In the 1960s, Stan Lee and Marvel Comics premiered X-Men. The book was an enthralling narrative of people born with congenital or genetic characteristics that made them different from the rest of society at large. These differences–sometimes extraordinary powers… sometimes extraordinarily disabilities–brought upon them all stigma, but also great privilege. However the story revolves around the philosophies of two major characters in the book. Often compared to Martin Luther King Jr. versus Malcolm X stand Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lensher. Better known as Professor X, Charles Xavier is born with a congenital condition of acute ESP that of course manifested as a disabling condition in his youth. But as he resolved his difficulties with his condition, he realized his ability and mastered it into powers. His political stance eventually solidified that as the series terms “mutant abilities” were not only a gift, but one that can serve to benefit humanity and “mutant-kind” mutually. Professor X grew up affluent and privileged and accommodated, On the converse is Magneto, Erik Lensher, his long-time colleague, yet political and philosophical opposite. Magneto’s stance is one of mutant supremacy. And although some mutations are debilitating, his view is that humanity is less advanced and mutants should have a more pivotal role in their ow and civilization’s destiny. Magneto’s condition is molecular structure that channels magnetic forces that he has mastered, effectively manipulating metal objects. His philosophy is harsh, yet an immediate result of surviving the Holocaust as a Jewish person. Although the X-MEN is a pulp fantasy of a hopeful, industrial, post War America, its fanciful and socially relevant themes provide a model of guidance and exploration upon the themes of biological condition, adaptive technology, the mind and potential, rehabilitation of weaknesses into strengths and the advocacy and self-identity of the minority and majority.
The Biological Condition: Mutation, the Perspectival Pivot of Ability and Inability, and Adaptation.
Both Professor X and Magneto recruit and scout mutants. Those in dire need and those with exceptional capacity. Of course they both carry out the same work of providing counsel in their two very different ways, but they have to deal with similar underlying issues. First the reality that the human societies from which they are coming are harsh, judgmental and even in some cases have sent them into destructive behavior and self-loathing. The X-MEN universe features groups of people who are committed to hating mutants like the Friends of Humanity (FOH) or eugenicist oriented politicians and governmental leaders like Graydon Creed who are hell bent on government programs to eliminate mutants, seeing them as a threat to “normal” people.
Second, after freeing them from the doldrums of despair and self-esteem and self-efficacy deficits–sometimes impossible due to psychiatric complications like in the cases of Sabertooth’s psychopathy or Mystique’s personality disorders–Professor X and Magneto spend an immense amount of time in retraining them to hone their condition into strengths. The series is filled with great cases studies such as Wolverine who suffers from PTSD after governmental experimentation and special ops and has bouts of bloodthirsty violence in addition to total estrangement. Then there’s Storm who has bouts of claustrophobia. Or Jean Grey–the highest ranking psychic mind after Professor X–whose empathic ability is susceptible to bipolar mania. Or even the professor himself who had to master himself, suffering the schizophrenic ailments of hearing voices and navigating it to find his own.
Adaptive Technology: Prosthetic functions from bionics to fashion.
The Mind and Potential: Professor X, Psychoanalysis and the Astral Plane, Cerebro and Measuring Ability.
Rehabilitation of Weaknesses into Strengths: Distilling Social Privilege from Social Stigma
Advocacy and Self-Identity of the Minority versus the Majority: