X-Men: Comics VS Movies (First Class)
I hope you hadn’t thought I’d forgotten this series because…well, I had. Those Fast and the Furious and Saw marathons unravelled my brain. Enough excuses, it’s time for use to look at the prequels/alternate timeline and compare our groovy mutants to their comic book originals. Needless to say many of these characters didn’t feature in the comics during the 60s, so we’re going to skim over minor alterations in fashion and appearance.
YOUNG CHARLES XAVIER
Played by James McAvoy
The Comic: We never spend a great deal of time with Professor Xavier during his youthful years, rather the comics give us the occasional snapshot. We see Xavier and Cain Marko (who became Juggernaut) during the Korean War, a glance at his childhood and various encounters with Magneto, the Shadow King and Moria McTaggert. The younger version of Xavier doesn’t differ much from his present counterpart – he still has a stick up his butt and has an idealistic view of the world. If anything he was more idealistic in his goal, as this was before Magneto turned to the dark side and Xavier himself confined to a wheelchair.
The Movie: It seems that during his university years young Charles was something of a cad. He drank lager by the yard and doesn’t flinch at the ethical concerns of reading a girl’s mind to score with her. Whilst in the comics Xavier seemed to be born with a Dream and his ideals, the movie show him developing his worldview through the events of the film, making him a richer character for it. Like Sir Patrick Stewart, this is an Xavier we’d rather have than the one we had in the comics. Throughout the film we see that he is somewhat uncomfortable with Mystique’s true form and wary of her revealing herself in public. This could be seen as caution, but Xavier is something of a show off himself.
Or, and he has hair. This is actually a bigger departure from the comics as you may have thought, as Xavier’s baldness is a side-effect of his telepathic power (somehow). Xavier lost his hair at a much earlier age, possibly as early as twelve, so even the comic depictions of him as a young man usually show him as bald.
Played by Michael Fassbender
The Comic: We don’t need to say much more than ‘Auschwitz’ to sum up how challenging Erik Lensherr’s childhood was, but it’s actually much worse than that. Erik was one of the Sonderkommando, the group of Jewish prisoners who were forced to run the gas chambers, ovens and mass graves. Not only was he imprisoned and tortured but he was forced to partake in the mass murder of his people. Erik worked to protect those he could, making him a hero to some. He eventually met Magda, a gypsy woman who he married after the war. They had a daughter, Anya, and tried to life a peaceful life. One tragic day Anya and Magda were trapped in their burning home and Erik was forced to reveal his powers to save them. This terrified the local people, who attacked Erik and, in his desperation, he lashed out and killed them. Anya died in the fire and Magda fled after learning the truth about her husband. These events shaped Magneto’s ideology and his unshakable belief that mutants needed to protect themselves from the wider world.
The Movie: For the most part Magneto’s personality and appearance is on point (switching out his white hair for brown). He still has his stint in Auschwitz, but several years younger in age. We don’t get introduced to Magda and Anya just yet, so the emotional crux of the revenge motivation comes from the execution of his mother in an attempt to bring out his mutant power. The biggest difference between the source material and the movies is that Magneto appeared to be walking on the side of right initially, working as an orderly when he met Xavier, while in the movies he seems to have spend much of his life on a revenge quest.
Played by Jennifer Lawrence
The Comic: (From the first entry in the series) Raven Darkholme was introduced into the X-Men universe as the leader of Freedom Force, a government sponsored unit created to tackle mutant threats. Ironically Mystique populated the team with former members of Magneto’s brotherhood including Blob, Avalanche and Pyro along with Mystique’s partner Destiny. Mystique and Destiny had long been a couple but the comics never delved into writer Claremont’s plans for the characters as the ridiculous Comics Code prevented any depiction of a homosexual couple. After this team broke apart, Mystique played a number of roles orbiting around the X-Men including as a member of X-Factor, Dark X-Men, the Xavier Institute and being revealed as Nightcrawler’s biological mother. She’s never been a main character but she’s been consistently present.
The Movie: This version of Mystique is more an adaptation of Bryan Singer’s take on the character than an adaptation of the comic character as there’s almost no common ground. Once again Mystique’s distinct pale blue skin has been darkened and includes patches of scales. Her yellow eyes and red hair remain the same. Whilst we know next to nothing about Mystique’s past in the comics she gets a full biography via First Class. As a homeless orphan she crosses paths with Xavier, who takes her in as a sister (somehow) and they grow up together. While Xavier seeks to educate himself in genetics, Raven is pre-occupied with having to hide from society due to her lack of acceptance. She forms a quick bond with Henry McCoy during the forming of a government mutant team but ultimately turns her back on him and Charles when Magneto appeals to her desire to be accepted for who she is.
