The X-Men are a team of mutants, people whose unique genetic structure gives them fantastic abilities, founded by Professor Charles Xavier. This is the Joint Venture Universe version of the organization.
Origins of Mutantkind
For nearly as long as Cro-Magnon man has walked the earth, there have been people among us born with special, unique genetic traits, to set them apart. Sometimes, these special genetic traits have granted them something extra. It is said that the cosmic beings known as the Celestials gifted mankind with a "life seed" upon its birth, that granted some among them powers beyond imagining. Although the evidence is purely conjectural, the generally-agreed-upon speculation is that this "life seed" is somehow related to the "X-Factor gene" in human DNA that gives mutants their extranormal abilities.
The oldest living mutant is Selene Gallio, a Mediterranean sorceress who is at least ten thousand years of age. In her time, mutants were rare. with only a small handful appearing in every generation, but they possessed greater power, individually, than their modern day counterparts. A later example is En Sabah Nur, the five-thousand-year-old conqueror known as Apocalypse, who ruled Egypt for centuries before being dethroned by the people. Selene and Apocalypse are two of the unique subset of mutants known as "Externals", mutants whose powers actively protect them from aging and death in some fashion, making them functionally immortal. However, both of them are also fundamentally evil, abusing their powers to dominate others and raise themselves up to undeserved positions of power -- Selene as Luna Regina, the last Empress of Rome, and Apocalypse as a Pharaoh, or "God-King" of Egypt.
Other immortal or potentially-immortal mutants have cropped up over time, but as the centuries went on, mutants grew more numerous but less powerful with each generation.
It should be noted that the term "mutant" was only coined by renowned geneticists Professor Charles Xavier and Doctor Moira Kinross in the latter half of the 20th Century, so what we now recognize as 'mutants' were given many other names, the most popular being "Witchbreed", a term which spread throughout most of Europe between the 14th-16th centuries AD.
Ultimately, human fear, hatred, and prejudice prompted several purges against mutants, most notably in the 16th century AD in Europe, where the "Witchbreed Crusades" killed hundreds of thousands, human and mutant alike, in a zealous attempt to eradicate the Witchbreed from the world forever. While it seemed the medieval mutants had the advantage in terms of power, this era also marked a great boom in the number of practicing human sorcerers in the world, especially in what would later become the United Kingdom. Faced with not only the throngs of humanity but the threat of powerful magic-users, the majority of the Witchbreed either went into hiding or concealed their powers completely to survive. Those who did neither usually ended up slain, incarcerated, or disposed of by any number of magical means.
Founding of the X-Men
The Founders Meet
While the Witchbreed never truly went extinct, the world at large would not become aware of them again until the latter half of the 20th Century, when a young Charles Xavier revealed his own mutant power of telepathy to his then-lover and colleague, Moira Kinross, during their college years in the early 1980s. Working together to study his strange ability, they discovered it to be genetic in nature, a naturally-occuring mutation in Xavier's DNA. The two coined the term homo sapiens mutatis mutandis ("wise man [with] the necessary changes having been made"), for Charles' unique nature, and thus, the term "mutant" was born.
The earliest incarnation of what would one day be known as the X-Men actually began later in the same decade, when a young Charles, consulting at the time in an Israeli clinic, was presented with a catatonic patient -- a Holocaust survivor, still in his thirties, named Erik Lensherr, who had been an agent of SHIELD under the call sign "Magneto". Xavier brought Erik out of catatonia with his telepathy, and the two formed an immediate friendship. Shortly after Lensherr's recovery, the clinic was attacked by Fenris, two sibling agents of HYDRA and the children of an old enemy of Lensherr's. Xavier and Lensherr fought Fenris side-by-side, saving both the clinic and each other's lives, and the grain of an idea was planted in both men's minds.
A School For Mutants
Xavier and Lensherr eventually returned to Xavier's Westchester mansion, where Lensherr suggested the idea to seek out other mutants like himself and Charles, and help them as Xavier had him. Together, they would build Cerebro, a device that boosted telepathic powers and could be used to scan for mutant signatures. The first such signature they found turned out to be a young telepath named Jean Grey, living in Annandale-on-Hudson, not far from Xavier's home. Travelling there, Xavier found the girl in a similar catatonic state to the one he had found Erik in. After healing her as he had him, Xavier made an offer to Jean's parents: that he would to take her to Westchester, where he would help train her in the use and control of her powers. Reluctantly, her parents accepted, and Jean became Psyche, the first student of the Xavier Institute.
Teaching Jean how to control her powers brought Xavier to a realization: while the Institute was needed, he and Magneto could not teach a school all by themselves. After he and Magneto fought a second battle -- this time against the mutant terrorist group Factor Six -- Xavier rescued an Irish mutant named Sean Cassidy from their service. Cassidy -- who had been an Interpol agent codenamed Banshee before his capture -- eagerly accepted Xavier's offer to teach at his Institute, especially after the group went to Muir Island and he met and fell in love with Moira, who was also going to join the school as their head physician and scientific researcher. Together, the four of them became the staff of the Xavier Institute of Higher Learning, an academy that would accept mutants of any age.
