Mar 5, 2018

What About Magneto and Professor X’s Contemporaries?

When you think about colleagues of X-Men patricians, Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto, the big daddies of mutant politics, most of whom come to mind are students or teenagers and twenty-somethings they recruited as foot soldiers. They hang out with kids, and maybe Wolverine (who is old, but generally amnesiac) and Mastermind (who might be old, but might also just have aged really, really poorly).

What About Magneto and Professor X’s Contemporaries?
Travis Hedge Coke

So, where are the mutants and mutant-experts their age? Where are their colleagues who could first buy beer in the same year as them? Sinister, Apocalypse, and Mystique are all way older. Cyclops, Storm, and the Scarlet Witch are much younger.

And, the answer — looking at Astra, Amelia Voght, Dr Moira MacTaggart, Gabrielle Haller, et al — is that their contemporaries have given them a shot here and there, but largely just gave up on either man and their respective politics, because they’re a couple chumps. Yes, compared to Magneto, Professor X’s politics seem really good, but you’re comparing him to a genocidal supremacist who runs terrorist cults. Compared to normal people, even compared to your average political speaker, he’s acceptably a jerk, as well as a good-natured sexist and selfish dude with a big ol’ mansion.

Voght, for instance, is degreed, mature, and concerned, but even though she knew Xavier when he was putting his first X-team together, she never would have been his student and would never have wanted to be. He — and this is canon — couldn’t handle that she was an adult, that she was his contemporary, to the degree that, when she bailed on him, he tried to jump in her head and change her mind by force. Kids are so much easier to mold without having to brainwash anyone!

When Xavier first introduces Dr MacTaggart to his students, he refers to her as a housecleaner he’s hired. She’s better respected than him, in their scientific fields. She’s a working scientist, to his casual research and academe position. But, whatever, they used to date and stuff, so the young people living in his huge house can’t know she’s not there to vacuum.

Remember, this is the better of the two dudes. Magneto is worse in every way.

Voght still tries one of Magneto’s cults for awhile, hoping to steer it a little more centrist, and basically checking out a scene she isn’t committed to. She floats back and forth between Acolytes and X-Men, without addressing Magneto or Xavier really head on, and then drifts off to her own thing again. Dr MacTaggart dies, as a result of her research and continued work on mutant medical issues, and Xavier has psychic-sex with her as she passes.

Gabby Haller isn’t a mutant or a mutant-expert, so to speak, but she is a woman who is the same age as Magneto (but super younger looking than someone who survived the Holocaust), and gave birth to a son she believes to be the offspring of Xavier, but is in fact, his own father, because her son is messed up and very powerful.

These are the people they could be working hand in hand with, and occasionally they are pitched back together by fate and necessity, but it’s always temporary, always ill-eased and transient. And, it’s basically just because neither man can show them a baseline modicum of respect. Nowhere near the respect they can show one another.

Let’s take a side trip, momentarily, to address again that the mother of what appears to be Charles Xavier’s son, is a Holocaust survivor and still-working politician. Non-mutant, no powers. Chris Claremont, himself, has written Haller and Magneto to be roughly the same age.

So, a) Haller had a child super late in life, b) she would be, now, what, twice as old or more as Xavier?, and c) Xavier and Magneto are not really, then, contemporaries, in terms of age and experience. Xavier is young enough to be Magneto’s grandson.

Do we address this as an issue of elders and adults? Elders, adults, and young adults?

Astra is both better educated and more intelligent than either Xavier or Magneto, but she is younger than Magneto by a number of years. She does not seem younger than Xavier, though, and her work, in terms of mutant politics and protection/exploitation may actually predate Xavier or Magneto actively pursuing such a “cause.” She refused, however, to be treated as a child, as if she were on the level with teenage runaways or Toad. And, she’s still, to this day, both incredibly jealous and very, very attracted to Magneto. She let not being accepted as a contemporary, as a full-adult, shape the rest of her life.

These are the tops in their field, the elite few, and unless someone’s trying to have a romance or in need of a 24/7 nurse, Xavier and Magneto have isolated all of them. Consciously or not, the two men have downplayed all of their contemporaries, which for a demagogue like Magneto, sure, fair, but Charles Xavier is supposed to be a good guy, a heroic guy. He’s “the Martin Luther King Jr” (god, I hate that). He’s a guy who can’t share credit, is what’s really going on. Like, Magneto, it has to be about him. Does anyone really believe he called them X-Men because they had “something eXtra”? He went to Bard and Oxford. He knows how you spell, “extra.”

1 comment:

Justin said...

Hate to admit it, but you've got a good point about the X-men name. (I always thought that was a lame explanation. I'd rather Xavier just said, "I'm naming you guys after myself because I did all the legwork--pun not intended--to put this outfit together and am supplying the headquarters.")

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