Magneto: Where Do I Start?

How can someone be known as both a superhero team’s most feared adversary while also being one of the team’s current heavy hitters and a former leader? The sometimes X-Man Magneto is a hard person to handle, be it by his fellow mutants and also the creators who have worked on him over the years. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby way back in 1963’s X-Men #1 as the team’s key adversary, he was an epic scale villain who had a difference idea of mutantkind’s place in humanity. In later years, Chris Claremont humanized the German/Jewish mutant in Uncanny X-Men, but he’s since reverted back and forth from hero to villain on numerous occasions.

With this mutant leader’s 50th anniversary coming up in less than year, it’s more than time to get to know this Max Eisenhardt, aka Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto.

X-Men: Mutant Genesis: Magneto got his start facing off against Xavier and the X-Men back in 1963, but for my money’s worth I say the 1990s debut of the adjectively X-Men series by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee stands head and shoulders above it by taking Lee & Kirby’s formula and updating it for modern times. Magneto absconds with a set of nuclear submarines, leading Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. to get involved as the X-Men try to leash in their own kind. One trip to Asteroid-M later, X-Men face off against Magneto and a dangerous group of new followers dubbed the Acolytes. This storyarc has been collected multiple times, but this particular edition I picked out seems the most readily available at the cheapest price.

X-Men: Magneto: Testament: If there were ever to be a Magneto origin story, I’d argue this is the storyboards for making that happen. Greg Pak and Carmine Di Giandomenico take readers back to 1935, before World War 2 and the Holocaust to see a young boy who would become Magneto. At some point it’s a tough read due to the subject matter as Magneto and his family are pulled into Hitler’s Final Solution, but it is a harrowing and engaging read that really shows you how someone can be turned into a fiery spirit like Magneto.

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills: Although the second X-Men job did a poor job at encapsulating it, this epic graphic novel by Chris Claremont and and Brent Anderson (Astro City) takes what was a periphery concept of the civil rights struggle in mutantkind and brings it to the forefront, bringing together the former friends turned hated enemies Charles Xavier and Magneto against a hellfire-and-brimstone mutant hating church reverend named William Stryker. This is one of the earliest stories to see Magneto be more than a villain, and also explores Magneto not as simple adversary but as a mutant activist like Xavier but with different ideals in mind.

Essential X-Men Vol. 3:As I said earlier, Magneto might be held in high regard as the X-Men’s most feared adversary, but in this collection of stories we really see the animus between Magneto and X-Men dissolve. Of particular delight is Uncanny X-Men #150’s “I, Magneto,” which shows Magneto on a villainous tear and is only defeated when he believes he killed the then-adolescent Kitty Pryde, a fellow mutant. It forces him to confront that he’d become the child-killer than he grew up to hate after the Holocaust, and begins his long journey to become a hero.

New X-Men: Planet X: In the stories I’ve highlighted above you can see how Magneto has flip-flopped between hero and villain over the years, and in this beautiful collection by Grant Morrison and Phil Jimenez they take that to task, trying to reconcile it with the modern world around them. Some more ardent fans argue that later retcons show this isn’t Magneto but a doppelganger, but at the time both Morrison and Jimenez are both quoted as saying they created it thinking it was Magneto… so continuity or not, this is good stuff.

Classic X-Men #12: Can I put a book on a list when it’s just a single issue, and the story I’m promoting is just a back-up story behind a reprint? If it’s this good, yes I can. Hidden in the back pages of this reprint magazine were new origin-style stories of the X-men, and this issue’s “A Fire In The Night” by Chris Claremont and John Bolton is a veritable powerhouse of  emotion as a younger Magneto attempts to deal with the death of his first child. If you’re a serious Magneto fan, you owe it to yourself to track it down, especially for one specific panel with Magneto and his daughter after she dies.


  1. I’m not even an X-Fan but Testament is one of the greatest comics I’ve ever read.

  2. Kind of surprised that the X-Men vs Avengers 4 issue mini from 1987 isn’t on the list.

  3. Did the 2000 movie give him the name Erik name or did he always have one? I don’t remember ever seeing one when I was a serious fan in the eighties.

    • It was before the movie…His name was “Magnus” as far as I know until sometime in the 90’s…then some writer gave him the name Erik Leshner.

      I really didn’t get it…As a kid the names “Logan” and “Magnus” carried a lot of weight and mystery. They were interesting just by themselves…”James” and “Erik” both kind of made the characters a little less cool to me…

    • Thanks

  4. Magneto was Right.

  5. I’ve only read 1.5 of the other four selections, but “A Fire In The Night” is my favorite Magneto story. I’ll back up what Chris wrote about how powerful a story it is. It can be found in the Vignettes vol. 2 collection, possibly out if print, but probably easier to find than the issue.

  6. what about Magneto: Not a Hero?