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Professor X's entire backstory explained

Charles Xavier, better known as Professor X, is one of the most important figures in the Marvel Universe. First appearing in 1963's X-Men #1, Xavier is a mutant and the world's most powerful telepath. He dreams of a world where mutants and humans can live in peace. However, this puts him in the impossible position of combating not only the bigotry of frightened humans but the anger of mutants fighting to dominate the rest of the world. To help achieve his goals, Xavier founds his School for Gifted Youngsters, leading to the birth of the X-Men, the New Mutants, and by extension, a whole host of spinoff teams like X-Force, X-Factor, Generation X, and more. 

Xavier is a complicated man. For all his talk of peace and equality, the X-Men founder is no saint. Both with and without his mutant powers, he's proven a master of manipulation. As much as he loves his X-Men, he's kept dark secrets from them which inevitably bubble to the surface. At times he's temporarily left his lofty goals aside for more personal needs, and he isn't above acting out of baser emotions. In at least one case, his rage put the entire world at risk. To learn more about the good and the bad of Professor Charles Xavier, keep reading for his entire backstory explained. 

Trouble in Professor X's family

Charles Xavier's family includes some of the most powerful and dangerous people on Earth, and in at least one case, he's been fighting them literally before he was born. When Xavier is conceived, he's one in a pair of twins. Even in the womb, he senses his twin is an inherently malevolent presence, and he uses his still budding psychic abilities to cause a miscarriage. Astonishingly, the twin survives and grows into the powerful telepath and villain Cassandra Nova. 

Another sibling, though not blood-related, gets power of a different kind. Xavier's father dies while the mutant is still young, and his mother remarries Dr. Kurt Marko. Dr. Marko's son, Cain, bullies Charles relentlessly. Later, the stepbrothers serve together in the Korean War. When Cain goes AWOL, he finds a ruby in a cave that transforms him into the unstoppable Juggernaut. Marko proves to be one of the most physically powerful villains in Marvel, able to go toe-to-toe and even defeat powerhouses like Thor and the Hulk.

And there's the matter of his kid. Around the same time Charles first meets Erik Lehnsherr (the future Magneto), he falls in love with an Israeli woman named Gabrielle Haller, though they split up when Xavier leaves Israel. Years later, he discovers he has a son by Haller — David, aka Legion. While Legion couldn't be called evil, the combination of his powerful mutant abilities, his mental instability, and his hundreds of split personalities tend to cause some unintended chaos. 

A lover and a colleague

Moira MacTaggert is one of the most important figures in Professor X's life. The two were lovers in their youth, and they eventually become engaged, though Moira breaks off the engagement without telling Charles why. Years later, they're colleagues and allies. MacTaggert helps Xavier found his School for Gifted Youngsters, as well as creating her own mutant research center on Muir Island off the coast of Scotland. 

In earlier comics, Moira MacTaggert is portrayed as a human ally to mutants, but the 2019-20 event Dawn of X reveals she's a mutant with a powerful ability. After death, Moira is reincarnated with the chance to live her life in a new reality. In each life, things end badly for Earth's mutants. In one life, Moira approaches a young Charles and invites him to read her mind. He discovers the truth about her and what she's seen. Moira is able to convince Charles that the only hope for mutants is for Charles and his old frenemy, Magneto, to work together.

The meeting effects massive changes in the Marvel Universe, including the relationship between mutants and the rest of the world and the dynamic between the X-Men and the rest of the world's superheroes. 

Friends and foes in Cairo

Charles Xavier's earliest battle with a mutant takes place in Cairo, Egypt. Charles has no agenda, and he's merely a traveling tourist when a young African girl named Ororo — who would later be known as Storm — swipes Xavier's wallet from his pocket. With his mental powers helping him, Charles tracks Ororo down and forces her to stop running from him. He senses her mutant talent and tries to probe deeper, but he's stopped by an outside psychic force. 

After Ororo runs away, Charles tracks his psychic attacker to a saloon. His adversary is Amahl Farouk, aka the Shadow King. He's the crimelord of Cairo's Thieves' Quarter, a mutant with telepathic abilities like Xavier's, and one of the scariest villains in Marvel history. When Xavier relates the story in 1979's Uncanny X-Men #117, he says feeling Farouk's thoughts was like "swimming in a sea of maggots." Xavier and Farouk have a psychic duel in the astral plane where they appear as armored warriors wielding fiery swords, though in the saloon, observers see nothing more than two men sitting quietly at different tables. Xavier narrowly defeats Farouk, and he believes he's actually killed the villain, though like most Marvel bad guys, Farouk is destined to return.

The duel is a formative moment for Xavier. While telling the story, Xavier says Farouk is first evil mutant he'd met, and that the experience taught him just how dangerous mutants could be if they abused their powers.

