Magneto In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

The X-Menís greatest adversary has had a rather long and prolific animated career and boasts many appearances beyond his role as the chief villain to The X-Men. Debuting in X-Men #1, Magneto has been their biggest villain from day one Ė the genius behind it all is of course, that many donít believe he actually is a villain, he simply does what he believes is right for his people, his fellow mutants. Unfortunately, this wasnít the same character that was to be found in many of his early-animated appearances, in the majority of them, Magneto was just another villain with magnetic powers.

Surprisingly enough, Magnetoís first animated appearance came in The Fantastic Four in the late 70ís. The cartoon has been mocked by a lot of fans for itís inclusion of H.E.R.B.I.E instead of The Human Torch, whoís rights were tied up with a live action TV deal at the time. As another surprise, the episode is written by non other than the creator of both Magneto and The Fantastic Four, Stan ĎThe Maní Lee himself! Now, given the showís age and how little older cartoons managed to get shown here in the UK, Iíve seen very, very little of this show, but I own this episode on VHS. I remember thinking it was laughably bad, even as a child.

The episode in question features Magneto becoming leader of The Fantastic Four and yes, they did still call themselves The Fantastic Four, despite the fact there were 5 of them, and the ending is one of the most hilariously awful scenes Iíve ever witnessed. After Magneto fails to magnetise Reedís gun to himself, he demanded that he be arrested, as he was worthless without his powers. Reed tricked him of course; the gun was made of wood. Presumably, when placed behind metal bars, Magneto realised his powers had returned and broke out, possibly to embark on a murderous rampage. Iím kind of glad I didnít have to suffer through the various cartoons in the 70ísÖ

Aside from an odd episode of 67 Spider-Man in which Spider-Man fought a bitter scientist named Dr. Magneto who had a magnetic gun, Magnetoís next appearance would be a few years later, in the 1981 Spider-Man solo series. Again, Magneto is featured in a typical super villain plot with no sign of his fight for mutant superiority and his motivation is mere greed. The episode is a forgettable encounter for sure. I actually had to look up whether or not he appeared on the show on the 80ís solo site Ė take that as you will. Nothing laughably bad, like in Fantastic Four, but not something thatíll stick with you for a long time.

He would clash with Spider-Man yet again with the X-Men again nowhere in site, as he would appear as a villain in Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, which meant he didnít have a whole lot of depth to him by default. The show was too busy being fun to greatly develop villains it never planned on using again, but considering this is Magneto weíre talking about, it does feel like a wasted opportunity. The episode sees Magneto take an island full of Prison Wardens hostage, demanding they release the captured members of his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (look for cameos by The Blob, Toad and Mastermind). Itís not a great episode, and probably comes across as one of the least entertaining episodes from the season, but given the tone of the show and when it took place, Iím not sure using Magneto was a good idea to begin with. His voice didnít seem to fit his character too well and his design was a little lacklustre Ė every copy Iíve seen seems to have the red and the purple so similar you question if the suit isnít just one colour. The show always had weird little colouring patterns, and Magneto was no exception.

Save for a small cameo in The Origin Of Iceman, Magneto wouldnít be animated again until Marvel tried to get The X-Men their own animated show on TV. Funding an expensive looking pilot in hopes of luring network attention, Marvel produced Pryde Of The X-Men and who else but Magneto was featured as the chief villain, once again acting as the leader of The Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants. The ever-popular Malcolm X Magneto isnít found here, once again, heís simply the leader of a group of mutant terrorists. Iíve no idea how they wouldíve managed to pull this show off without the mutant vs. humans dilemma that makes the X-Men as interesting as they air, because this episode proves one thing for sure Ė Magneto isnít interesting as a straight up super villain. He simply doesnít work in the role. Itís always worth noting though Ė the animation in this pilot is far better than anything that was ever found in X-Men: The Animated Series, and even tops the animation found in the second season of Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends. If nothing else, Pyrde managed to deliver a very cool looking Magneto. But as with the pilot itself, Magnetoís portrayal is nothing to write home about.

Thankfully, Magneto would become one of the finest supervillains to ever grace animation when X-Men: The Animated Series hit in 1992. Or would he?