When choosing a greatest villain from the Marvel universe, there are many things to take into consideration. Doctor Doom would be the answer for many – a James Bond villain with magical powers and a cool metal mask. The Red Skull is the archetypical villain, with no redeeming qualities, while one can pity poor, delusional Doctor Octopus. Venom is more an anti-hero despite once being a slobbering psychopath. Could it be the greatest villain in Marvel history is…Joe Quesada?
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I like my villains to have noble aspirations. In fact, I like to sometimes side with my villains, and never has there been a villain, in Marvel or comic book history, who it’s easier to side with than Magneto.

Born Max Elsenhardt in Germany in the 1920s, Magneto witnessed first hand the horrors of the Third Reich. Sent to Auschwitz for his Jewish heritage and made an orphan, young Max only survived because of his mutant ability to control metal. He escaped the horrors of the death camps, fell in love and married a woman who bore him a daughter. One night a mutant hating mob burned down his house with his baby girl still inside, and in a fit of rage Max used his powers to kill them all. From that day forward he was Magneto, leader of a radical mutant group determined not to fight for their rights as equals, but to take their place as homo superior.
What’s fascinating about Magneto is that he’s not really a villain in the traditional sense. In fact, many a time he’s joined forces with or even led his arch enemies, the X-Men. He and his pacifist friend, Professor Charles Xavier, are two sides of the same coin. While Xavier wishes to peacefully co-exist alongside normal people, Magneto sees them as a threat. And who could blame him? They are a threat to him and his kind. Mutants are a hated minority, and violence follows them wherever they go. While Xavier pleads for his fellow mutants to turn the other cheek, Magneto encourages them to use their gifts for defense and, in the end, conquest.
The comparisons have been made between Xavier and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Magneto and Malcom X, and I would say it’s apt. MLK was a great man because he encouraged his fellow protestors to practice non violent resistance. That works…sometimes. And sometimes, as Malcom X knew, when the Man slaps you across the face you have to slap him right back, harder. I believe those philosophies complimented each other. It was good cop / bad cop. Magneto is the bad cop, and proud of it.
So what makes this character so compelling? When introduced in X-Men #1 way back in 1963 he was just another scheming bad guy in a silly costume. But through the magic of comics, Magneto has been allowed to grow as a character for over fifty years. He is now a caring leader, someone who wants to protect his own kind from the horrors he’s experienced at the hands of homo sapiens. This is not the mustache twirling of a Doctor Doom (if his ability to grow a mustache still existed after having his face burned off). Magneto is noble. He craves peace, and if the only way to have it is built on a foundation of human bones, he can live with that.
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