The X-Men comics, above most aspects, have mainly been steeped in science. From the beginning, unlike most classic comics of its day, Marvel’s merry mutants were always more sci-fi than your usual superhero fare. That started at the top with Professor X – a world-renowned geneticist, mechanic, engineer, historian, archaeologist, philanthropist, and psychologist.
Professor-X and his team are at their best when science has to be used to save the day. But what happens when ones and zeros turn into curses, demons, amulets, and gods?
Although Beast and Charles are comfortable in front of their beakers and wrenches – the X-Men have routinely found themselves pushed to the brink by paranormal threats.
After Chris Claremont took control of the franchise in 1975, the X-Men started to be challenged by more than just Magneto, the Brotherhood, Sentinels, and freaks-of-the-week like Mimic. Juggernaut premiered earlier – but he does classify as magical. His powers come from a pact with the chaos god – Cytorakk.
As Claremont settled in, he continued to introduce a plethora of supernatural friends and foes. Storm – a member of the second wave of X-Men he created – has often been called a ‘weather witch.’ While she isn’t using magic when she manipulates the elements, Storm is a descendant of magic users.
Her mother was Kenyan royalty with ancestors that functioned as a class of shaman. Storm’s magical heritage is made evident by her uncanny blue eyes and stark white hair – contrary to popular belief, these characteristics are not a product of her being a mutant.
The influence of the supernatural on the franchise can be undoubtedly observed in 1983’s Demon Bear story in The New Mutants. The team had barely come together before they had to face off with an evil spirit. The entity plagued Dani’s nightmare’s before materializing and nearly killing her and her team.
The Demon Bear wouldn’t be Dani’s last brush with the supernatural. She and the rest of the New Mutants would later visit Asgard where she’d become a Valkyrie – a servant of death. One of the main reasons Dani survived long enough to claim this role was due to her teammate, Illyana Rasputin – Magik.
I doubt there is any singular mutant more influenced by magic than the character that’s named after it. Illyana’s ability to create inter-dimensional portals combined with an unnaturally pure soul made her a prime target for the forces of darkness.
So much so, Illyana was kidnapped, tortured, taught both dark and light arts and had her soul used to create a mystical weapon – the Soulsword. Matter of fact, the Magik currently in the books isn’t even the original. After Illyana died of the Legacy Virus, the demon lord Belasco used a tainted piece of her soul to resurrect her.
Inferno was the X-Men franchise’s first really big encounter with the occult. All of New York City was overrun by Limbo. The New Mutants battled S’ym to rescue mutant babies being used to keep the portal open and Magik’s soul. While the X-Men went after Madelyn Pryor and N’Astirh to recover Nathan.
Madelyn – the woman that Cyclops married after he believed Jean died, and also her clone – after suffering several bouts of severe trauma, including being abandoned by her husband and imprisoned, she was corrupted by the demon N’Astirh and became known as the Goblin Queen. Other than having Jean-level psionic powers, she held sway over the demonic hordes of Limbo.
Selene is another supernatural foe that the young mutants faced early on. Born nearly 20,000 years ago, she existed in a time dominated by mysticism. She’s not a just a life-sapping mutant – but a powerful sorceress that feeds on souls. In the X-Men crossover event Necrosha, she attempted to ascend to godhood by absorbing millions of souls sourced from the slaughtered mutants of Genosha.
Mysticism wouldn’t be all doom and gloom for the X-Men. They’d go onto have several allies to help them battle the supernatural realm. Of course, Magik would return and rejoin her teammates – although constantly at war with her dark persona Darkchylde.
Forge, a man of science, and longtime X-Man ally was raised to be a Shaman. On at least two occasions he’s been instrumental in turning the tide against supernatural threats. Meggan, a mutant metamorph, and the eventual wife of Brian Braddock (Captain Britain) can see magical disturbances and manipulate the four elements via natural magical aptitude.
As Captain Britain, Brian’s powers are directly linked to magic. Being the protector of Otherworld, he’s gifted a suite of abilities including supernatural strength, speed, senses, flight and an array of extra-sights. However, Brian wouldn’t be the only magic capable member of his family.
After he was corrupted by the sorceress Morgan le Fay, he passed on the Captain Britain mantle to his twin sister, Betsy Braddock, better known as Psylocke. Like her brother, she possesses natural mystical talent, thanks to their shared ancestry.
Betsy’s also been affected by the mystical arts in other ways. After being reborn through the Siege Perilous she was mystically bonded and mingled with Kwannon – which resulted in the two sharing souls and ultimately swapping bodies. This was the status quo until it was undone years later by another mystical act.
After she was nearly killed by Sabretooth, the X-Men – assisted by Doctor Strange – used the Crimson Dawn dimension to save her life. Other than leaving a red mark on her face, it also enabled her to travel through shadows. The ruler of that dimension also attempted to claim her as his queen.
Mysticism would go onto effect certain characters both substantially and subtly. Apocalypse, a well-known X-Men villain known to heavily utilize technology has recently embraced (or re-embraced) the occult to serve Krakoa. A little-known fact about the X-Man Colossus, Magik’s brother, is his resistant to mystical assault while armored up. He was also once a servant of Cytorakk.
Pixie, one of the younger characters in the franchise, doesn’t just look like a being of myth (a fairy) but also possesses some magical skill. While in Limbo alongside the other New X-Men, Magik (as Darkchylde) used a portion of Pixie’s soul to create the Souldagger (a smaller version of the Soulsword). She was later also taught teleportation spells by Illyana.
Emplate, a mutant vampire similar to Selene, has greatly suffered and benefited from his experience with mysticism. The need for a breathing apparatus is due to being tormented by extradimensional beings – denizens of a realm he magically travels between while hunting other mutants. He can also magically merge with his siblings.
Magic and the X-Men have been at odds with each other more often than not. Similar to Superman – when forced to face-off against the occult – some of the most powerful beings on the planet often find themselves on a leveled playing field. Chances are, it’ll continue to be both an Achilles heel and tool for Xavier’s band.