It’s one of life’s great paradoxes: the plight of the good man, the regular guy set against the romance of the rebel, the maverick. The eternal tale of the attractiveness of the brooding loner juxtaposed with the bland mundanity of the team-player, the joiner, the unifier.
The dilemma Cyclops faces as a character is as old as the perpetual battle between reactionary propriety of the establishment and the sex appeal of the Beatnik age. Sadly, Scott Summers and his alter ego Cyclops is as much a victim of the American dream as he is the embodiment of it.
And his fan base aren’t too pleased about that.
He first appeared in the comic book The X-Men (1963) and is considered by aficionados of the classic comics as the team’s primary leader. He certainly had this pivotal role in the very first edition, mentored by Prof X who rescued him from a lynch mob following his escape from an orphanage and helped focus and temper his power.
One of Marvel’s most high profile characters, it may surprise his critics, brought up on the movies, that Cyclops:
- was rated #1 on IGN.com’s list of Top 25 X-Men from the past forty years in 2006
- 39th in their 2011 list of Top 100 Comic Book Heroes.
- Wizard Magazine also ranked Cyclops the 106th in their list of the 200 Greatest Comic Book Characters of All Time (2008)
- Readers of Comic Book Resources voted Cyclops as 9th in the ranking of 2011 Top Marvel Characters.
So Why theRecent Demotion?
There’s little doubt that Cyclops is upstaged on film, and the argument can be made for the same downward trajectory in the comics. Often times in recent times Marvel limits the leader of the X-Men to the status of just an X-Men team member.
He had a solo run in 2014, but that was aborted after a year and now he is back to appearances in team books.
Though the X-Men are great as a group and he is a great X-Men character, his personae has more potential and his back story merits more air time for his own sake and indeed the sake of the future of the franchise.
Let’s face it, Wolverine is always on the X-Men line-up AND he also carries decent solo copy. But the X-Men are bigger than Wolverine. The gang need more characters to step up. The brand needs a more credible and engaging Cyclops if it’s to evolve and stay true to its roots?
In the X-Men films especially, Scott is stripped of much of his personality and his power.
In the series, to date, like it or not, he is portrayed as the understudy to Wolverine’s bestial decisiveness, irreverent coolness, indomitability and lupine sex appeal.
To compound Scott’s blatant demotion relative to his hairsuite colleague, with Xavier to the fore in the movies, Scott’s leadership is further overshadowed by the paterfamilias to whom they all defer. There’s a reason for the convention of parents dying in fairy tales.
In fact, in the star-strewn films, there are so many strong characters with exceptional abilities competing for lines that Cyclops’ light literally fails to shine as bright as it might.
He isn’t quite the cuckolded boring husband, but his relationship with Jeanne is forced and unconvincing. If we’re honest, the screen only really crackles with anything near the laser heat of passion when she and Wolverine are together. As a consequence, Scott barely removes his special glasses, let alone his tight leather pants.
What About The Casting?
James Marsden has portrayed Cyclops in the first three and the seventh X-Men films, while in the 2009 prequel film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he is portrayed as a teenager by actor Tim Pocock. In 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, a younger version of him is portrayed by Tye Sheridan. Sheridan will reprise his role in Dark Phoenix and Sheridan’s Cyclops made a cameo in Deadpool 2.
They are all decent enough actors. But they are sharing the screen with, amongst others, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, and, of course, British acting royalty, in the form of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Not easy to retain the alpha spot when the studio is maximizing the screen time of the acting gods and goddesses. So, sadly, the screenwriting and directing corps haven’t exactly parked in Scott’s PR camp.
Is His Decline a Sign of these Troubled Times?
Well, sort of.
Comics so often reflect the prevailing political dilemmas and socio-economic concerns of the times. The early X-Men comics spanned the Vietnam war which certainly had a bearing on the configuration and evolution of the characters.
The films, on the other hand, reflect the growing tensions on the world political stage,the post 9/11 culture and heightened fear of and threats posed by the spread of the ideology of “the other” further typified by the proliferation of zombie and other apocalyptic or nihilistic titles.
But the extent to which the demise of Cyclops can be attributed to prevailing international politics, especially given the rise of neo-conservatism in recent years, is questionable. Let’s face it, Captain America is about as reactionary as it gets and yet he’s done alright.
I would argue, instead, that while there are a number of contributory factors, the root and by far greatest cause of the relative impotence of Cyclops on screen as opposed to on the page has been perhaps the oldest cliché of them all:
The current Cyclops character just doesn’t have the right...sex appeal.
Is the Decline of Cyclops a Romantic Cliché?
