The X-Men are among the most popular and acclaimed franchises in modern comics, in no small part because they serve as a potent allegory for disenfranchised minorities dealing with institutional bigotry. The X-Men (for the five geeks who don’t know) are mutants, a group of human beings simply born with superpowers, rather than acquiring them through the typical comic book tropes of advanced technology, magic, or artificial biological enhancement. As such, “normal” humans are threatened by mutants and often act to restrict, imprison, or even exterminate them.
The X-Men react to this antagonism by serving as both protectors of their fellow mutants, and superheroes intent on demonstrating that mutants can use their powers for good. The X-Men’s selfless credo is “protecting a world that hates and fears them.”
This fertile premise has borne out some of the most enduring characters (Professor X, Wolverine, Storm, Magneto, Rogue) and compelling storylines (The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past) in comic book history. None of these ideas strays far from the central theme of prejudice and persecution for the simple crime of having been borne different. Along the way, the X-Men have raised relevant questions about what precisely makes one human, and how we treat those who challenge the conventional notions of normalcy and personhood.
These “fictional” questions, you might be surprised to know, have been clumsily answered by a real-life court of US law, which ruled that mutants like the X-Men are definitively non-human — a position with which Marvel Comics, publisher of the X-Men, steadfastly agrees.
WHY (AND HOW) DID THE REAL-LIFE U.S. GOVERNMENT RULE THAT THE X-MEN AREN’T HUMAN?