Michigan State University
Magneto as Israel: A Rhetorical Reading of The Uncanny X-Men
The focus in this paper is on explaining the rhetorical functions of comic books as illustrated through a case study of the Marvel comics series, X-Men, with particular emphasis on the antihero character of Magneto. Through my examination, I seek to show how comics can serve as a frame for encompassing complex issues and events. While several comic book series can illustrate this process, the X-Men is significant for its portrayal of Magneto as a Holocaust survivor. By basing his motivations on the noble task of preventing another extermination, a level of depth is added to his character and this challenges the audiences’ conception of what a “supervillain” is. Magneto, I will argue, is rhetorically transformed from supervillain to complicated anti-hero.
My analysis turns to the principles of archetype and metonymy within author Chris Claremont’s X-Men comic series. I will explain how Claremont uses these rhetorical principles to 1) frame Magneto as a tragic Jewish figure and persecuted outcast who is severely traumatized by surviving the Holocaust; 2) and symbolically parallel him with the State of Israel and Zionists. This is important because it will show how Claremont uses Magneto as the illustration of these rhetorical principles through which the comics’ themes – survival of mutants, protecting one’s own people, and preventing a second Holocaust (with mutants in the place of Jews) are revealed. By framing Magneto as the archetype of the tragic figure, he becomes a universal symbol for humanity struggling through grief, survivor’s guilt, and anger – feelings shared by thousands of Holocaust survivors and their families.
JOSHUA WUCHER is a PhD candidate in the English Department at Michigan State University, where he specializes in film and comics studies. His research interests include popular culture studies, film genre theory, specifically Horror and Superhero films, and the Jewish influence on comic books. Joshua received his MA in Communication Studies from Baylor University. His thesis was entitled: The Building of the X-Men Transmedia Franchise and How Expansive Storytelling is Affecting Hollywood.