by Chester Wilson III
“You humans slaughter each other because of the color of your skin, or your faith or your politics — or for no reason at all — too many of you hate as easily as you draw breath.”
– Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto)
Imagine that you’re woken up by your alarm clock to find yourself suspended, free-floating, above your bed. Or what if your reflection disappears when you go to brush your teeth? Maybe you break off your door handle, not because you tugged it off, but because your hand is glowing red hot and the handle is now a puddle on your bathroom door. If any of this happened, who would you tell?
Would you tell your parents? Would you tell your best friend?
Now, what if, for whatever reason, you felt you couldn’t tell anybody. You worried that people would treat you poorly. Maybe that you’d become a second-class citizen in your own house — that is, assuming your parents wouldn’t kick you out at the first spark jumping from your fingers or the flash of red your eyes show when you feel anxious.
How would you feel on the run, separated, labeled “other” and tossed into the street to fend for yourself, hunted because of something you can’t control. Imagine entire government’s threatened by your mere existence.
“Think of the children!” They’d shout.
“Don’t touch me, maybe it’s contagious.”
“They probably have diseases.”
“I want them gone.”
The original X-Men were formed at a time when tensions in social and political communities where high — both in our actual world and in Marvel’s universe. In Marvel’s universe, countries and governments — “the community” — wanted to either weaponize the mutants or exterminate them. It didn’t matter if their mutation had given them wings or the ability to cure cancer, the powers that be labelled them as monsters, terrorists, and people-of-interest to be hunted down and killed. Their goal, as a group, was to fight against the bigotry and racism of those with anti-mutant sentiments and win rights for everyone.
The X-Men fought for freedom in a world that was quick to jump to violence. Within their own community there was disagreements on what tactics to use, whether or not the way to true equality was through violence or passivity.
The X-Men comics came into existence in 1963, with a focus on good versus evil. The comics began with clear villains, but in order to parallel the prejudices of the time and the socio-political conversation, the X-Men grew to include discussions of racial inequality, injustice, gender equality, anti-semitism, and the overall abuse of federal power in matters of injustice.
The X-Men were a clear example, albeit a fictional one, of the impact of persecution without cause. The X-men were born during an evolution of the social climate of America. They gave discussions admonishing injustice, and presented it in an easily digestible manner to the kids reading their comics.
At the end of the day, the X-Men were just people. That’s the message of their story. It’s the oppression, the violence, and the mistreatment that forced them into a position where some mutants felt like the only way to peace was through violence. It was the intolerance and the rush judgement that tipped the scales in the favor of those looking to start an easily avoidable war.
In this world, the death of humans and mutants are both caused an invisible villain — the vice-like grip of prejudice on public perception.