From the journal of Magneto:
MAY 15: I begin this journal.
This one weakness I allow myself. That is all I will allow. I am like an armored beetle, the metal without to protect the weaker material within. (Ah, Magda, forgive me my tired metaphors. I never did well at composition.) The covers of this book are steel, like the helmet I have forged to hide my face. None will find the book, none will spring its lock. If anyone does, even if it is Wanda, I will pierce him (or her) through with the holy metal again and again.
Helmet and book-cover and armor as guard for the soul. What must be, must be.
Another metal has proven as faithful a servant as my beloved iron, over the years. The gold taken from Hydra, which bought me this island, the materials for the satellite (which must be finished soon--need badly, even if First Operation successful), the beginnings of What Must Be.
I lift my hand. The wrought iron of a nearby chair rises in the air, writhes like something alive, contorts itself into a shape I dictate, then is restored to its former self, and drops carefully back to the stone floor. I play Magician.
The magician Mutant.
The force within me magnifies my natural strength. My associates learn this lesson early in their recruitment. I recall Wyngarde. Our first meeting. Him a second-rate illusionist / stage magician, using his power for a pittance. I approached him, afterward, alone, in my uniform. I gave him my proposition. He was intent on laughing, on sneering.
I personally cared little for his sneering. I am above that, as he is below me.
But he had to be taught.
If I am to be general, if I must be tyrant, the troops must sometimes be disciplined.
I smashed him open-handedly, sent him backwards over his bed, grabbed him by the throat and shook him like a dog, grabbed his lower face in my gloved hand and let him know, by feeling it, that I could crush his skull. He thought he understood, then. But he had only felt my strength, not my power.
I dropped him to the floor and backed away a few steps, then had his iron bed wrap itself about him. I warned Wyngarde that if he screamed, his breathing, now constricted, would be stilled. I lifted him, and the bed, to the ceiling.
He was given a choice, and accepted it.
I let him down, made the bed as it was before (within limits), and walked out the door, leaving it open behind me. Wyngarde followed.
I curse myself as a barbarian. I did the right thing, God knows, but I damn myself for the act.
THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE (scratch out words).
I would to G-d sometimes that I had another path to walk.
Irrelevant. This is my part to play. MUST BE STRONG. Like the iron.
I bend the iron to my will.
It is only by strength that I resist the temptation to bend.
Spring outside. White gulls fly about my island. Pietro and Wanda are outside, catching some of them with hexes and speed, setting them free again. The surf can be heard even in here, and I consider taking my boat out alone and fishing like a Hemingway character.
Resist the Temptation To Bend.
MAY 17: The Toad needed a reward today and I gave him discipline. He had done well enough with the small part of the satellite assembly I entrusted to him. When he leaped after me wanting approval like a dog following a small boy, I turned on him. I berated him on general principle. In the manner of Corporal Schmidt, in Auschwitz. I remember his voice. I strove to imitate it. Once, he held a lit cigarette against my crotch and a gun to my head and told me that I would be safe as long as I did not cry out. I cried, mucus came from my nose, but I did not cry out. I dared not. I think I fainted. I only remember there was a time in which he was not there before me anymore.
I was more merciful with the Toad. I merely pinned him against a wall by a bar and sent dozens of screws spiraling through the air at him. I stopped them an inch away from his eyes. The Toad was screaming, breaking wind, blubbering like a baby. I stepped close enough to him for him to see only my face beyond the screws. Then I removed the bar and screws and let him fall to the floor. Wanda tried to go to him. I commanded her to stay back. Then I left.
That was the test. Would they stay away from him, even with my back turned?
I believe they did.
The Romans said of one of their slave-peoples, "When their burdens are heavy, they will be our friends. When their burdens are light, they will be our enemies."
G-d forgive me.
What has this brought me to?
What it must. If I weaken, they will crack my shell and scoop me out as if I were a crab.
I dare not take the helmet off. Even when I sleep, I sleep within it.
MAY 18: What has led me to become this?
Why in Heaven or Earth should I not be Magneto? Does anyone have more right than I to be this creature?
If the outside world comes to see me as a man of Hell, they should know that Hell was the forge they fashioned.
With my own eyes, I saw what humans did to other humans. To my people, my future wife, myself. Auschwitz.
I learned the lesson there. Well, Magnus, would you be the gypsy, or the Nazi?
If I had to become the Nazi in order to save the gypsy, then by Hell I would.
The ONLY way for me to safeguard myself, and the mutants (God knows they're out there--my contacts inform me that a special government branch has been appointed to their study, and we know what that really means, do we not?), is to become the Nazi.
If only the world were a saner place. Then Magda and Anya would (scratch out words)
That particular college I was forced to attend taught me well. I could not count on my tribe for help. I could not expect government to treat me as anything but something to be gassed, processed, and burned.
Damned if I'll let them do that again. Not to my new tribe.
Would that I could afford to be a messiah. That would be such a liberation...to walk among the nonpowered ones, bringing my gospel of altered genetics, preaching brotherhood and integration, trusting in the good nature of Man to bring justice for mutants.
Messiahs are crucified by mobs. That, at least, is the realistic part of the narrative.
They respect what they fear. They worship the Messiah. They fear the Hitler.
This is what I MUST BE to protect our kind. To save myself. I must soon strike at the outer world, myself, to prove to myself that I am fit enough to oppose them, and to show them that my new tribe is not to be trifled with.
