a half-man, half-robot: You just turn off the power and he’s done.” Young Professor X seemed pretty confident that his mutant team could trounce Marvel’s mightiest, concluding that any fight “would be a disaster” for the Avengers. But is that opinion supported by the comics? We looked at some classic Avengers and X-Men throw downs to find out.
UNCANNY X-MEN #9 (1965)
The two teams first crossed paths when they simultaneously tried to confront the villain called Lucifer. The X-Men were told to distract the Avengers while Professor X confronted the bad guy himself, and the teen mutants actually held their own! Cyclops knocked Mjolnir out of Thor’s hands and Beast deftly caught Captain America’s shield with his feet. For a team of youngsters, the X-Men really kept the Avengers on the ropes. But whatever edge the X-Men had was not allowed to play out, since Xavier chimed in to clear matters up once he had dealt with Lucifer.
AVENGERS #53 (1968)
The teams next clashed a few years later, but this time the X-Men weren’t acting of their own free will. Magneto brainwashed the teens into tangoing with the Avengers, a team that had since added both Hawkeye and Black Panther to their ranks. After losing the advantage of surprise, the X-Men fell one-by-one; Black Panther bested Beast, Hawkeye used a trick arrow to stifle Iceman’s powers, and Giant-Man used his enormous fist to put the squeeze on Cyclops. By the time Angel freed his team from Magneto’s thrall, they were already defeated.
X-MEN VS. AVENGERS #1-4 (1987)
When the Avengers sought to arrest Magneto for his past crimes against humanity, they immediately clashed with the master of magnetism’s new-found allies – the X-Men. The two teams traded blows in an evenly matched battle, one that tested Black Knight’s blade against Wolverine’s claws. But the real victory was determined in a courtroom, where Magneto was acquitted of his crimes after turning himself in. The ex-super villain’s free pass may have enraged humans all over the world, but Magneto still managed to beat the Avengers at their own game.
AVENGERS VS. X-MEN (2012)
It wasn’t so long ago that Marvel Comics built up a whole big event around the two teams’ rivalry, an event that ended up being the biggest battle these heroes have ever fought. Whereas the previous entries on this conflict countdown involved just a handful of heroes fighting, this one involved pretty much every member of every one of both teams many factions. The war started because of the fast approaching Phoenix Force, a cosmic entity that the Avengers sought to avoid, fearing its reputation as a destructive being, while the X-Men welcomed it with open arms, wishing for it to jump start the dying mutant race. Things went from bad to apocalyptic once the Phoenix Force merged with five big time X-Men, forcing all the heroes to put their differences aside in an effort to control the overwhelming power. The Avengers’ Scarlet Witch and X-Men’s Hope Summers came together to eradicate the Phoenix Force.
But in the event’s tie-in mini-series called Avengers vs. X-Men: Versus, which focused in on specific one-on-one skirmishes, X-Men like Colossus, Magik and Domino soundly defeated their target Avengers, walking away victorious from eight of the 15 battles.
BOX OFFICE (2000-CURRENT)
In addition to the comic book battles, these two teams have also been duking it out for control of the box office. Yeah, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is riding high right now, and the films’ success has elevated previously lesser-known characters like Iron Man and Thor firmly into Spider-Man fame territory, but none of that would have been possible without the success of the first blockbuster Marvel franchise – the X-Men. The mutants picked up the baton first carried by the Blade film and took it all the way to continued box office domination; adjusted for inflation, the second and third installments in the original X-Men trilogy blow away every non-Iron Man MCU movie. But as big of hits as the X-Men films are, the Marvel movies perform much more consistently; MCU movies average $290 million while X-movies haul in a respectable $212 million.
With each team claiming two victories and two battles ending in draws, it looks like McAvoy’s red carpet bluster has been tempered with a little it of truth. There’s no clear winner right now, although the Avengers’ surge in popularity feels like it surpasses the wild success the X-Men enjoyed 20 years ago. The real tiebreaker could very well come with X-Men: Days of Future Past, a film that could push the X-Men’s film franchise average up to Marvel Cinematic Universe levels. Until then, this is anyone’s fight.