02
Nov
10

The African Origin of X-Men

The film series now known as X-Men was originally devised as a comic book titled ‘The Merry Mutants’ by author Stan Lee, and illustrator, Jack Kirby in the early 1960s.  The sixties was a time of high racial tension in the United States, with the Civil Rights movement reaching a climactic point of sit-ins and marches nationwide.  The X-Men storyline centers on ‘mutants’ who are ostracized and hunted by humans who hate them because they are different.  While it would be easy to dismiss these connections as happenstance, the mutants’ relationship to African-Americans lies deeper than their social plight. 

The leading mutants, Xavier and Magneto seem to be based on the character traits of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. and El-Hajj Malik Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X.  Xavier believes that the mutants can live in peace with humans while Magneto believes a civil war is inevitable and mutants should be armed and prepared.  Martin Luther King Jr. believed that Blacks and Whites could live in peace, while Malcolm X compared Caucasians to wolves and saw freedom as not a dream, but a reality to be achieved “by any means necessary”.  Malcolm X was influenced growing up by Marcus Garvey, the most successful organizer for a Black Nationalist movement in American history.  Black Nationalism supports people of African descent creating a nation, government, and economy of their own rather than trying to ‘live in peace’ or ‘fight for rights’ in a country that considers them inferior or views them as the enemy.  Magneto also promotes a ‘Black Nationalist’ view by establishing an island nation, Genosha, to repatriate to off the coast of Africa.  Liberia, a real country on the west coast of Africa, was repatriated to by many Black Nationalists from America.   Magneto desired a safe place for mutants because, “it appeared that over time, mutants would eventually supplant humans as the dominant species on Earth.” African people becoming the dominant race on Earth has been a long-standing fear for many supremacists, because when a person of any other race unites with an African person, the baby becomes Black.  CNN reports that “by 2050, minorities will be the majority in America.” (“CNN U.S.”)  Also, the first mutant, En Sabah Nur, was written to be born in Ancient Egypt 5000 years ago. (“Marvel Universe”)  Put simply, the mutant race was born in Africa, faced almost identical issues to African-Americans and had leaders with almost identical character traits, face the current issues of African-Americans, and some have repatriated to Africa. 

What do you think about these connections?  Do you think they should be dismissed as coincidence?  Do you think comic books are a serious form of coded journalism or petty ‘kid stuff’?

References:

 “Mutants.” Marvel Universe. Marvel Characters, Inc., 04 05 2010. Web. 21 Oct 2010. <http://marvel.com/universe/Mutants&gt;.

“Genosha.” Marvel Universe. Marvel Characters, Inc., 14 04 2007. Web. 30 Oct 2010. <http://marvel.com/universe/Genosha&gt;.

“Apocalypse (En Sabah Nur).” Marvel Universe. Marvel Characters, Inc., 2 09 2008. Web. 21 Oct 2010. http://marvel.com/universe/Apocalypse_(En_Sabah_Nur).

“Minorities Expected to be the Majority by 2050.” CNN U.S.. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 13 08 2008. Web. 21 Oct 2010. <http://articles.cnn.com/2008-08-13/us/census.minorities_1_hispanic-population-census-bureau-white-population?_s=PM:US&gt;.

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