Xavier was a fool. Is a fool. He trusts in the American system, in the belief that man can be led to accept our tribe by showing our "worth".
The fool spent his childhood safe in America while I was trying to keep myself from rushing into the barbed wire and suiciding in the guards' bullets.
He knows nothing of the Darkness.
I have made it my entire curriculum.
If I control it, perhaps I can use it as our wall and good defense.
This is not what I am (scratch out words)
This is n (scratch out words)
MAY 20: I have brought the Brotherhood together for a meeting today, to explain what I must do.
In order that the new nation we must build shall be a power, to withstand those who will come, it must be equipped with weapons. Nuclear weapons.
Even my gold would run low, were I to attempt to buy plutonium on the black market, and it might give our presence away prematurely. Before I establish the presence of Magneto, none must learn of us.
(Does Xavier know already? Impossible to tell. Sometimes I think I feel his probe approaching my mind. But my own brain has power enough to keep him at bay. At least, such is my belief.)
I tell them that I will demonstrate our power by undertaking the operation myself. There is some protest, and I silence it immediately. Perhaps they know that I do not trust their abilities yet. I train them, attempt to hone them, but they are not yet ready for what must come.
The master must take the lead. I tell them that they must be prepared for my departure, and await my return, or my summons. If my operation is successful, they must help me convey the armaments to the island, and to the satellite.
Quicksilver does not trust me overmuch, but he obeys. His fear is the least of the group. But that serves me, too.
I have dressed Wanda in a way she does not prefer. Her body provokes lust in Mastermind and the Toad (and, truth to tell, in myself--weakness. Must Be Constrained.). The Toad thinks of himself as Wanda's defender. Wyngarde merely wants to bed her. And he knows full well that Quicksilver would dismember him if he did. She grows bitter, wishes to comport herself in more dignified clothing, but I will not allow it. The display throws my cohorts into more consternation, and allows me more control.
I doubt the four of them could effectively stand against me. Still, it is best not to take chances one does not have to take.
My weakness breaks through again and makes me acknowledge why I have dressed her thus. She reminds me so much of Mag (words crossed out, repeatedly)
She and Pietro owe me their lives. I made sure of that. They will never know that I paid the instigator of the riot against them. They will certainly not learn that from the party himself. I sent a pitchfork through his body at the site.
It was necessary.
The isolated tribe would not comprehend my reality. They thought me a demon. Good. What they reported to their priest made him think they were all insane. Still, I saved the two of them, and taught them this: that, unless they united with me, they could expect more of the same, any time they were the least bit lax in concealing their natural abilities, and that, someday, they would be killed.
This was not a lie, and both of them knew it.
With that, I made them swear fealty to me.
They are the youngest of my new family. Pietro hates me. Wanda fears me, is disgusted by me.
I am very proud of them. They are our future.
MAY 21: I have never met my inspiration, but I do not doubt he still lives.
Doctor Doom is the new paragon of our age. There is all too little visual material on him, but what is extant makes me realize the necessity of modelling myself upon him. The armor I wish to wear metaphorically, he wears literally.
Some would say he has no natural powers. I disagree.
The mind of Doom, scientifically, surpasses even Xavier's, possibly (crosses out) definitely my own. I am not an illiterate, but he is the master of the temple in which I am but an acolyte.
When I first learned of him, through the reports vouchsafed by the Fantastic Four (who had to explain how someone had torn the Baxter Building from its moorings and tugged it into suborbital space), I knew that a new tone had been set for persons in our position.
He stands like an immovable pillar. Even the Thing's strength is not conclusive against him. Even the Human Torch has not penetrated his metal. Even Reed Richards's brain does not overshadow his.
Before I began collecting my Brotherhood, I knew that only a mutant with the mien of Doom could command them. I developed this quality, as much as I could.
I overheard Pietro once saying that I talked like a villain from an old movie. I knocked him to the floor, gently. While the others stood back, I raised him from the cold stone and told him not to mock his master. He said nothing.
This is a good thing. It shows he is still defiant.
When our enemies come, I will have a furnace of his rage to turn upon them. It is easy to channel anger.
If only I could give him a bit more fear. Well, perhaps someday.
Tomorrow I must prepare for a journey to the mainland. From thence to New York City. The others will stay here and work on the satellite.
This will be a mission of reconnoisance.
No, let us be honest here. I want to walk among humans. I want to see what I am like without my helmet.
I want to know if my strength resides in it, or in myself.
None of the others ask about the colors of my uniform. It is simple. The purple is a royal color. The red is for blood--that which I saw shed, so many times, over the years, and that which, whether I like it or not, I needs must shed.
There is much more red than purple in my uniform.
MAY 27: Back from the trip. I must write my reactions quickly, with the feelings still within grasp. I must be careful not to do such a thing again.
I told the others that I was making a reconnaisance mission to America. It was a preparation for our strike, which, on its surface, was true. The missle base which I will attack must be cased beforehand, though I had little doubt of my ability to take it. Homo sapientes have no idea of our power. Of my power.
But this, more than anything else, was a test of myself.
I took the boat out, and, at the midway point between island and mainland, cut the engine, went below, and changed into civilian clothes.
I hesitated a long while before I dared remove the helmet. It would be a long journey to make, all the way to the mainland, without its protection.
But I could not wear it there.
I tore it from my head and tossed it to the floor. It rolled from side to side of the cabin, propelled by the waves beneath my boat.
