Postal Apocalypse: How Can Marvel Update Magneto's Origin?

Magneto celebrates after sinking the winning putt.
Image: Marvel Comics

Hey, gang! The main topic of today’s “Postal Apocalypse” is much more complicated than you might initially realize, so I hope you read on. If not, I also have an explanation why Star Wars Resistance looks so different, a much-too-personal rant about She-Ra and He-Man’s secret identities, and a question about the Hulk’s digestive system that basically ruined my whole day. Join me, won’t you?

Origin Stories


Hey Postman,

I was reading the Magneto X-Men: Black comic that just came out, and another character noticed his tattoo from his childhood in the concentration camps. It got me thinking: Will there ever be an update to Magneto’s origin? His past is obviously inextricably linked to who he is as a character, but the age thing has got to be a problem at some point, right?

Let’s be generous say Erik was 5 in 1940, that would still make him 83 years old in 2018. Even with some mutant slow-aging comics magic, how long can they keep that up? Provided there are still X-Men comics coming out 20 years from now, that will make him over 100!

What’s the best way for them to handle this with Magneto without erasing a core character element?


Good question. Any time Marvel or DC ties a major portion of a character’s origin to a specific historical event, they’ll eventually run into this problem, since these characters stick around for decades. (With the exception of Captain America, who always fought in World War II, got frozen in a block of ice, and can always be said to have been thawed out “a while ago.”) But when the event is something so monumental, so tragic, so fraught as the Holocaust, it becomes a much different, and much, much larger problem.

Replacing Magneto’s past as a child in a Jewish concentration camp makes sense chronologically, but how do you erase it without seeming crass, opportunistic, or worse? How do you explain that keeping a comic book villain’s history up-to-date is more important than respecting those who suffered through it, especially when the entirety of superhero comics fudges time anyway? Is it even possible? There’s a very good reason Magneto’s origin is currently an 83-year-old man in his early 50s.


For the foreseeable future, I doubt Marvel will only occasionally mention it, if at all (I’m honestly surprised it came up in X-Men: Black). When it does get mentioned, the publisher and the characters in its universe will continue to utterly refuse to acknowledge the utter chronological impossibility of it, as long-running superhero comics tend to do, and have done ever since it dawned on people that “Hey, how can Batman and Superman still be in their 20s or 30s but have been heroes for a lot more than 30 years?” Comic book time allows for heroes to operate for half a century or more to only age a few years, if at all, and people accept it because otherwise countless superheroes would have died of old age by now and that would suck.

There is one future possibility that occurs to me, and that’s to bring the young Magneto into the present, much like the young, original X-Men were in 2012's All-New X-Men. After two Magnetos run around for a while, the original could die, leaving the new, young version in his place, with the exact same origin. That’s sort of what’s happened with Cyclops because the old, bitter, kind of evil one died (he’s still dead, right?), and now only the young version remains. If Marvel simply doesn’t focus on how he’s from the past, I bet most readers would forget about the difference after a few years—until some hotshot writer thinks of a crazy story where the original Magneto is resurrected to cause trouble, at which point he’s sort of time-traveled too, which, with some more hand-waving, still gives Marvel enough of an excuse to keep his history.


In short: Marvel has almost nothing to gain by trying to retcon Magneto’s origin and a great deal to lose. Best to figure out a way to keep it as is.

She-Ra has no time to waste hiding her secret identity.
Image: Dreamworks/Netflix

Identity Crisis


Mr. Postman,

I was surprised to see that She-Ra is doing away with the whole “Adora is secretly She-Ra” angle. Seems that everybody knows. And it got me thinking about how many superhero TV shows and movies don’t seem to bother much with secret identities these days.

(Anyone who appears in more than two episodes of The Flash seems to learn Barry’s secret... Lois Lane calls Superman “Clark” in front of the cops in the JL movie... Aunt May—AUNT MAY— learns Peter is Spider-Man at the end of Homecoming.... (and we even know that the Postman is really Rob Bricken.)


What? Who told you that!? It was probably me, wasn’t it? Well, at least people have no idea I’m not really a fake mailman living in the post-apocalyptic future.

Here’s the thing about “hiding your super-identity from friends and loved ones stories”—they suck. They suck so hard. They almost always follow the same plot, and that’s that the friends and loved ones eventually find out, are shocked and briefly miffed, and then they almost always just get over it. Thus every minute devoted to hiding an identity that’s we know if eventually going to be revealed is wasting your time. It’s especially galling when heroes hide their identities from their romantic partners, because it involves lying to the faces of people they ostensibly love, and so the relationship feels like it’s built on a lie and the heroes always end up looking like creeps.


Only after a hero’s identity is revealed can these relationships actually evolve. To keep it all to DC/CW shows: Thea can’t become a badass archer-assassin until she learns her brother is the Arrow and enters his world of dark shenanigans; Iris can’t join Team Flash and also have a meaningful relationship with Barry until he fesses up; meanwhile Supergirl and Lena Luthor have been stuck doing the same dance for years, although we know for a fact Lena will learn eventually; and the relationship between Black Lightning and his daughters is much more fascinating now that he’s taken Anissa on as his crime-fighting partner while Jennifer isn’t interested.

I think many makers of superhero things know this, and are as bored by it as the rest of us, and are mostly trying to keep it to a minimum. After all, we’ve seen Spidey hide his identity from Aunt May for 95 percent of the last 57 years. I’m much more interested in find out what happens between the two of them now that the MCU’s May has learned Peter’s secret.


