In the early 1980s a young German Jew arrived at the Auschwitz concentration camp. His name was Erik Magnus Lehnsherr (or perhaps Max Eisenhardt), and he would eventually become, after his escape from Auschwitz, the most powerful Holocaust survivor in history. As leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, as well as an occasional nazi-hunter for the Israeli government, this profoundly unusual Holocaust survivor dedicated himself to protecting those who, like himself, were both different and superior from the intolerance of all those who, like most of humanity, detested their difference and feared their superiority.
Over the thirty or so years since his internment in Auschwitz, where he served as a Sonderkommando, Lehnsherr’s rage at humankind has at various stages in his career fueled apparently incompatible goals: Mutants (“Homo superior”), those like him blessed with unusual abilities not vouchsafed normal men, will either subjugate humans (“Homo sapiens”), with Lehnsherr himself becoming our messianic dictator, or else they will found their own homeland, a Zion apart from the intolerance that had destroyed his family and put him in a concentration camp. “Mutants,” he pledges, “will not go meekly into the gas chambers. We will fight” (Uncanny X-Men #161).
His nom de guerre is Magneto, the mighty master of magnetism in Marvel’s X-Men comics, and he made his first appearance in the United States in 1963 (X-Men #1) during the civil-rights era. Although his creator, the genial Stan Lee, was unaware of his Auschwitz lineage, unaware of his name, and even unaware that he was a Jew, in recent years he has claimed a racial motive behind the juvenile tales of battling supermutants in which Magneto would figure so prominently: “The only point that I was trying to make in the X-Men was that we shouldn’t hate or fear people because they’re different. So beneath the surface it was an anti-bigotry story. I didn’t think anybody would notice.” On this reading, which is popular among some fans today, the bigots of the early X-Universe were Euro-Americans, and the principal real-world referent of human intolerance for mutants in the comic was White intolerance for Blacks in the United States. The travails of mutants, Lee now claims, provided “a good metaphor for what was happening with the civil rights movement in the country at that time.”
Mutants are creatures of the atomic age, most of them having acquired their powers through some contact with radiation. Their numbers are growing, and many of them are evil. Conscious of the danger to humanity that evil mutants threaten, Charles Xavier, himself a mutant, gathers together a small force of teenagers endowed with “ex-tra powers” (hence “X-Men”) and trains them to harness their mutated abilities for the welfare of the human race. Some mutants hate humans, Xavier explains, and “some feel that the mutants should be the real rulers of the earth.” Notable among these is Magneto, the most powerful of the evil mutants, who vows “to make homo sapiens bow to homo superior” (X-Men #1). It is not an idle threat, for a mutant is an abnormal but genuinely superior version of a human. He knows more than us; he is stronger than us; he is smarter than us; he has powers we can scarcely imagine. Difference and superiority are conterminous: if you have one, you have the other.
In fighting evil mutants like Magneto the X-Men must face a disturbing paradox. Those whom they defend, namely normal humans like ourselves, fear and distrust them. Society is not yet ready to accept even good mutants like the X-Men, who must therefore conceal themselves from human mistrust and even hatred while they defend us from the elaborate machinations of supervillains, space aliens, and their fellow mutants, hoping all the while to bring about eventually “a golden age on earth — side by side with ordinary humans” (X-Men #4).
The X-Men can conceal themselves, despite their genetic endowments and enhanced abilities, because they can pass for run-of-the-mill Americans. None of them is a racial minority, and all have old-stock surnames. Those whose mutations are visible, like the winged Angel, can easily cover their mutations and interact with other Euro-Americans, which all of the X-Men often do. They encounter, it may be noted, no friendly Negroes as they venture forth into society, nor could they be expected to find any, since there are no black faces in the early X-Men comics. As superheroes they suffer, as does Spiderman, from public suspicion. Unlike Spiderman, however, these lightly complected Whites occasionally face more threatening intolerance. Many humans suspect that they are plotting to take over the world. They are slurred as “muties” or “freaks,” and mob violence against them is always a haunting possibility. One of Xavier’s great fears is therefore “a witch hunt for mutants,” which does indeed come to pass when a leading anthropologist, Bolivar Trask, confirms the common prejudice of the mutant menace: “The superior abilities and supernatural powers of the hidden mutants will enable them to enslave the human race, replacing our civilization with their own” (X-Men #14). To protect mankind Trask develops an army of robotic Sentinels to hunt down mutants, only to recognize the error of his prejudices when he discovers the nobility of the X-Men’s aims, as well as the danger of his robot army, which soon turns from protecting humans to enslaving them.
