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Change is coming. A new breed of man has emerged. They are the Children of the Atom, Homo superior, individuals gifted with strange and fantastic abilities simply by virtue of their genetic makeup. Many of these mutants believe they should rule, and that open conflict with the human majority is inevitable. Hated and feared by those they've sworn to protect, another group stands in defense of a world on the brink of genetic war!

Base of operations: Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Westchester County, New York
First appearance: X-Men (Vol. 1) #1 (1963)

History: Under a cloud of increasing anti-mutant sentiment, Professor Charles Xavier -- possessed of the world's most powerful mind -- saw fit to create a safe haven at his Westchester mansion where he could train teenagers to use their unique genetic gifts for the betterment of mankind. His never-ending quest: to bridge the growing gap between humanity and mutants. During a span of several months, the telepathic teacher assembled his first recruits: Scott Summers, a modern-day Cyclops, cursed with uncontrollable optic blasts; Warren Worthington III, the high-flying, heroic Angel; Robert Drake, the irrepressible Iceman; Henry McCoy, the big-brained, able-bodied Beast; and Jean Grey, the telekinetic Marvel Girl. Xavier dubbed his students the "X-Men," because each possessed an "extra" ability normal humans lacked.

The X-Men first appeared in public when they battled the mutant terrorist known as Magneto, Master of Magnetism, who had captured the American missile base at Cape Citadel. The U.S. military was grateful to the X-Men for driving off the would-be conqueror, and the youngsters were regarded as heroes -- initially, at least. However, fear and distrust of their kind continued to mount, reaching new heights when noted anthropologist Bolivar Trask announced the existence of his mutant-hunting Sentinel robots.

Through it all, the handful of troubled teenagers known collectively as the X-Men learned to control their powers...while fighting to preserve Xavier's dream of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. Often, team members have been regarded with undue suspicion and unjustly accused of crimes they did not commit. Since the termination of Xavier's cooperative relationship with the FBI, the X-Men have been regarded officially as outlaws.

Hated and feared by humanity, the young X-Men continued to hone their strange abilities while standing in defense of a world pushed to the brink of genetic war. When the sentient island called Krakoa held most of his original students captive, Professor X was obliged to assemble a second squad of X-Men: Banshee, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Sunfire, Wolverine and Thunderbird. Unlike Xavier's first team, these mutants were adults and already adept in the use of their abilities. Led by Cyclops, the all-new, all-different X-Men rescued their predecessors. All the original X-Men left the mansion soon after, except for Scott Summers.

Ramping up its efforts to tame evolution, the government unleashed a new breed of mutant-hunting Sentinels. Striking on Christmas Eve, the androids abducted Jean Grey and several other X-Men. Imprisoned in an orbiting space station, the team was forced to escape to Earth through a lethal solar-radiation storm after hijacking a shuttle. The pilot's cabin lacked sufficient shielding, but Jean insisted on flying the craft. Already succumbing to the agonizing effects of radiation poisoning, she was touched by the cosmic being known as the Phoenix Force. The entity created a body for itself that was identical to Jean's, duplicated her memories and personality, and absorbed a portion of her consciousness. It then guided the shuttle to a crash-landing in Jamaica Bay off New York City. The Phoenix Force placed the real Jean in suspended animation within a cocoon-like pod resting on the bottom of the bay. The entity took her place on the team, but eventually was corrupted by its own power. Jean's persona was dominant, however, and her psyche caused the Phoenix Force to sacrifice itself to save the universe. Subsequently, the real Jean emerged from her cocoon. Fully healed, she reunited with the original X-Men; together, they founded a new team, X-Factor. Later, the members of X-Factor rejoined the X-Men.

As anti-mutant hysteria continued to escalate, so did the rivalry between Xavier and Magneto -- with the world holding its collective breath in anticipation of a cataclysmic outcome. When the X-Men attacked Magneto's asteroid base, the Master of Magnetism nearly killed Wolverine -- forcibly extracting the Adamantium implants grafted to the feral mutant's skeleton. To Xavier, this tactic proved Magneto was irredeemable. He used his telepathy to lobotomize his one-time ally, temporarily rendering him a vegetable. However, it was Xavier who paid the price for this act.

Tainted by Magneto, Professor X found himself transformed into the evil entity known as Onslaught. The sentient psionic menace brought about the supposed demise of nearly every super hero in New York City, including the mighty Avengers and the fabled Fantastic Four. The deposed heroes eventually returned home, and Xavier regained his senses. But in the wake of these earth-shattering events, Magneto resurfaced to strike a severe blow in their genetic war. Holding the planet hostage with its own magnetic field, he convinced the world's leaders to grant him sovereignty over Genosha, the South Africa island where humans once enslaved mutants. At first forced to cope with civil war and the effects of the lethal Legacy Virus, the Master of Magnetism gained the might of a unified nation when a cure for the mutant plague was released into the atmosphere.

Magneto proclaimed his intended dominance over mankind, and stood ready to unleash an entire nation of mutates upon the planet. His rallying point? Xavier's battered body, bound in the center of Magda Square, the very heart of Genosha. Narrowly averting the would-be conqueror's ultimate offensive in the face of overwhelming odds, the X-Men entered a bold, new era. Their world is changing. Every day, mutants are born in greater numbers -- and humanity's panic and paranoia increases exponentially. Mutants will be called freaks. Genetic monstrosities. They will be mocked, feared, spat upon and accused...of stealing human jobs, eating human food, taking human partners. But they are emerging in the inner cities, in the suburbs, in the deserts and in the jungles. They will need teachers, people who can help them overcome their anger and show them how to use their strange gifts responsibly. They will need the X-Men.