DC vs. Marvel: Mr. Freeze vs. Magneto
For as long as there have been comic books, there has been the feud between DC and Marvel. Both are heavy-hitting comic companies that continue to gain legions of fans every year. The purpose of this column is to take one DC persona and one Marvel persona of equal measure and popularity and pit them against each other to see who would come out on top and who is a better character overall.
Magneto is my favorite comic-book villain of all-time and Mr. Freeze isn’t far behind due to their tragic complexities and traits that have them occasionally settling into a grey area from time to time. Mr. Freeze’s story starts off when he was a gifted and brilliant cryogenicist named Victor Fries who dedicated his life to science. When his wife Nora was taken by a fatal disease with no known cure he used his scientific resources to tirelessly work on finding a cure for her. Since she was running out of time to live he wound up freezing her in cryostasis while he took his researcher’s funding (as well as donations from Wayne Enterprises) and developed a freeze ray to do this with. When the main corporation came to shut down the program they triggered a device in the system that caused a humongous malfunction, leaving Victor in a cold state that if he came out of sub-zero temperatures he would die. Due to this accident and the trauma of his wife he went “mad scientist” on the people of Gotham and partly blames Batman for the lack of a cure for his wife. Once he developed the cryo-suit that would keep him at sub-zero temperatures and freezing gadgets he became Mr. Freeze and set out to rob banks and steal money from corporate millionaires in order to get the funding he needed to find a cure for Nora. In the multiple reboots since Victor’s origins have stayed very similar as he continues to be a super-villain of Batman in Gotham City.
Magneto’s origin also follows a tragic twist in his tale but is much more dark and depressing in my opinion. He was born as Max Eisehnardt in 1920’s Germany to a Jewish family with a father who was a German World War I veteran. After the Nazi rise to power and their war on the Jewish people they fled to Poland where they were ultimately captured and banished to the Warsaw Ghetto. It was there where he first established his power to manipulate metal as he unknowingly tore down the fences in an emotional rage while his family was separated from him. Both his father, mother and sister were executed by the Nazis but he was instead sent to another concentration camp where he became a Sonderkommando and was “protected” from death by the Germans. It was here where he reunited with an old flame and escaped with her during the liberation movement where he adapted the nickname “Magnus” and worked as a carpenter to support their daughter. However his daughter was murdered by a fire that was started by a mob in the streets one night and when he came home from work he used his mutant powers to kill everyone who did it to him. His wife was terrified of what she just saw and eventually fled into the woods, giving birth a short time later to his son and daughter (Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch as they would be known later) and never to be seen again. Haunted by his dark and twisted path he reinvented himself as Erik Magnus Lehnsherr where he worked at a psychiatric hospital in Israel to help mentally sick patients. It was here where he first met Charles Xavier and formed the friendship that would go on to be one of the most infamous in comic-book history. During that time they engaged in a battle which forced them to use their powers to save a patient’s life, but the battle brought out differences in their ideologies and set them on a course that would alter their destinies. Erik left and worked for the CIA to hunt down former Nazi criminals but when they killed a woman he was becoming close to in order to keep his mind on track he went rogue and resurfaced years later as the super-villain known as Magneto.
Both have dark and tragic origin stories that saw two innocent men twisted and pointed into corrupted villains by losing loved ones and going through a lot of pain. While Victor Freeze is haunted by the memory of his wife and his numerous attempts to save her it was Magneto who saw his family murdered in a concentration camp and lost everyone he loved so dearly. Due to those elements and an incredibly strong friendship turned rivalry I’m giving the first point to Erik Lehnsherr.
Mr. Freeze has genius level intellect and is one of the most celebrated scientists in the DC Universe. He’s an expert in cryogenics and is strong in mechanical engineering which helps him develop his own form of hyperbaric chambers, freeze suits and weaponry that is almost impossible to destroy. In terms of fighting style he isn’t much of a brawler and has little to no expertise in that area, opting to lean on intelligence to outsmart and out think his enemies with his own inventions. He also has decelerated aging and toxic immunity which makes him harder to kill.
Magneto also has genius level intellect and is a Master Combatant, Tactician and Strategist which makes him one of the most powerful super villains in all of comic-book history. He doesn’t just have a powerful mindset that allows him to manipulate and lead hundreds of people but he has one of the most gifted super powers in the X-Men universe. He has “magnetic field manipulation” that allows him to control and manipulate any metal in the area no matter how large or how small. It also gives him control over all forms of magnetism from the forces of the Earth to the bio-electrical patterns of living creatures and he can reshape any form of metallic items he can find. He can create unstoppable electromagnetic fields that can be used to either work as a forcefield or can be transferred into his body to give him superhuman strength. He uses this power to not only fight in hand to hand combat but also to manipulate wavelengths and use this to fly. Aside from all of those powers he is also immune to telepathic abilities and was actually trained by Charles Xavier to shut out others from his mind which makes him impossible to control.
While Freeze has some really brilliant skills in mechanical engineering and cryostasis they just can’t touch what one of the most powerful comic-book characters ever can offer.
