The X-Men franchise continues to be one of the most interesting and recognizable superhero teams by Marvel Comics.
It was created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but it wasn't until 1975 that the popularity of X-Men really took off under the direction of revolutionary writer Chris Claremont.
Unlike other superhero teams, the X-Men aren't celebrated for their powers—they're feared and hated within the Marvel Universe, resulting in discrimination and persecution.
This allows X-Men stories to dive deeper with social commentary and reflections on the nature of humanity, fear, and hate.
Throughout the years, Professor Charles Xavier has recruited a variety of mutants to be part of his team of X-Men, who help him to achieve the dream of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants.
Of course, not all X-Men characters are equally interesting, inspiring, or impactful. Here are my picks for the greatest X-Men comic book characters of all time and why they stand out.
Magneto might be the X-Men's most famous archnemesis, but throughout the years he has also been one of the team's most valuable members.
Magneto's desire to protect mutantkind at any cost comes as a result of being a Holocaust survivor. It's this desire—and the methods he uses—that make him both an interesting villain and a complicated anti-hero.
Also known as the Master of Magnetism, Magneto is an Omega-level mutant, which means he's one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe. He has the power to manipulate magnetic fields, which allows him to control any type of metal.
In recent years, he joined forces with long-time frenemy Charles Xavier to establish the mutant nation of Krakoa. Krakoa is a sovereign country where all mutants can live safely away from human persecution.
In this new era of the X-Men, Magneto has become one of the most respected and admired leaders of mutantkind.
9. Kitty Pryde
Kitty Pryde is a fan-favorite character created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, debuting in 1980 during the legendary Dark Phoenix Saga.
At the time of her introduction, she was an energetic 14-year-old girl with the power of intangibility, which allowed her to phase through objects. She became the youngest member of the team and the character to whom younger readers could relate the most.
Since then, Kitty grew up to become an invaluable member of the X-Men, even leading the team a couple of times.
In the current Krakoan era, she's the Red Queen of the Hellfire Trading Company and holds a seat on the Quiet Council, which is the ruling governing body of Krakoa.
Iceman, also known as Bobby Drake, is one of the founding members of the X-Men. He has the distinction of being the second mutant to be recruited by professor Charles Xavier, only after Scott Summers.
As his name suggests, Iceman has the ability to manipulate ice by freezing water vapor around him.
When he was introduced, he was only able to create snowballs and cover his body in snow. However, his powers have significantly increased since then and he's now classified as an Omega-level mutant.
In recent years, Iceman gained new prominence after coming out as gay in 2015. Since then, he has become one of the most notable and powerful gay characters in comic books to this day.
Rogue is a fan-favorite character created by Chris Claremont and Michael Golden in 1981. She was initially depicted as a supervillain for the Avengers, but soon after her introduction she joined the X-Men and has remained an integral part of the team ever since.
Rogue's mutant powers allow her to absorb the life force, memories, and superpowers of anyone she touches.
She eventually learned how to control her powers with the help of Professor X, but she initially regarded them as a curse because of how they prevented her from getting close to other people.
When she was a young woman, Rogue also permanently absorbed the powers of Carol Danvers, which granted her superhuman strength, stamina, durability, and the ability to fly.
This turned Rogue into one of the most powerful members of the X-Men and an invaluable member of the team.
Nightcrawler was created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum for the relaunch of the team in 1975's Giant-Size X-Men #1. Since then, he has become one of the most beloved members of the team.
Besides his likable personality and great sense of humor, Nightcrawler is a character who brings a unique perspective to the team thanks to his physical appearance and religious beliefs.
He has superhuman agility, adhesive hands and feet, and the ability to teleport. But his mutation also affected his physical appearance, giving him blue skin and fur, yellow eyes, pointed ears, two-toed feet, three-fingered hands, and a tail.
The contradiction between his demonic appearance and his Catholic faith has sourced some of the most interesting stories in the X-Men universe.
In the current Krakoan era, Nightcrawler holds a seat on the Quiet Council and his religious concerns led him to create a new mutant religion.