Played Rose Byrne
The Comics: Doctor MacTaggert is a Scottish scientist and the world leader in genetic research. Both her personal and professional life has been shaped by her interaction with mutants. She studied with Charlies Xavier at Oxford, and was briefly engaged to marry him. Instead she married Scottish politician Joseph MacTaggert, who revealed himself to be abusive. Moira left him, but not before becoming pregnant and giving birth to a boy. Her son would become the unstable and incredibly powerful mutant Proteus, whom the X-Men were forced to kill to stop his rampage. Moira was also the adopted mother of Rahne ‘Wolfsbane’ Sinclair of the New Mutants and played host to Excalibur at her Muir Island research centre. MacTaggert has played an integral role in the lives of all X-Men groups, being their closest and longest standing human ally.
The Movie: It’s hard to pick any character in the franchise who has been as drastically changed as Notdoctor Moira MacTaggert. She’s so different it’s hard to understand why they kept the name. She’s not Scottish and she’s not a scientist, nor does any of her established back story fit in. MacTaggert is now a CIA Agent who infiltrates the Hellfire Club in her underwear, later approaching Xavier to gain insight into the newly discovered mutant phenomenon. She operates as a government liaison to the newly formed X-Men up until Xavier erases her memories at the end of the film to protect his students from outside interference.
Played by Nicholas Holt
The Comics: Hank McCoy came from a rural region in the USA had has always been the bookish sort. When his mutation kicked in Hank developed a superhuman level of strength and agility along with large, prehensile feet that allowed him to grip to other surfaces. McCoy used his abilities to become the local football champion and enjoyed his moment in the spotlight until being recruited into the X-Men’s starting line-up. He maintained his studies and became well versed in genetics. It was his own experiments that advanced his mutation, giving him his distinctive blue fur. From there he became the X-Men’s scientific expert in addition to one of their strongest fighters.
The Movies: We don’t know how we went from First Class Beast to The Last Stand Beast (or if it’s even on the same timeline any more), as this movie treats him as a unique entity. McCoy’s childhood and school football career have been excised with him being introduced to us as the shy, academic type lacking the bravado comics Beast is known for. His mutant power is depicted accurately right down to his own experiments in curing mutations leading to him becoming a blue bundle of fur.
Played by Caleb Landry Jones
The Comics: Like many other members of the X-Men, Sean ‘Banshee’ Cassidy was introduced as a villain. It was quickly revealed that he was acting under mind control and actually a former member of Interpol. His ability to scream at supersonic frequencies turns out to have a diverse range of uses in combat including, for some reason, the ability to fly by shouting. When Xavier was recruiting his second generation of X-Men to replace the ones he apparently got killed he brought Banshee into the fold. He wouldn’t stay long, feeling out of place in a team of mostly younger mutants, but he never strayed far from Xavier’s mission and eventually took on the job of training Generation X, the fourth generation of X-Men.
The Movie: Ironically Sean Cassidy doesn’t have to worry about being to old to fit in with the team, as he has been recast as a teenager. His powers are represented accurately to the comics as he’s depicted as being able to alter the pitch of his scream for different purposes. He can still fly and it’s just as unexplainable here. He’s got an attitude adjustment though – he’s an arrogant character who is quick to deliver sarcastic banter without provocation. Given his age they’ve wisely dropped the long running romantic relationship the comic character shared with Moira MacTaggert.
Played by Lucas Till
The Comic: Alex Summers is the younger brother of Scott (Cyclops), and seemingly didn’t have a mutation as it usually manifests during the onset of puberty. After they were orphaned by a plane crash Alex and Scott were adopted into different foster homes and grew up apart, reunited when Alex was studying geophysicist at college. A villain named the Living Pharaoh abducted Alex and revealed his power to absorb cosmic energy that he can unleash in bursts of plasma. After spending some time with the X-Men in order to learn to control his devastating powers the now christened Havok met the magnetism controlling Lorna Dane the two attempted to start a life together. Eventually they were drawn back into the superhero business as members of the government controlled X-Factor.
The Movies: From the get-go the most obvious switch is in the ages of the characters. It’s never actually said until the third prequel film, but Havok is now be the older of two (or three, but that’s a whole other thing) Summers brothers. Alex also maintains a degree of surliness that comes with having an incredibly destructive power that he neither wants nor has much interest in using for good, especially one that he must unleash from time to time to keep it manageable. Beyond being somewhat antagonistic there’s not much more to say about the character other than he is recognisable as Alex Summers.