Lee’s recollection of his intentions in the early X-Men comics has likely been shaped by the title’s subsequent evolution. It would be an impossible challenge to identify any consistent racial politics underlying his tenure as script writer, nor in the scripts of the writers who immediately followed him under his editorship. A comic book that analogizes racial differences in our world to the possession of superior abilities in the secondary world of the comic would be a poor medium for expressing the plight of Blacks in the civil-rights era, or in any other. No one, for example, could plausibly suggest that the lovely Jean Grey, a red-haired telekinetic with “expanded cerebral powers,” is in some way intended to represent the untapped intellectual potential of the American Negro. The vehicle of any such metaphor would be too greatly at odds with its tenor. And Cyclops’ complaint, in the first issue, about his “cotton-pickin’ visor,” which he must wear to prevent unwanted optic blasts, seems inconsistent with special concern for civil-rights issues on Lee’s part. The evil mutants and X-Men of the 1960s, as anyone who has plowed through the comics should testify, did not stand for racially marginalized Blacks.
A more plausible case could be made that the early X-Men represent liberal Jews persecuted by McCarthyite witch hunters, who mistakenly interpret their principled leftist activism as subversion. Wanda the Scarlet Witch, a reluctantly evil mutant, was nearly burned at the stake by a maddened mob of superstitious central European villagers, who mistook her mutant hex powers for the “evil eye” (X-Men #4), and there are similar episodes in later issues. The metaphor that likened American suspicion of homegrown Communists, largely Jewish, to the ignorant violence of the Salem witch trials was enshrined in our collective consciousness by Arthur Miller’s Crucible, which had appeared to wide acclaim just a decade earlier. As a powerful Caucasian minority with special abilities, who must conceal themselves behind false identities lest their do-gooding activities be misunderstood by an ignorant and unappreciative public, the mutant X-Men surely fit Jewish self-perceptions of their place in American culture.
The truth, however, is that there was no underlying racial metaphor or consistent Jewish subtext in the X-Men during the 1960s. The fictional world of the X-Universe was concocted from a potpourri of pop-culture ideas, mixing up the threat of alien invasions drawn from middle-brow science fiction, post-Hiroshima fears about radioactive contamination, and speculations on post-human evolution dumbed down from A. E. van Vogt and John Wyndham, all of it then packaged into a sophomoric superhero comic marketed to teenagers. The comic made only occasional gestures toward real-world political issues, at most suggesting that “prejudice” toward difference is bad, an idea close to Stan Lee’s liberal heart. The X-Universe’s racial metaphor, which many current fans of the comic revere, was only intermittently visible. At its most political X-Men merely constructed a vision of our world in which right-thinking liberals were threatened by a wrong-thinking majority, whose various imperfections included the taint of racial bigotry. Thus the threat of close-minded “witch hunters” figures just as prominently in the early X-Men as does the threat of rampaging, hate-filled lynch mobs.
If you protect a mutant from an angry lynch mob, you might be called “a mutant lover” (X-Men #46), just as in the real world of the 1960s a similar mob — had such creatures actually existed — might have called a Caucasian civil-rights activist a “nigger lover.” Yet stories in which lynch mobs of benighted humans pursue innocent mutants are matched, even in the same issue, by stories of mutants or other non-human aliens plotting the demise or enslavement of humanity. An alien race in the civil-rights era X-Men is invariably a hostile race, intent on conquering the world or destroying its inhabitants, which makes the comic actually less liberal in its treatment of the extra-terrestrial Other than many of the sci-fi movies from the 1950s. Evil mutants and aliens from outer space are at one in their malevolence toward our civilization, and “weakling humans” are therefore understandably wary. It is true that X-Men, though working closely with the FBI, are outcasts from a society that fears and often hates them, and that mankind suffers from a “dangerous distrust of mutants” (X-Men #17); yet society and mankind, attacked monthly by ruthless aliens and Magneto’s misanthropic mutant brotherhood, do have genuine cause for concern: “X-Man! Mutant! Homo superior! Words that pale the cheek of a doubt-plagued humanity, which has ever hated the new . . . the strange . . . the different . . . feared it as creatures have always feared those who may one day replace them! And, who is to say that mankind is wrong? What did the last Neanderthal say to the first Cro-Magnon?” (X-Men #60).