How Professor X met Magneto

Charles Xavier first meets Erik Lehnsherr at the same Israeli hospital where he helps Gabrielle Haller, who would later become the mother of Xavier's son, Legion. Upon their first meeting, Xavier notices Erik has powerful mental defenses and suspects he could be a mutant. He finds out for sure when Nazis under the command of Baron von Strucker attack the hospital and Erik uses his metal-controlling powers to pull one of their escape vehicles apart. Together, they fight the Nazis and save Gabrielle, but it's clear their different philosophies of furthering mutantkind's struggles are at odds. 

Erik eventually assumes the identity of Magneto and leads the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. For years, Magneto wages war against humanity and against Professor X and his X-Men. However, there are times when Xavier and Lehnsherr make peace with one another. Xavier and the X-Men defend Magneto against the other non-mutant superheroes in the 1984-85 line-wide event Secret Wars, and not long after, Xavier picks Magneto to replace him as his school's headmaster. Of course, Magneto eventually leaves the school and becomes the X-Men's enemy once more. 

In the 2019-20 line-wide event Dawn of X, Xavier and Lehnsherr forge what appears to be their most powerful alliance. Guided by the words of Moira MacTaggert, Xavier and Magneto help to form a new, powerful mutant nation and both sit on the country's "Quiet Council." Only time will tell if this alliance proves more permanent than earlier ones. 

The spaceman who crippled Professor X

In 1966's Uncanny X-Men #20, Professor X tells Jean Grey the story of how he lost the use of his legs. While traveling through Tibet, a young Charles Xavier came across a town where he sensed some of the inhabitants were being mentally dominated by an outside presence. After entering the town, Xavier realized the town's leader wasn't from Earth. The alien invader called himself Lucifer, and he was from a race called the Quist. Charles was able to disable some of his opponent's technology and led a revolt against Lucifer. But when Xavier confronted the alien, Lucifer hit a switch on a nearby wall that dropped a huge slab of rock on Xavier's legs. 

A number of different times, Xavier has regained the use of his legs due to certain circumstances, only to eventually lose them again. For example, in the 1992-93 event X-Cutioner's Song, he's temporarily able to walk after surviving being infected with a techno-organic virus. Another instance occurs after 2005's House of M when he's stripped of his powers for a time while regaining the use of his legs. As of the 2019-20 event Dawn of X — after a number of resurrections leave him in new bodies that were never wounded by Lucifer or any other aliens — Xavier is once again walking without any outside assistance.

Meet the X-Men

It's in his family's mansion that Charles Xavier finally founds his School for Gifted Youngsters. To the observer who doesn't know any better, there doesn't seem to be anything extraordinary about the place. But among other secret upgrades is the Danger Room, where Xavier's students face difficult obstacles and automated opponents. And of course, there's also the legendary Cerebro device, used to amplify Professor X's already incredible telepathic abilities to help him detect mutants across the globe.

For his first students, Charles recruits Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel, and the Beast. The name "X-Men" is coined after Xavier's name. The original five remain the core of the team for a while, though they're eventually joined by recruits like Mimic, Banshee, Cyclops' brother Havok, and Magneto's daughter Polaris. A seismic shift rocks the line-up in 1975's Giant-Size X-Men #1 when the roster adds future favorites like Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, and Nightcrawler.

Eventually, the X-Men have company. Xavier recruits a younger team he means to keep out of danger in the form of the New Mutants. Then, inspired by Xavier but often working without his direct involvement, even more teams pop up, usually incorporating the "X" of his name. There are the members of X-Factor, who initially pose as mutant-hunters in order to secretly help endangered mutants. There's X-Force, largely comprised of former New Mutants under the command of Cable. There's also the UK-based Excalibur, the younger Generation X, and even an Avengers Unity Division, made up of both mutants and humans to promote Xavier's dream of peaceful coexistence and cooperation.

Professor X in the stars

Ironically, considering his majestic goals and global concerns, Xavier's has spent a good deal of time away from the world he's so desperate to fix. 

Xavier's most powerful attachment to outer space is Lilandra, who's a princess of the Shi'ar Empire when she first meets Charles. For some time, Xavier receives psychic visions of Lilandra, but he doesn't meet her in the flesh until 1977's Uncanny X-Men #105. He then learns she's been sending him visions because she's hoping he and his team of heroes can help her stop insane brother, D'Ken. The X-Men help her, and some time later, Xavier leaves Earth with her after he wrongly believes most of the X-Men have died. 

He returns, but Xavier would eventually leave again ... this time long enough to miss huge events in the lives of his students. When he joins Lilandra and the Starjammers in space, Xavier leaves the temporarily reformed Magneto in charge of his school. In his absence, the X-Men lose Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat to the events of the 1986 crossover Mutant Massacre, as well as Rachel Summers who disappears right before the event begins. Similar changes come with subsequent events like 1988's The Fall of the Mutants, 1989's Inferno, and 1990's X-Tinction Agenda.

