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Polar Opposites: A History of Magneto Switching From Good to Evil

Depowered Magneto

Magneto, one of the most engaging characters in the Marvel Universe, has become a villain again. This is just the latest in a series of such moments for the character, so let’s look back at his history and all the times he (or a clone) became an X-Man.

Master Of Magnet

Uncanny X-Men Vol.1 #1 (Lee/Kirby

Magneto was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #1 as the first villain for the team. In his original incarnation, he was more one-note. While he had a more relatable mission than someone like Doctor Doom, he was very much a bad guy without depth. His desire to supplant humanity with mutants was treated as a villainous objective, although this changed when the character got possibly the most tragic origin in Marvel canon.

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Magneto became a Holocaust survivor. Once liberated, he led a quiet life with his wife Magda until their home (with their daughter) was burnt to the ground. He killed the villagers responsible, terrifying his wife with his display of power. He took the name Erik Lehnsherr and traveled the world, meeting Charles Xavier and fighting Nazis. Xavier’s compassion for humanity stood in stark contrast to the harsh lessons Erik had been taught over his life, and the two parted ways.

Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 #161 (Claremont/Cockrum)

Erik became determined to lead mutants to world domination as Magneto, which morphed from a more straightforward villainous scheme to just a way keep mutants safe. This didn’t work, but he did become a prominent villain by fighting the X-Men, the Defenders and the Avengers.

Reform (And Rejection)

God Loves, Man Kills (Claremont/Anderson)

The seeds for Magneto going good came with God Loves, Man Kills. Magneto and the X-Men formed an alliance when the forces of Reverend Stryker attacked. While Magneto decides against staying with the X-Men, he departs on decent terms. When he fears he has killed Kitty Pryde during a later battle, he’s horrified and surrenders. During Secret Wars, the Beyonder declared his intentions more altruistic than vengeful and sorted him with the heroes -- surprising everyone, including Magneto. All this softened his views on humanity, and he voluntarily turned himself over to the authorities in Uncanny X-Men #200. He joined the ranks of the X-Men and became the teacher for the New Mutants, but his tenure as headmaster didn’t go great.

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A disastrous alliance with the Hellfire Club, breaking-up with Lee Forrester, the death of Doug Ramsay, the Mutant Massacre and the apparent loss of the X-Men during Fall of the Mutants all broke his spirit. He became desperate to protect mutants, and formed alliances with villains to that end. Following a brutal mission alongside Rogue and Nick Fury, he renounced his attempts to reform.

This period saw Magneto revert to villainy hard. He destroyed submarines to steal nuclear missiles. He built Avalon to serve as the home for the Acolytes. During a battle with the X-Men, he pulled the adamantium from the bones of Wolverine. Magneto got mind-wiped for that, leading to Onslaught and the creation of his clone, Joseph.

New X-Men Vol 1 #146 (Morrison/Jimenz)

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