Joe Kohen/WireImage; Marvel
Fanboys the world over are in mourning.
In a move that's no doubt stirring debate among comic book geeks, not to mention intense emotions, Marvel Comics has killed off Professor X, the legendary leader and founder of its team of superhero mutants known as X-Men.
Even Magneto didn't see this one coming.
The death of Charles Xavier occurs in Avengers vs. X-Men No. 11, which hit stores on Wednesday—and, most shocking of all, comes at the hands of his former student Cyclops.
Tom Brevoort, Marvel's senior vice president and executive editor, speaks to E! News about the bold decision and stressed that it wasn't haphazard but part of a "continuing evolution" of the Cyclops character in the current crossover series.
"It became clear at a certain point Cyclops was going to have some type of confrontation with his mentor, Professor X. In the past, it's been clear they've certainly been growing apart…and Professor X sort of acknowledges that this is Cyclops' time. He's seen the student become a full-grown person," says Brevoort.
According to the Marvel brain trust, Mr. Optic Blast started coming into his own after the 2005 series House of M, which saw 200 mutants lose their mutant abilities ("M Day" in mutant parlance), and Cyclops stepped up to become the general militia leader of the remaining mutants to ensure the survival of their kind.
That set up the eventual face-off with the paraplegic telepath who nurtured him.
"The notion that at the height of craziness, and drunk on the power of the Phoenix and ultimately struggling with the fact that he was doing the right thing for everyone, Cyclops had to strike his father down, it felt very powerful and very Shakespearean for us," Brevoort notes.
On the big screen, Professor X was played by Patrick Stewart in the first three X-Men films, while James McAvoy took over the character in last year's prequel, X-Men: First Class.
With the news of the scientific genius's demise surfacing today, Marvel's gotten all sorts of reactions, with some fans dismayed to see their beloved bald-pated hero dead after 50 years fighting for mutant rights, and others more perturbed that Cylops was the one responsible for killing him.
"From what I can tell, it was more that people were upset that Cyclops had done it than the fact that it happened," says Brevoort. "To some degree traumatic is good, since the worst thing we could do is a story like this and no one blinks an eye. The fact that people might be upset is a good outcome. They're invested in it overall."
So will Marvel and 20thCentury Fox, which controls the feature rights to the X-Men franchise, get together and make a movie version?
"It would be really cool…but the resources and manpower need to be behind it," acknowledges Brevoort.