Comic Book Biography:
Magneto is Max Eisenhardt (alias "Erik Lehnsherr"). He is a mutant. He was ranked number 1 by IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Villains list, was listed number 17 in Wizard's Top 100 Greatest Villains Ever list, and was ranked as the 9th Greatest Comic Book Character Ever in Wizard's list of the 200 Greatest Comic Book Characters of All Time, the second highest villain on that list.
Childhood and the Holocaust:
Max Eisenhardt was born to a Jewish-German family in 1928 and was living in Nuremburg during the Nazis' rise to power. Max' nuclear family included himself, his parents (Jakob and his Edith), and an older sister (Ruth), but he has stated that prior to the Holocaust his was a large extended family which was completely wiped out (though it is possible that some might have escaped to other countries). He was also very close to his father's brother Erich. It is probably from his uncle that Max would later take on "Erik" as an alias.
After Kristallnacht, the Eisenhardts fled to Poland where they became trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto. While trying to escape the Ghetto, Max's family was killed by Einsatzgruppen, one of the roving task forces deployed by the Nazis to eliminate political dissidents, intelligentsia, Jews, Gypsies, and anyone else perceived to be a threat, usually by firing squad. Max's family, along with others, were lined up in front of a trench and shot. However, Max's nascent mutant powers emerged enough to shunt aside or blunt the impact of the bullets. He fell into the trench with his family and left for dead. Max managed to crawl out of the trench and make it to a nearby town where he was captured and sent to Auschwitz, the most horrifically efficient death camp in the Third Reich.
Because of the starvation, over-work, torture, and disease, Max's mutant abilities remained dormant throughout his time in Auschwitz and for years afterwards. He survived by becoming a sonderkommando, one of the prisoners that helped the Nazis herd the Jews into the gas chambers, move the bodies to the crematorium, and then disperse the ashes. Most sonderkommando were shot and replaced on a regular basis to keep the Jews and the outside world from knowing too much about the Nazis' operations. How Max survived these purges is unknown. Witnesses stated that Max used his position to help people, mostly likely by passing along food and medicines the sonderkommando found in the clothes of the Jews herded into the gas chambers.
It was in Auschwitz that he was reunited with a first first love, a Gypsy named Magda. They managed to conduct a budding relationship within the sexually and ethnically segregated confines of the camp. In 1944, the Nazis ordered the extermination of the Gypsies in Auschwitz. Some of them escaped by hiding among the Jewish population and it is possible that Magnus helped arrange for Magda's safety this way. As the Russian troops advanced, the Nazis began to dismantle the camp. As they began to massacre the female prisoners, Magnus rushed the guard attempting to kill Magda and beat him to death with his own rifle.
(However, the recent "Magneto Testament" miniseries states that Max and Magda fled during the Sonderkommando uprising of Oct 7th, 1944.)
Trying to Rebuild:
They escaped the camp and fled east into Carpathian Mountains in the Ukraine where they recovered, married and had a baby girl, Anya. When Anya was four or five, Magnus moved his family from the countryside to the Ukrainian city of Vinnitsa in order to peruse an education as an engineer. Tragically, the first night the family was there the inn they were staying at caught fire. Returning from a day laborer job, Magnus discovered his powers in the course of saving his wife. However, he was beset by the police upon emerging from the inn and kept from saving Anya who burned to death before him. In his grief and rage he lashed out, killing the entire mob. (Later portrayals of the event reckoned it an energy pulse akin to the shockwave of a thermonuclear explosion.)
Magda, terrified of what she witnessed, fled. Whether she fled because her husband had become something non-human or whether she fled because she watched him become a mass murder with delusions of conquest is up to some debate. (Writers have slightly tweaked the scene both ways depending on their opinion of Magneto's character, but the initial telling of the story it is clear that it is his power which terrified her.)
It is unknown whether or not she knew she was pregnant with Magnus' children the time, but Magnus did not. Months later she gave birth to twins, naming them Pietro and Wanda, on Wundergore Mountain and then immediately fled into a blizzard where it is assumed she perished. The twins were eventually adopted by the Gypsy Maximoff couple.
