Magneto/Xavier (X-Men, all versions)
Pairing: Magneto/Xavier from X-Men, all versions
Spoilers: Much of the history of comicverse, the ending of the animated series revealed, and some small spoilers for Movieverse and Ultimate.
Email: alara at mindspring dot com
Website: Alara's Happy-Happy Mostly Text Only Site
Acknowledgements: Ideas that went into this essay were inspired by the ideas of andrastewhite and Rivka Jacobs.
Enemies: A Love Story
The thing that confuses any newcomer to X-Men fanfic is that there are, at last count, five separate, internally contradictory canons, depending on what variation of the source material you're going off. There's the original comic, of course, a story about mutant teenagers with superpowers fighting to protect a world that hates and fears them for being mutants, which started around 1962 or so, and has an unbelievably complex and detailed history-- too complex and detailed for the average newcomer to easily get into, though it's easier nowadays when so much has been reprinted in trade paperback. This is usually called Comicverse. Then there's the Movieverse, based on the two movies directed by Bryan Singer. Then there are two different, unrelated animated series-- the 90's series usually called just X-Men: The Animated Series (or TAS), and the 00's series in which most of the characters are teenagers, called X-Men Evolution or Evo. Finally, there's a new comic book series following a completely new continuity, called Ultimate X-Men or the Ultimateverse.
Throughout all five, the relationship between Charles Xavier, telepathic mentor and teacher of the X-Men, and Magneto, the X-Men's first mutant opponent, Master of Magnetism and pro-mutant terrorist, is one of the most powerful relationships in the story (though in Evolution, it's played way down, due to Evolution being aimed at teenagers, a group who on average don't seem to think folks over the age of 25 are exactly people.)
CHARLES XAVIER: In all incarnations, Charles Xavier is the bald, telepathic mentor to the X-Men, the man who brought the team together and trained them to fight "evil mutants" in order to promote mutant-human cooperation. He's almost always shown as confined to a wheelchair (though in the comics, he's had several walking periods). His heart is in the right place-- he wants to make the world a better place for both humans and mutants-- but he's secretive and somewhat aloof. Usually, he plainly loves his students. (Ultimate may be an exception, and some have argued that this is not true in Evolution.) Always, he hides most of his personal issues from them. He's an extraordinarily powerful telepath, usually portrayed as having strict ethical beliefs that prevent him from willy-nilly doing whatever he likes with his powers. (These ethics exist in Ultimate but are a lot less powerful, and he's done some questionable things in Evolution without much angst about it.)
MAGNETO (Erik Magnus Lehnsherr): In all incarnations, Magneto is the charismatic leader of an extremely pro-mutant faction of mutants, bordering on outright bigotry against humans, which believes that humans will destroy mutants if the mutants don't strike first. He always has silver or white hair, though in the movie that's because he's an old man. He always controls magnetism, and is a superb fighter, not necessarily in the fisticuffs sense but in the sense of how to use his powers in combat against multiple enemies or in unusual situations. Magneto is much more emotionally volatile than Charles, displaying rage in situations where Charles would be calm. He is extraordinarily arrogant and prideful, sometimes to the point where he denies his own essential humanity. Magneto is always more ruthless than Charles is, but is sometimes shown to be much more practical in his own way.
In all incarnations but one, Magneto's backstory is horrifying and sympathetic. He was a child or teen during the Holocaust, lost his entire family, and was sent to a concentration camp. (The comics and movie make this explicit. In TAS, he was the victim of an unnamed unrest in Europe, but the visuals imply Nazis, and in Evolution, he was sent to a "prisoner of war" camp in Poland during WWII... that was full of women, children and old men, when he himself was about 12. In other words, a concentration camp, but the producers of Evo didn't want to say so.) This informs his worldview and has made him the paranoid, cynical person he is. (The one incarnation where this isn't true is Ultimate, which I won't talk about much as Ultimate's Magneto is pretty much irredeemable, despite the fact that Ultimate Charles/Erik is canon.)