Played by Zoë Kravitz
The Comics: To some working as a stripper might be seen as a rough start into adulthood. In the comics Angel Salvatore had things considerably worse. When her mutation appeared at age 14 her abusive step-father kicked her out of the house, after which she underwent a metamorphoses into an insect physiology that included wings and the ability to spit acid. From there she was abducted by the ‘U-Men’, a group who augment their human bodies with mutant body parts. Fortunately Angel is rescued by Wolverine and taken to the Xavier Institute where she was mentored by Emma Frost. She was a complex character who found it hard to fit in with the other young mutants, eventually growing close to the chicken-like Beak.
The Movies: As stated earlier, Angel is introduced working in a strip club where she is recruited by Xavier and Magneto. She reveals to them her ability to fly with insect wings and the ability to spit acid, but the film doesn’t explore how far the insect physiology reaches, unlike in the comics where her biology is more insect than human. After their first encounter with the Hellfire Club Angel switches sides and fights against the X-Men from that point on. While Angel Salvatore is her real name in the comics the movie version indicates that Angel was just a stage name.
Played by Edi Gathegi
The Comics: If there’s one thing the X-Men comics love, it’s a good ret-con. Think you know what happened? Psych! Three decades on the story gets changed. ‘Giant Size X-Men #1’ introduced the second generation of mutants including Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus. It’s the single most important moment in the franchise’s history, proving to be the first step from being a failed team series to the biggest selling comic of all time. So 30 years later they re-wrote the story with a previously unseen team of new X-Men who Xavier essentially lead to their death. One of these Armando Muñoz, known as Darwin, whose body could adapt to survive any environment. While battling the living island of Krakoa Darwin saw all the members of his team fall except him and Vulcan. In order to survive being swallowed by the Earth, Darwin’s body turned to pure energy, absorbed his fallen team-mates and merged with Vulcan. After that it got a bit weird.
The Movie: Armando Muñoz seems to have a slightly better life in this version of events, most notably not having spent his childhood being experimented on by scientists. When Xavier and Magneto recruit him, he’s working as a cab driver. He’s quick to get on board with the team, proudly demonstrating how his body adapts to being underwater and being struck with blunt weapons. He nobly puts himself in the firing line to stop Angel from leaving with the Hellfire Club, only for Sebastian Shaw to demonstrate that Darwin’s power is only external. His powers aren’t explored to their full extent in the movie, but they are accurate to the source.
THE HELLFIRE CLUB
Played by Kevin Bacon
The Comics: Taking up the mantle of villains in First Class are the classic X-Men enemies ‘The Hellfire Club’. This secret society is an international organisation with branches in major cities world wide and hosting hundreds of members. At their lavish events world and industry leaders mingle and make deals, the implication being that the members of the Hellfire Club control the world. They even sport their own heavily armed security detail to protect its members and secrets. Of course, this is a facade for the Inner Circle, the elite members of the Club who pull all the strings. Sebastian Shaw runs the US Inner Circle as the Black King along with Emma Frost, Harry Leland and Donald Pierce. Upon learning of the X-Men, Shaw infiltrates Cerebro and collects information on newly manifested mutants, looking to recruit them and the X-Men into his plans. It’s through the mechanicians of the Hellfire Club than Jean Grey eventually became the Dark Phoenix.
Sebastian Shaw is a ruthless character, taking pleasure in manipulating those around him in order to further his quest for power. He views people as mere pawns in his global games. Shaw had built a multi-million dollar fortune by the time he was 30 and it wasn’t long before he was recruited into the Hellfire Club along with Howard Start, Warren Worthington, Jr. (Angel’s father) and Sir James Braddock (father of Psylocke and Captain Britain). After achieving membership into the Inner Circle Shaw began manipulating the world economy and politics. His mutant power makes him an exceptional foe. Shaw can absorb kinetic and thermal energies and convert them to strength. In short, the more you throw at his the stronger, faster and more unstoppable he becomes.
The Movie: Needless to say the Hellfire Club is somewhat reduced in the cinematic world. They are seen a much smaller group comprised on only Shaw, Emma Frost, Azazel and Riptide (with the later two only serving as muscle). There is a large nightclub but it didn’t have the level of upper class exclusivity the comic version suggested, nor do they have a private security force. There is, however, plenty of money on display between the private submarine and other luxuries. Their perchance for formalwear is maintained, but they lean more modern in their stylings rather than the period costumes of the comics. They do have the same degree of power and the same level of political manipulation, as they do just about start a World War.
Shaw himself is a very similar character to his comic counterpart, demonstrating himself to be a charming and manipulative leader, and again he views even his closest allies as pieces on a chessboard. His powers have kept the same basic premise but have been tweaked. Rather than simply growing in strength, speed and stamina using absorbed energy Shaw now projects the energy outwards causing explosions, fireballs and power blasts. Director Matt Vaughn has a great visual style and he’s added a nice ‘rippling’ effect when Shaw absorbs energy. In terms of appearance, Kevin Bacon doesn’t look a thing like Shaw as depicted in the comics, where he was modelled after actor Robert Shaw. He’s a much more stocky, broad shouldered figure who is quick to get his shirt off at any opportunity.
Played by January Jones
The Comics: The White Queen of the Hellfire Club is not one to be treated lightly. Emma Frost was born to a prestigious Boston family and grew up as a member of high society. She was a perfect addition to the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle, being as equally manipulative and cold-blooded as Sebastian Shaw. Frost was also the leader of the Hellions at the Massachusetts Academy, a rival school to the New Mutants of Xavier’s School for the Gifted. When her students were almost entirely killed off by Trevor Fitzroy he became consumed by guilt, eventually joining the X-Men and running the Xavier Academy for Generation X as a form of redemption. The White Queen’s base power is telepathy, a skill in which she’s almost as powerful as Jean Grey and Xavier. She later developed a secondary mutation which allows her to convert her skin to a diamond-like substance.
The Movie: This is a pretty solid adaptation of the character. January Jones perfectly captures Frost’s frostiness and almost off-hand use of her powers. She’s got the right look, the costume matches and her powers are on point. She’s both a powerful telepath and she can turn herself to diamond, making her a powerful rival for the new X-Men. In the comics there’s very few people who can stand up to The White Queen, but the movie version seems slightly cowed by Sebastian Shaw. There’s a clear look of sadness when she’s treated as a lackey by Shaw. It’s an interesting dynamic that would’ve been interesting to explore further.
Played by Jason Flemyng
The Comics: Every couple of years a writer comes up with the idea of creating a new villain who is the ‘first’ mutant. Originally it was Magneto and Xavier, then it was Apocalypse, then it was the Immortals and then it was the Neyaphem and Cheyarafim. These rival groups are basically the biblical demons and angels respectively and they’re currently banished to another dimension. Azazel, leader of the Neyaphem, is able to use his teleporting ability to leap into the normal world for short periods of time where he tries to impregnate as many women as possible as part of plan for his children to open a portal to let his armies return. Nightcrawler of the X-Men and Abyss of Apocalypse’s Horsemen are both children of Azazel, Nightcrawler being born of a love affair between Azazel and Mystique. In addition to teleportation and his sword fighting ability, Azazel is immortal and has shown himself to be able to manipulate people’s will and his own appearance.
The Movie: Now mute, Azazel has lost the entirety of his backstory and his connections to the Christian Bible. It is presumed that he’s just a regular mutant who’s mutation includes his demonic appearance and prehensile tale. On the surface he’s a very close match to the original, sharing the tall, lean physique, the red skin and liking for black suits. He also carries swords and can teleport in an instant, replicating his powers from the comics. In this story he’s shown to be a member of the Hellfire Club, a position he’s never held outside of this film.
Played by Álex González
The Comics: One of the most shocking and brutal stories in the X-Men canon is the Mutant Massacre storyline. The X-Men become alerted to the fact that a group calling themselves The Marauders were travelling through the Morlock Tunnels and murdering all the mutants they could find, killing them in the hundreds. One of these Marauders was Riptide, a mutant with the ability to turn his body into a tornado and hurl bone weapons that grow out of his body. This ability allowed him to kill more mutants than his team-mates as he was able to expel large numbers of these blades in a single attack. Eventually the X-Men’s Colossus was pushed to his limit, especially after Riptide and Harpoon critically injured Nightcrawler and Shadowcat, and withstood Riptide’s power long enough to snap his neck. The speed of Riptides projectiles is such that even Colossus was injured at this time. Eventually, through Mr. Sinister’s cloning schemes, Riptide did return but did not play as significant a role in future stories.
The Movie: Aside from his ethnicity there’s little to tie the two versions of the character together. The Marauders have not featured in the movies and this Riptide is now a member of the Hellfire Club, replacing his supervillain spandex for a suit. His ability to spin his body and fire bone shards is entire changed to the ability to generate and launch localised hurricanes and tornados. He doesn’t exhibit much personality in the movies, but he never had much in the comics either.
Coming soon…Days of Future Past.