Like his most obvious contemporaries, Captain America, Superman, and Mister Fantastic, Cyclops is pretty much the archetypal, clean shaven hero of traditional American popular culture. The embodiment of bridled passion and contained power, he is seen as a flag waver for the establishment and all that is good and proper.
That may well be good enough to earn the affections of the establishment fighting for all that is right. But as any teenager will tell you, it doesn’t get the hearts fluttering like the bad boys do.
Scott may don the black gear, but let’s face it, he’s no Elvis, Jimmy Dean, or Brando. And who is it who steals his motorbike? So, yes, his dilemma is something of a romantic cliche?
The fact is, Cyclops looks the least comfortable in the new uniform. You get the sense that he must sacrifice his personality for the team. He clearly understands that he must be the opposite of the tough, anti-authority antiheroes like Wolverine. But you also sense that he is pretty pissed off with his lot and that frustration is backing up behind those shades, especially having experienced the loss of the love of his life.
So who knows? Perhaps this simmering, pent-up power and abstemious sacrifice to date may well be the key to his redemption and resurrection as the franchise evolves? The Cyclops fans will certainly hope so.
Is Cyclops Still Needed?
Many say that Cyclops is subpar to the otherer mutants. They say he lacks versatility. They see his powers as only being laser vision, a power some other heroes have as an auxilliary ability.
But here’s the thing, HIS power is immense.
The science behind it is AWESOME!
First up, stop calling them laser eyes, “optical beams” sounds much cooler. Those beams are extremely powerful, clocking in a whopping 2 gigawatts. That’s larger than a large nuclear reactor. Though the full power of these beams has yet to be exploited and they have rarely been properly explored.
As an adjunct to the raw power, Cyclops also has decent martial arts and seems to possess an uncanny sense of trigonometry. His enhanced observation of objects around himself and the angles found between surfaces of these objects allows him to use them as an advantage.Part of the aforementioned science behind optic beams, is a constant psionic field that surrounds him, shields him, and with this he is resistent to various sorts of energy.
So yeah, not just laser eyes. He has other skills and qualities that should be exploited. Scott is an asset to any team he is on and his potential as frontline fighter and enabler of others, has yet to be fully realised, , perhaps because of the dampening impact of his mentor.
Loners and mavericks are afforded license that team players aren’t as the latter compromise in order to bring out the best in the collective.
Scott Summers is the epitome of the American Hero, not because of his selfishness and ego, but because of selflesness, the opposite. He’s a Boy Scout, plain and simple. This is what makes him a good leader.
But there’s a reason why Prof X has been so tough on his protege while developing him.
When he rescued him, Scott very nearly killed a group of civilians who goaded and provoked him. He has since learned self control in the service of the greater good. But we have an inkling that Cyclops may well be called upon to tap into reserves of powers, skills and qualities hitherto unseen both in order to regain his rightful place at the head of the X-Men and resolve his romantic fate.
Our prediction is that, in order to free up space to take the X-Men to a new level, the old guard must pass the baton to the new.
Xavier will have to give way to the next generation and the spotlight will then fall on Storm, Beast and, of course, on Scott. Yes, Cyclops may well be about to fulfil his destiny.
Rather than fade further into his allegedly one-dimensional shell, the stage is set for Cyclops to throw off the insecure teenage sulk and to re-assert himelf as the true leader of the mutant heroes.
Although a re-incarnation of their love triangle may well be the catalyst for the transformation needed to evolve the franchise, we suspect that Wolverine may well be grateful for the breakfrom that drama. After all, he has been carrying the X-Men narrative on his troubled adamantium shoulders for long enough now.
It’s about time someone else stepped up.
If Marvel ever decides to write a decent comic again, we have a three phase plan for them to do this right.
Cyclops has had enough of thanklessly leading the X-Men, so he starts off on his own to find himself. Joined by his brothers Havok and Vulcan, they go on a trip of self-discovery and accidently find themselves in Latveria.
Artist: Brendan McCarthy
Writer: Ed Brisson
Returning to the US with a new understanding of life and justice, Scott Summers makes a personal vendetta against Magneto. While trying to stop his mutant takeover, he clashes with Captain America due to their differing views of justice.
Artist: John Romita, Jr.
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Scott wants to retire. He puts away the superhero getup to have a nice life at home with his family, Jean Grey, Rachel Summers, and Cable. Unfortunately, Wolverine wants what he wants. Trying to keep his family together, Scott has trouble being a father and a husband, especially not now that Mr. Sinister is back.
Artist: Salvador Lorocca
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Article Authors: James Black & Jacob Klave