Karen: With the new X-Men: First Class movie out tomorrow, we figured it was time for some X-Men talk!
Karen: One of the things that has got me excited about the film is the fact that it's set in the early 1960s. The trailers suggest that the general public isn't aware of mutants, at least not at the beginning of the film. I'm sure they will be by the end, and the classic 'persecuted mutant' theme will come into being.
Karen: It's this idea, this fear and hatred of mutants, which has defined the X-Men more than anything else. Originally they were a teen team, and not all that different from the Teen Titans or Legion in many ways. They even worked with the FBI way back when! But gradually, the idea of mutants being despised simply for existing came to dominate the book. Certainly by the time Thomas and Adams did their Sentinel story (X-Men 56-58) it was firmly entrenched.
Karen: When Chris Claremont came on the title, he revised Magneto from being just another villain obsessed with personal power to being obsessed with saving his race, usually at the expense of Homo sapiens. This set up a diametrical opposition between Magneto and Xavier, which has often been described in terms of the two most influential figures in the civil rights movement of the 60s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Xavier, like King, seeks to integrate mutants into society, believing that peaceful co-existence is possible. Magneto on the other hand, echoes Malcolm X's statement of "Freedom by any means necessary."
Karen: Marvel's mutants have come to serve as a metaphor for any group that has faced oppression and bigotry. It can be a powerful story device. But how do you feel about it? Has it been over-used? Does it still work? Is there any thought that, in a world filled with people who got powers by outrageous accidents, or that harbors a number of hidden super-powered races, the singling out of mutants is ridiculous? Let's hear what you have to say about it.