Moira MacTaggert and MagnetoThis is an updated essay I wrote several years ago, regarding what Moira was up to when she tried to help Magneto while he was a baby in her care. I also compare and contrast the attitudes of Xavier and Moira, regarding these matters.
Moira MacTaggert and Magneto
In X-MEN vol.2, #2, Magneto has just found out from Fabian Cortez, who has been secretly amping Magnus' powers in an attempt to assassinate him, that there is a genetic anomaly in his DNA profile. He immediately assumes Moira is responsible, and kidnaps both her and Xavier, accusing Xavier of complicity in this plot, as he sees it, to alter his genetics and "brainwash" him while he was a baby in Moira's care. (After Mutant Alpha reduced Magneto and other BOEM members to six-month old infants in DEFENDERS #16, the babies were taken to Muir Island, and put under the watch of Dr. Moira MacTaggert. Xavier wasn't quite sure what to do with these newly regressed infants; Mutant Alpha had promised they would have a "second chance" at life, because he sensed basic goodness in all of them. But Charles Xavier wasn't sure this was true. So, in essence, baby Mags and the others were on Muir for observation while Xavier figured out what to do with them.)
Moira, however, defends herself, denying the accusation, and clearly states, in X-MEN vol.2, #2, what she tried to do:
|(page 23) "There were indications of an instability in your central nervous system, as though you body could quite handle the energies you were processing through it. Akin to a power line unable t'cope wi' loads far beyond its design capabilities. There was a possibility of a progressive degradation that could in turn affect the electrochemical balance of yuir brain." And, "I thought, if I could modify the genetic matrix... eliminate the instability... perhaps, I thought, I might use the same process to save my son." |
Moira's motives are plain, and she's telling the truth without question! She was obsessed with saving both her son, Kevin/Proteus, and Magneto! She was trying to strengthen Magneto's central nervous system, especially around his mid-brain and brain stem, where an extra tract of nerve tissue is located, and where he is most vulnerable to brain damage from overuse of his powers. Moira felt, if she could genetically strengthen Magneto's central and peripheral nervous systems, make him better able to physically tolerate the electromagnetic forces he channels, he would be spared the mania, the psychotic and paranoid behavior. He would grow up to be a better man. But she was also trying to save her own son, Kevin, who not only was a reality-warper and a powerful psionic, but an energy "vampire" who drained the life-force of every living thing around him, and used up his own body, leaving it a dried out husk, as soon as he broke free from his containment on Muir Island.
Moira believes in the medical model. To her, problems can be solved by physical intervention. Xavier believes in a psychological model. To him, everything can be solved by strength of will, or hope, or faith, or believing something can happen. In other words, Xavier thinks Magneto acts the way he does because of a failure of will; he blames Magnus completely. Moira thinks Magneto acts the way he does because of a failure of his physical system. She exonerates Magnus, and feels he can be "cured."
In X-MEN vol.2 #2, Moira tries to tell Magneto exactly what is wrong with him, and what she has tried to do about it. Magneto in his madness accuses her and Xavier of trying to "brainwash" him. He even forces Moira to use the "same technique" on the X-Men. She tries to explain to him, this isn't possible! Since the X-Men don't have magnetic powers, and don't have extra tracts of nerves in their brains, her "technique" is meaningless used on them. But Magneto is enraged, refuses to listen, and slaps a metal gag on Moira. He accuses her of being no better than Nazi doctors like Mengele, and tells her to do it anyway. So, she tries to do something. And not surprisingly, what she does, does not work. As soon as the X-Men assert their wills, and use their powers, the changes are short-circuited. Quite probably, Moira plans it that way.
Magneto doesn't realize until too late, that the more Cortez ratchets up his power, the more irrational and psychotic he, Magnus, becomes -- and to this degree, Moira is correct about the relationship between his powers and his sanity. Moira, for her part, fails to understand, that Magneto's behavior has always been the result of more than just the over-use and abuse of his powers. His pride, his short temper, his passionate and impatient nature, the horrors and tragedies of of his childhood and youth, including the Holocaust and Auschwitz, the murder of his daughter Anya, the loss of his wife Magda, all are a part of the man Magneto has become. Nevertheless, Moira will blame herself for Magneto's actions during FATAL ATTRACTIONS, and afterwards, to the point of despair.