COMICVERSE CHARLES AND MAGNUS:
Sometime in the past, approximately 25 years ago, Charles Xavier was drifting through the world, seeing the sights, when he was called in by an old war buddy who'd become a psychiatrist in Israel, asking for help with a particular patient. Gabrielle Haller was a former inmate of Dachau who had gone completely catatonic. Charles was able to cure her, using his telepathic powers. While there, he met Magnus, a volunteer orderly at the hospital, a former camp survivor himself... and a person with powerful mental shields. Charles was instantly impressed that Magnus' mind was closed to him. The two of them quickly developed a friendship, and spent much of their time discussing the "hypothetical" issue of mutants-- with Charles insisting that only if mutants and humans were willing to work together could both be safe, and Magnus insisting on mutant separatism and claiming that humans would destroy mutants if they could. Somehow they never got around to mutually admitting that this topic of conversation wasn't hypothetical at all until a bunch of Neo-Nazis kidnapped Gabrielle, who by now was Charles' girlfriend (so much for doctor-patient ethics...) They worked together to rescue her, but afterward, Magnus walked off with a large cache of Nazi gold, declaring he would use it to fund the protection of mutantkind. To all appearances, the next time they met in canon, they were enemies.
When Charles Xavier sent his X-Men up against Magneto on their first real mission, he described Magneto as an "evil mutant" bent on mutant domination of the world. It was accurate enough-- Magneto had by this time pretty much gone insane, and was out to conquer the world-- but he somehow neglected to mention that Magneto had been his best friend once. His team fought Magneto many times over the next several years, until at last Magneto was brought down by his own creation, a being called Mutant Alpha who decided to reduce Magneto to infancy to give him a second chance at life after coming to the conclusion that Magneto was evil.
Baby Magnus was handed over to Charles' ex-girlfriend, mutant researcher Moira MacTaggert, until an alien calling himself Erik the Red force-grew Magneto back to adulthood to prevent the X-Men and Charles Xavier from being able to help Charles' new alien lover, Lilandra, the sister of the mad Shi'ar emperor. Magneto, restored to his prime, was at first just as nuts as ever, only more powerful. However, he began to reality-check the beliefs he'd held for years, and sanity trickled back. Finally, in the issue that established his history and cemented him as a three-dimensional character instead of the cardboard villain he'd been, he tried to take over the world, nearly killed a Jewish mutant girl in the process, and realized with horror he had become as bad as the Nazis. He quit being a bad guy then, though it took him a while to give up certain bad guy habits, like referring to himself in the third person.
When all of Earth's heroes were kidnapped to another dimension to fight all the Earth's villains for the amusement of an omnipotent being, Magneto was arbitrarily classified with the "heroes" because he fought for a cause, not his personal power. Charles Xavier defended him to the hero community and worked together with him throughout that story arc. Later, when the Beyonder came to Earth and Charles was too weak to do anything, he called to Magneto to join his team and help them stop the Beyonder, and he persuaded the X-Men to (reluctantly) accept Magneto as one of them. Magnus ended up turning himself in to the World Court to stand trial for his crimes, a trial that was interrupted when old enemies attacked and Charles Xavier was almost killed. Charles' lover Lilandra came and took him into space to heal him, but not before Charles had extracted a promise from Magnus to teach his students in his place.
It was a disaster. Magnus didn't understand teenagers, and his authoritarian style didn't fit at all with the established dynamics of the group, and then one of the students was killed and Magneto went apeshit, and his little insanity problem started coming back. Eventually he turned decisively away from Xavier's and the X-Men's path by killing a woman who had tried to steal his powers, but it wasn't until he discovered that Moira MacTaggert had altered his genetic code in an attempt to cure his insanity, while he was a baby in her care, that he completely flipped out again. Interestingly, he blamed Charles, who had had nothing to do with it and who he hadn't even seen since Charles had gone to space.
After that their relationship went through cycles. Magneto goes insane, tries to kill X-Men/conquer the world/other obnoxious supervillain plot. Charles reluctantly kicks his ass. Things get personal. Nasty things, such as torture and mindwipes, are done. Magneto disappears, and when he comes back, he's temporarily sane and Charles forgives him, until the next cycle. Currently in the comic books, they are in a sane cycle, and I would recommend that people who become fans of this pairing pick up "Excalibur", a brand-new comic written by Chris Claremont, the creator of three-dimensional Magneto and the Charles-Magnus relationship, which takes the premise "One's a former mutant dictator who was impersonated after the destruction of his country! One's a former teacher of mutants who almost became completely disillusioned when an impostor of his best friend nearly killed him! They teach mutants, and oh, also fight crime!" Well, if "attempting genocide on mutantkind" counts as crime, anyway.