Those lines were penned by Roy Thomas, a non-Jew, as narratorial commentary in the September 1969 issue. They accord humanity the right to defend itself, and they suggest that in the fictional world of the comic distrust of mutants need not be an indication of close-minded bigotry. Neanderthals would have preferred existence to non-existence, and we humans would prefer it as well.
Eight years later the same anthropological allusion would be put into the mouth of Dr. Steven Lang, an anti-mutant fanatic who, amidst a wave of anti-mutant hysteria, has resurrected Bolivar Trask’s Sentinel program in a murderous attempt to protect mankind from mutants by exterminating the latter. Lang believes that “we are the ancient Neanderthals facing the mutant Cro-Magnon” (Uncanny X-Men #96). He is explicitly likened to a nazi (Uncanny X-Men #98), and with his blond hair and deranged demeanor he is certainly drawn to look the part. In the fictional world of the comic reference to the doomed Neanderthals had moved from reliable narratorial commentary by a Marvel script writer to a deceptive rhetorical weapon in the arsenal of the sinister forces of anti-mutant intolerance, exploited not only by the “sick and twisted” Lang but also by another Aryan blonde, the National Security Council’s Valerie Cooper (Uncanny X-Men #176), and most notably by Senator Robert Kelly in “Days of Future Past,” perhaps the most famous of the X-Men story arcs. It is Kelly, with his fears that humans may be displaced or destroyed by superpowered mutants, who bears responsibility for the central crime in the X-Universe, the Mutant Control Act, proposed legislation that mandates the registration of mutants. As one character remarks, with complete sincerity and without the hint of a smile, “registration of mutants today, gas chambers tomorrow” (Uncanny X-Men #141). An idea that Roy Thomas had introduced in a futile attempt to add complexity and balance to a juvenile comic book had been transformed into a justification for genocide.
The transformation was one small part of a substantial change in the X-Men franchise. The title had changed from X-Men to Uncanny X-Men, a multiracial cast of new mutants had been introduced, and with the ninety-fourth issue a new writer had taken charge, the ungenial Jew Chris Claremont, who cultivated a consuming racial passion for his Jewish identity and for its most valued source of moral capital, the Jewish Holocaust. Claremont’s long run on the comic began in 1975 and would last until 1991. Due largely to his script writing a comic book which had been relegated to reprints of old stories for much of the 1970s became a significant commercial success and spawned a bewildering series of related titles, culminating in successful film versions under the directorial guidance of the homosexual Jew Bryan Singer, now an accused rapist. Like Singer, who has professed an “obsession with the Holocaust” that dominates his work as a film director, Claremont has organized his world-view around the wartime internment of Jews by NS Germany, which had been shaped and crafted into the Jewish Holocaust in the late 1960s.
His treatment of the fictional world of the X-Men was based not on the civil-rights struggles of American Blacks but, as he has himself acknowledged, on the Holocaust and the opportunity it affords of “coming face to face with evil.” Nazis of various stripes, some of them even personal associates of Hitler himself, were accordingly abundant in Claremont’s long run: nazis staff a world-wide terrorist organization called the Hydra Bruderschaft; they kidnap traumatized Holocaust survivors; they sexually harass innocent Blacks in Kenya; they run concentration camps and tattoo numbers on mutants’ foreheads in a slave state they control. There is even an Arab nazi supervillain who supernaturally feeds on human hatreds and thus has an obvious incentive to stir them up through provoking racial violence. And, much more important, there are billions of latent nazis, humans like ourselves who fear and distrust mutants not from concern for our survival or from irritation at their frequent assaults against us but merely because they are different. “The X-Men,” Claremont writes, “are hated, feared, and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have here, intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry, and prejudice.”