Did Moira succeed in helping Magneto?
From the time Magneto declared war against humanity, and put on the costume and helmet, he pushed his powers to the very limits he could consciously endure. He so badly damanged his mind and body by this constant misuse of his powers (see the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams Savage Land story in UXM #62 and #63, for example) that he became physically drained, almost powerless, and even had to trick young Warren Worthington into wearing a special uniform in order to steal the young mutant's energy to revive himself. (UXM #63, AVENGERS #110, and #111.) Although his powers, when used reasonably, helped retard his natural aging process, after abusing them over a number of years, Magneto had become a shell of his former self. There were repeated references in these old stories to Magneto's insanity. Jack Kirby drew Magneto's eyes differently than he did the faces of other villains -- Magneto's eyes were crazy and wide and staring, circled by dark lines. Magneto was described as having "insane laughter" or was simply described as being "insane." It was a recurring theme -- Magneto was destroying his mind and body with his powers, and had to repeatedly "recharge."
After he was reduced to infancy by Mutant Alpha, and then re-aged by Shakari, his body was healed of this damage! Magneto has stated that when he was reaged by Davan Shakari, he was returned to his "prime." And in several stories following his re-aging, Magneto commented on how young and healthy he was. However, when Magneto was initially reaged he was manic and psychotic for a time. For example in CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #4 we see Magneto at his most insane. These events occurred after he was re-aged. It was only gradually that he began to regain his sanity, and start to reassess his behavior and life. How is this possible, if Dr. MacTaggert succeeded on a genetic level? Wouldn't any genetic changes have taken effect immediately? But Magneto for a time exhibited the same insane behavior he had before.
I go into this kind of detail to point out, that after he was babyized by Mutant Alpha, who did this specifically to give him a second chance, knowing he was basically a good man who might be able to change, he was supposed to grow up naturally, his body healed. When he was rapidly reaged -- passing through all the growth stages in minutes as is shown in the comics (UNCANNY X-MEN #104) -- to end up a man in his early 30s, his body regenerated itself at an incredible rate, and he healed all the damage of his body in those parts of his body that can regenerate cells and be repaired! However, neurons don't regenerate!
When damaged, neurons, most brain cells, are lost forever. That's why brain damage is so devastating. The brain does however, "rewire" itself -- reestablish new connections. It's called plasticity. People who are brain-damaged can relearn, they get their memories and skills back with effort. In Magneto's case, when he was reduced to the level of a six-month-old baby, he states that he retained much of his adult consciousness. (UNCANNY X-MEN #112, CLASSIC X-MEN #19). And indeed, the baby's brain is almost 50% of it's adult size already. When Magneto was reaged so quickly by Shakari, he gained the full mass of his brain back, through natural growth and devleopment. But he still used those damaged and even infantile parts of his brain for a little while, while his brain rewired itself, and the newly restored adult parts of his cerebral cortex were integrated. So the brain damage, the psychotic behavior, took longer to heal, while his brain "rewired" and restored itself.
Once Magneto's adult brain was whole and reintegrated, and he began to regain his mental equilibrium, all of his memories returned as well, and ironically his post traumatic stress and emotional scars became even more overwhelming. Thus, given his personality and experiences, he was never "cured" of the danger that his powers would induce madness once more. Moira's genetic changes only strengthened Magneto's brain tissues so that he could control greater amounts of electromagnetic power, they did not guarantee he wouldn't chose to abuse the limits of that power in the future. Regardless, Moira probably saved Magneto's life in X-MEN vol.2, #1 - #3 -- making him just strong enough to survive Fabian Cortez's assassination attempt without discorporating.
But did Moira "make Magneto good" ?
We've seen plenty of evidence that Magneto, or Magnus, is basically a good man! He was a good husband to Magda. Stories told by Magda seem to indicate she was ( 1) not rational when she ran away from him, and (2) she loved him, until he turned into a "monster" when his powers manifested and he unconsciously killed a large number of people in Vinnitsa after Anya was murdered. He adored his daughter Anya, and her murder is one of the factors that made him turn into Magneto.