These two are not ideologically compatible in the slightest. Charles believes, deep down, in reason and the essential goodness of people. Magnus believes, deep down, that people are vicious animals who will turn on what's different, and the only way to save yourself is to do unto others before they do unto you. Charles believes, at least in principle, that all people are equal. Magnus goes back and forth between just not caring about human beings very much, and being actively bigoted against them. Charles believes that killing is wrong, all the time. Magnus believes that killing is necessary, and whether or not it is wrong is kind of irrelevant. Charles fears mutantkind and its powers, including his own (it's telling that his idea for getting humans to like mutantkind was not to do beneficial works for humanity, but to police mutantkind and stop "evil mutants"). Magnus celebrates mutantkind and power, and believes there can't be such a thing as too much power, unless it's not him who has it.
They also have opposing personalities-- Charles is fatherly with students, both stern and kind, and both friendly and aloof with equals. He seems approachable, but hardly ever confides in anyone or lets anyone in. Magnus, when insane, rejects all human contact and is entirely dominated by rage; when sane, Magnus shows a much wider range of real emotion than Charles lets himself show. Magnus gets along well with small children; Charles gets along well with teenagers. Magnus appeals to large crowds and movements, but rarely manages to keep anyone loyal to him personally. Charles doesn't play well in Peoria, or with Joe Mutant, but those that meet him are intensely personally loyal to him. Charles believes in forgiveness. Magnus doesn't.
By the way, the name Erik Magnus Lehnsherr (it's pronounced Lenz-her, not Len-sher) was invented in comics fairly late-- Magnus was invented in 1980 or so, Erik Lehnsherr in 1993 or thereabouts, and so in comicverse fics Magneto is usually referred to by his middle name. (Comics have also tried to retcon the name out of existence, claiming it to be a fake name, but this didn't fly so well.) Occasionally Charles calls him Erik, but in canon, Charles usually uses Magnus when he's genuinely feeling affection and Erik when he wants to smack Magneto across the face with his humanity (sample: "Hello, Erik. Nice helmet.")
Why are these two a slash couple? Well, they're not necessarily. In canon, they both have about four former girlfriends each. They have very rarely been in the same place at the same time with Magneto sane and neither of them in love with anyone else (Excalibur is in fact the first time, I think.) Charles&Magnus fic in which they are just Really Good Friends works just fine for me. The thing is, though, that that must mean Really, REALLY good friends, considering they hung out together in Israel for maybe a year or two at most, separated for years, then tried to kill each other repeatedly... and they are *still* best buddies every time Magnus is sane. This is not a realistic dynamic for your bestest pal. Frankly, unrequited lust as an engine driving them to get back together and forgive each other frequently makes more sense.
Magnus does not get along well with any men except Charles. He has female friends, he has female lovers, but among men, he has acolytes, former students, enemies and grudging allies... except for Charles. And Charles gets along with everyone, but there's no one else, aside from his stepbrother, he has such a powerful love/hate thing going on with. Charles has offered the hand of redemption to Sabretooth, but one doesn't get the idea he was really all that upset or disappointed when Sabretooth turned on him. Magnus' betrayals, however, hurt.
Plus, Magnus in comicverse is drawn as Teh HOTTT and Charles is not exactly a slouch himself, if you like 'em bald. Unlike most pairings of Old Guys, this is not one where any but the teeniest teenybopper should be going "But... but... old men! Sex! Euw, brain hurts!" (Personally I thought comicverse Magneto and Xavier were hot when I was 15.)
Magneto/Xavier fic in comicverse centers typically around issues of redemption and forgiveness, ideological differences, politics and compromise, and alternate universes where the two find a middle ground. It has been known to have genuinely happy endings. It's also much rarer than Magneto&Xavier fic (what I call "ampersand"-- strong non-sexual relationships), which follows many of the same themes.
Nightmares by Dannell Lites. In Israel, Charles sees Magnus' descent into madness beginning, and cannot stop it.
Good Friends by Sigil. An interlude in Israel turns into something neither Charles nor Magnus expected.