While trying to find his wife and elude from those hunting him for the deaths of the mob in Vinnitsa, Magnus paid a forger to create a new identity as Erik Lehnsherr, a Sinte Gypsy. Years later he abandoned his search and emigrated to Israel (probably under this identity), finding work as a volunteer orderly in a psychiatric hospital under the name of "Magnus" in Haifa where he first met Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller. While becoming friends, Xavier and Magnus had many discussions about humans coexisting with super-humans. They soon realized that their opinions differed and each could not be persuaded to agree with the other. Given his experiences, Magnus felt that humans would never be able to accept that which was different from them and saw mutants as being superior to humans. An encounter with the Nazi splinter group Hydra cemented these beliefs and Magnus disappeared for many years.
It is known that during this time period, Magneto hunted Nazis for an intelligence agency, most likely CIA. However, he violently ended his association with them when they attacked him, slaying a woman he was growing close to, for hunting down and arresting one of the Nazis that America was using in their fight against the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. Magnus has also shown a highly disciplined mind and practices Yoga and meditation. He may also have spent some of this period studying these practices in the East.
When he finally did reappear in the public eye, he had turned to terrorism with the goal of mutant supremacy and had taken the name "Magneto". He attacked the Cape Citadel military base, but was repelled by the X-Men, students of his old friend, Charles Xavier. Magneto formed the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and, in attempting various schemes of conquest, he and his team often found themselves facing off against Xavier and the X-Men. With and without the Brotherhood, Magneto would often face off against them or other superheroes such as the Avengers, Thor, and the Fantastic Four. Though all three were unaware of their relationship at the time, his twin children, Pietro and Wanda, were part of the Brotherhood as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, something Magnus would later come to deeply regret as he was verbally abusive and callously abandoned them to harm and capture on a few occasions.
When an powerful alien called The Stranger visited Earth, Magneto mistook him for a mutant and tried to convince the Stranger to join his cause. Instead the Stranger kidnapped Magneto and Toad and took him to his homeworld for study. Marooned on the Stranger's homeworld, Magneto attempted escape twice, the second time sucessfully returning to earth. He attempted to recruit the twins back into the Brotherhood, but they had given up terrorism in his absence and joined the Avengers to atone for their crimes. Despite his machinations, the twins rejected him and remained with the Avengers. Magneto then abandoned the concept of the Brotherhood and instead turned to genetically engineering underlings in the Savage Land, creating the Savage Land Mutates. The X-Men would find and defeat him yet again.
Genetically experimenting with alien technology he had found near the core of the Earth, Magneto created a being he called "Alpha the Ultimate Mutant", wanting to use him to attack humankind. But the mutant rebelled against his creator and reduced Magneto to infancy. Xavier remanded the infant Magnus to the care of Dr. Moira MacTaggart. While under her care, Dr. MacTaggart discovered certain instabilities in Magnus' nervous system that caused him to become more emotionally and mentally unstable the greater amounts of power he used. She experimented on the infant Magnus in hopes a way of finding a cure for her son, Proteus. However, her experiments were unsuccessful.
Later, the Shi'ar agent Eric the Red re-aged Magneto "to the prime of his life" (significantly younger than he was before) in an attempt to form an alliance with him against the X-Men. Magneto refused and returned to his life of terrorism.
Making plans to blackmail the world again, Magneto started by removing his nemeses first rather than waiting for them to stop him. He kidnapped the X-Men and tortured them in retaliation for his shame at being an infant under Xavier's and Mactaggart's care. In the meantime, he raided army bases and technical centers for the research and equipment he needed to create a magma displacement device that he could later use to raise volcanos all over the world at will. The X-Men would escape, delaying but not stopping his plans.
The X-Men came to stop Magneto when he attempted to use the device to blackmail the world into ceding leadership to him. In the ensuing battle, Magneto almost killed Kitty Pryde, then only 14. Realizing with great dismay that he had become what he hated, Magneto renounced his life of terrorism. He disappeared for a time. In the course of making one final attempt to find Magda, he tracked her movements to Wundergore and learned of her fate. (He set up a grave marker for her that he sometimes visits.) He also discovered that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were his children. He rushed to tell them immediately of his discovery, but while they accepted the truth, both still harbored great resentment against him for his treatment while in the Brotherhood and rejected him. Over the following years, they would waver between warily accepting him and rejecting him outright, never forgiving him for his treatment of them and his criminal actions in the past.
