A supervillain created by Stan Lee and published by Marvel Comics. Magneto first appeared in The Uncanny X-Men #1.
Erik Magnus Lehnsherr was the only son of an upper class Jewish family in Poland in the 1920s. Lehnsherr's early life was relatively normal, until when he was in his early teens, Nazi forces entered his small village, killing his entire family. Lehnsherr survived being gunned down, an act that he attributed to the first manifestation of his mutant powers. Lehnsherr possessed the ability to create magnetic fields, allowing him to manipulate iron-based metals. After he was captured by the German forces, Lehnsherr was sent to Auschwitz where he stayed until the camp was liberated by Soviet forces. In that hellish place, Lehnsherr acquired a deep hatred for humanity, seeing it at its worst.
When Lehnsherr left Auschwitz, he traveled with a gypsy girl named Magda. The two were married and had a daughter named Anya. The two moved from town to town, while Lehnsherr searched for work. In one village, Lehnsherr was cheated of his pay by a foreman, and his power again manifested itself. Lehnsherr in his anger caused a crowbar to attack the foreman. The foreman called the authorities. Lehnsherr fled, but the authorities caught up with him at his home, which they set fire to. The fire killed his young daughter, driving Lehnsherr into a rage. Lehnsherr used his powers to exact revenge upon his foes.
Lehnsherr's wife, Magda, fled, frightened of her husband's powers. She traveled to Wundgore Mountain, where she was taken in by the High Evolutionary. Magda was pregnant, though she had not told her mate. On Wundgore, Magda gave birth, but died in the process. The two children, Wanda and Pietro, were given into the care of a gypsy couple named Maximoff. The two children were also mutants and would later become known as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.
Magnus searched for his bride, but never found her. He traveled to Israel where he worked with those who were displaced due to the Holocaust. Here he first came into contact with Charles Xavier. The two became friends, debating whether humanity and mutantkind would ever be able to peacefully coexist.
While in Israel the two came into conflict with former Nazi, Baron Von Strucker. Von Strucker sought information from a woman that Xavier and Magnus were friends with Gabrielle Reese. The two battled Von Stucker, defeating him. Magnus left, having stolen the gold that Von Strucker was searching for to finance his dream of mutant supremacy.
The next time that Xavier and Magus met was in completely different circumstances. Xavier's students, a group of young mutants called the X-Men fought Magnus, now calling himself Magneto at the Cape Citadel missile base. Magneto led a group of outlaw mutants, he had dubbed the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, which included, the Blob, the Toad, Mastermind, and Magneto's own children, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. It would
be years before Magneto would find out that these two young mutants were his children.
The X-Men defeated Magneto's force, but the groups would clash again. Magneto came into conflict with the Avengers as well as the Fantastic Four also. Magnus eventually allied himself with a being he called Alpha the Ultimate Mutant, who Magneto had genetically engineered. The creature used its awesome powers to change Magneto into a 6-month old infant. The infant was given into the care of Moira MacTaggert, a genetics expert. MacTaggert attempted to change Magnus's genes to ensure that he would not grow up again to be the villain he was.
Magnus was eventually returned to adulthood, by Eric the Red a Shi'ar agent. He again came into conflict with the X-Men, although the group had changed from the original team. He fought this new group a number of times. During one of their encounters, Magnus injured the young mutant Kitty Pryde and began to question his motives.
Magneto eventually turned himself over to the authorities to answer for his crimes. A trial took place in Paris and Magneto was eventually exonerated for his crimes. The trial was attacked by the children of Baron Von Strucker who go by the name Fenris. During their battle with the X-Men, Charles Xavier succumbed to injuries he had sustained earlier. Xavier's life would have ended, except for intervention of his love, the Shi'ar Majestrix Lilandra. Xavier asked Magnus to take over as leader of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and Magnus accepted.
Magnus began training the New Mutants for a time, but eventually, their mistrust of him, the death of his student Doug Ramsey, and the passage of the Mutant Registration Act, drove Magnus back into conflict with the X-Men.
Magus eventually learned of MacTaggert's manipulation of him while he was an infant. This drove him farther from Xavier and the X-Men. About the same time, Magneto gained a new group of followers, dubbed the Acolytes. One of the Acolytes, named Fabien Cortez used his powers to boost Magneto's, but causing him harm in the process. Magnus eventually became reliant upon Cortez to be able to use his abilities.
The X-Men fought Magneto to stop him, and during the battle, Magneto caused the adamantium that had been bonded to the bones of the hero Wolverine to be pulled from his body. In response, Xavier used his awesome mental abilities to shut down Magnus's mind. Colossus saved the helpless Magneto as his orbiting base was destroyed.
The villainness Astra found Magneto and restored his mind, but also created a duplicate of him. This duplicate, who called himself Joseph,
believed himself to be Magneto. Joseph allied himself with the X-Men, helping them in their battle against Bastion and the threat of Onslaught. Joseph eventually went off to try and find out about his past, with the mutant heroine Sabra.
In the meantime, Magneto used an old base of his Antarctica to work on a plan to sow trouble in the X-Men ranks. He disguised himself as Eric the Red and accused the X-Man Gambit of past misdeeds. He then began his plan to hold the world hostage until they established a mutant homeland. This again brought the X-Men into battle with their old foe and the ensuing battle cost the group the life of Joseph. At the end of the battle, the United Nations gave control of the island nation of Genosha to Magneto. Recently, the nation of Genosha was attacked by an advanced series of Sentinels and Magneto was believed to be killed in that attack.
Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr has been portrayed on film by British actor Ian McKellen in X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014); and by German actor Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019).
Thanks to Walter for the latest update on Magnus's mortality. Also, thanks to NothingLasts4ever for a clarification of the method of his demise.