Tempting Fate, Riders on the Storm, and Holding On by Writegirl. Magneto discovers he is terminally ill, and comes to stay with Charles, where they resume their old relationship despite the disapproval of the X-Men.
Making Sense of It by Jane of Shadows. Scott is greatly perturbed when he accidentally walks in on his mentor having sex with the team's oldest enemy.
There are also a ton of Charles&Magnus friendship fics. If that's your thing, check out my Magneto site, Alara's Happy-Happy Text-Only Magneto Site. I may also write an essay for otf_manifesto which will feature those recs.
MOVIEVERSE CHARLES AND ERIK:
In movieverse, Erik Lehnsherr (there is no "Magnus") goes by his first name, although he claims his "real name" is Magneto, rather the way radical feminists used to change their last names to things like Ravensdotter on the grounds that their birth last name was their father's name and a symbol of their slavery to men. In any case, Charles calls him Erik.
Movieverse is a lot simpler in a lot of ways, and the bond between the two men a lot stronger. We know, canonically, that Erik came to the United States when he was about 19 years old. I'm not sure if it's canon or fanon, but it's usually implied in fanfic he met Charles right around the same time. We know, canonically, that Erik and Charles worked together to build Cerebro, and in fanon, they were co-teachers of the school until relatively recently, and people such as Scott and Jean even looked up to Erik as a father figure. We also have never seen any sign of Charles being sexually involved with anyone, and Erik's lover is a shapechanger. So fans in movieverse frequently establish Charles Xavier as gay (something that cannot be reasonably said about the comicverse version and his four girlfriends) and Erik Lehnsherr as either gay or bi (usually bi; stories where he's gay give him a somewhat twisted relationship with Mystique, as he needs her to take male form, usually Charles').
It works very well. The gay rights movement in America, which both men would have lived through, provides a frighteningly close parallel to mutants' situation, much closer than the parallel between mutants and Jews that the comics keep drawing. Charles is that rarest of creations in fannish canons, a person with no canonical sexual orientation whatsoever, so there's no good reason to assume he's *not* gay. And the fact that Ian McKellan is a gay activist and Patrick Stewart is happy to be fetishized by the gay community and comfortable playing gay characters doesn't hurt. Of course, slash doesn't work so well if there's no chemistry, but these two men have tons when they play against each other. Even when Magneto is abandoning Charles to die after perverting him into a weapon against humanity, you can believe he loves Charles, or did. And while Magneto has an equal and partner in Mystique, there is no evidence Charles feels about *anyone* the way he obviously felt about Magneto once, or even does still. It could be a strong friendship turned into enmity... but the two behave a lot more like ex-lovers than ex-best friends.
Movieverse slash stories usually feature much more realistic explorations of gay men's lives, serious discussion of Charles' disability in the context of sex, and a heavy reliance on real-world politics as well as the ideological conflicts present in comicverse. They are also almost always bittersweet or downright tragic, because the stories in which the two are lovers are usually set before the separation, and we know these two will become enemies. Stories set after the separation are full of pain and betrayal and loss. There are almost no happy endings. There's also, oddly, rather little actual sex, possibly because the actors are Two Old Guys, possibly because Charles is in a wheelchair, or possibly because no one can get them to shut up long enough to boink. :-)
Devotion by Kat Reitz. Love despite it all.
Fragile Bodies of Touch and Taste by Jane St. Clair. Charles and Erik go touring America in their younger days.
Golden by Andraste. Sometimes love is not enough.
Smoking on the Bus by Artaxastra. Charles tries to help Marie adjust to life at the school while he comes to terms with Jean's death, but the ghost of Erik Lehnsherr keeps interfering.
Six Lessons in Living In Sin by Penknife. There are things you never know until you live with someone. Charles Xavier is finding that out.
History Teaches: Half by C. Elisa. The last of a linked series of three, this deals with the past and Charles/Erik. Well-researched and heavily steeped in, well, history.
Next of Kin by Andraste. Erik tries to visit Charles in the hospital. Slash and social commentary.