It was therefore almost predictable that in 1981 young Erik Lehnsherr would make his belated entrance into Auschwitz and into Holocaust legend in the pages of Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men #150. In fact, he actually “grew up” in Auschwitz; a nazi concentration camp was his childhood home (Uncanny X-Men #161). In the world of comics such a retroactive change in a character’s history is called a retconning, and this particular retcon relied upon the recent Jewish discovery of their Holocaust and the growing body of Holocaust lore that was then cascading into our public consciousness. Readers could now learn, retroactively, why Magneto’s supervillain costume had always been red: it was a tribute to the Jewish blood shed at Auschwitz (Uncanny X-Men #274). They could also learn why Magneto dislikes humans so intensely: “I remember my own childhood . . . the gas chambers at Auschwitz, the guards joking as they herded my family to their death. As our lives were nothing to them, so human lives became nothing to me” (Uncanny X-Men #150). A supervillain whose purpose had always been, as he demonstrated with mind-numbing regularity throughout the 1960s, less mutant racial loyalty and more his own personal aggrandizement had now become an anti-nazi Hebrew warrior battling lethal human aggression in defense of persecuted mutants. His murderous anger toward us had been retconned into a rational response to the unimaginable cruelty that we, both the winners and the losers of the Second World War, had visited upon his race. Jews had become the original mutants: “All the countries of the world . . . turned their backs on me and mine when we were condemned to Hitler’s death camps. Therefore, in return, I have sworn to deny them” (Uncanny X-Men #199).
The idea here of the entire world’s criminal “abandonment of the Jews,” a collective turning of backs across the globe, is now standard Holocaust lore. That German mistreatment of Jews could ever become a delivery system for transmitting Jewish racial animus from Germans to Germany’s wartime enemies would once have seemed impossible. No one in 1945 would have understood it, and it was a new, cutting-edge idea in the 1980s, devised by self-interested Jewish scholars to nazify the Western Allies. Magneto/Claremont invokes this new idea to account for his rage against humanity, not merely the Axis portion thereof. If you want to blame, say, Australians for German concentration camps, the fact that Australians were anti-German during the Second World War constitutes a logical obstacle which must somehow be surmounted. In Claremont’s hands this ad hoc device for pan-Western defamation, which inculpates Australians and every other anti-Axis nation for having failed to rescue Magneto, is not only anti-Western but literally anti-human. The Jewish Holocaust is a skyscraper, from the top of which, if you look down far below, you can just barely glimpse the lesser holocausts in the distance; it was so extraordinary an evil — “transcendent” is Magneto/Claremont’s preferred adjective (Uncanny X-Men #203) — that only the targets can be considered innocent of its taint. Magneto’s rage against all of non-Jewish humanity is therefore only the tormented expression of the unimaginable crime he had endured at our hands.
Strange though it may seem, Magneto the supervillain recalls his decades-old denial of humanity at the National Holocaust Memorial in Washington, which he visits with mutant colleagues on Shoah Day for some reflective commemoration. The year is 1985. The Sabra and Shatila massacre had occurred three years earlier, but naturally enough a different crime is on the minds of the assembled Jews and mutants: “We are gathered on this remembrance day to honor those who endured a horror unlike any ever experienced in human history.” Yet in the SF world of comics, where time travel and alternate histories are common, this is not strictly correct. Another transcendently unique horror has already occurred, but in the future. It occurred on American soil in the early twenty-first century. The perpetrators of this second Holocaust were normal humans like ourselves, and we did it (or will do it) without the assistance of Germans. It was, to quote a time-shifted survivor of this American Holocaust, “a world that’s yet to be — an America where mutants were hunted down like animals and slaughtered on sight” (Uncanny X-Men #202).
