Magneto has earned a reputation for being one of the most complicated characters in the history of comics. As a Holocaust survivor, Max Eisenhardt’s motivations have been framed in a sympathetic light. His mission to protect mutants at any cost comes from the persecution he suffered.
There have been countless articles written about Magneto’s tragic motives. I’d like to focus on how his motivations, while noble, have made him a hypocrite. Magneto has punished and killed mutants that don’t live up to his standards. His hypocrisy is a reflection of human nature.
Taking the darkness into himself
During WW2, a young Magneto was subjected to the Nazis’ warped ideologies. Hitler and his followers subscribed to Social Darwinism, believing Germany was destined to become the centre of the master race. Other classes were considered subhuman, especially Jews. Magneto was forced to work as a sonderkommando in the camps, collecting and burning the bodies of his people. The amount of mental trauma this kind of treatment would cause is unfathomable.
Years later, Magneto adopted the same tactics he’d learned during the war. He wanted to create a racially pure world where mutants were the dominant species. Some people saw him as a freedom fighter, while others thought of him as a terrorist. Given his experiences, Magneto’s reasoning is understandable, but it hasn’t stopped him from persecuting his own kind when it suited him.
Hypocrisy in action
Magneto’s hypocrisy has been observed through his battles with the X-Men. A famous example of him harming a mutant is through his treatment of Wolverine. During the Fatal Attractions arc, Magneto went so far as to rip the adamantium out of Wolverine’s body. The act almost killed Logan and left him recovering for a long time.
Magneto carried out this violence in a fit of rage. Anger is one of the most common reasons for acting in a contrary way. During Cullen Bunn’s run on the Magneto solo series, Erik hunted down the Marauders for their hand in the Mutant Massacre. He spent his time torturing and killing them one by one. When asked by one of the Marauders why he was attacking them, Magneto admitted to carrying out a form of genetic cleansing. The Marauders didn’t fit his image of a mutant, so he chose to erase them.
This mentality mirrored the Nazi extermination, highlighting the lengths Magneto is willing to go to achieve his goals. Erik’s personal image of a mutant is interesting because he believes having powers isn’t enough. To him, being a mutant is about contributing to the cause, which is where his respect for Charles Xavier and the X-Men comes in.
“Is that what you think? Do you think your powers make you a mutant? Do you believe that affords you any leniency? Do you remember when the Morlocks died? Do you remember murdering them? With those actions, you decided that those mutants were not worthy of life.”
“And that’s what I’m doing now. You and your companions…you no longer fit my picture of a mutant. If it helps you understand think of it as genetic cleansing.”
Magneto is self-aware enough to acknowledge his hypocrisy. It’s part of what makes him intriguing. In the past, Magneto has worked as a member of the X-Men, choosing not to kill. Although he’s been willing to change his methods, his reasoning has always remained the same. Magneto’s personal credo can be summed up with the following words:
“The thing that none of you will ever understand is that there are no sides. There’s no heroes or villains. There’s just what I want and how I’ll get it.”
Everyone is guilty of saying one thing and then doing another. In my opinion, to be a hypocrite is to be human. Not only does Magneto’s hypocrisy make him relatable, it makes him the most compelling character in the X-Men universe.