X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
The first X-Men animated series had many flaws-- Rogue and Gambit's stupid accents, Storm's lousy voice actress, Jean Grey being a punching bag rather than the most powerful member of the team-- but one thing it did have was Charles and Magneto in the gayest story arcs that ever gayed. For example, in the third episode he was in, after attempting to kill a US Senator and generally being a bad fellow, Magneto comes to Xavier's rescue against a Sentinel (a giant robot that kills mutants), saying, "Charles, did you think I would let you die alone?" In the first episode of the second season, Charles and Magneto are lured to the same remote location by a faked transmission claiming to be from the other one, who is "dying" and needs to talk to the other before it's "too late". Then they lose their powers and Charles regains the ability to walk, and they spend the entire second season fighting dinosaurs in a prehistoric jungle and shouting threats against bad guys who threaten each other. In the last episode of the series, Magneto is given an opportunity to achieve his dream of mutant world conquests, with hordes of cheering supporters emboldened by the attempted murder of Xavier on television by anti-mutant forces, and instead he throws it all away to save Xavier's life. When Jean Grey asks him, in that episode, "How much did you love Charles Xavier?" his retort is less "How dare you ask that of me?" and more "How dare you question my devotion to Charles?" Plus, Magneto is once again drawn as one hot papa, and has the all-time sexiest voice he's ever been given, even beating out Sir Ian. Sorry, Sir Ian. Unfortunately, Charles' voice actor is no Patrick Stewart, but we can't have everything.
Of course, this series does have Magneto's dead wife, Magda, and Charles' great alien love, Lilandra, as characters, so one can't exactly make them each other's One True and Only (in fact, Magneto is so devoted to dead Magda, he works with Apocalypse at one point on the promise of getting time travel and restoring Magda's life. He does figure out it's a stupid idea, later.) It also has an absolutely tragic dearth of fanfic-- I've only ever seen one Magneto/Xavier set in this universe, though it was a very good one.
Close Enemies by Andraste. Magneto and Xavier. And a cave.
To be honest, I didn't see the last season of Evo and I don't read much of the fanfic, and Magneto has an unusually high Rat Bastard quotient in this series, so I can't really speak to the slashability of the pair in this version. I do know that Magneto does have his dead wife Magda, since he has his kids. I also know that most of the fanfic either ignores Xavier and Magneto as people entirely, or blackwashes them (Magneto as evil rapist, Xavier as mind-controlling enslaver). If anyone knows of good Evo Magneto/Xavier that does not demonize Xavier (Evil!Xavier is really popular in this fandom for some reason), let me know. Xavier's voice actor is a Patrick Stewart clone-- not as good as PS, but then, who is?-- but Magneto has a deep, gravelly, Bad Guy(TM) voice that totally doesn't compare to either Sir Ian or the voice actor in TAS. Also, neither of them are drawn as hot as they were in TAS.
In this comic book series, Charles/Erik is *canon*. No, really. Charles left his wife and son to be with Erik, who he was staying up 22 out of 24 hours a day to talk to. It's not made explicit that they had sex, but come on, who leaves his wife to spend time with someone he's not having sex with? Unfortunately, one has to question Ultimate Charles' taste, because Ultimate Erik is irredeemable, a whiny coward when confronted with Charles' full power, a virulent anti-human bigot who's been known to commit cannibalism, and a child of privilege who has no good reason, no trauma in his background, to explain why he's this way. Still, Ultimate Xavier is an interesting character-- much darker and less ethical than the usual Xavier-- and so some genuinely twisted darkfics have come out of this pairing and this series.
Chimera by Andraste. This fic is extremely dark and nasty, though not for the reason that seems obvious from the first paragraph.
Want more? Here's some places you can go:
oldfriends: the LJ community for Magneto/Xavier
Polarity: A small Magneto/Xavier archive
XavierMagnetoSlash, the Yahoo mailing list.
Penknife to Paper, home of Penknife and Artaxastra's fanfic.
Intimate Structure, C. Elisa's fanfic.
Blue Shades: X-Men Fanfiction, Andraste's X-Men fanfic.
Dannell Lites's Magneto site, hosted by Kerithwyn and Smittywing at Offpanel.net.
ETA July 2011: I am working on an update to this, to include the First Class movie (although, since I also need to include Wolverine and the X-Men, which I have never seen and know of no fanfic for, and I am insanely busy lately, it's going slow.) It won't overwrite this post; I'll just put in a link to the update when I'm done.