In the wake of the turmoil following the introduction of Senator Kelly’s Mutant Control Act, we humans will repeat the unrepeatable. Those mutants not murdered like animals will be herded into concentration camps, patrolled by robotic Sentinels, America’s own high-tech SS. Baseline humans, men and women like ourselves, will be encouraged to breed; mutants, forced to wear their own yellow Star of David in the form of an M on their clothing, will be interned or “killed without mercy.” They have been made “pariahs and outcasts” by a mutant registration program enacted in 1988 as the successor to Kelly’s original legislation (Uncanny X-Men #141). A wheel-chair bound Magneto has somehow survived the resulting slaughter, interned in a mutant concentration camp, but most of the X-Men are now dead, along with millions of their kind. It is White America’s final solution to the mutant menace, as well as Claremont’s own inventive solution to the perplexing problem of attaching nazi guilt to anti-German Americans, and only through some ingenious time travelling is this dark future seemingly averted (Uncanny X-Men #142). There are no other holocausts worthy of mention in Claremont’s mind, certainly none of the atrocities, such as the Ukrainian ethnocide, that those of us on the far Right would like our people to commemorate. There are neither intervening nor preceding holocausts, only the Jewish Holocaust and its doppelganger, the American Holocaust that Claremont invented for our future. In Claremont’s X-Universe our world is interposed between these two unique horrors, with a stream of hatred and intolerance flowing from the first and culminating in the second. The task of the X-men is to ensure that neither of these incomparable events recurs, though in an important sense they tragically already have.
It is one of many implausible pieces of Holocaust lore that survivors acquired a special wisdom through their internment. Plumbing the depths of human evil is an unpleasant yet nevertheless illuminating experience. The tormented Jewish survivor, saddened by man’s inhumanity, alienated from Jehovah, enraged at an unfeeling cosmos, and somehow possessed thereby of a deep knowledge of the world, has become a familiar figure, largely through the tireless efforts of Elie Wiesel. Magneto is a comic-book version of this complex of ideas. He can therefore see the impending American Holocaust lurking within Senator Kelly’s Mutant Control Act, especially in the provision that would require the registration of mutants. It happened once before in Europe, and his survivor spidey sense informs him that it will happen again on a different continent (New Mutants #61).
But since we are not Jewish Holocaust survivors, we can question why registration should constitute so lethal a threat to mutantkind. After all, every affirmative-action program requires some form of racial classification: an “equal-opportunity” employer cannot discriminate against Whites unless he first identifies us. A diversity instructor cannot organize diversity training unless he first distinguishes the diverse from the non-diverse. Israel, where both Claremont and Magneto once resided, can only enforce its Jews-only immigration policy by first distinguishing Jews from non-Jews. So why is registration so dangerous in Claremont’s X-Universe? In practice it apparently means only that mutants are listed as such in a computer database, yet registration is presented always as an ill-wind blowing that will sweep away the mutants just as the Germans once swept away the Jews. The genocidal danger it presents is stated even more boldly in Bryan Singer’s films. “Identification,” Magneto predicts in X-Men: First Class, “that’s how it starts.” If we identify mutants, we shall eliminate them soon after. This premise is obviously inconsistent with the oft-stated moral obligation of human society to accept the superior mutants in all their diversity, since we cannot be expected to accept and embrace diverse mutants if we are not permitted to identify them.
The genocidal end that registration improbably entails in the X-Universe did not arise internally from the fictional world of Stan Lee’s X-Men. It was, rather, a consequence of Claremont’s decision to contort the comic’s secondary world to conform to the dictates of Holocaust historiography. Illogic and improbability flowed naturally therefrom. For it is an important truism of Holocaust lore that the world’s greatest genocide was implicit the moment Europeans formally distinguished themselves from Jews. “When in the early days of 1933,” Holocaust historian Raoul Hilberg writes, “the first civil servant wrote the first definition of ‘non-Aryan’ into a civil service ordinance, the fate of European Jewry was sealed.” No one should take that idea seriously as an historical observation, but it is now entangled in the fabric of the X-Men comics and their film adaptations. If you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out. In this case what you will get is an overwhelming moral imperative (“Thou shalt not categorize mutants as Others”) that is not only improbable within the comic itself, where oddly shaped mutants are physically disturbing even to other mutants, but also incompatible with its multiculturalist racial metaphor, which allegorically figures real-world racial diversity in the form of wildly exceptional creatures with extra-human gifts. The blue-skinned Nightcrawler acknowledges that “[he] is not precisely a man” (Uncanny X-Men #95), and since he can teleport through walls and we cannot, humans within the world of the comic book can hardly be blamed for noticing his difference.
