Wednesday, September 21, 2011
My Favorite Marvel: Cyclops
In the last few years, the only thing I ever hear people say about Cyclops / Scott Summers is how much they hate him. It's almost become a refrain to say, "I think his superpower is whining." And believe me, I think Cyclops has made some iffy decisions in the past: cheating on Madelyne Pryor with the newly resurrected Jean Grey, abandoning his child, cheating on Jean Grey telepathically with Emma Frost. The list could probably go on and on. I've started this post - the first of my new column called "My Favorite Marvel" - with all the reasons you shouldn't like Cyclops so that we can just get them off of our chests. And feel free to add more reasons in the comments section. But the fact of the matter is that I think Cyclops is possibly one of the absolute best characters ever created by Marvel comics.
I can understand why there's a climate of hatred for Cyclops right now. Most of the comic book critics of today were children when the X-Men cartoon was on air on Saturday mornings from 1992 to 1997. Cyclops was always goofy-looking and uncool, sometimes a dick, sometimes a whiny little boy. The X-Men film franchise did nothing to alleviate this image. Instead they presented Cyclops as a jealous little man who feared that the main character Wolverine might take away the one good thing in his life, Jean Grey. I think a lot of people are going to respond that these are accurate depictions of the Cyclops that was created in X-Men #1 by Stan Lee, and to some degree they are right. But there is depth to that Cyclops. If he's a dick, if he whines, it is connected to other things. I think that the television program and movies have taken Cyclops out of the context of his struggles. And any of us taken out of the context of our struggles is going to be at best a flat character and at worst a hated character.
Though I've just mentioned that Cyclops was an orphan, one of the best things about Scott Summers is that he has one of the most developed families in both the Marvel and DC universes. His father is a man named Christopher Summers. An air force major, Christopher piloted a plane with his wife Katherine Ann and two children Scott and Alex which came under attack by a then unknown alien race called the Shi'Ar. Christopher was able to get his children out of the craft before he and his wife were abducted. Scott and Alex are a couple of the most important mutants, both solar powered. While we know Scott became Cyclops and lead several X-groups, his little brother Alex became Havok, one of the first mutants to join the X-Men after the formation of the original group. Alex has the power to funnel cosmic energy into force beams that emanate mostly from his fists, and he took command of X-Factor after his brother left the team. Later it was revealed that Major Christopher Summers survived the plane crash and became a space pirate named Corsair. He surrounded himself with a completely different kind of family after the death of Katherine Ann called the Starjammers. In a really troubling storyline called X-Men: Deadly Genesis it is revealed that Katherine Ann was pregnant with a third child when she was killed, that the Shi'Ar removed the child from her dead body, and turned the resulting child into a slave. This child, named Gabriel Summers, would return to Earth, where Xavier sent him on a mission that should have killed him. Awakening from his near-death, Gabriel became the murderous villain Vulcan, and honestly I think that he's one of the best X-Men villains in recent history.
There is another family, however, that Scott Summers claims a close affinity with, the X-Men, with Professor Charles Xavier as his surrogate father. When Scott was an orphan in desperate need of help controlling his abilities, Xavier appeared to him, offered him a home, and offered him a way to become something other than a devastating weapon. I cried when I watched the series finale of the X-Men animated series because Xavier, on his deathbed, claimed Scott as his son in a really emotional way. And Scott, for years, has played the dutiful son. He's taken on the X-Men as his responsibility through some terrible times and done everything in his power to keep Xavier's dream alive even in the most intolerable times. It's been suggested in the Ultimate universe that Xavier may have been mentally influencing his students to stay in the X-Men, and in the regular Marvel universe that Xavier manipulated Scott through his love for Jean Grey. Furthermore, after it was revealed that Xavier sent Scott's brother Gabe on a suicide mission and then wiped Scott's memory of the event, the connection between Xavier and Scott was essentially severed.
Cyclops is rough around the edges. He is occasionally crazy. Everything in his life turns from hopeful to terrible. But he takes up responsibility not only for his family or his team, nor only for Homo sapiens superior. He takes responsibility for all life on this planet and often on others. Cyclops carries Xaviers banner of peace between humans and mutants with a vehemence that will never be seen by another. He might not be the guy that you want to sit and have a beer with, but he's probably one of the most important individuals in the universe, one of the best developed characters, and one of the most realistic examples of how these powers can change a person. He is a leader, regardless of what stands in his way. He's one of my favorite Marvel characters, possibly the first in my heart.