Magneto has had a long and winding road since his comics debut, and only continues to evolve in his own ongoing series from writer Cullen Bunn. Since splintering off from Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men team, the Master of Magnetism has found a new mission of avenging mutants who have perished at the hands of humans.
While there’s plenty of mystery left for the villain-turned-hero-turned-antihero in “Magneto,” it may have to hold off for a little longer. Bunn’s “Magneto” is one of four series involved in the “March to AXIS,” which sets up the Marvel Comics event coming later this year — and promises to present Magneto’s reaction to the fact that the villainous Nazi the Red Skull has stolen the brain of Charles Xavier.
To that end, Bunn joined X-Position to discuss all things “Magneto,” including the evolution of the character, how the lead-in to “AXIS” affects the series, his family, power-set limitations and more.
Alex is up first with a question about Magento’s kids — namely, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Polaris.
Hi, Mr. Bunn! First of all, I’d like to compliment you and the book; it has far exceeded the already high expectations I had for it! I hope it continues to run for many years!
Thanks so much, Alex! I’m really glad you like it!
Second, I’d like to know how important you consider Magneto’s children to be for the character, and if we should expect to see them sometime on the book. And I must ask, since it’s crossing over with Uncanny Avengers in “AXIS,” will he become aware of the plans the Red Skull had for Wanda? And of her more than turbulent relationship with his dear ex, Rogue? Because I can’t even begin to imagine how he would react to both pieces of information.
Magneto plays a pretty important role in “AXIS,” both in his own series and in the main event book, so I have to balance the story elements that Rick Remender is using with what is going to happen in my book. Something that was important to me, though, was to make sure that I was moving Magneto’s story along, even while being involved in “AXIS.” I’ve always intended to look at his relationship with his children and with Rogue, and this event gives me the perfect opportunity to do a little of that. Once the dust settles a little, I’m hoping to revisit that a little more. The Red Skull’s actions (both with Xavier and with Scarlet Witch) will be a pretty big influence on him in the days to come. As for Rogue’s relationship with the Scarlet Witch, Magneto may be a little less concerned with that, because his own connection with Rogue is going to be rocky at best. She’s not really going to be a fan of his current course of action.
Lucyinthesky is up next with a query on Magneto’s methods and his rationale behind them.
1) I was wondering if at some point Magneto’s journey will take him to a place in which he could begin to question his methods?
I think Magneto is always questioning his methods. He knows that what he’s doing is “evil” but he’s doing it for the “right” reasons. There will come a moment, of course, where he’s going to teeter on the edge. On one side is the realization that he has committed some pretty ghastly acts of terrorism. On the other side is the idea that he hasn’t taken his war far enough.
He could fall either way, actually.
2) Will we find more about how he survived Genosha as well as other episodes of his past and how this affects his perspective at present?
That’s an interesting question.
There are a number of loose end storylines that I’d love to tie up. Magneto surviving Genosha is one of them. That said, with a series like this I have to be careful how much I’m working into the story. I’ve worked on a number of books for which I planned a long game. Take “Venom” and “Fearless Defenders,” for example. I had long outlines for both of those series, and those outlines included lots of subplots and side plots and B and C storylines. But because the books ended, I wasn’t able to get to those tales.
For “Magneto,” I wrote a much tighter outline for how the story would unfold. A number of those subplots had to be moved to the side. That doesn’t mean I won’t get to them, it just means that I want to make sure I’m moving the primary story along. You never know what will happen in the series. There have already been a few curveballs thrown my way. That’s just the nature of this kind of book. I just want to make sure that I tell the tightest story I can with however many issues I get.
But if I have room (and it makes sense) to address some of those outstanding questions, I will.
Derek has a few questions about Magneto’s past and his present.
1) One of my favorite Magneto stories was the one where he faced Zaladane when she wielded her supposed sister Polaris’ stolen power in the Savage Land. At several points before killing her Magneto’s internal monologue had him stating Zala was like a mirror reflection of himself and in later years we know he was silently aware all along that he was Polaris’ father. What’s your take on Zala’s brutal death now, given that it prompted his renewed war on humanity and her still ambiguous connection to Magneto and his family?