I hid my face from the mirror in the cabin. But this was a sign of weakness. I resisted the temptation to bend.
I looked at my face. It is not that I did not recognize myself. No, it was that I did not recognize myself looking afraid.
I sat back on my bed. The helmet rolled noisily across the floor. It tempted me. I could bring it back to my head with a minute exertion of my power. Security.
But there was work to be done.
I looked into the mirror until the face that looked back at me held at least a reasonable expression of calm. I have dominated four mutants. I will dominate lower men, for my people's behalf.
I could damned well dominate a mirror, and I did.
Then I stood, and went to the wheel again, and started the engines. I felt the sea spray on the sides of my face. I felt the wind blowing through my hair.
The rest of the journey was without incident. I put the boat in at a commercial dock, was cordial to the h.s.'es who attended me. If I was a bit aloof, perhaps I was not more so than some of the rich men whose craft they have housed before. From there, I caught a cab, and ignored the driver's incessant stream of gabble. From there, I took a plane to Idlewild Airport in New York City.
On the way, I drank at least two glasses of champagne. The waitress thought I was merely nervous because of the flight. I tested myself. I made conversation with her. She was from Atlanta, is planning to get married soon, and seemed a bit intrigued by my stature, believing me (correctly) to be a wealthy man.
It is of some comfort to me that, if I sought them, I could still bed women. But there is a gap between myself and homo sapientes now, one they have dug themselves. And sex is merely another Temptation to Bend.
From Idlewild to another cab, to a hotel room. The accomodations there were pleasurable, but I still had arrangements to make. The missle base does not allow civilians beyond a certain point, but there is an outer area through which they make tours. I have bought and paid for materials which tell me exactly what I shall find on the base and where I shall find it. But there is no substitute for personal reconnaissance.
I sat upon the bed for some time. I clenched my hands to prevent them from trembling. The armor that enclosed my head was far, far away, locked away in the hold of my boat, and I feared as though I had been stripped naked again in Auschwitz.
I wanted to cry (words crossed out)
I have no time for phobias. My passport reads: Eric Masters. Eric Masters has no need to be afraid. I forced myself up from the bed, took my coat and hat, and headed down for the coffee shop in the lobby. The counterman was no stupider than most of those around me, and the food was in keeping with the place. But my chef's skills are hardly nonpareil and I am glad that Wanda took over such duties for us, though I make certain that she and I eat the same meals and that she eat first. Out of spite, I ate a bacon / lettuce / tomato sandwich. My rabbi would have frowned upon it. But he is decades dead.
Eric Masters sat alone, in a brown suit and blue shirt and red tie, and ate the sandwich of a Gentile in the most Jewish city in America.
I rather enjoyed it.
From there I walked the streets of New York City for an hour's time, and wondered if, in this city, there would be another graduate of the camps who would recognize Erik Magnus Lensherr. I was obviously a tourist, my head thrown back all too often, scanning the skyscrapers, wondering how plant life can survive with so much of the sun cut off by concrete.
But mostly my head was at street level, as I tried to cope with that massive torrent of powerless ones who make up the city's populance. Jews, Italians, Greeks, Puerto Ricans, Negroes, unclassifiable general whites, Orientals, all spilling over and under and all about, until one ducks into a storefront just to get one's own bearings. In my case it turned out to be a bridal shop. I excused myself and left.
After awhile I began to get my sea legs for this city--I have been in large cities before, certainly, but never one quite so densely packed--and dared take a bus for travel. I was yelled at by a driver for having incorrect change and actually recoiled.
I remember his face. I made certain that I did.
There was time to see part of the financial district and Madison Avenue and other parts of the city. I debated myself about seeing Rockefeller Center, Radio City, the Statue of Liberty. But this, I told myself / tell myself, is another Temptation to Bend. Tomorrow I had to tour a missle base, which was the Only reason I had come to walk among men.
I usually resisted the temptation to talk, beyond a "Fine, thank you," and asking directions. I learned that the people of this city do not like you to look them directly in the eye, which is agreeable by my standards. The time shall come in which they will not dare look me, or any of my kind, in the eye, lest they lose theirs.
Then back to the hotel. A profusion of restaurants are round about it. I chose a kosher deli to expiate my sin of lunch. It was excellent.
I must never do that again.
The food reminded me of my wife's cook (words scratched out)
Back to my room on the 20th floor of the building. I opened the window, looked out, and wondered how many hundred people would see me if I walked out on air, suspending myself by magnetic repulsion. I could stroll across the street and knock on the window of whoever was in the building opposite.
But that is something Magneto could only do.
And Magneto was far, far away.
I watched some of their television, tried to make sense of it, gave up on that idea, and decided only to turn it on when the television listings in the book at my bedside indicated a news program was on.
The bed I slept in was not as good as the one on my island. But it was sufficient.
I woke in the night with a cry of terror.
I caught myself just before I could hurl myself across the room with a flux of power. I was shaking.
I fumbled for my helmet on the nightstand and realized that there WAS NO HELMET THERE.
I grasped the telephone, damaged it slightly, thought along one track that would be something else added to my bill, and gulped in air, trying to take in more than I was gasping out. It seemed a losing proposition.
My knees were drawn up to my chest and I was afraid.
Thankful that Wyngarde and Pietro and Wanda and the Toad were not there to see the master of all their race cowering like a child who had wakened from a nightmare.
