As portrayed by the great Brian Cox in X2: X-Men United, Stryker is a racist killer who hates mutants. He wants them dead because they are, in his mind, a disease that needs to be eradicated. And, just to showcase how supremely evil he is, Stryker is willing to use his own mutant son as a weapon to take on the X-Men and, really, all mutants. Stryker is absolutely diabolical, but Cox makes you sort of see his side of things and see his pain. You don't like him at all, but you can see where he's coming from.
While Tyler Mane looked more like the character in the comics, Liev Schreiber's version of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is actually more sinister and badass. Of course, he isn't known as Sabretooth in the movie; he's Sabretooth's real name Victor Creed. Schreiber has great chemistry with Hugh Jackman's Logan, and as we see in the opening credits sequence, they were great killing partners through the ages. And while he isn't as physically awesome as Mane, Schreiber is more than a physical match for Jackman. I just wish Origins was more about their relationship instead of a lame attempt at creating another movie about a team of mutants. Will. I. Am had no business being in that movie. None.
I was never a big fan of Magneto in the comics, mostly because I couldn't figure out how the ability to manipulate metal objects was supposed to be badass. I just didn't buy him as a great villain (granted, I only read the occasional X title so I wasn't a full on X-Men nerd. I was, and still am, more of a Punisher guy). But then I saw Ian McKellen as Magneto in the first X-Men movie and I became a believer. He really is a badass villain. Yes, he's a sympathetic villain as you're able to see where he's coming from with his overall hatred of humanity, but at the same time there's no doubt that he has a singular purpose. He wants mutant kind to survive by any means necessary. Great stuff.
In one sense I'm surprised that no one has tried to make a Cable movie or TV show. He has a great look, has an initially nifty back-story, and because so much of what he's involved in deals with a sort of post-apocalyptic future you can just see the big summer movie potential. But then when you start to get into the details of Cable's story it's incredibly complicated and hard to follow (I couldn't explain it to you if my life depended on it). So maybe, if and when Marvel does decide to do a Cable movie, they'll have to figure out what direction to take him. Could his presence work in the current X-Men movie franchise, or would it have to be a new thing, a standalone thing? Either way it would probably be cool.
I didn't think Hugh Jackman would make a good Wolverine. In fact, I didn't think anyone would make a good Wolverine. He was just too cool and too badass a character to be done justice on the big screen. But then Jackman knocked it out of the park in the first X-Men movie and suddenly he was Wolverine. And now, with Jackman getting older and hinting that he may not want to play the part anymore I can't imagine anyone besides him as the character. Who the heck is Fox going to get to replace him? In the comics he seems to be everywhere. He's in multiple groups, he has multiple titles, etc. The cigar chomping mutant is Marvel Comics, man.
She began as a straight-on villain, taking out the Avengers and stealing the powers and memories of Ms. Marvel in a great opening story. But as he so often did in his prime, Chris Claremont was able to deepen this character far more, showing how her gift was a curse: She could never be able to touch someone or else absorb their powers and memories. Those constant feelings of people would overwhelm her, push her toward breakdowns but she kept fighting on to try and be a better person. She could be more outgoing than one expected in sexy outfits and that Southern personality driving her on well for action. That she's now able to touch others doesn't lessen her at all, she's proven herself as not just a fighter but a leader and even Avenger, someone who can show the X-Men at their best, even when one started off as among the worst.
One of the best movies ever made from a character's initial plan was that when Len Wein and Dave Cockrum created Nightcrawler, they intended for him to be a creature embittered by his demonic appearance and a hate toward the world. But Chris Claremont took the much better stance that Kurt Wagner thought it was incredibly cool to be a furry guy who could climb up walls and teleport. He gave the character a swashbuckler air, complete with swords, a love of adventure and a deep Catholic faith that belied his appearance. He was proud of who he was, throwing away a device that could hide his appearance and stand on his own, deeply believing in the X-Men in all their ways and always fighting for them. He was the conscience of the team, showcased by how his death in the "Manifest Destiny" crossover rocked them hard and led to dark paths. He's back to life now and hopefully ready to remind us of the heart of the X-Men and why they fight for a world that doesn't understand them.
The first X-Man and a star from the beginning, Scott Summers was the first case of the drawbacks of mutant powers as his optic blasts are uncontrollable, forcing him to always wear some sort of visor. He was presented as rather straight-laced, a good leader and fighter but too dry and fans poked fun at that a lot over the years. But Joss Whedon and Matt Fraction worked to change that, showing Scott as a great tactician and willing to make moves like creating Utopia for mutants. But that same intensity worked against him in the "Avengers vs X-Men" event as his taking on the Phoenix Force caused him to go mad, killing Xavier and now working to form his own unique team as fugitives willing to do what it takes for mutant safety. Seeing this change is amazing and shows how the X-Men continue to evolve to match their mutant standing.