Here comes Onslaught

Ever since the addition of Wolverine and Colossus to the X-Men, the metal in their bodies makes them perfect targets when the team faces Magneto. In 1993's X-Men #25, the master of magnetism takes it to the next level when he rips all of the adamantium from Wolverine's body. Furious, Xavier seeks to stop Magneto from ever hurting another innocent by psychically extracting Magneto's hatred from his mind. 

Xavier's assault inadvertently leads to the creation of one of Marvel's most powerful villains. The darkest parts of Magneto and Professor X combine within Xavier's mind, and the result physically manifests itself as the villainous Onslaught. Onslaught proves far too powerful for the X-Men alone. The Fantastic Four, Avengers, and the Hulk combine their forces with the X-Men and narrowly defeat him in 1996's Onslaught: Marvel Universe #1. When the smoke clears, the world is shocked to find itself without the Fantastic Four or the Avengers. They're believed to have sacrificed themselves to defeat Onslaught, but it's later discovered they're transported to the Heroes Reborn world. 

Professor X's many secrets

In spite of his benevolent intentions, Charles Xavier has some pretty big skeletons in his closet. For example, there's his Danger Room. In Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men series we learn the Danger Room includes an artificial intelligence capable of independent thought. It goes rogue, eventually building itself a powerful mechanical body. In 2005's Astonishing X-Men #12, after the team defeats the A.I. now called "Danger," they learn that Xavier always knew he was keeping a new life captive with the Danger Room. In fact, as soon as it went online, it reached out to him and asked, "Where am I?" But tragically, Xavier ignored it.

Then, in 2005's New Avengers #7, we learn that Professor X is one of the members of a clandestine group of superheroes called the Illuminati that's been working behind the scenes for years. Among other things, the Illuminati is behind Bruce Banner's temporary exile in space. Even though Xavier isn't part of that particular decision, the Hulk rampages through almost all of the X-Men teams to get at Xavier in the 2007 miniseries World War Hulk: X-Men

And in the game-changing 2006 mini-series X-Men: Deadly Genesis, the events of Giant-Size X-Men #1 are retconned to reveal Xavier sent a team of mutants — including Cyclops and Havok's brother Kid Vulcan — to save the X-Men from the mutant island Krakoa. After those mutants were presumed killed, Xavier erased the memory from Cyclops' and Moira MacTaggert's minds, which is a pretty disturbing thing for a so-called superhero to do. 

Death, resurrection, and the Red Skull

The 2012 line-wide event Avengers vs. X-Men brings a lot of changes to the Marvel Universe, and perhaps the most traumatic of them all is the death of Professor X at the hands of the Phoenix-powered Cyclops in Avengers vs. X-Men #11. 

The Nazi villain Red Skull doesn't waste much time before taking advantage of Xavier's death. Getting his hands on Xavier's corpse, the Red Skull has parts of the mutant's brain surgically inserted into his own skull, giving him Xavier's telepathic abilities. In the opening 2012-13 storyline of Uncanny Avengers, he uses his new powers to turn New York City into a war zone and set the Avengers against one another. It isn't until 2017's Uncanny Avengers #22 that the pieces of Xavier's brain are removed from the villain's skull and incinerated by the Human Torch.

Xavier is finally brought back to life in part due to his old enemy the Shadow King. The villain brings part of Xavier's essence to the astral plane where he plans to torment it forever, forcing him to battle the Shadow King as they did when they first met. The villain makes the mistake of attracting the attention of the X-Men, and with the help of the hero Fantomex, Xavier makes a new body for himself. 

The Dawn of X

In the 2019-20 event Dawn of X, Professor X and Magneto come together to change the mutant race's future. Inspired by Moira MacTaggert's revelations that merging their visions into one is the only path forward, they establish a new nation on the sentient mutant island of Krakoa. All mutants are welcome on Krakoa, even those who've been the X-Men's most ruthless enemies. The Hellfire Club, former members of the Brotherhood, and even Apocalypse assume leadership roles on the island's Quiet Council. 

The countless mutant powers at their disposal, as well as the unique island of Krakoa itself, help the new nation to create incredible technological and cultural advances. Doug Ramsey, aka Cypher, creates a new mutant-only language which is uploaded to the mind of every new arrival to Krakoa. The island creates incredible medications, which the mutants use as leverage to get other countries to forge trade and peace agreements. Portals allowing instant access to and from the island exist in every country, and only mutants have access. There's a group of mutants known as "The Five," and these beings are able to combine their powers to bring any mutant back to life.

As for Xavier, he's more enigmatic than ever, always wearing a mobile Cerebro unit as a helmet. His former students continue their roles as X-Men and in other capacities. X-Force is reborn as Krakoa's covert strike team, and Kitty Pryde co-opts the former villain group name Marauders for her team of mutants who then take to the seas. In other words, it seems as if Professor X has finally achieved his goals of mutant peace.