After joining with the X-Men in their efforts against the Beyonder in Sercet Wars II, Magneto was persuaded by his old friend Charles to give coexistence between humans and mutants a chance. Shortly thereafter, he submitted himself to authorities and underwent a trial in front of the World Court. While that trial was interrupted by an attack from Fenris, eventually Magneto would be acquitted for his previous crimes based on the idea that he had acted as a international entity, much as a nation would have done, and his terrorist acts qualified as acts of war. During Fenris' attack, Charles was severely injured and had to be taken to space to be healed by Shi'ar technology and was unable to return. He made Magnus promise to continue the dream of a peaceful co-existence and asked him to teach the younger class of students, the New Mutants.
Unsure of his ability to guide children on a path he himself was just discovering, Magneto became the Headmaster of the Xavier's school. He fought along side the X-Men on a few missions, but most of his concern was with the New Mutants. While the beginning of his tenure was shaky and filled with mistrust, he was in earnest in fulfilling his promise to Xavier and soon came to care greatly for his charges and earn their trust. He was also able to connect with some of them, such as Illyana Rasputin. However, few others outside the X-Men and New Mutants accepted his reformation as genuine. He was attacked by the Avengers and the rest of the superhero community began to mistrust the X-Men due to their association with him.
However, when Mutant Massacre occurred in the Morlock Tunnels, Congress introduced the Mutant Registration Act, and one of his students, Douglas Ramsey, was killed by a human, Magnus began to turn back toward his old path. Storm had allied the X-Men with the Hellfire Club after the Mutant Massacre and then faked the X-Men's death, leaving Magneto to interface with them. He began spending more time with the Hellfire Club, amassing power until he consolidated both the White and Black Kingships into one chair: The Grey King. This association alienated the New Mutants and they left his care. Magneto would eventually sever his relationship with the Hellfire Club, though exactly when and how that took place is unknown. Is it possible he simply wearied of what he would have seen as the constant petty intrigues amoung the HFC members (though at one point he spoke of having engaged the Shadow King in battle over the club). He wavered for a long time between peace and violence until, finally growing weary of the strife, he retired to Asteroid M to live in seclusion.
It was then he was approached by a group calling themselves the Acolytes led by Fabian Cortez asking for his leadership. Magneto decided that his best course of action would be to create a nation for mutants unto themselves and declared Asteroid M to be a Mutant Colony. While arming the colony defensively he was attacked by the X-Men. In the course of their conflict, Magneto learned of Dr. MacTaggart's experimentation on him as in infant. Enraged, thinking that he had been genetically manipulted into his reformation, he tortured and blackmailed her into using the same technique to try to brainwash the X-Men into following him. (Despite Dr. MacTaggart's death later, Magneto still holds a violent grudge against her to this day.) As before, the procedure failed and the X-Men turned on him. In the course of the battle Magneto was betrayed by Cortez, who attempted to destroy Asteroid M by firing the U.N.'s plasma cannon and setting off the nuclear weapons Magneto had deployed around the station. Magneto was able to stop the nuclear bombs, but not the plasma cannon which fatally struck the station. Refusing to leave with the X-Men, Magneto stayed with the remaining loyal Acolytes as Asteroid M broke up and crashed to earth. The world believed him dead.
During this period, Gabrielle Haller, now Israeli's representative to the U.N., had discovered the "Erik Lehnsherr, a Sinte Gypsy" identity and revealed it to the world. However, Sabra later discovered the I.D. was a fake and tracked it down to a known forger, Greg Odekirk. Magneto killed the Odekirk before Haller and Sabra could reach him.