I cursed myself out loud and hoped that the walls were thick enough to shield others from hearing me. I lowered my face to my knees and thought.
Thought about what had to be done on the morrow. Thought about who I was, what I must be, and how there was no one in the entire building, and very few in the entire city, from whom I had anything to fear.
Except myself (words crossed out repeatedly)
Thought about Magda, and Anya, and all the things before and between.
I lifted the metal ashtray from the table without touching it, brought it sharply against my forehead. The pain was welcome.
From the pain, I gained strength.
I sighed, and my breathing regained normalcy. My muscles unknotted. I took myself to the bathroom, voided, cleaned, flushed, and looked at myself in the mirror.
Eric Masters looked a bit less hesitant than he had the last time I saw him. I daresay he was getting a bit more comfortable with himself.
For the moment, I decided that was a good thing. Then I went back to bed, resisting the impulse to leave the light on, and made myself go back to sleep.
It was easier when I pulled a pillow over my eyes. Easier still when I folded it around the sides of my head.
Another morning, another breakfast. Pancakes and sausage. I was taking perverse amusement in my sins of diet. The counterman asked me how my night was and I told him it was fine. On impulse, I asked him about one of the television shows I had seen. He seemed delighted to talk about it, his face leaping into animation. He explained that it was all about a backwoods family who had accidentally struck oil near their residence, become rich, and moved to a wealthy city in California. A comedy of manners, I assume. He attempted some of the accents and I wearily paid him and left. He said, "See ya, Mister Masters, 'n' have a great day in New Yawk!"
I felt like an imbecile.
There was still time to spare before the afternoon tour of the missle base. I caught another bus and then another, and thus made my way to the New York Public Library. There I enconsced myself with several months' worth of local newspapers and studied them minutely, concentrating on reports of superhuman activity. It was remarkable, at this very date, that none of them seemed to be a true mutant (though, to be fair, I had no idea whether a few were or not).
These costumed operatives were usually first to strike during a crisis situation. I wish to time my operation to catch as few of them on the job, so to speak, as is possible.
The Fantastic Four would present the biggest challenge. Unlike the others, they are a unified team. At the time of my visit, they were engaged in a battle against a powerful extraterrestrial, the "Super-Skrul" (sp?). This is a factor to consider: after my conquest of the world, what is to be done in the case of alien invasion? One more bridge to cross. At this writing, they have just concluded their fight with the Skrul and will not be at peak efficiency. I believe I can cope with them, should they be the ones to strike.
The other "super-heroes" are independents, disorganized, and not totally dependable. Let me review them here:
Iron Man: a lackey of industrialist Anthony Stark. Usually spurred into action by an attack on Stark, or by a Communist infiltration attempt. It is possible that he might attack, as the taking of missles from a base could hardly be called a patriotic action by his standards. But a man of iron is hardly a threat to me. In fact, his presence might be quite interesting.
Ant-Man / The Wasp: a male / female team of artificially shrunken humans with power over some insects. At best, bothersome. No real threat.
Spider-Man: a costumed youth with great strength, speed, leaping power, and agility, plus a pair of "web-shooting" devices in his hands. Mostly concerned with small-range supercriminals. Again, little threat to me.
The Hulk: a being of incredible power, questionable intellect, and great fury. Hardly to be classed as a "hero", but not quite seen as a "villain", due to the government's recent pardon of him for services rendered. He haunts the Nevada desert, far from New York City. No threat at present.
Thor: The real x-factor. An individual of great physical power, possibly greater than the Thing's, even possibly equal to the Hulk's. But Thor possesses human intelligence and is unquestioningly an ally to the authorities. (Whether or not he is a "god", as he claims to be, is undeterminable and of little concern to me at this time.) Armed with a strange hammer-weapon that gives him some limited control over weather forces. If attacked by Thor, I must attempt to divert his attention to others, perhaps by threatening to set off one of the nuclear devices. Or, possibly, by killing one or more of the base personnel, and threatening to kill the others. This last tactic I will not attempt until / unless last resort. Murder is not to be thrown around willy-nilly, like a tank division crushing soldiers beneath its treads. Murder must be done only as an example, as when a storm trooper threatens to kill a child unless its parents obediently board the train to the camps.
I saw that happen, too.
Would I were in a world where murder is not needed. But if I were in such a world, Anya would be with me, and Magda would still be my (words crossed out)
Murder is sometimes required, but civilized men eschew it, and mutants must be civilized men.
I suppose I can practice it towards the uncivilized, if I have to. But it gives me no pleasure. I would really rather not.
At any rate, a means will be found to deal with Thor, when the time comes.
A newspaper called the Daily Bugle is in the contradictory and amusing position of having the best coverage of superheroic events in the city, but editorializing against them in almost every issue. Editorials did little good against Hitler and seem to be equally efficient against their hated Spider-Man and his kind.
I checked my watch and found it was time to catch a bus out of town for the missle base.
It was good to be free of New York City, even for an afternoon. There is little to say about the base itself. It is out there, it has missles, and its defenders consider themselves quite adequate to their protection. Idiots.
Just in time to catch the last bus back to the city. I reflected on how I could have improved this conveyance with great ease, but not at cost efficiency. There will be better transport in our nation, and we will have no coal-burning power plants to ensmog the skies. I shall see to it personally.
