X-Men #1, Sept. 1963
Nicknames and Alias
Erik Magnus Lensherr, Master of Magnetism, Erik the Red, Michael Xavier, Creator, Grey King, Buckethead
Powers and Abilities
Magneto has the ability to manipulate electromagnetic energy, principally magnetism, allowing him to move and control magnetic metals from small (the iron in blood) to large (a nuclear submarine). Magneto can also manipulate other elements of the electromagnetic spectrum, including light, electricity and gravitons, which enables him to, amongst other things, fly, generate protective force fields that block out matter and energy, create electromagnetic pulses and grant him limited immunity to telepathy.
Basically, he can do anything so long as the word “magnetically” appears before it.
He has also exhibited limited telepathic and astral projection abilities, though it is unclear how much of those skills are native to him or a result of technological assistance.
In addition to his powers, Magneto is also a skilled geneticist and engineer, capable of manipulating genetics to create super powered beings as well as designing and constructing advanced robots and space stations.
Weaknesses and Achilles’ Heels
Young Jewish girls, reality-altered Chinese imposters, super-powerful mutants of his own design.
Gadgets and Accessories
Magneto’s helmet is designed to block telepathy, and his costume is made of a fine chainmail mesh.
Magneto frequently makes his headquarters aboard Asteroid M (and later Avalon), a floating space station in orbit around Earth.
During periods when his powers were weak or absent, he utilized various devices to augment or replicate his powers, such as an exo-skeleton featuring laser guns and jet packs or a costume which absorbed and transferred energy from other mutants to him.
Friends and Allies
Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff, his son), Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff, his daughter), Polaris (Lorna Dane, his occasional daughter), Professor X and the X-Men (some times), Nanny and Ferris (robotic assistants), Exodus, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Hellfire Club, the Acolytes, the Savage Land Mutates
Foes and Antagonists
Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Polaris, Professor X and the X-Men (other times)
Movies and Appearances
Magneto shows up just about anywhere the X-Men do in terms of other forms of media and merchandising, from the one shot “Pryde of the X-Men” cartoon to the 90s animated series to the live action films, where he was first played by Ian McKellan and then Erik Fassbender, or, in the case of X-Men: Days of Future Past, both.
A mutant survivor of the Holocaust, Max Eisenhardt later came face to face with humanity’s fear of and prejudice towards mutants and determined the only way to prevent the genocide of mutants was to conquer humanity, so he took the name Magneto to lead mutants in the subjugation of humankind.
X-Men (vol. 2) #25 October 1993: After he unleashes an electromagnetic pulse on Earth, the X-Men invade Magneto’s orbital base, leading to Magneto ripping the adamantium from Wolverine’s bones and Professor X mindwiping Magneto.
Magneto is, arguably, Marvel’s most well-developed villain, thanks in large part to the work done on the character by writer Chris Claremont. In the course of his fifteen year run on X-Men, Claremont managed to take a fairly one-dimensional Silver Age super-villain and craft him into a three dimensional character who believably straddled the line between hero and villain.
When Magneto debuted in X-Men #1, he was a fairly generic super-villain. He had a gimmick (magnetism) and drove around in a magnet-shaped car, ranting and raving about world conquest, with little motivation beyond a generic desire to rule the world. The subtext of X-Men at the time, the idea of mutants as a new race destined to supplant humanity, helped grant a little dimension to Magneto, setting him up as voice for mutant rights that differed from that of Professor X and the X-Men, but at that point he was far from being the Malcolm X to Professor Xavier’s Martin Luther King Jr. (an analogy commonly used to describe the relationship between Xavier and Magneto these days).
As Magneto’s motivations and background deepened, his stance softened as the character began to wonder if his approach to mutant rights truly was the best. As such, Claremont had Magneto take over for Professor X as mentor to the student New Mutants and ally to the X-Men. Ultimately, Magneto determined Xavier’s path wasn’t any more effective than his earlier, more extreme, one and he turned his back on the situation, retiring once and for all to Asteroid M. In Claremont’ final X-Men story, he dealt with the ramifications of Magneto’s decision and ended the story (and his time as the X-Men’s chief writer) with Magneto sacrificing himself to save Xavier and the X-Men.