Comic Leaders: Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X Were X-Men
By: Frsk Purple (@frskpurple)
Fifteen years ago, Stan Lee revealed his inspiration for the X-Men was the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement. So, it would come to no surprise that the greatest antagonist and protagonist in any of Mavel's muli-verse, Professor X and Magneto, were heavily influenced by the most prolific icons of the movement's height, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
The first appearance of Charles Xavier came in 1963, the same year as the legendary 'I Have a Dream Speech'. Professor X was fashioned after Dr. King's cool temperament and ability to display integrity when such resolved was literally beaten out of his fellow advocates. The idea of self regulation and the responsibility to ones talents and community are also core principles in both the fictional telekinetic mutant and the real doctor of Philosophy in Systematic Theology. As the years went on the character even devoted a dream of his own "where mutants and humans can live in perfect harmony", which can be taken as a clear reference to the historic " I Have a Dream".
The story of our antagonist comes as, not a villain predicated on evil, but as an anti-hero to the conventional method.
Before we get into how Malcolm X fits, we must first look at Magneto's history. Erik Lehnsherr was a Jewish survivor of the holocaust. After escaping prison camp, Erik was adopted by a Ukrainian family and given the name 'Magnus'. After an accident with developing abilities, 'Magnus' burns down the house killing one. Erik fleas again, this time to Israel where he meets Professor X and the rest is history. Now when we look at Malcolm X's early life, he too was captured in a different kind of national hold of a particular group; inner city life of crime. Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, was in prison when was "adopted" by the Nation Of Islam, who believed the black man lost his religion when he was brought to America as slaves. After his release, Malcolm used the new platform to unite his people and advocate for more stern action towards the oppressors. Both Malcolm and Magneto are manifestations of rebellion of the environment that made them.
Something that is notably interesting about both characters, is the yin and yang infused into each other. Professor X quite obviously takes the 'X' from Malcolm, while 'M' both start Martin and Magneto. I dont think these connections are ironic coincidences, especially when you take a closer look at the non mainstream view on all of our subjects.
Life is always stranger than fiction and for decades, Stan Lee gave millions of fans a vantage point into history all his own but inspired by all.