These ‘X-Men’ Adversaries Were Inspired By Major Historical Figures

Across time, sci-fi films and fantasy novels have sought inspiration from history — from various events, some inspiring, others fear-inducing — to conjure a narrative worth putting on the page. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter blatantly alludes to Nazi Germany — pureblood fascination among the villainous equates to Hitler’s push for an all Aryan race. Not to mention, both Hitler and Voldemort suffered from rejection in childhood, and the list goes on and on. 

‘X-Men: First Class’, From left to right, actors Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Lucas Till | Murray Close/Getty Images

As for Stan Lee, he looked towards history and, most notably, he looked towards the Civil Rights movement when penning his mutant saga, X-Men. Two characters — on opposing sides of a coin — undisputably allude to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Professor Xavier parallels the former peace-keeper and activist, while the latter is designed to emulate the man more willing to use physical force to make a statement. 

Stan Lee was once explained to The Guardian why he loved the idea behind the X-Men, highlighting the fact that those they were defending — humans — rejected their existence. Lee stated, ”It not only made them different, but it was a good metaphor for what was happening with the Civil Rights Movement in the country at that time.” And as explains, this Civil Rights allegory extended to the characters themselves, with Professor X pushing for harmonious co-existence (as did MLK Jr.) and Magneto fighting vigorously for the defense of mutant-kind…at all costs. 

Analyzing ‘X-Men’ leader Professor Xavier and Martin Luther King Jr. 

When you consider Professor X’s approach, the parallels to MLK Jr. become strikingly evident. He sought to educate — he created a school designed to curate acceptance and understanding. He wanted peace and fought for peace. Similar to MLK Jr., he dreamed of a day that mutants and humans could walk hand-in-hand. 

Professor X did not want to fight “the man;” he yearned to change “the man.” Professor Xavier’s demeanor and approach echoed MLK Jr.’s peaceful protests, boycotts, and sit-ins. In the Civil Rights movement, it was words over fists; for the mutants, it was education over destruction, words over powers. 

A look at Magneto and Malcolm X 

On the other side of the coin, we have Magneto and Malcolm X — two individuals who sought to defend their group at all costs. Malcolm X was willing to use violence, so was Magneto. Malcolm X once said:

If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.

Similar to Malcolm X, Magento believed that if it was acceptable for humans to seek violence against mutants, it was acceptable for mutants to retaliate. Magento once said to Spider-Man, “Just like Charles, he believed in a idiotic sense of morality yet payed for his weakness.” Meaning, Magneto viewed Charles’ sense of morality and his approach to the problem as fool-hearted — unequal and unfair. Magento and Professor X understood each other but disagreed on how to handle the threat; the same holds true for the figures who inspired their creation.