Magneto survived and tried again with the captured space station Avalon. He and his rabidly loyal new second-in-command Exodus recruited mutants from across the globe, including, much to everyone's shock, the disillusioned Colossus. Magneto announced the colony's existence, but had made no threatening move when the U.N. enacted the Magneto Protocols, a series of satellites designed to prevent him from using his powers to bring any more mutants from Earth to Avalon. He used a planet-wide EMP to disable the satellites, killing thousands in airplane crashes and hospitals when the power went out across the globe. With the help of Colossus, the X-Men infiltrated the station and attacked. In the course of the battle Magneto ripped the adamantium from Wolverine's skeleton and Xavier wiped his mind, leaving Magneto in a vegetative state.
The Acolytes carried on in Magneto's name under Exodus' fanatical leadership as Colossus cared for the invalid Magneto. When Avalon was destroyed by Holocaust, Colossus placed Magneto in a escape pod which was discovered by a former associate Astra. Astra, who was creating an altered clone of Magneto to revenge herself on him, restored Magneto's memories. Magneto fought the clone successfully and escaped. He took control of the Acolytes once more and blackmailed the world one last time, promising to destroy the Earths electromagnetic field unless he was ceded territory to create a mutant homeland. The X-Men, including Magneto's clone now called "Joseph", attempted to stop him. In the ensuing battle while trying to keep the EM field together, Joseph lost his life and Magneto over-extended his powers to the degree that he burned out his nervous system, leaving his powers very weak. In response the U.N. handed him to war torn island of Genosha, hoping that the civil war between mutants and humans there would keep him too busy to cause them trouble.
They were wrong. Despite having to rely on Cortez and Polaris to manipulate EM energies, Magneto had defeated the Magistrate-led forces in six months. At the end of this war, Magneto found the equipment the Magistrate regime had used genetically modify mutants and used it on himself to repair the damage to his nervous system. He was completely repowered once again and rebuilt Genosha into a utopia for mutants, but that had human citizens as well, including two members of Magneto's cabinet.
This unfortunately, was not enough. After declaring war against humans once again, the X-Men were forced to oppose him and Magneto's spine was severed by Wolverine, leaving him paralyzed and practically powerless. When Genosha was attacked by a Mega-Sentinel sent by Cassandra Nova, Magneto was too weak to stop it. The island population was almost obliterated and Magneto was believed to be dead, again.
It appeared that Magneto was out for vengeance and world conquest when the mutant Xorn, part of the staff at the Xavier Institute, "revealed" himself Magneto in disguise. This Magneto, along with some of the Xavier Institute students under his care, attempted to attack and destroy Manhattan, including herding 5,000 human people into crematoriums. When the X-Men arrived to stop him, he killed Jean Grey by giving her the equivalent of hundreds of strokes at once with a lethal electromagnetic pulse at point blank range. Enraged, Wolverine attacked and beheaded Xorn. It would later be revealed that Xorn was in fact nothing more than Xorn driven mad by the use of the drug Kick, his admiration of Magneto becoming the delusion that he was Magneto.
It turned out that the real Magneto had never left Genosha and was quietly helping with its recovery. How he survived the attack of the Mega-Sentinel is unknown, even to him. His only memory was waking up with his spine completely healed, his powers seeming to operate at lower levels than normal. (Dr. Strange would later theorize that the Scarlet Witch had restored her father to life and mobility, perhaps subconsciously.) Charles traveled to Genosha with Xorn's body were he met up with Magnus who was horrified at what had been done in his name. They formed a new Excalibur with some other mutant survivors of Genosha. Things were looking positive as the old friends were able to come together once again to do some good, such as freeing Karima Shapandar from her Omega Sentinel programming, but the happy period of rebuilding Genosha was short lived.
House of M:
When Magneto heard word of his daughter the Scarlet Witch's nervous breakdown and assault on the Avengers, he used his immense power to open up a wormhole to take him to her. Bringing her back to Genosha again, Magneto became reclusive, excluding anyone except himself and Xavier from his home while she recuperated. Xavier would later call on the assistance of Dr. Strange in healing Wanda, but six months went by without any progress as Wanda's emotional and mental state deteriorated.