Freeze is mostly a solo guy who spends a lot of time in isolation and rarely joins forces with other villains in the DC Universe. This can be attributed to his one goal of finding a cure for his wife Nora which he holds high above any type of wrongdoing that other villains are setting out to do. For a brief time he joined forces with Batman as well as spending a couple of runs in The Injustice League and The Secret Society of Super Villains but for the most part he’s working on his own.
When it comes to affiliations and Magneto you have to really search by which group he didn’t actually join at some period of time. He’s been everywhere in the Marvel universe from fighting against the X-Men to even joining forces with them for a memorable comic-book run. His known affiliations include The Brotherhood of Mutants, The X-Men, The Twelve, The Hellfire Club, Savage Land Mutates, The Acolytes and the teacher of The New Mutants.
This one isn’t really close since Freeze tends to work alone and Magneto often has an army at his beckoning call.
Mr. Freeze is best known for his iconic cryo-suit which keeps him at sub-zero temperatures and also offers him superhuman strength. The suit itself makes him incredibly powerful and strong enough to rip through bank vaults and sustain incredible amounts of pain and pressure. His arsenal of weaponry was created on his own and features things like freeze bombs but he’s best known for his freeze-ray gun which is powered by diamonds. The gun can freeze people in a cold state and destroy anything in site when it’s turned down to sub-zero temperatures in the process.
Magneto’s made his own armor that consists of various metals manipulated into a suit that can protect him against physical harm. His iconic helmet prevents all telepathic attacks on his mind by blocking any attempt to control him.
While Magneto’s helmet is probably the most memorable piece of either of these two super villains it’s Freeze’s weaponry and armor that edges him out over Magneto.
Point: Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze has been a memorable villain in the Batman rogue gallery since his debut in 1959. Since then it’s hard to find any sort of Batman incarnation without seeing a version of Mr. Freeze to do battle with Bruce Wayne. In terms of mainstream media he was in the original Batman television series and was one of the few characters to have a slightly more serious tone. His most memorable moment was when he was featured heavily on Batman: The Animated Series with a two part arc in season 1 entitled “Heart of Ice”, which is one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series. Other television series of his appearances include: Batman Animated (1970), The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond, The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Young Justice. He’s been featured in a few video games but his most memorable role is a tragic storyline in the recent Batman Arkham City where he is one of the signature villains who needs to be taken down by Batman. In terms of movies he was in the direct to video animated feature Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero but unfortunately he’s mostly remember to mainstream audiences by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance in the absolutely dreadful Batman and Robin. Not only was the movie a critical and commercial failure that’s regarded by many as one of the worst movies ever made but it almost ended the big screen adventures of Batman forever. In the movie his character had a similar tragic back-story but his menacing, calm demeanor was replaced with a bunch of ice puns and a campy, over the top performance that is embarrassing to watch even to this day. He was deemed “too difficult” to adapt for Nolan’s incredible Batman trilogy and we’ll hope to see him when the franchise is undoubtedly rebooted again in 2016. As for now you can catch him in the DC 52 reboot of Batman Annual and his random appearances in Batman and Robin comics from month to month.
Magneto might be in the Top 5 of most recognizable and iconic super villains of the past 50 years. He’s known as the arch-nemesis of the X-Men but is also looked at as a character who has understandable qualms and motivations for his actions. He wants mutant equality the same as the X-Men do but he sees the actions of the government and the legislatures as much more barbaric and dehumanizing then Charles Xavier does. The entire X-Men comics are a parallel to the human rights movement and Magneto has seen enough pain, suffering and lack of forward thinking from the humans in control of the country to want to work with them any longer. That message is one that is really powerful and is one keeps the X-Men alive through decades upon decades of comic-books, television series and a number of big screen blockbuster films. He’s appeared in multiple television series including X-Men: The Animated Series, Pryde of the X-Men, X-Men Evolution, Wolverine and the X-Men and even Iron Man: Armored Adventures. He’s best known to audiences as Ian McKellen’s portrayal of an older and wiser Magneto in 20th Century Fox’s big screen X-Men trilogy. There was a period of time where McKellen was set to get his own origin story spin-off like Hugh Jackman did with Wolverine but that project eventually turned into X-Men: First Class. Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the character is easily my favorite and helped elevate the movie to a level that both fans and critics were very much in love with. Proving to be a successful rebirth of the franchise we’ll be getting a sequel next summer that follows one of the more memorable comic-book runs in the X-Men universe Days of Future Past. We’ll be able to see both the older Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Fassbender’s lead role as the alternate universe timeline will take us to different aspects of the X-Men movie franchise. Other than that he’s been in dozens upon dozens of Marvel video games and has appeared in countless comic-books that keep in line with the X-Men series but also branch out into other Marvel properties.
Both are very memorable villains and have strong social relevance but Magneto’s social message and 4 big screen blockbuster films are too much for Freeze in the social relevance department which grants him this victory.
Both characters are two of the strongest villains in their respective universes in terms of likability and fandom by not only the readers of the comics but the fans who watch the animated series as well. However Magneto is just too big and too iconic of a character to be taken down by Mr. Freeze and I’d wager that I could put him against almost any other super villain in the comic-book universe and he might come out on top.