The confrontations with HYDRA and Factor Six created a rift in Xavier and Magneto's ideologies. Erik firmly believed that the students of the Institute needed to learn to use their powers in combat, to defend themselves. Xavier disagreed; he wanted to let the students lead normal lives, or as normal as possible with their abilities, and thus show that mutantkind and humanity were not that different. Magneto disagreed, saying that mutants were different, and had been treated as such throughout history. Moira took up Erik's side in the argument, stating that mutants learning to use their powers defensively was fundamentally no different than offering self-defense classes. Banshee was ultimately the one who took the argument even further, saying that with a combat-trained team of mutants, the Institute could bridge the gap between mutants and humans by fighting to stop crime and prejudice, preventing hate crimes, and setting an example for the world to follow. Faced with each of his collleagues' arguments, Xavier capitulated, and thus was born the concept of the X-Men.
Xavier and Magneto spent three years after Jean Grey "graduated", renovating Xavier's home to provide not only an ideal academic environment, but sophisticated training facilities, top-of-the-line vehicles, and the resources needed to run a small global strike team of mutants with the intent on making the world a better place for mutant and human alike. Finally, just as they were ready to start recruiting mutants, Cerebro alerted them to a threat in Cairo.
- The first mutant recruited as an X-Man was Ororo Munroe, whom Xavier, Magneto, and Banshee helped to overcome an old enemy of Xavier's known as the Shadow King. Battling the Shadow King ended up proving to Xavier that Magneto was right: that the school needed not only to teach mutants in the control and use of their powers, but to train them to fight evil mutant entities like the Shadow King, or malevolent organizations like Factor Six. Grateful to the Institute for saving her life and eager to protect the world from other forces like that which had enslaved her, Ororo agreed, and became Storm, leader of the X-Men.
Other mutants would join in quick succession:
- Jean Grey would get in contact with Xavier a second time, this time to help save her niece and nephew from a mutant terrorist organization, the Brotherhood of Mutant Liberation. After the fight, her secondary powers of telekinesis manifested and she joined the X-Men under the code name of Psyche (later Phoenix).
- Scott Summers, an orphan in Nebraska with destructive energy blasts that came from his eyes, was the victim of sadistic experiments at the hands of a cruel scientist and sorcerer named Mr. Sinister. Rescued by the X-Men, he joined the team and became Cyclops, the team strategist and tactician.
- Wanda Maximoff, a fortuneteller and sorceress from the Bavarian Alps, was also a prisoner of Sinister's. Somehow he was tapping into her power over probability and her Chaos magic, and using them to boost his own power. She was freed by the joint efforts of her brother, Quicksilver, and the X-Men, including her father, Magneto. Given the choice between joining Quicksilver in the Brotherhood, or Magneto's X-Men, Wanda chose the latter and became the Scarlet Witch.
- Henry "Hank" Phillip McCoy was a gifted genius in biology, genetics, technology, computer science, and a dozen other fields at the age of eighteen. Unfortunately, he also weighed four hundred pounds, had enormous, clawed hands and feet, and was covered in a thick coat of shaggy blue fur. Living as a recluse in Illinois, he hid from the world until Magneto encouraged him to engage with it again, proud and unafraid. Hank cautiously accepted, and became the X-Men's brilliant blue Beast.
- The froglike Mortimer Todd had been forced by his mutation to abandon a promising future in mechanics. He was living in the London Underground, stealing to survive and hiding in the shadows because of his green skin and hair, as well as being accused of the murder of the only true father figure he had ever known. He grew ever lonelier, ever more bitter and resentful of humankind, until Xavier came to his aid, and offered him a chance at a future again. Suspicious of the generosity, Mortimer agreed nonetheless, becoming the X-Men's resident grease-monkey, Toad.
- Shiro Yashida was an aristocrat in the midst of a feud with his cousin Mariko, the head of his house, over her choice of a husband in the Westerner, James Logan. Lost in his own anger, he was abducted from Japan and taken to Canada -- Logan's home country, ironically enough -- by a sinister program called Weapon X. Concerned, Logan went to the United States to seek help rescuing him. He found that help in the form of the X-Men. After his rescue, Shiro, not wanting to go back with Logan to face his cousin, decided to stay in Westchester and join the X-Men, becoming the pyrokinetic Sunfire.
- And finally, Peter and Illyana Rasputin were the children of simple farmers until a runaway tractor triggered Illyana's mutant power, to open portals anywhere in time and space -- but only through a dimensional "waystation" known as Limbo. She fell through the portal, and Peter followed, with the X-Men with him -- the team having gone there to discuss his joining them, thanks to his own mutant power of turning from flesh into organic steel. Though the team went through many trials and tribulations in Limbo, on Earth only seconds passed before they re-emerged -- with little Illyana now a fourteen-year-old girl, and Piotr now a traumatized shell of a man. Nevertheless, they both joined the X-Men together, as the stalwart Colossus and the enigmatic Magik.
The X-Men, despite their disparate histories and myriad backgrounds, have one goal in common: To further the cause of Professor Xavier and Magneto, making the world safe for humans and mutants alike while bridging the gap between the races of homo sapiens and homo sapiens mutatis mutandis.