While Magneto waited with his daughter, the X-Men, the Avengers, and Dr. Strange gathered in New York to discuss Wanda's fate. Assuming the group was going to kill Wanda rather than let an unstable, reality-warping mutant continue to threaten existence, Quicksilver sought out his father. Grief-stricken and out of options, Magneto conceded that Xavier and the others may be right. Pietro then turned to Wanda and coerced her into reforming reality. Using Xavier's telepathy, Wanda reworked the entire reality of Earth-616 into the House of M, a world where everyone she knew's fondest wish had come true, most predominantly her father. This new earth was no longer a place where mutants were hated and feared, but instead were the dominant majority over the natually declining human population. Some countires were rulled by superhumans while others retained their human leadership as Magneto and his family pulled various political and ecconomic strings from Genosha, ruling the world in all but name.
This world was short lived as a small group of the same heroes that sought to deal with Wanda prior to the House of M began to realize what had happened. Eventually gathering enough heroes together, they stormed Magneto's palace and battled with Magneto's family, guards, and guests, assuming that Magneto had been responsible for convincing his daughter to make the transformation. Dr. Strange visited Wanda and discovered the truth. Brought to the realization of what had happened, Magneto was horrified and enraged at what his children had done in his name. He slew Pietro in a fit of rage. After Wanda brought her brother back to life, she exacted revenge on her father by uttering the words, "No more mutants". Reality was restored almost to normal save for the depowering 98% of the world's mutants, including her entire family, and the removal of the X-Factor gene from the general population. Magneto himself was among the mutants now forced to live as a human. Crushed, Magneto remained on Genosha a broken man.
Emotionally disturbed, Quicksilver arrived on Genosha with the Terrigen Mists which he had stolen from the Inhumans. Having repowered himself, he had taken the sacred relic with plans to repower the mutant population. He enticed many of the former members of the Genoshan Excalibur team with the power of the Mists. Magneto refused the mists and warned others aganst them, having already seen their dangerous side-effects. The two had a violent encounter stopped only by the presence of Magneto's granddaughter Luna. The mists had disastrous results on the depowered mutants increasing their powers until they were out of control, killing one of them. The last of the depowered mutants were removed to the mainland for medical treatment and Magneto was left on Genosha alone.
Shortly afterwards, The Collective, a being made up of all the energy of the depowered mutants, came together and possessed random mailman Michael Pointer. It returned to Earth as an unstoppable force. The Canadian super team Alpha Flight were apparently killed and the New Avengers were unable to stop it. The Collective sought out Magneto on Genosha and repowered him, revealing its dominant personality to be Xorn who wanted use Magneto as a figurehead for a mutant uprising. Not in control, Magneto was forced to fight the New Avengers and SHIELD. Not wanting to be used, Magneto begged the New Avengers to kill him as he fought them. He and Xorn were defeated by a direct tremor sent by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daisy Johnson into his brainstem, separating Magneto from the Collective. Xorn, with the rest of the Collective, was forced into the sun and the unconscious Magneto was taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. However, the helicopter carrying Magneto exploded and his body was not found among the wreckage.
He was soon revealed to have survived, and soon after came into possesion of a book of prophecy (which has not been mentioned since).
Recently, his former follower Exodus enlisted Magneto's help to restore the shattered mind of Charles Xavier. Magnus still claims to be depowered and despite his former devotion to Magneto and his cause, Exodus treated Magneto contemptuously as a "flatscan", a baseline human. With assistance from Karima Shapandar, Magnus was successful in restoring Xavier's mind to consciousness but not the entirety of his memory. However, in repelling an attack from Frenzy/Johanna Cargill Magnus severely injured her with a surgical laser, an act for which he was utterly unapologetic and which earned him Exodus deadly ire. Charles stepped in to save Magnus life, challenging Exodus on the astral plane. Afterwards, Charles and Magnus parted ways with a handshake as Xavier went off to piece his fractured self-identity back together with the memories of those that had known him.
Magneto's has recently retgained his abilities with the help of the High Evolutionary. His plans are unknown at this time.
