Method Man is a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, a hip-hop legend, and a geek’s geek when it comes to funny books. His podcast, “Marvel/Method” invites guests weekly to deep delve into the stacks for their favorite storylines – often with the very creators who penned them. The newest episode found Killer Mike, half of hip hop duo Run the Jewels, joined by Chris Claremont, the stepfather of Marvel’s “Uncanny X-men.”
The podcast isn’t shy about its niche – the dustiest corners of old long boxes. Recent episodes have featured guests like director Kevin Smith talking “Kraven’s Last Hunt” with writer J.M. DeMatteis and sports writer Jemele Hill speaking on her love of Silver Surfer with author Dan Slott.
Even among such noted company, Chris Claremont is a legend. The author shepherded the old Kirby/Lee franchise from dwindling sales to cool fan favorite and helmed “Uncanny X-men” and some of its satellite titles for a decade and a half. His vision of the team is definitive and his stories like “The Dark Phoenix Saga” have not only influenced the comic franchise and the films based on it but the entire comics industry. His stories featured Jean Grey destroying a galaxy, a dystopian future of mutant internment camps and the now-classic reimagining of arch-villain turned anti-hero Magneto as a Holocaust survivor.
“Wolverine and, say, Storm and Nightcrawler brought me in,” Killer Mike tells Method Man. “But Magneto keeps me…I relate to him being a person of an oppressed ethnicity. It all made sense when you find out that Magneto had been a child of the Holocaust and that his enduring trauma was that, and having survived that…”
Killer Mike is no stranger to comics. The rapper tells Method Man about his father’s influence in his hobby and how he still equates the medium with things like sneakers and cars as “Dad stuff.” While the Marvel books occasionally show up in his rhymes, Run the Jewels being featured on a series of Marvel covers really solidified the activist emcee’s nerd cred. He even penned a 500-word introduction to the comic company’s 2016 initiative to immortalize classic hip hop albums on its covers.
Magneto Was Right
Killer Mike brings to the podcast an insightful analysis of the now oft-repeated comparison of his favorite mutant to civil rights leader Malcolm X (and his friend and sometimes nemesis Professor X to Martin Luther King):
“Them saying that they patterned him after Malcolm and Xavier after Martin…You really get to understand that even if you look at those two characters as the actual human beings you have to understand that Malcom had endured a trauma that Martin, a middle-class black person from Atlanta, had never endured. Even though they were both black, even though they had both suffered injustices…Malcom went through some s*** and trauma and brutality just untold. Once you get that about Magneto you start to understand his intolerance for b*******. It’s not that he hates us humans, it’s that he understands our capacity for evil in a much more intimate way…”
“Magneto Was Right,” is a phrase borrowed from Grant Morrison’s later run on the X-men, a geek meme, and something of a leitmotif on the podcast – even making it on to the show’s theme song. In the issue, the slogan is worn on a t-shirt by a student at the Academy and one of Method Man’s favorite characters, Kid Omega, who will soon lead a student riot. It refers to a philosophical difference between the character and Professor X: where historically the X-men leader taught peaceful coexistence and the protection of humans, Magneto believed in aggressively prioritizing his fellow oppressed mutants, often at the expense of the human race.
Claremont goes on at length regarding the Master of Magnetism:
“For me as a dramatist he’s so much more interesting and challenging [a] character than Xavier. Xavier is perfect. All you can do is diminish him. Whereas Magneto is this flawed hero. And I’m sorry, from Shakespeare on down flawed heroes are so much more fun and so much more challenging and so much more rewarding because they can go to the edge of disaster. And you’re terrified will they step over and will they come back? And for me, that’s what made him such a rich and necessary character because he was the alternate side of the question – but could he not learn? I mean if you look at Martin Luther King and Malcolm X there was an evolution, both of them away from the purity – what we perceive as the purity – away from their original direction. It didn’t quite work the way they thought so they were trying to evolve into something new. And the heartbreak was they were both cut down before they got there.”
God Loves, Man Kills
Within seconds of being introduced to Claremont, Killer Mike brings up “God Loves, Man Kills,” the 1982 X-men graphic novel. “That is one of the best rap album titles for a non-rap album I’ve ever heard in my life,” he tells the author. “I walk away and am like damn, why didn’t I call my mixtape that?”
The book is an early example of the dark, adult-oriented graphic novels that defined the medium in the 80s. In it, Magneto comes to grips with the evil of humanity, terrorism, and the murder of two mutant children at the behest of William Stryker, an anti-mutant evangelist. Claremont mentions having watched months of televangelism as research.
“Forty years ago you had the foresight, as a much younger man, to see the growth – cause televangelism was starting to grow,” Killer Mike comments. He goes on to suggest that comics and sci-fi were like hiding medicine in honey, masking social commentary, and comparing them to music like that of KRS-One. “…I feel like forty years later all the kids that didn’t read comics or watch sci-fi are the people now married mythology of religious books and promoting war and killing people…”
The story is notable for a scene where Kitty Pride – a character Claremont introduced as a thirteen-year-old two years earlier – is called a “mutie” and questions how another character of color would react to an offensive, real-life racial slur. The scene is a controversial one and one whose merits/flaws have been debated. Method Man, Killer Mike and the author himself weigh in on “Marvel/Method.”
“I’ve always thought art and artists were braver then,” says Killer Mike. “So I’d like to say forty years removed from that I am better for having read that question…”
After reiterating the context of the scene is a thirteen-year-old reacting poorly “with her gut, not her brain,” Claremont goes on: “The hope was to draw commonalities – human commonalities – between all these people we are generally used to thinking of as creatures in costumes. And to confront both Charles and Magneto the question, which one of us really is right in our quest? You want to build bridges but they don’t – and I want to just punch them in the nose. Do you ever think I might have the right idea?”