On the way back, sat with a boy. His name was Angelo. He wanted to talk to me about all sorts of things, and I let him. He talked about his subjects at school. From what I could tell, if it wasn't for hot lunches he would leave. He talked about what he liked to play outside (kickball, tether ball, games of role-play) and inside (Flinch, Yahtzee, Cootie, and cribbage, which he learned from his father). He talked about television programs, including the one with the backwoods folk in California and another which featured a monotonic policeman whom he imitated: "Just the facts, ma'am."
His mother, a harried Italian housewife already running to fat, asked me if he was bothering me, and I told her no, quite the contrary. Angelo asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a salesman, and that I was from out of town. He said he knew that last because of my accent, and asked what I sold. I told him, "Dry goods."
From there I took the lead and asked him about his life in the city, and in P.S. 590, which is a school. He said school would be out in a few days, and then he could come visit his uncle and aunt out there any time he wanted, not just on Saturdays.
Angelo asked if I had any children. One, I told him, a little girl who was dead now. Angelo seemed very sorry about that. He asked if she ran out in the road and got hit by a truck, which was what his mother always said was going to happen to him. I told him no, she got killed in a fire. He said, "Oh." Then he changed the subject.
By the time we got back to the city he was back with his mother. I gave him an American half-dollar. He was glad, and told me excitedly he was going to spend it on Spider-Man and Archie comic books. I have no idea who this Archie person is. I assume he is a fictional super-hero.
Went to my hotel and dinner and bed.
The next day was for research.
I made an appointment with the Daily Bugle to talk to its editor / publisher. My cover story was that I was a writer of nonfiction books, at work on a volume covering the recent super-hero phenomenon. The editor, one Jameson, was the epitome of the American boss: loud of voice, boisterous of manner (what little manners he had), demanding of subordinates. Couple all that with the small paintbrush mustache below his nose (I could not have been the first one to make comparison between that and the one worn by another, in Europe) and it was a manful struggle to keep from backhanding him savagely, and to keep my breakfast in its proper place.
He said that, in his opinion, the recent "superhero" was merely a pale copy of the ones who had been real heroes, in the Second World War. He cited the Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the Human Torch, plus others whom I do not remember or care to. Those heroes, he said, "put it on the line" to bring down Hitler. (Regrettably, they did not bring him down fast enough to save 5.6 million of my people.) The end of the 1940's was the end of these costumed saviors, for all intents and purposes, though they did make a brief flare-up again early in the next decade.
Jameson declared that the latest wave of "super-heroes" was a trick of the Kennedy administration. He pointed out that, until the new president was in place, the "super-villain" was an extinct species. "There were a few of those stupid giant monsters out in East Jebru, Kentucky, yeah, but the Army and some government eggheads took care of them," he said. Now the Fantastic Four were in town, born, supposedly, of some mishap caused by a scientist's failure to make a moon flight.
"We've successfully launched satellites," said Jameson. "We've sent men up in rockets and brought them down safely, for cryin' out loud. First Shepard, then Glenn, then my son, John. I can't let you get out of here without seeing a photo of him, where'd I put it?" (He fumbled around and I steered him back to his train of thought. "But we're just not ready to go to the moon yet, neither are the Commies. And you want to tell me that this Richards character didn't know that? That he thought he could design, build, and pilot his own rocket to the moon? I don't have to tell you that had Publicity Stunt all over it."
According to Jameson, the new heroes and, possibly, the new villains were all a plot of the Democratic Party to foster public dependance on "super-creeps" instead of police and the army. "Big government, big business, big labor, and now big heroes, or maybe Big Brother," he fumed. "And the worst of them is that nitwit imbecile son of a demented New Deal deadbeat, Spider-Man. First he tries to make it as a novelty act on television. When that doesn't pan out, he starts making like he's fighting crime. He even--can you believe this?--he even pretended to save my own son from a 'faulty space capsule mechanism.' A faulty space capsule mechanism! If that was true, which it isn't, it must've been designed by that Richards guy."
I let Jameson go on for a few more minutes, mainly giving his opinion on Spider-Man, interspersed with a thrown-off opinion on the Hulk--"So he's a real monster? Why doesn't the Army get him, then, just like they did the other big monsters? Why does he get a big phony pardon after taking down some phony alien? I'll tell you why. Three big letters. J. F. K. That's all I have to tell you."
About that time his secretary buzzed him and told him a photographer was there to see him. I took that moment to stand up, thank him for his perspective, and shake hands with him. He asked if he'd get a big mention in my book. "Check the index, Mr. Jameson," I said, and walked out, past a thin young man wearing big glasses and a harried secretary with sprayed hair.
To Shakespeare's advice about what to do with the lawyers, I hereby add newspaper editors.
At the lobby of the building, a newsstand rack caught my eye. Some cheaply made, gaudily printed paper magazines, whose sole existence was to part a child from twelve cents of his allowance, lay in a rack of metal wiring. But the titles of two of them were familiar: Fantastic Four, The Hulk. I investigated more closely (the cigar-smoking blob of suet behind the counter gave me a quizzical look) and found other titles devoted to Iron Man, the Ant-Man, and Thor.
These were the "comics" of which Angelo had spoken. I saw little humorous in them, except perhaps the production.
When I took out and inspected one of the books, covering the Four, I checked the small patch of type at the bottom of its inside front cover. It mentioned that the Fantastic Four book was an authorized publication, that the Fantastic Four were the copyright owners, and that the book was produced by a company located in this very city.
