The best superheroes are defined by having the best supervillains. Batman and Spider-Man are two solo heroes known for their excellent rogues gallery. And the X-Men? As far as teams go, very few super-groups have enemies that are as weird, dangerous, and authentic as those faced by Marvel’s merry mutants. From immortal despots with a penchant for 19th Century philosophy to cold-blooded shape-shifting sociopaths, the good people brought together by Charles Xavier’s dream have stood toe-to-toe with the worst of the worst.
In honor of their 50th anniversary, we present the 10 best of the meanest X-Men villains.
First Appearance: Longshot #3
Badass Moment: He created something called a Jean-bomb that turned all the X-Men into babies. We can’t make this up.
Why #10: Don’t let his appearance fool you, Mojo is one of the X-Men’s deadliest foes. As the ruler of the Mojoverse, Mojo and his universe gains its power from creating real life television shows that are as deadly as they are entertaining. Mojo’s rule was supreme until he faced a rebellion from one of his best stars, Longshot and the X-Men. Over the years the obese TV exec has tormented our heroes either through zany tv-parody schemes or the creation of those X-Babies. And like all good TV shows, he always comes back for a new season of terror.
First Appearance: New Mutants Vol. 1 #87
Badass Moment: Created the mutant equivalent of the Bird Flu and AIDS soup but 100x worse.
Why #9: As the cloned son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, Stryfe was one bad-ass 90s creation. As a natural foil to Cable, Stryfe formed a powerful mutant version of Al-Queda and terrorized the modern Marvel U. His reign of terror hit a high point during X-Cutioner’s Song, where he nearly killed Xavier. Although he was eventually defeated, Stryfe popped up again and again to do battle with Gambit, X-Force, and Cyclops’ hit squad. The sharply dressed megalomaniac was last seen being dragged away by some alternate reality Apocalypse but death has never stopped him before.
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 #129
Badass Moment: Hey remember the Dark Phoenix? Yeah they did that.
Why #8: Once it was a social club of the uber-rich and influential, who worked to use their economic power to exert control over the world. It would become a rival organization to the X-Men who plotted world domination through financial means. Led by Sebastian Shaw during their earliest incarnation, they even helped lead to the creation of the Dark Phoenix. Over the years, the roster has changed to include the son of Satan, ancient mutants, and crazy British serial killers. The most recent Hellfire Club has removed any mutant presence from its membership, but the four sadistic adolescents at the helm are just as evil as any before.
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 #125
Badass Moment: He was the villain in the Star Trek/X-Men crossover. How badass do you need to be to do that?
Why #7: Mutant X, or better known as Proteus is essentially one of the most powerful mutants in existence. Neglected by his father and hidden away by his mother, in fear of his powers, he grew up in a very isolated place. Upon his release he terrorized an entire city until he was stopped by the X-Men. Proteus would return a few more times threatening the world with his powers. A bitter child with godlike energies, Proteus is what humanity fears about mutants.
The Shadow King
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #117
Badass Moment: Crippled Xavier - the second time (out of like 3 times).
Why #6: The Shadow King’s thirst for darkness and hatred has brought the world to near destruction more than once. During his most recent campaign, he teamed with Sabretooth and Daken in attempting to corrupt the innocent teenage clone of Apocalypse. Like a few times before, he was defeated by Psylocke of the X-Man and trapped in a form that should keep him contained...like that’s stopped him before.
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 #221
Badass Moment: He orchestrated the murder of just about every Morlock - mutants who lived in the sewer.
Why #5: This geneticist is one part mastermind and one part expert in the macabre. Over the years his obsession with the Summers bloodline would have him involved in some of the darkest moments in the X-Men’s lives. This includes the cloning of Jean Grey, the Mutant Massacre, Inferno, Stryfe’s mad scheme, and even the hunt for the first new mutant birth after M-Day. Although he was seemingly killed during the Avengers vs X-Men storyline, he seemed to get the last laugh on Cyclops with his latest incarnation.
First Appearance: Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 #17
Badass Moment: She assassinated the freaking president!
Why #4: Her origins are shrouded in mystery but she’s been active since the early 20th Century and has been involved in the origins of a number of X-Men and X-villains. Her ambition to promote a mutant supremacy has led her into direct conflict with the X-Men on a number of occasions, including an attempted and successful assassination of political figures, the death of a long time X-Men ally, and a few double-crosses to the X-Men when she was their “ally”. Following her death, she’s returned with more malicious intent than before, teaming with Sabretooth and a new Hellfire Club.
First Appearance: X-Factor #5
Badass Moment: Three Words: “Age of Apocalypse”…Nuff Said.
Why #3: This seemingly immortal baddie has existed since ancient Egyptian and in many alternate futures, exists for thousands of years forward. In his quest to ensure the strong survive, he’s created a number of villains and corrupted several X-Men. Currently, the villain is dead (sorta) but in the pages of Uncanny Avengers, his legacy is proudly being carried on.
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men vol.1 #1
Badass Moment: He ripped the adamantium from Wolverine’s skeleton…yes you read that right. GO READ IT NOW!!! (X-Men vol.2 #25)
Why #2: If it wasn’t for the fact that Magneto makes such a compelling hero alongside the X-Men, there would be no denying that he is the merry mutants’ arch-nemesis. Believing in mutant supremacy, Magneto has used his near limitless powers and resources to attempt to exterminate or subjugate humanity at every turn. His charismatic personality has allowed him to lead several groups and armies of mutants to fight for his cause. Since the Decimation of the mutant race, however, he’s turned over a new leaf and one of Cyclops’ closest advisors. But you don’t have to go far back to see just how much of a boss Magneto is.
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men Vol.1 #14
Badass Moment: Oh nothing much, just a bleak and dystopic future featured in the classic X-story “Days of Future Past”.
Why #1: To put it simply: they are the reason the X-Men exist. I mean, sure, many of the X-Men would probably take a life as a superhero fighting supervillains in any world. But it is the fear and hatred within the human heart for things that are different, that require the existence of the X-Men.
And if Xavier founded his institute with the goal of training young mutants in the use of their powers so that humans would not fear them. Then humanity’s bigotry lead to the creation of the Sentinels, who in many realities exterminate all life on Earth, as they carry out their prime directive. This is the metaphorically and fundamental threat to the X-Men, and will always be their main motivation.