Also, what’s the point of She-Ra’s friends ever not knowing she was She-Ra? It’s not like it kept them out of danger, since they were all part of the Rebellion and Hordak was always trying to kill them anyway. I guess an argument could be made that Prince Adam was worried if Skeletor knew he was He-Man that Skeletor might attack him when he was vulnerable, but… Prince Adam got captured all the damn time anyways. It didn’t really help anything. Plus, if that floating ball of idiocy Orko knew, what was the point of not telling all his friends who weren’t morons? Ugh.

A Star Wars show aimed at kids? Why, I never!
Image: Lucasfilm/Disney XD

Resistance Fighters


I have a question about the animation style being used for Resistance. It reminds me of what is used in RWBY. Initially RWBY was clunky and you could tell the creators were learning. It has become progressively better and smoother. However, for a big show like Resistance it seems like a significant step backwards from Rebels and even the Clone Wars. Is this a cost-savings thing or is this something that is a better tool for star fighter battles? Yub Yub, Mr. Postman.


If I ever say one completely, utterly true thing in “Postal Apocalypse,” it is this: Lucasfilm is not hurting for money, and thus anyone making Star Wars movies and TV shows is not hurting for money. It’s Star Wars. Obviously, the budget for an animated series is much less than the upcoming The Mandalorian, but Lucasfilm and Disney alike have a vested interest in not putting out a crappy product. (They may occasionally fail, but it won’t be because they pinched pennies.)

The visual style of Star Wars Resistance is a deliberate choice, and that choice was made because it’s clearly made for a younger audience than Rebels or Clone Wars. I’m talking 8-10 year-old kids—you know, the people that are also Disney XD’s target audience—and not the tweens, younger teens, or 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings who were watching the other animated series, where the storylines got increasingly serious, more mythos-heavy, and kind of dark . Resistance is not made for anyone but kids, which is why it’s full of bright colors and a simpler animation style and plots that are very straightforward and comparatively more light-hearted.


It’s intentional. And for those of you over 12 who think the show sucks, the last six Star Wars movies have all been rated PG-13. Maybe we can let actual kids have a show just for themselves, hmm? It’s a pretty big galaxy after all, or at least it’s supposed to be.

Climate Control


In a world with superheroes, would climate change be better or worse?

If comics didn’t need to be to set in the real world in order to keep it grounded, Tony Stark or Hank Pym or Batman or Lex Luthor would surely have created technology that would eliminated the use of fossil fuels and invented clean, cheap sources of power and so forth. But since comics can’t really work like that, these characters devote all their intelligence and resources to building suits and equipment to better punch bad guys, and/or kill Superman. (Actually, Stark’s arc reactor is clean, cheap energy, but its use had mainly been confined to powering suits of armor and Avengers stuff.)


Guys, this “Postal Apocalypse” is kind of bumming me out.

Hulk briefly had an obsession with beans, which probably wasn’t pleasant for anybody.
Image: Marvel Comics

Gone With the Wind

Roger G.:

I want to test your ascertain that no question is too dumb here. Im currently reading this fantasy novel that features a troll whose farts are almost potent enough to kill. It got me thinking—what would happen if a bad guy was sneaking up on the Hulk, and he clenched up his green cheeks and let out a massive one? Would the guy end up in orbit? Or maybe the stench alone would subdue him?



So normal farts blow out at around 7 mph, and the average man can lift around 155 lbs., at least according to Livestrong. Now, the Hulk’s strength is actually limitless, because the angrier he gets the stronger he gets, and he can always get angrier. An old version of Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe puts Hulk’s strength as able to lift over 100 tons [whoops! -RB], though he can lift way, way more, but this will do for the nonsense math I’m trying to pull. On this scale, the Hulk is 1,290 times stronger than a human, and sphincters are muscles…and the average length of a person’s small intestines is 22 feet long, with a diameter of one inch. Now, if you increase both the height and diameter by 50 percent, which increases the bacteria that breaks down food that manages to escape past the stomach and as a result expels the gases that make up farts and makes them smell, so…


…so nothing. I have been trying to figure out small intestine volumes and the increased number of bacteria the Hulk must have his intestine and how much Hulk eats compared to the average human (actually, he rarely eats, although when he does it’s usually only quadruple the servings, which is not all in ratio to his exponentially increased mass) for four goddamn hours and failing horribly, because I have forgotten every aspect of geometry and I don’t know how many trillions of bacteria are in a normal-sized small intestine anyway, and I couldn’t decide if his bacteria are also gamma-irradiated and would also power up when he became the Hulk or stay the same, until I finally, suddenly realized this undeniable truth:

If the Hulk’s farts were significantly more powerfully than a normal person, they would blow his damn pants off.


The average human farts 10-20 times a day, and assuming that Hulk is the same, if his farts were mega-powered we would know because he would never, ever have pants on. They would shoot off his ass constantly. Now, before you ask, the idea that Hulk’s underpants are made out of unstable molecules, which serves as an explanation for why they don’t completely rip to shreds when he enlarges, has never been canonically asserted. (Also, if they were made of unstable molecules, they wouldn’t tear when Bruce Banner enlarged. [Also also, even if he wears Science Pants now he definitely wore regular pants for decades before that and they also stayed on.]) Even if his farts increased in power at a 10th of the same insane rate as his strength, he would be uprooting trees and tearing roofs off buildings and murdering people, because every fart would be like a concentrated Category 3 hurricane coming out of his green ass. Which someone in the Marvel universe would definitely have commented on at least once in the last 60 years. Also, any Avengers HQ he stayed at for more than a few hours would be wrecked.

In other news, you have fucked up my Google search history beyond any chance of repair. It’s entirely full of questions about geometry and sphincters now.


Have a question about a movie, TV show, comic, or their various industries? Want advice on how to deal with anything nerd-related? Have a “what if” scenario that needs settling? Email your friendly post-apocalyptic fake mailman here!


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About the author

Rob Bricken

Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.