The thought-crime in the X-Men comics of seeing the mutant as Other, and acting accordingly, is therefore not an easy analogue for white “racism.” Jews were forced to wear yellow stars in concentration camps not for decorative purposes but because it was often difficult to distinguish physically Jews from Germans or other Europeans. Not even the powerful telepath Charles Xavier can detect that Magneto is Jewish, since he is Nordic in his physiognomy (Uncanny X-Men #149). The fear of our registration of mutants, or of our recognition of their difference, implies a concept of “racism” based on that old-world dynamic, wherein outward physical differences are often subtle or non-existent. It is a “racism” devised to protect Claremont’s own group. It makes sense only if we interpret mutants as Jews and baseline humans as latent nazis. In other words, it is a “racism” which is almost indistinguishable from a rational anti-Semitism — that is, the recognition that Caucasian Jews are significantly different from other Caucasians not in their appearance but in their group interests and group behavior.
It is not a “racism” that a Black comic writer would have devised. His group, like Nightcrawler and unlike Magneto, is already visible. His group has always been seen as different from people of European descent, because its difference is an unmistakable physical fact. He is not fearful that Whites might notice that he belongs to a different racial group, because he manifestly does. And in terms of practical real-world politics, he wants that difference to be officially recognized (or “registered”) in the form of affirmative-action preferences, minority set-asides, and all the rest of the race-based remedies that benefit racial minorities at our expense. If a government computer that listed all persons eligible for racial remedies excluded his name, he would likely be angry.
Seen in this light the wide range of weird mutant diversity, though often superficially striking, is almost irrelevant. Ororo Munroe is a blue-eyed Black African and Lorna Dane has green hair. Other mutants, like Nightcrawler, are much stranger. The phenotypical otherness of the various mutants enables them allegorically to represent real-world diversity and represent normal humans as the forces of intolerance arrayed against it. This structure also, as an additional didactic benefit, allows the diverse, superior Others in the comic book to sit in judgment over White America in the real world. Mutant aggression against us is caused by our many acts of intolerance against their differences. Mutants who believe that we can be redeemed, X-Men like Charles Xavier, contend against mutants, led by Erik Lehnsherr, who believe in our incapacity to abandon our in-group solidarity and embrace mutantkind in all its diversity. Both are in agreement that we need to reform; the pessimists are convinced that we never will. Our moral deficiencies, most notably our intolerance and attendant hatreds, fuel the latter’s anger. The multi-shaped and multi-colored mutants, analogues of real-world diversity, are thus the ultimate judges of our moral character. Yet if Claremont’s mutants are understood not by what they look like but by what they most fear, then this structure becomes less significant than the striking physical peculiarities of the mutants might suggest. If we focus our attention on what the fear of registration implies, we see not a wondrous array of vibrant multiracial diversity opposed to and contrasted with our pallid non-diversity, but only two groups: Jews on one side and on the other the forces of anti-Semitic intolerance supposedly implicit in any non-Jewish majority.
Insofar as Euro-Americans exist in Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men as a recognizable group, we constitute a problem: we may attend William Stryker’s fanatically anti-mutant Church or watch his evangelical television broadcasts; we may support Senator Kelly’s plan for mutant registration; we may riot against mutants or even lynch them; sometimes we mutter inwardly to ourselves that lousy muties are taking our jobs, unaware that some mutants can read our minds; our television personalities and Limbaugh-like talk-radio hosts foment anti-mutant hatred reminiscent of the worst excesses of Hitler’s Germany; we scrawl “mutie die” on public buildings; some of us deny that a blue-skinned teleporter can be human.
Yet we are not alone in our intolerance. The Jewish X-Man Kitty Pryde, Claremont’s favorite character, is willing to call a Negro a “nigger” if said Negro is intolerant toward mutants (Uncanny X-Men #196), as too many Blacks are. Dark faces appear rarely but unmistakably among the forces of intolerance. Blacks are not a privileged class among the earth’s wretched. Unlike other comic books, which bizarrely present the typical street criminal as a threatening Anglo-Saxon, in Claremont’s X-Men street criminals are often realistically presented as Black and Chicano, though their accents and ghetto vocabulary may have been borrowed from the blacksploitation movies of the 1970s. All this implies at least a partial dethroning of Blacks from their old civil-rights position as America’s preeminent victim class. They, too, can be numbered among the dangerous and intolerant.
Blacks can have few special prerogatives because, as Ted Sallis observes, Claremont’s X-Men attenuates the physical and cultural fact of real-world racial categories in favor of a fictional boundary between mutant and human, with the tensions and acrimony around that fictional boundary becoming the primary focus of explicit sermonizing about tolerance and the evils of discrimination. Blacks are, nevertheless, a useful symbolic resource, since their claims to special consideration as a victim class are the most historically grounded in American history, far greater than any possible claim that Claremont could make on behalf of his own wealthy and successful tribe. If you want to set a comic book about “racism, bigotry, and prejudice” in the United States, Blacks have an obvious claim to appear within its pages, whereas Jews have no claim at all. Claremont therefore has his Jewish anti-hero come face to face with the human debris of a White-on-Black lynching.
In the X-Men graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills Magneto discovers two Black mutant children murdered by White Christian fundamentalists, followers of Reverend Stryker, the deranged televangelist. The children are aged nine and eleven. Their parents have also been murdered. It is a strong scene, unusual for a comic book; its strength is a good index of how deeply Claremont hates us. We have seen the children die at the hands of Stryker’s paramilitary vigilantes. They were killed because, as the attractive woman who acts as their commander coolly explains, mutants have “no right to live.” The killers hang the children’s corpses from a schoolyard swing, so that other children will see them in the morning. The swing seat, marked “mutie,” is placed around their necks. The hate-criminals want everyone to see their crime and understand its motive. Although we are in Connecticut, we are supposed to think of White violence against Blacks in the Deep South decades earlier. We are in a stereotyped world of lynchings, nightriders, Klansmen and twisted bible-thumpers, an unreal world of nocturnal terrorism very much at odds with actual interracial crime in the 1980s, which was then (as now) massively Black-on-White.
The children have been killed not because they are descendants of slaves, but because they are mutants. Although Stryker and his followers (“purifiers”) resemble Klansmen, and although there can be no doubt that Claremont intends their violence to pathologize the normal in-group biases of people of European descent, there is no indication that the killers dislike Blacks. In fact, we learn later that these Christian Purifiers conceptualize Blacks as members of their own human racial family, not as the “mutie scum” they hunt down. Within the literal level of the comic’s story their hatred is for mutants, a category of person that does not exist in real world, and in terms of the episode’s metaphorical structure, the children could have been White or Chinese and the moralizing meaning would have remained very much the same. Put differently, the children are Black only to emphasize that the killers are White.
Magneto, standing by the children’s posed corpses, vows vengeance. He is here the moral center of this narrative, which recounts the exterminationist madness of Stryker, an incipient Hitler who years ago murdered his wife and their newborn mutant son out of a deranged, nazi-like fear of racial impurity. Magneto’s rage is understandable: children belonging to his mutant racial group have just been murdered. Magneto must tragically see the nazi evil he escaped decades ago now re-enacted, though on a much less significant scale. He is also taking over, on behalf of his tribe, a small portion of Black history, which has become, in Claremont’s expert hands, a tributary of Jewish Holocaust history. This act of superficially White-on-Black violence is really a successor event to the Holocaust, part of the stream of anti-mutant hatred flowing from the first Holocaust in Europe to the American Holocaust of the future, and thus the person best positioned to comprehend a White-on-Black lynching in Connecticut is the mutant Erik Lehnsherr, a German-born Auschwitz survivor.
Claremont, to give him credit, was often willing to acknowledge within his narratives the oddity of a character who hates and fights in the name of opposing human intolerance. “What, pray tell, would your doting admirers say,” the evil mutant Mystique asks, “. . . if they knew the truth — that you’ve become . . . a man as cruel and heartless and full of hate as any Nazi ever born?” (Uncanny X-Men #199). The idea is not isolated. It is repeated often, and Claremont even structures it into the history of the movement Magneto founded. Just as ancient Israel once despoiled her Egyptian enemies of their gold, so Magneto funds his anti-human Brotherhood of Evil Mutants by appropriating Hitler’s own personal gold reserves, which his followers had smuggled out of Europe in the hope of funding a nazi revival that would dominate the world (Uncanny X-Men #161). Magneto’s hate is nazi-like in its character and materially funded by the nazi leader himself. It shares the same goals, though on behalf of a different master race. Claremont wants us to imagine and admire a Jewish anti-hero who hates almost as passionately as any nazi, who aspires also to world conquest just as Hitler allegedly so aspired, but to admire him nevertheless because his hate is a response to an antecedent hate. He is the Jewish tribe’s own activist nazi, but because his is a hate produced by the crimes of others, and because its targets are latent nazis like ourselves rather than Jews, it is somehow morally different from its cause.