I hailed another cab and went to Madison Avenue.
Luckily enough, my pose of superhero researcher won me audience again. I am not so sure how great my luck was, for it only admitted me into a hole-in-the-wall office, outfitted with one secretary, two rooms, and another editor, who was tall, balding, and apparently wrote just about all of his comics himself. There was an even taller man with him, blonde-haired, bespectacled, and sturdy-looking, with a large sheet of cardboard upon which he had drawn some figures in pencil.
"Oh, hi, pleased to meet you, the name's Lee, and you probably know who this guy is," he said, nodding to the blonde man as he pumped my hand ferociously.
"Pleased, I am sure," I returned.
The blonde man looked me over and nodded. "So we're still okay with Spider-Man, Stan?" he said.
"Yeah, yeah, what's he gonna do, sue us?" He snapped his head back to me and immediately grinned. "Just a joke there. Spidey loves us. Okay, mister, um..."
"Right, Masters. You shoulda brought your partner Johnson with you. Little joke there, sorry. What can I do for you?"
"I wish to know about super-heroes," I said. "I am writing a book on them."
"I do that all the time. Will you excuse us, Steve? I'll get back to you on that."
The man called Steve left and did not attempt to shake my hand.
The editor was pompous, full of himself, and in some ways reminded me of Jameson, though he was more engaging and certainly sold himself better than the other. That was what he reminded me of, primarily: a salesman. He was eager to talk of his beloved super-heroes.
I soon learned that there were two kinds of super-hero books the editor produced: the authorized kind, which required him to kick back a certain percentage of the profits to the heroes upon which the book was based, and the unauthorized kind, which were labelled as such and were done without paying the stars of such comics a single dime. Or, perhaps, twelve cents. He grinned widely when asked about the latter. "Spider-Man can't sue," he said. "He'd have to reveal his real name to go to court. He can't touch us. It's beautiful!"
"And you do not fear reprisals of another sort from him?"
"Hey, no, this is America," the editor said. "He isn't gonna come in here and beat me up. I will tell you this: one time, he did jump in through the window and grab me up and hang me from the ever-lovin' ceiling by that wacky web of his. But we came to an agreement. If I didn't try to speculate on who he was behind that crazy mask, or give him a fake secret identity or anything, he'd look the other way. We were treating him better than J. Jonah, I can tell you."
The Iron Man character was done under liscence of Stark Industries, and Iron Man was hardly less heroic than Stark himself, who was presented as another Howard Hughes. Every issue seemed to have something to do with the Communists. The others featured Ant-Man, Thor, some idiotic cowboys and a clotheshorse named, I think, Millie the Middle. The Hulk book was produced without the consent, naturally, of the title character, but every issue bore the imprimatur of the U.S. Air Force and featured one General "Thundercrack" Ross most prominently. (I have no idea how many of these characters actually exist and how many of them are there to sell advertising. In that regard, I suspect I am like Americans.)
I did pump him for information about the Fantastic Four, and learned quite a lot from him. "The whole comics division was about to be shut down," he admitted. "Then, bam. The Richards crash, and, several weeks after that, that big sky signal, 'The Fantastic Four'. When we learned what that was all about, I was in Marty Goodman's office, saying, 'Marty, you have gotta let me do this thing. You have gotta let me talk to them and see about a liscenced comic book. If you don't, Donenfeld is gonna get them, sure as you're born, you're going to have to fold our operation, and I'll be out of a job. Let me do it.' And he says, 'You're right, Lee. If you don't get that liscence, you're out of a job.' So--" He laughed. "I went and I did it. And it was great."
The editor and his artist were allowed to visit with the Four themselves. Lee's eyes lit up like a fireplace in the dead of winter. He described all the strange defensive devices they were allowed to see, the communications hookup, even the silo where, incredibly enough, a rocket aircraft is stored within a New York skyscraper. Richards, he said, just had to be the most brilliant guy on Earth. Sue Storm was even better looking, he assured me, than the artist drew her, when she could be looked at. The Human Torch was a standoffish teenager, but he obediently burst into flame for a demonstration, and Lee said it was all he could do to keep from running out of the room on the spot. The Thing was better-natured than he seemed, but even so, Lee said he was nervous at first. The artist stepped up, shook the Thing's hand, and was making conversation with him within a minute.
He blasted Jameson's theories when I mentioned them to him. "Oh, that crackpot's been sour ever since McCarthy got censured and died," he said. "Does he think that four people plan to risk their lives in a rocket crackup? Give me a break, effendi. Why do you think we're putting out a book about Spider-Man? Not just because it makes us money. Because it makes him mad." He looked like a small boy who has cheated another out of his favorite marble.
I told him I was interested in Doctor Doom.
At that, Lee turned serious, which was a pleasant change.
"A very, very dangerous man," he said. "As Jack and I found out one day. First-hand. He paid us a little visit."
"A little visit?" I said, my interest probably showing.
Lee nodded. "Yeah. One morning Jack and I are minding our own, working on the books, and pop. The door comes open, and there, about three feet away from the tip of my nose, was the scariest looking being I had ever seen. We had photographs that we'd used beforehand for art references, but we had never seen him before. I hope we never do again. Six foot five, just about all of it covered in gray steel, not moving quickly, because he sure as hell didn't have to, with that green hood and cape, and those eyes staring out at you. I was about to--well, let's just say I was scared. I think Jack was, too, though he probably didn't show it as much.
