Now, when it comes to widely beloved superheroes, there aren't many more universally revered than Professor X. After all, not only did the shiny-headed psychic found the X-Men, but he's also - across multiple mediums - led them with great distinction and grace. By contrast, his great friend (and occasional arch-enemy) Magneto is not only one of Marvel's most iconic supervillains, but also a byword for grand villainy on a planet-wide scale.
The only problem? Professor X just happens to be a master manipulator, an inveterate liar, and the murderer of countless innocent people - while Magneto is arguably a surprisingly good guy (most of the time).
There's more on the details of exactly how much of a tool the good Professor has been over the years right here, but the big, burning question it raises might just need to be answered right here and now. Specifically:
Who's the Real Villain - Professor X, or Magneto?
Well, let's take a closer look, through the medium of a head-to-head competition, broken up into five parts..
The first category?
Specifically, the extent to which each man tends to tell the truth, despite it being difficult to hear (or going against their interests).
Assuming we exclude that whole 'pretending to be an X-Man' thing from back in Grant Morrison's New X-Men run in the early 2000's (which turned out to not actually be Magneto in the first place), Magneto has actually traditionally been honest to a fault. In fact, his openness about his schemes for world domination has often directly contributed to his downfall.
He might be being honest about super-villainy, but at least he's still being honest.
Now, on the surface, Professor X seems to be a pretty honest dude. He tells it like it is, and has never been afraid to push his students in order to help them improve. Scratch that surface, though, and Charles Xavier is one of the most dishonest and manipulative people you could possibly imagine. If he isn't keeping his own dark secrets from those closest to him, there's a good chance he's neglecting to tell them that they, for instance, have a brother they didn't know about.
Or, for that matter, that he's in love with them (while they're a teenager)...
The (Less Villainous) Winner: Magneto, by virtue of not creepily falling in love with Jean Grey.
Specifically, the extent to which each man does the right thing in any given situation, and sticks to his own sense of morality.
Now, I'm not going to sugar-coat it - Magneto has definitely done some pretty terrible things as part of his long-standing crusade to bring mutants equality (or world domination, depending on the week).
What he's long stood by, though, is his own code - one forged in the horrors of the Holocaust. He's willing to kill, but only in order to do what's right - and whenever he's gone too far, he's tended to pull himself back, and either become a hero, or hand himself in to the authorities.
He's not a good guy - but he's no immoral psychopath (along the lines of Sabretooth, say).
It's actually difficult to express just how often Professor X does horrendously inappropriate things to those around him - with mind-wiping people high on his list of preferred moves - but the big problem isn't, ultimately, that he does bad things.
It's that he does those things while remaining hypocritically sanctimonious about anyone else doing the slightest thing wrong - all the while adding dick move upon dick move to his arsenal of unpleasant behavior.
The (Less Villainous) Winner: Magneto. He may be a bastard, but he doesn't pretend to be a shining example of heroism while doing it.
Specifically, the extent to which each man looks after his friends, and treats them on a day to day basis.
Now, if you're 'in' with Magneto, he tends to treat you pretty well indeed. Heck, even uber-goody-two-shoes Colossus ended up switching sides and becoming pals with him for a while.
If you step out of line, however, there's a pretty solid chance that he'll wind up kicking you out of his club - and just ask his 'kids,' Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, about his often iffy parenting skills.
Now, while it's important to remember that the professor has a habit of mind-wiping or psychically manipulating his friends and students, it's also worth noting that he's repeatedly given second (and third, and fourth) chances to a whole lot of heroes.
Wolverine in particular has benefited from the professor's inherently forgiving nature - and it's hard to ignore that he's traditionally inspired a whole lot of loyalty in his students...
The (Less Villainous) Winner: Professor X. Once again, neither man is close to perfect, but beloved characters ultimately seem to like Charles more, so he wins out.
Specifically, the extent to which each man is ultimately trying to do the right thing.
Now, Magneto has long been known to do absolutely horrible things to those who oppose him - but in large part that's been limited to those who threaten the survival of mutant-kind, or those around him.
He is, after all, fundamentally dedicated to something around halfway in between mutant equality, and mutant supremacy - and has rarely strayed from that goal (flawed as part of it may be).
Similarly, Professor X has done a whole lot of absolutely terrible things - but when it comes down to it, he'd surely tell you that they were all simply the sad consequences of his crusade for humans and mutants to live together in harmony.
He may have created a personal army of mutant teenagers that operate outside of the law, but at least he did it meaning well...
The (Less Villainous) Winner: It's a tie. Both men are ultimately trying to do good - they just happen to be in the habit of going about it in super-sketchy ways...
1. Death Toll
Specifically, the extent to which each man has killed a bunch of people.
No matter how much Magneto might have the right intentions, there's no getting around the fact that he is, when it comes right down to it, a cold-blooded killer.
He's sunk submarines, ripped out Wolverine's Adamantium bone-lining, and generally thrown a whole lot of death in the direction of the world around him.
For all his much-vaunted ideals, however, Professor X has actually been responsible for a whole lot of death himself.
Even putting aside the teen heroes he's sent to their deaths, the Professor had that whole 'Onslaught' phase, where he became a maniacal super-monster, and caused the deaths of most of the Avengers and Fantastic Four. Now, sure, they eventually came back to life, but even so...
The (Less Villainous) Winner: Another Tie. It's not really possible to calculate which man has killed more people, and though Professor X may have caused the deaths of several beloved heroes, Magneto has often killed on far more ideological grounds. Which is worse is unclear - so they share the points.
Magneto actually wins out, with two 'less villainous' wins to the professor's one, with two ties.
Which...doesn't actually make him any less of a super-villain - but perhaps it does suggest that both he and Professor X are closer to both being villains than either would likely be willing to admit.