Dates are significant in this story. A decade before Claremont retconned Magneto’s anger and aggression by revealing his Auschwitz past, the X-Men title had seen its first non-White character, Sunfire, a Japanese mutant named Shiro Yoshida. Sunfire acquired his sun-born mutant powers, which enable flight and solar blasts, as a result of the Hiroshima bombing, which also killed his mother. He is a Japanese imperialist filled with rage against “the ravagers of [his] ancestral homeland.” While his father, a Japanese politician who believes “the old quarrels are dead and . . . must be forgotten,” works for reconciliation between Americans and their Axis enemy, Shiro’s uncle Tomo has filled his mind from infancy with thoughts of retrograde vengeance. To that end Shiro hopes to destroy the Capitol Building in Washington and nearly succeeds, until his father’s entreaty blunts his resolve: “Tomo is a sick man, Shiro, feeding the fire of his hatred with the embers of a long-dead war.” Uncle Tomo murders his pacific brother and dies soon after at Shiro’s hand; a white-hot burst of Sunfire’s mutant solar power “snuffs out a life that had fed on hatred and holocaust!” (X-Men #64).
The writer was Roy Thomas. The comic was written in 1970. The “long-dead war” that inflamed Sunfire and his uncle had ended twenty-five years earlier. Feeding one’s “hatred with the embers of a long-dead war” was deprecated in 1970, at least for the Japanese. But in the 1970s there were also books and university courses devoted to stirring wartime embers for the sake of specifically Jewish hatreds, and by the late 1970s there was also a comic book, Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men, which was beginning to serve the same purpose, spreading the news of broad Western guilt and the Jewish moral prerogative of racial aggression, ideas that would become central to the X-Men franchise in the 1980s. With seven X-Men films already released and even more planned for the future, this comic book, fed on hatred and the Holocaust and now indelibly imprinted with Claremont’s Jewish fixations, is more culturally important in our own era than the old tomes of Holocaust lore that inspired him.
Magneto now, in 2014, seven decades after the end of World War II, stars in his own title, wherein, like a principled serial killer who targets only the intolerant, he pursues and kills humans who threaten his Herrenvolk. Sometimes he makes mistakes, but his heart is in the right place. Wherever hate against mutants raises its ugly head, he plans to be there, protecting the different from the intolerance of the many. He is a terrorist, a savior, a hero, a villain all wrapped up in a single incongruous package
(Magneto #1), and as such he has become a suitable anti-hero for a disturbingly large swath of the West in general and modern Americans in particular — hating the hateful, repelled yet fascinated by the lore of the Jewish Holocaust, cultivating a prurient interest in images of violence, capable of spotting toxic “racism” in the most improbable locations, eager to punish Israel’s enemies as though they were their own. We have, as Yockey warned, undergone a process of culture distortion.
“The Holocaust,” Diana Johnstone writes, “is really a dominant religion in the West”; but if it is a religion, it is often savage. Its secularized numinous moments in popular culture, in both film and the pages of comic books, include scenes of mutant supermen torturing the defenseless representatives of intolerance. If Magneto, through his mutant power over magnetism, pulls the metal fillings from your teeth, there is not much you, a weakling human, can do to defend yourself, other than regret the moral trespasses against his people that justified the punishment he is inflicting on you. In that respect Erik Magnus Lehnsherr’s retconned arrival in Auschwitz in 1981 was an important landmark in Holocaust history. The X-Men comic book and the life of Magneto the supermutant show clearly the racial aggression often concealed within the deceptive monuments of Jewish Holocaust commemoration.