"Luckily, Flo outside hadn't been hurt. He just ripped her phone out of the wall and told her to stay put. Doom knew who we were, because we put out the book, and he knew that Reed Richards was going to pay us a visit that day, to tell us about that recent case with, um, Sub-Mariner, I think. All I could think of was: I'm gonna die. He's gonna murder me right in my office, because we've been putting out comic books with him as a villain.
"We were lucky. He didn't give a hang about our comic books. He just wanted to take out Reed Richards, and he waited around until Richards came, and knocked him out. In between then and there, he took off his mask."
I had to prompt Lee to tell what he had seen.
"I didn't see too much. Both Jack and I had to turn away. Jack saw more action than I did, in the War. He'd seen guys burned up, crushed, shot, beaten to death, all of that. And he told me he'd never seen anything quite that bad. I don't even like to watch Twilight Zone because of that. I might see something to remind me. All I can say is, we were glad just to see that metal mask again when he put it back on."
He was silent again. Then he said, "He got Richards. Luckily, Richards got free again. But what could we do? We couldn't fight him. If we'd tried warning Reed, we'd've been dead. Even Richards said he didn't blame us, that Doom was really above our level. He gave us a special signaller here, and if anybody tries something like that again, the FF, the cops, and the city government will know about it like that.
"What can I tell you? It's like I said, he's a very, very dangerous man. I'm just glad there is a Fantastic Four. And I'm glad that, so far, they've won. But he's still out there." He looked out his window. "As long as he isn't in here."
I asked him if there was anything he else he could tell me about Doom's nature.
"Well, he's--" Lee began. Then he said, "It may sound funny to tell you this, but, even as scary as he was, there was a sense of charisma. Does that sound crazy?"
I told him I did not think so.
"Well, it'd sound crazy to me, if I wasn't there. But you could tell that the guy could be a leader. Kind of a Hitler type, except, as far as I know, Doom hasn't killed anybody yet. I don't think. I also don't think he has anything against Jews. If he did, Jack and I wouldn't be around to do a comic book about it."
Or perhaps, I told myself, he didn't consider either of you worth the effort spent to kill you.
"But that's what I felt. Scared as hell, but kind of fascinated. A very, very dangerous man. That good enough for you?"
I told him it was, and stood, and thanked him. On the way out, I passed a short man with an artist's portfolio. He gave me a curious look. I nodded to him and left.
Undoubtedly, after I make my public debut, those idiots will try to put me in a comic book.
Perhaps, when I am next in town, I should finish what Doom left unfinished.
On the cab ride home, the driver pointed out a figure in the sky overhead, who seemed to be swinging between office buildings. I stuck my head out of the window and squinted. The driver told me it was Spider-Man. I suppose it could have been.
He hardly seemed surprised.
To the hotel and TV and bed.
On the next day, I paid a visit to the Baxter Building. As one might expect, the top floors of the building are off limits to the general public, and tours are very infrequent. On occasion, reporters are admitted, but I did not think that Reed Richards would be as gullible as Jameson or Lee.
I contented myself with talking to some of the personnel there, doormen, clerk, newsstand owner, restauranteur, and even a weary old mailman. All had their Fantastic Four stories to tell, and all had felt the building shake with battle, at times.
They told me of how the entire building had been torn from its moorings and taken into space by Doom, and repaired with great financial help from the Four themselves, with the heroes doing as much of the reconstruction work as they could. They mentioned the great Atlantean invasion of a month ago, in which Sub-Mariner's armies stormed the building itself and were repulsed by Richards and his crew. Everybody there had met the Four at one time or another, and all seemed to like them. The mailman seemed assured that, whenever they had an opening, he'd go to work for them.
After awhile, the building manager, an officious sort named Collins, found me, disbelieved my cover story, and threw me out. As I left, I permitted myself one small but risky display of power. I caused a tall, standing metal ashtray to tip over, roll over the carpet behind him, and knock him off his feet. I was out the door by the time he hit the floor on his back.
There was no time left that day to go to the Stark plant on Long Island. I acquired tickets and went to Radio City to see the Rockettes troupe.
I came back to the hotel and slept. Dreamed of Magd (words crossed out)
The next morning, I realized how completely I had given myself to my new role. I was no longer repulsed by the h.s.'es in the breakfast restaurant.
That scared me. Scares me.
On my way toLong Island, I deliberately stayed aloof from the others on the bus and ferry and said nothing except my destination to the cab driver. I went to Anthony Stark's plant on Long Island.
It was useless.
As one might expect, tours are not given often in a factory which constructs high-tech weaponry for the American military. I asked if I might be permitted to interview some employees about Stark and Iron Man. The secretary, a mousy, freckled redhead with too much of the Brooklyn accent to her, looked as though she was about to call security on the spot. I excused myself and left.
I understand that the Human Torch and the Invisible Girl maintain a house in the residential area. I decided against trying to find them. There is only so much of this thing one can do.
I returned to the hotel and was glad that I was leaving on the morrow.
In the middle of the night I woke up in terror.
In my dreams, I was back within my helmet.
It was pressing inwards and threatening to crush my head.
I rose in the morning and ate my last breakfast and settled my account with the hotel. On my way to the bus stand I passed a synagogue. For a moment I hesitated.
Then again, I am not certain what I would have to say to a rabbi, or to his Employer. It has been a long time.