I was recently looking at those issues while reading up on Rogue and Magneto, and we may be seeing a flashback to that time period soon (although not Zaladane). My understanding was that Zaladane was not a blood relation to Magneto. Instead, she shared a mother with Polaris. I do think it’s interesting that Magneto saw some of himself in Zaladane. And even though he saw a connection, he executed her and used her actions as a catalyst for his war against humanity. To me, that shows some doubt and indecisiveness on Magneto’s part, maybe even some instability. He’s like a match, waiting to be struck. He’s already on a one-man crusade to protect mutants, but it wouldn’t take much for him to turn that into a full-scale war.
Thank goodness he’s not running into any humans who are perpetrating some big-scale evil on mutantkind. That might send him over the edge again.
And, yes, that was sarcasm.
2) Magneto having a human fanbase is something that we haven’t seen before, or at the very least I don’t recall it. Where did that come from?
I have to dance around this question a little bit, because if I say too much about my inspiration for these characters, I’ll spoil some surprises to come. Let’s just say that their fandom for Magneto comes from a very dark place.
3) So far I am loving the style of the book. What have been the influences for the flashbacks and the first person narrative? At least in the later I was given the impression that the first person narrative was out of fashion for mainstream comics but personally I love it.
I wanted to give this series something of a noir/detective feel, and that’s where the first person narration comes from. It’s a nod to hardboiled P.I. stories. A lot of folks have said it reminds them of the TV show “Dexter,” and I can see that.
I will say this: every time I start a new series, I swear to myself that I will not use first-person narration. Simply put, it’s often pretty miserable to write. I have to make sure it sounds natural for the character and it does more than just rehash what’s going on in the panel. For most characters (not all, but most) I struggle with the voice. My pal, writer Dennis Hopeless, and I often lament this narrative device. To paraphrase Dennis, it’s like writing poetry out of someone else’s head.
Another thing I wanted to do with this series was tell stories that were not necessarily linear in nature. Flashbacks can be tricky business, but when done right, the past helps to illuminate and inform the present. I also like that breaking the story up into the past and present expands the scope of the story and keeps readers on their toes.
harashkupo is up next with a query on Magneto’s current power limitations.
Congrats on the overall positive response you’ve gotten for the book. This has been an excellent addition to the x-line. So far the uncanny powers plot has been kind of ambiguous past ‘broken’. I was hoping you could tell us how you’ve approached this in your writing and what parameters that you may have set up for Mags. I know what you tell us isn’t ‘official’ but it would be nice to hear what your Magneto is or is not capable of.
Initially, I didn’t have a really great grasp on the limits of Magneto’s powers, either. In the first draft of the first script, I had Magneto trying to hone his abilities, to relearn his gifts. In early pages, I showed him assembling a cell phone from component parts only to have it explode before he could finish. To my mind, he was still powerful, but he didn’t have fine control. I also had him throwing cars around in the first issue. I was informed that he couldn’t really do those things, that he could only lift smaller items and even then without a lot of delicate control.
Surprisingly, that opened some doors for me. Magneto’s powers are diminished, but I didn’t want him to seem any less formidable. So, I had to come up with new ways for Magneto to use his abilities.
As for what Magneto is capable of, my approach is that he can move small items with some degree of control — a paperclip, for example. He can even move a large number of small items, but not with any fine control. He can rip metal components (messily) from a cyborg’s body, but it weakens him physically. He could not, though, perform a delicate surgery. He could try, but it might end badly. He can levitate, but not fly for great distances. To try to do so would weaken him, and he risks overshooting his intended destination.
Next up is Chad, who wants to know more about Magneto’s past as a young boy.
Do you have any plans to explore Max Eisenhardt’s early life before he became the Master of Magnetism? If so, which period of his life are you most interested in showing us?