5. Emma Frost
Emma Frost is a character created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne in 1980. And as with Magneto and Rogue, she initially started out as a villain before joining the X-Men and becoming one of the most important leaders of mutantkind.
Emma, also known as the White Queen, has telepathic powers on par with Charles Xavier and the ability to turn her skin into diamond. Emma is also highly intelligent, witty, resourceful, and very wealthy.
She's one of the most interesting characters in X-Men lore because she's motivated by two things: herself and her children.
No matter what her icy exterior suggests, she has the heart of a teacher—and throughout the years, she has helped mentor new generations of mutants and protected them during their darkest hours.
In the current era, Emma was one of the first mutants approached by Professor X and Magneto to help them establish the nation of Krakoa. As a result, she has three seats on the Quiet Council: she kept one for herself and assigned the other two to Kitty Pryde and Sebastian Shaw.
Wolverine is, by far, the most popular mutant in the Marvel Universe. He has appeared in pretty much every X-Men adaptation outside of the comics, including animated TV shows, video games, and movies.
Interestingly, though, his debut came in an Incredible Hulk comic in 1974, which led to him being formally introduced as part of the new X-Men team in 1975's Giant-Size X-Men #1.
Created by an experiment, Wolverine's entire skeleton was infused with a fictional indestructible metal known as adamantium, which gave him three retractable claws in each hand and a powerful healing factor.
Part of what made Wolverine so popular with comic book readers was his willingness to use deadly force and his lone-wolf nature, which became a staple for other popular comic book anti-heroes that came later, including the likes of Punisher, Deadpool, and Elektra.
3. Jean Grey
You cannot talk about the X-Men without talking about Jean Grey. Her legacy is so important within the X-Men that even when she's not around, her presence can be felt—all because she made such a significant impact on the lives of her teammates.
Jean is one of the founding members of the team, debuting in 1963's X-Men #1. She was originally the only woman on the team and was regularly portrayed as the weakest one.
However, under the direction of Chris Claremont in the 1970s, Jean grew into the most powerful member of the X-Men and one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe.
As an Omega-level mutant, Jean Grey has telekinesis and is the most powerful telepath on Earth. When she's in possession of the Phoenix Force, she's able to defeat the mighty Galactus—but without the Phoenix Force, she's still a massive force to be reckoned with.
So it's not surprising that Jean has been at the center of some of the X-Men's best and most popular stories, including Inferno, Phoenix Endsong, New X-Men, and the legendary Dark Phoenix Saga.
Scott Summers, also known as Cyclops, is one of the founding members of the team and the first mutant that Charles Xavier recruited to be part of his X-Men. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, Cyclops made his debut in X-Men #1 as the leader of the team.
Since his introduction, Cyclops has been one of the team's primary leaders. Other mutants have assumed the role at different points, but Cyclops has had more experience being the leader of the X-Men.
Cyclops' mutation grants him the ability to emit powerful beams of energy from his eyes. However, he can only control the beams with the aid of special eyewear that he must wear at all times.
Like his mentor and father figure Charles Xavier, Cyclops made his fair share of mistakes when leading the X-Men, but his motivation has always been to create a better world for both humans and mutants.
Wolverine has popularity, Jean Grey has unparalleled power, and Cyclops has great leadership abilities. But Storm? She has it all.
Created in 1975 by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum for the team's relaunch in Giant-Size X-Men #1, Storm has been a staple of the team ever since. She even led the X-Men several times, becoming the team's second-most prominent leader, only after Cyclops.
Storm is one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Universe and is classified as an Omega-level mutant.
She iconically has the power to manipulate the weather, which allows her to control any and all types of meteorological phenomena, including tornadoes, thunderstorms, blizzards, and hurricanes.
In the current Krakoan era, Storm is the only mutant to have a seat in the Quiet Council and a seat at the Great Ring, the governing body of the mutant planet of Arakko.
And after the X-Men terraformed Mars, Storm became the Queen of Mars and the Voice of the Sol System.
Storm is the ultimate representation of what an X-Man should be: fearless, powerful, tenacious, and compassionate. She always fights for what's right and she's proven to be an empowering role model to millions of comic book readers throughout the years.