To the bus, to the airport, to the plane, and, one flight later, back to the boat dock. It was an effort to take command of the craft again. Something waited within.
Resist the Temptation to Bend.
The words in my mind were surprising, frightening, and almost alien at the same time. That was only for an instant. I knew their truth.
I paid those who had kept charge of my boat and saw that the hold was still locked. That which was within, called to me.
I summoned that steel which I had suppressed a week ago and set out to sea.
Night had fallen before half the journey was made and, too weary to continue, I dropped anchor without touching the mechanism and took myself to bed.
I lay unsleeping.
Got up, had half a glass of port, read Goethe. Put that down, ventured into Proust. Did little good, either one. Machiavelli was no better, and I had read him too often already.
The sea was calm enough, and I am hardly a landlubber. I was fatigued, emotionally more than physically, as far as I could estimate. Odysseus coming back to Penelope and three others, none of whom, perhaps, would have a bow for me to string. Nor, I judged, would Penelope need to do much weaving, with her hex power at the ready.
Nonetheless, I went out on deck and retched up the wine into the sea, and wondered if I should follow.
Resist the Temptation to Bend.
Would the New Race survive without me?
Should I step away, and let Xavier and his integrationist dream prevail, and hope that the h.s. patted them all on the head and said, "Good dogs"?
Was it really worth the effort?
Who would even care if I did it?
Resist the Temptation...
But there was only one way that I really knew to see if the temptation was worth resisting.
And I dreaded it.
I pushed myself away from the side of the boat. Went below. To the hold. Unlocked it. Unlocked a metal chest stored within.
The colors of blood and royalty were within, dim in the flashlit darkness.
I closed my eyes as I reached for the hard object within. It was cold to my touch. I almost dropped it. If I had, I am uncertain I could have picked it up again.
For a moment I held it at arm's length, not looking at it.
A moment later, I could swear that my power activated itself.
The helmet leaped from my hands and fitted itself perfectly about my head.
I breathed in, deeply.
I believe I was screaming, a few seconds later. But not with fear. No, certainly not with that.
I tore the well-tailored rags from my body and flung them into the sea. Naked but for the helmet. I clothed myself in what was in the chest and put on the boots last of all, and fatigue was not there anymore.
The journey of Eric Masters was over.
Magneto raised the anchor without touching it, took the wheel, and activated the engine.
He made land by dawn.
Must go to bed.
MAY 29: In my abscence, they have been fighting. Quicksilver and Mastermind show some scars. Good.
I vouchsafe but little of Eric's journey to them. The reconnaisance has been done, I tell them. The satellite will soon be ready for launch. But I can waste no more time. The operation must be actuated within 48 hours.
They are not ready to accompany me yet. Wanda asked what they should do in case of my capture. I wheeled on her and grabbed her forearm roughly. I said nothing to her, only looked at her. Pietro, I knew, was on the verge of attack. But I knew just how long I could hold her without having to fend him off.
"I will not be captured," I said, and let her go.
Three days from now, we will have more firepower than Castro had in Cuba.
And we will have no Soviet masters to tell us no.
The operation (words crossed out repeatedly)
Cannot (words crossed out repeatedly)
I am (words crossed out repeatedly)
The stink of Xavier is upon it.
Who else would have formed a counterpart attack squad of mutants to save the government's backside?
Who else could have committed so great a treason?
The h.s. fools were children playing war. They had NO DEFENSE against my power. I might as well have been in one of Manhattan's jewelry stores, picking out baubles for an intended conquest. They could not even come near me. Within an hour, I would have successfully begun transport of the missles to my island, and all would come to fear a new nuclear power.
Then XAVIER'S UNIT INTERVENED.
Damnable adolescent yearlings, every one of them, like the beardless youths Hitler put against the Allies when all his other defenses were cracking. Except these yearlings had power. None of them equal to mine, individually. But they knew how to effectively combine what they had. And they had luck, three times damned three times luck, and NO ONE HAD EVER SEEN THEM BEFORE.
Three males, one female, and one snow-being whose sex is impossible to determine at this point.
An unknown quantity.
A XAVIER FACTOR.
Does he think that he can send this force against me, and expect me not to know it is HIM?
When he plasters his initial across their belt buckles in that black-and-yellow soldier's uniform, does he think I am stupid enough not to know his hand is in it, up to the shoulder?
Because of Xavier I had to return home, and tell the others that the operation had not been successful.
Because of Xavier I know that every time I turn my back, the others are making faces at each other, and laughing silently at me.
I have beaten Mastermind and the Toad severely in the days since. I almost crushed Quicksilver into the earth with my power. I have not passed so much as a hundred words with the Witch.
They dare not cross me.
Yet, they cannot but laugh at me.
I will HAVE Xavier for this.
I will have his five yearling soldiers, as well.
He seeks to play chess with me, but thinks he moves five men against a lone king. I will soon disabuse him of that notion.
I will go to ground for as long as it takes. When the time presents itself, I will take the field again. But not as a lone king. No, with the power of two knights, a pawn, and a queen. A deadly enough combination, under the circumstances.
They are not quite ready yet, but they will be. They will have no choice.
Xavier, the game is barely begun.
Eric Masters lies locked away in a hold deeper than Davy Jones's locker. I shall not loose him again.
Resist the Temptation to Bend.
I AM MAGNETO.
And I shall be Magneto till my dying day.
And long after Xavier's.