Yes, we’ll be seeing more of his life before he became Magneto. In an upcoming issue, we’ll be revisiting young Max, this time during his time at Auschwitz. I feel like that part of his life, which is so full of tragedy, informs so much of who Magneto is.
But Magneto has a pretty rich history, and there is so much backstory to mine. I’d love to look into some other periods in his past — again, assuming I have the time or the room to do so.
Charles wants to know more about the process of writing antiheroes.
Cullen, your work on Magneto and Sinestro has been exemplary so far. With neither of them ever really seeing themselves as true villains, is it their complexity and lack of black/white that attracted you to them? And how much fun is it writing these two very prominent and complicated figures? Also, at this year’s Baltimore Comic Con, I’m going as Magneto and using the costume you and Mr. Walta have popularized in this awesome series, and I just finished making the helmet (my first such attempt) this week! It’s going to be great with my daughter and son as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and my wife as Rogue!
First of all, please send pictures of those costumes! That sounds awesome!
The appeal of villains (or anti-heroes, if you prefer) is pretty clear for me. They are simply more fun to write. With a hero, you can anticipate their actions pretty easily. With a villain, though, you can never be too sure how they will approach any given situation or handle a particular obstacle. There is also an enjoyable challenge when it comes to villains and anti-heroes. They need to be evil (or anti-good, if you prefer) but they also need to be relatable. Readers don’t need to agree with them or even like them, but they do need to understand their motivations. I like dancing along that edge while writing these stories.
Comic Book Evangelist is up next, seeking more information on some of Magneto and Red Skull’s previous encounters.
I am loving your work on Magneto as much as I have enjoyed it in the epic “Sixth Gun!”
Thanks so much! Happy to hear that some of my “Magneto” readers are also reading books like “The Sixth Gun!”
My question: I am an old bloke who has read comics for ages, so I remember the time Magneto captured the Red Skull and imprisoned him for the crimes he committed in WW2 (It happened in “Captain America” #367.). Will there be any references or homages to that incredible story in your arc, or is it considered that this story is the first such throwdown between the two?
I remember that story fondly, too!
It’s not something I’m going to slave over too much, though. I worry that trying to weave that much continuity into the story may overcomplicate things too much, especially when I only have a couple of issues to work with. You might see a passing reference to it, but nothing too detailed. To spend too much time with it might just take readers out of the action.
Heck — someone told me that this version of the Red Skull isn’t even the same guy Magneto dealt with during “Acts of Vengeance.” As you can imagine, that much continuity and twisting/turning backstory could take a lot to explain.
Justinian hopes for more insight into Magneto’s inner psyche.
What do you believe Magneto’s regards as his greatest successes and failures?
Something that’s interesting about Magneto: his greatest successes almost always result in his greatest failures. Genosha might be what he sees as his greatest success, and that ended terribly for him!
Matt D wraps up this week with a question about the contradiction inherent in Magneto’s character.
There’s an inherent hypocrisy in Magneto, whereas he’s obviously shaped by the horrors of his youth, but his worldview is not very far off from the Nazi Social Darwinism that led directly to the horrors that he went through. That’s part of what makes the character so tragic, so human, and so fascinating. Will that contradiction come into play during the “AXIS” prelude, when he’s thrust back into that type of an environment?
I completely agree with you! One of the things that fascinates me about Magneto is that he’s willing to resort to methods so similar to those of the people he loathes. As you said, it makes him all the more tragic. And I think he recognizes the similarities. I think he hates it. But he also believes he has no other choice.
This contradiction is something I’ve already touched on to some degree. In the second issue, I highlight this pretty clearly, I think. I’m not sure that you’ll see that again in the prelude to “AXIS,” but it is something you’ll be seeing. I think in issue #12 or #13, you’ll be seeing this brought into the forefront again.
Special thanks to Cullen Bunn for taking on this week’s questions!
Next week’s X-POSITION guest is still getting lined up, but stay tuned for more details later this week!