In the Legion Quest books (UNCANNY X-MEN #320, #321, X-MEN vol.2 #40, #41) we see how Magnus and Charles Xavier were friends in Israel some 25 years ago, and how Magnus wanted to believe in Xavier's dream. And in fact, during the Age of Apocalypse after the timeline diverged, Magneto chose another life-path in memory of his murdered friend. He was a good man in the AOA. Rachel Summers testified that Magnus in her timeline was a good man, and he was her friend. Thus, Magneto is not "eevil" as some fans and creators and editors want to try and make him out to be. He is a complex man, who suffered through the Holocausat and Auschwitz and the murder of his daughter, and the abandonment by his beloved wife.
What Moira MacTaggert asked in X-MEN vol.2, #2 was: why did this basically good man become the psychotic, often irrational terrorist and murderer Magneto? Her answer, was the medical model -- that the persona "Magneto" is the result of a manic-depressive psychotic illness induced by the misuse of his powers. She barely factored in his horrible memories, and his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So, she perhaps succeeded in strengthening his brain to handle larger doses of power. But this was not, and is not the "cure" for Magneto!
The best evidence that Moira did not make Magneto "good" is, that Magneto quickly reverted to his old behaviors and became psychotic and manic again. Genetic changes are permanent! If Moira made Magneto "good" then he should still be good. He shouldn't have been ranting and raving and crashing Illyana's funeral in UNCANNY X-MEN #304, and he certainly wouldn't have unleashed the EMP wave in X-MEN vol. 2, #25. If Moira made Magneto "good" on a genetic level and it worked, then ... it worked. There should be no UNCANNY X-MEN #350, no "Eve of Destruction." No "Magneto War." (Well, for me there never should have been an UNCANNY X-MEN #350, "Eve of Destruction," or "Magneto War," but that is a matter of opinion.) Regardless of ones opnion about how Magneto has been portrayed over the past few years, the point is, the crazed and bizarre Magneto in UNCANNY X-MEN #350 could not exist if Moira had made Magneto genetically "good." Changes on the DNA level just can't be changed back without Magneto being re-made from baby-hood again.
Moreover, Magneto's slide back into his madness and psychosis was shown by Claremont and others, as happening gradually, incrementally, as one would expect if Magnus was once more abusing his powers, and refusing any help for his other problems. From the time Magneto leaves the New Mutants, and puts that red and purple costume back on, one can see he's changing again. As depicted in the great stories in UNCANNY X-MEN #274 and #275, Magneto makes a choice; he finally understands, he can never be Xavier, never follow Xavier's way. In X-MEN vol. 2, #1, at first he stands alone, in despair, depressed, without any goals. He has exiled himself on Asteroid M, and doesn't give a f**k anymore what happens to mutants or humans or anyone else on earth. It's Cortez and Cortez's Accolytes who find Magneto, not the other way around. These are all the natural expressions of a man who is undergoing cycles of manic-depressive illness, as well as failing to find the strength to make positive, life-altering moral and ethical decisions, for all of the reasons outlined above.
So, no, Moira MacTaggert did not make Magneto "good." She gave him a stronger mind and body, and a better chance to take the path of rightousness.
Now, we have to determine if Wanda, Magneto's daughter, gave him yet another chance after he was seemingly killed by Cassandra Nova's mega-sentinel attack on Genosha. Did the Scarlet Witch try to "heal" Magneto once again, rebooting his mind and body to a position of optimal health and sanity? There is strong evidence that this is so. And there is strong evidence that the exact same problems exist, as little Luna, Magneto's granddaughter, understands (and no one else in the Marvel Universe seems to). Magnus is not a bad man, but a sad man, and in the recent SON OF M series, Luna tried to "cure" Magneto her way -- given her new sensiopathic, or emoto-pathic powers -- by taking away Magneto's very heart and soul, his memories! He himself stopped her! Thank goodness.