EMPIRE’S! 50! GREATEST! COMIC! BOOK! CHARACTERS! [2 of 5]
THE X-MEN EDITION
Though I’m pretty much a DC fanboy (and always have been), the one Marvel title that I loved way back when was The Uncanny X-Men, back in the classic Chris Claremont era.
And naturally, I was rabid over Grant Morrison’s New X-Men.
Filmwise, I wasn’t bowled over by Bryan Singer’s first pass on the material, though I love X2. Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand was, like Spider-Man 3, a mess that had too much going on in it.
Hopefully, next year’s Wolverine spin-off will have learned from past X-film mistakes…
I also loved Sir Ian McKellen’s Magneto, more so than Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, who is already, let’s face it, a pretty good fit. (Though I do think Magneto’s helmet in the film looks terrible…)
30 Emma Frost (aka: The White Queen)
Bad girls in comics are always so useful that they tend to reform and become at least semi-goodies (cf: Catwoman, Elektra).
Emma Frost was introduced as an exceptionally nasty—and explicitly perverse—villainess, running a school for evil mutants in competition with Professor Xavier and high in the councils of the nefarious Hellfire Club (in homage to the famous ‘Touch of Brimstone’ episode of The Avengers).
Marvel made her a qualified goodie in the X-Men spin-off Generation X, and writer Grant Morrison reinvented the character when he took over New X-Men and wasn’t allowed to use his original choice, Storm.
Now an actual X-Man, Emma remained the manipulative slut fans loved to hate—and caused a minor kerfuffle when she began a ‘telepathic’ affair with Cyclops, long-term partner of Jean Grey.
Despite strong competition, Emma has consistently worn the most striking lingerie (and little else) in comics—the covers for her brief solo series Emma Frost are basically porn star poses.
FIRST APPEARED IN UNCANNY X-MEN #129 (1980)
CREATED BY CHRIS CLAREMONT AND JOHN BYRNE
9 Magneto (aka: Erik Magnus Lehnsherr, The Master of Magnetism)
Magneto is... complicated.
A Jewish survivor of the Holocaust who is determined to save his fellow homo superior from the fate of his fellow Jew, he sometimes seems fated to repeat some of the Nazis' mistakes, pursuing the subjugation of homo sapiens in favour of homo superior.
He is—as producer Tom DeSanto told Bryan Singer when he was trying to persuade him to make the first X-Men movie—Malcolm X to Professor X’s Martin Luther King.
His ‘by any means necessary’ approach has seen him commit hideous atrocities in the past, including the sinking of a submarine full of sailors, and yet he’s not evil—not in the traditional sense of the word, anyway.
Even though he’s traditionally their number one nemesis, he has been known to actively align with the X-Men, even taking over as the team’s leader/teacher in the absence of Charles Xavier, while he’s previously had a relationship with Rogue.
Currently in the films, he’s depowered, and living life as a human—which, for him, is purgatory. But we’re sure his powerless state won’t last for long.
FIRST APPEARED IN X-MEN #1 (1963)
CREATED BY STAN LEE AND JACK KIRBY
4 Wolverine (aka: Logan, James Howlett, Patch, Weapon X)
Originally conceived as a villainous means of giving Hulk a bit of a workout, but swiftly retooled as a conflicted hero, Wolverine’s always been a character comfortable with shades of grey, and it’s his contradictions and complications that enable him to be all things to all geeks.
So he has an unmatched capacity for violence (even berserkery) and finely honed animal instinct, but is capable of tempering his highly emotional reactions with cold-blooded calculation where required.
And he’s no mere thug: his studies in Japan and long history of travel, espionage and trouble-finding have given him a knowledge of differing cultures, he speaks a number of languages, and has a deep appreciation of ice-cold beer (see, for example, Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, where beer brings Wolverine back from a hypnotised state).
Also, he has the sort of facial hair that generations of young men have grown up aspiring to.
FIRST APPEARED IN HULK #181 (1974)
CREATED BY LEN WEIN, JOHN ROMITA SR
The above write-ups are from Empire’s list.
For more on the above characters (including who Singer saw as his potential White Queen), just click on their names; the entire list will be accessible from there.
In Part 3—Afterthoughts (97)—we note some characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
(Images courtesy of greghornjudge.com [Emma Frost and Wolverine, art by Greg Horn]; artofhagan.com [Magneto, art by Brian Hagan]; about.com [Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto; photo by Nels Israelson]; and marvel.com [Emma Frost, New X-Men cover art by Frank Quitely, Wolverine, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine].)