For further reading:
~All of the X-Men: Magneto Testament miniseries
~Magneto # - which contains copies of "Fire in the Night" and "I, Magneto"
~Uncanny X-Men # 161
~The Classic X-Men reprint of Uncanny X-Men # 150
~The Classic X-Men reprint of Uncanny X-Men # 200
~New Mutants # 35
~New Mutants # 40
~New Mutants # 52
~Uncanny X-Men # 274 & 275
~X-Men (Vol. 2) # 3 (JMC was to include issues # 1 & 2 in their packet)
~ Fatal Attractions Crossover
~ X-Men (Vol. 2) #40 (Legion Quest)
~Uncanny X-men #321 (Legion Quest)
~Excalibur (Vol. 3) #'s 2, 4, 11, & 14
Magneto's mutant powers give him mastery over all electromagnetic forces. He can perceive the magnetic forces of the earth and bioelectrical patterns of all living beings. He can draw on and use the magnetosphere of the planet, which extends far into space, as well as other planets and the ambient electromagnetic energies found in space. He can use his power to reshape even the most indestructible metals in existence, including Adamantium. (He can create fields of magnetism strong enough to manipulate non-ferrous items as well.) He can control even the most insignificant magnetic particles in the atmosphere and living beings, reversing their blood flow or ripping out any ferrous elements through their tissues. He can even affect the structure of atoms through the electromagnetic bonds between electrons and the nuclei. He has demonstrated the ability to lift tens of thousands of tons with his magnetic powers, although the greater he exerts himself the greater the physical and mental stress. He can erect magnetic force fields with a very high degree of impenetrability (he has blocked the blast of two tactical nukes) around himself or others for protection and can fire bursts of magnetic or electrical energy, including very powerful EMP's,
Because of its nature, electromagnetism being one of the four Foundation Forces of the Universe (along with gravity, and strong and weak nuclear bonds), Magneto's power is "for all practical purposes limitless". Although Magneto's primary power is control over magnetism, he can also project and manipulate electricity as well as any form of energy that is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, including visible light, heat, radio waves, ultraviolet light, gamma rays, and x-rays. He can also manipulate gravitons to create an anti-gravity fields and has created traversable wormholes between two points on this planet. It has been theorized that perhaps Magneto may be living proof of Einstein's "Theory of Everything", otherwise known Unified Field Theory, that all forms of energy are interrelated. However, Magneto relies principally on magnetism since it is somewhat more difficult for him to manipulate other forms of energy.
However, Magneto must channel these fields through his nervous system and if he is injured his ability to channel large amounts of force and wield forces beyond magnetism is greatly hampered. His paralyzation following the events of Eve of Destruction, for instance, left him almost completely powerless. By using his power on vast scales, such as lifting and building Asteroid M, he has frequently overloaded his nervous system, creating a chemical imbalance which some have theorized leads to his megalomaniacial episodes. On a couple occasions he has burned his abilities out completely through overuse, falling back on machines or other mutants to boost his powers until he can find a way to regenerate them.
While the films have Magneto relying on his helmet to protect him from telepathic attack, this is not the case in the comics books. In the books, Magneto seems to possess some limited telepathic abilities, though the source of them has been much debated. Magneto has demonstrated the ability to ward off telepathic attacks from some of the worlds most powerful telepaths by force of will alone (not wearing the helmet at all), it took Professor Xavier and Jean Grey together to wipe Magnetos mind. Magneto has also exhibited powers of astral projection and has shown himself sensitive enough to pick up on the feelings of others, such as the New Mutants, passively. It is unclear whether this is from a latent telepathic ability or training (such as Dr. Strange has). It has been theorized amoung fans that because brainwave's are bio-electric in nature, Magneto may be able to mimick certain affects of telepathy through the use of his electromagnetic powers. In the past he has also claimed to be able to control the minds of others, though it has been a long time since he has claimed this and he cannot seem to do so without technological aid.
Abilites and Skills:
Magneto is scientific and tactical genius. He can use his magnetic powers in more than one way simultaneously allowing him to completely assemble a complicated machine within seconds or fight off multiple opponents using different attacks successfully. He is highly skilled and imaginative beyond the realm of normal science in the areas of engineering, genetics, and computer science and posses technology it has been said, that Reed Richards would envy from a combination of his own work and that of alien technology (The Stranger, Shi'ar, etc.) he has encountered and assimilated into his own.
Lack of respect for opponents. He is sometimes too self-oriented and over confident, and that causes his downfall.