The interesting thing about Magneto is that you can understand him so much. For years, he was the typical "rule the world" type, not much else but then Chris Claremont made two brilliant moves. First, he showed that Magneto and Charles Xavier had been good friends, deepening the conflict between them as two men who respected each other deeply but couldn't agree on mutant future. More importantly was the revelation that Magneto was a Holocaust survivor, a man who knew first-hand how humanity could turn on themselves and thus knew humans and mutants could never be at peace. Yes, he's killed and caused chaos but he truly believes he is doing what is best for his people and his recent actions allying himself with the X-Men show that he's willing to put his ego aside for the greater good. Yet his beliefs will still clash so much with their dream as he will continue to fight in the way he sees fit. But the way he acts is always interesting as when you see the hate humans put on mutants, you realize that he may actually have a point in how he does things and why he's no simple villain.
The obvious choice to be sure. John Byrne gets a lot of credit for helping push Wolverine to stardom during his epic run with Chris Claremont and Claremont and Byrne helped add new layers in their famed mini-series. He's the roughhouse, his claws and unbreakable skeleton making him a supreme fighter along with his healing factor. But we also get depth to him, the man feeling the pain of his action, fighting to keep himself from sinking too far into the animal despite everything. The mysteries of his past dominated for a long time but finding the truth just made things harder. Despite it all, he still keeps up his fight for a better future, doing his utmost to protect others and knowing you have to bend or break some of the "rules" of heroes in order to do it. As he puts it "I'm the best at what I do. But what I do isn't very nice." And yet he does it with a style no one else can touch and why he's the flagship character for the whole franchise.
Honorable Mentions: I've definitely gone for a personal Top 5 this week with my favourites over some A-listers. Professor X was a mixed bag for me for engaging and not so engaging character traits but I especially liked when he was a bit of a dodgy bastard to suit his own needs. Despite the constant switches of good & evil, Magneto is still the premier X-villain and is so engrossing as the Malcolm X of mutant rights and pride.
Rogue always had the most interesting powers of this 'best of the rest' crew but she's been through quite a few different power changes and I've lost touch with the character. Who doesn't love an Irishman superhero, and as such who doesn't love Banshee? Surprised he's still dead comics wise. Beast is fun but I can never get past "Oh my stars and garters!" Fan of Fraiser's portrayal though. I'm a tad behind the current happenings in the comics but Cyclops seems out of character and mega maniacal. Used to like his very straight line and leader characteristics.
Wolverine of course is the man but very overexposed, both in comics and movies. The character needs a good rest and his upcoming death (if done right) can work for that. I loved Grant Morrison's New X-Men and Fantomex is a damn sweet "too cool" mutant. Speaking of which, dodgy Rob Liefeld creation and beginnings aside, always had a soft spot for Cable - shoulder pads and all.
Usually I'm not a big fan of the comic book retcon, but Ed Brubaker's beginning storyline on the X-books with Deadly Genesis was pretty neat. He played about with the idea that Professor X sent over a completely different team to Krakoa before the one that kicked off the Chris Claremont run... and they got completely ruined. One of those surviving members was Darwin with the power of reactive-evolution which is a damn interesting power. He adapts instantly to the situation he's in so swimming underwater? Grows gills. Flung into space? No longer needs oxygen to breathe. He was lost for a time after Brubaker left but he soon settled on Peter David's X-Factor and he injected even more life into an already top drawer book. There's still so much potential with his character and power set still to come I feel and I'm always on the lookout for Darwin, even if his appearance in X-Men: First Class was relegated to an extended cameo pretty much.
Perhaps proof there is some good in the worst of times, Chuck Austen's run on Uncanny X-Men is without a question the WORST writing and plotting on any of the X-Men titles ever. However, I'll hold my hands up and freely admit I'm actually a fan of the way he managed to rebuild the character of long time X-villain The Juggernaut into a hero. Charles Xavier's bullying stepbrother Cain Marko is empowered by the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak and is transformered into the hulking Juggernaut. He was a thorn in the side of the X-Men for years but after a botched inside job, he actually had feelings of redemption & regret and along with a young mutant, started on a journey to redeem himself and was a useful asset to the team. All pretty easy but it stands out as a shining light in one of the franchise's darkest hours and it's one of the most interesting villain-to-hero stories in comics history. No seriously. Shame Vinnie Jones and Brett Ratner didn't give the character the credit due by slipping in the following into The Last Stand movie...
The Merc With A Mouth is a constant source of comedy and humour in the Marvel Universe with his constant breaking of the fourth wall with readers via his yellow box inner thoughts of sheer lunacy and machine gun paced, pop culture referencing dialogue. Wade Wilson developed cancer and enlisted into the same Weapon X program as Wolverine, who offered him an experimental cure of bonding a healing factor to him. Whilst it initially failed and Wade was thrown into the "dead pool" of deceased experiment subjects, the factor kicked in and revived him but his skin had a deformed, tumourous appearance and Wade's mental health was in constant flux to compensate for curing his cancer. Taking on a full red and black bodysuit, Wade turned back to a life of a mercenary to make money. The sheer madness of Deadpool himself and the funny chaos revolving around Wade is endearing to a lot of fans and me included. His wisecracking rival that of Spider-Mans but I'd be worried if I was Bea Arthur with his unhealthy obsession with her. His constant mistreatment of his lackey/henchman Bob is wonderful stuff too. Whilst his ties to the X-Men are tenuous at best, he has made multiple appearances and team up with characters he can bounce off like the straight and violent Wolverine. As much as I love Wade, please just don't mention his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and we'll chicamanga chicamanga chicamanga chicamanga.
2. Emma Frost
Screw January Jones and her terrible performance of one of the most intriguing recent members of the X-Men. After the mass destruction of the mutant population island Genosha, the Diamond Queen of the former Hellfire Club, Emma Frost, was one of the few survivors after manifesting a secondary mutant ability to turn her body into a living diamond. As a staple of Grant Morrison's New X-Men, her introduction into Xavier's School turned Cyclops away from Jean Grey and the two forged the backbone of the team for a fair few years. As Emma puts herself, she has "a razor sharp wit and the best body money can buy". Put those on top of a complex villain-turned-hero with the interests of mutantkind as her top priority and she is such an awesome character to sit down and read.
1. Multiple Man
Ah Jamie Madrox. THE best mutant power. He can make multiple duplicates of himself. It wasn't until Peter David got his mitts on him again in the 00's with a revival of X-Factor and started writing about each duplicate was a distinct part of Jamie's personality that I took major note. And what a note it is. You could get absolutely anything on the emotional spectrum, like Jamie's self loathing deciding not to help him out when he's pinned down by an assassin and instead giving him a lecture why he deserves it to Jamie waking up the next day after a drinks bender & finding him and his libido dupe who acts like James Bond, all British and suave, bedded two female team mates the previous evening. Wonderful, wonderful stuff with a character whose powers are a blessing and a curse in the best and worst of times. Seriously worth the time to go read up on our Jamie at least.
Shawn S. Lealos
Honorable Mentions: Angel, Ice Man, Juggernaut, The Sentinels, Kitty Pride, The Hellfire Club, Gambit
I never liked Cyclops that much when I first started reading comics. He was boring – very boring – and he didn't deserve Jean Grey in my opinion. I always had something in me – as a kid – that thought Wolverine deserved her. Now, with what I know, that was a horrible idea. Cyclops and Jean were made for each other, and through the years, I feel that Scott has grown into a much better character than he was when I started reading comics in the 70s. Look, Scott is a dick, that is true, but he is really the heart and soul of the X-Men. The recent stories with him allowing himself to be a martyr and known terrorist for the mutant cause are great. Honestly, he was always meant to be the heir apparent to Professor X and he became the heir to Magneto instead. His character development over the years has not only allowed that to work, but to work well.
I love so much about the character of Nightcrawler. First of all, in the New X-Men, he was the heart of the team, someone who was 100 percent invested in standing by and protecting his teammates. He was honorable and he was full of great fun, a demon looking hero who just wishes he could be a swashbuckling pirate. He also had an air of sadness around him – the son of Mystique, raised by gypsies and hated and feared by many around him as he grew up. He has a lot of that good old fashioned Catholic guilt, and much like Spider-Man, his tendencies to always remain positive was mostly a defensive mechanism from the horrors from his past.
He's not even a mutant, but was instead a part of the same Weapon X program that experimented on Wolverine back in the day. But, this isn't a countdown of the best mutants, it is a countdown of the best characters from the X-Men universe and that is where Deadpool originated from and remains securely entrenched. His powers are cool because he can regenerate almost any body part he loses in battle. Hell, it even cured him of cancer, although it left him scarred for life. However, what makes him great is that he loves to talk shit, normally directly to the reader.
I'll admit that there has been an oversaturation of Wolverine, and I don't mean from the movies. It is the comics that really threw too much Wolverine out there. Look, I understand why Wolverine and Spider-Man were added to The Avengers, I just don't agree with it. Wolverine is an X-Men, and when not with them, he should be a loner. When Wolverine sided with The Avengers in the battles with The X-Men, they really pushed Wolverine to the edge, taking away what makes him special. When done right, there isn't a better antihero than Wolverine. Chris Claremont knew how to write Wolverine right, and that is the character that ranks second on my list here.
Honestly, I at one time said that I thought that Magneto was the greatest super villain of all time – better than The Joker. I still believe that. Magneto is the best villain because, in his mind, he is the hero of his story. Chris Jericho said it best when he said the best villain speaks what he believes to be the truth and never wavers. He was in the concentration camps and saw how humans treated those they deemed different. He knows that humans will never accept mutants as their equal – and he is right. While Charles is always looking for the way to convince the humans that they are equals, Magneto knows that many, if not most, will never accept that. Charles preaches peace and co-existence while Magneto preaches survival. Honestly, most of the time, Magneto has been proven right.