What Were They Thinking: In Memorium- Scott Summers

Ladies and Gentlemen, usually on What Were They Thinking, we look at the stupidest, most ill-advised things that have ever taken place in the history of the comic book industry. But today, we are gathered here for a funeral. We are here to mourn the loss of Scott Summers, also known as the hero Cyclops, long serving leader of the X-Men, who has been so cruelly taken from us. I mean, he's not dead, well as far as I'm aware, but he might as well be. There is such a thing as "character assassination", which is the malicious and unjustified harming of a persons good reputation, and of all characters in comics history, no-one has been through a more rigorous and thorough one than Scott Summers. And the culprit? That'd be Marvel.

So, how did they do it, and what was their motive. Well in the great tradition of murder mysteries, I'm going to gather all the suspects in a room and explain to you whodunit.

So first, a little backstory. As I'm sure everyone one knows, Scott Summers was the original X-Man. He was the first of the original 5 to be recruited by Charles Xavier back in 1963 and was the de-facto team leader throughout the 60's and 70's, being hand-picked by Xavier for the role. He was the most dedicated to Xaviers ideals of all the X-Men, even to the point that it cost him in his personal relationships, and the relationship between the two was often closer to father and son than teacher and student. He was the heart and soul of the team, the only original X-Man to carry over to the new team after the Giant Size X-Men #1 revamp other than Xavier himself. So, what happened.

Well, the first signs something was wrong came in the 80's. X-Men had been through a lot of changes since the start of the decade. Jean Grey had seemingly taken her own life after destroying an inhabited planet, Storm was now the leader of the X-Men and Scott was married to a girl named Madalyn Prior and the couple had a son, having retired from the team. However, the powers that be decided that they missed the original X-Men team and so it was retconned that Jean was still alive in a cocoon in Jamaica Bay and the Jean that destroyed the planet was a powerful alien entity posing as Jean. This would be the catalyst for the original team to come back together as the X-Factor, which is all fine and dandy right? Nope. You see Scott doesn't just re-join his original team-mates, but he actually leaves his wife and son to do so. These actions eventually lead Madalyn (who was, as it turned out, a clone of Jean all along) to become the villainous Goblin Queen, meaning Scott's selfish actions led to the creation of a powerful new enemy for the X-Men. Dick move dude, but not totally out of character, because Scott and Jean had a very long standing thing up to her "death" and the way he was affected by her "death" made it somewhat of an inevitability.

So, that's the minor stuff out of the way, the first attempt if you will. Now we come to the night of the murder, well, I say night, it's a decade and a half but that doesn't really fit the analogy, unless you were poisoning someone over a very long period of time, but I think I've got side-tracked. Anyway, fast forward to the year 2000, again the X-Men are in a very different place than they were a decade and a half prior. They'd been through the 90's, which was a bad thing, but Scott and Jean had gotten married, which was not. Anyway, the came The Twelve storyline, in which Cyclops has to merge with mutant supervillain Apocalypse to save the life of the son he had with Madalyn Prior whom he had abandoned. This does lead to a temporary bout of deadness, but he is eventually separated from Apocalypse by Jean, so good stuff. Heroic sacrifices equal hero points right? Wrong. Because this whole incident led to Scott personality being altered due to spending so much time bonded to the ancient evil grey dude. He becomes distant from Jean, which then leads to her becoming closer to Wolverine. Scott then feels like he's being ignored, despite him being the one who was pushing Jean away, so he starts having an affair with "reformed" villain Emma Frost. This proves to be a bit problematic when you're married to a telepath because she's gonna find out and boy did she. So, when Jean does find out about the whole thing, Emma really doesn't help the situation by being basically as provocative as mutantly possible and the whole thing ends up with Emma being put in her place and Scott leaving the Xavier Institute. Hero points= -5

So, what happens next? Surely they get back together and make up right? Nope, Jean dies again, thanks to Xorn (who really wasn't Magneto and Marvel would very much like you to forget that he actually was really meant to be thank you kindly), and though the pair do have a lovely "dying in your loved ones arms moment", Scott almost immediately gets back with Emma Frost (thanks to some BS involving being transported to the future and getting the blessing of a future resurrected version of Jean). Still, that pisses off literally everyone and ends up with Scott and Jean's daughter disowning her father and Scott having a fight with Wolverine outside the School. Hero points= -10

Luckily, after this incident, Scott does get some brownie points. He returns to leadership of the X-Men and is very effective, getting good press on the team by helping out with rescue and aid missions and being one of the few people to come out of Deadly Genesis and Civil War with any sort of decency. But that's mostly because everything else about those stories were terrible, so that's damning with faint praise. He also gets out of the Messiah Complex storyline looking fairly decent. And then it all comes tumbling down.

As soon as the X-Men set up shop in San Francisco the character assassination plot gets into full swing. We see the recreation of the X-Force as a black ops team whose job it is to "remove" any threats to mutant-kind in ways that the X-Men can't be seen to do and whilst Cyclops isn't hands on involved in the way Wolverine is, he's the one who created and sanctioned the team, as well as the one who choose X-23 and Wolfsbane to be on the team, despite them being rather young to be on a team with such dangerous and psychologically damaging objectives. He also uses biological weapons on the Skrull forces in San Francisco during the Skrull Invasion, unleashing a new version of the Mutant Legacy Virus on an entire city (and possibly the world) without knowing if there was a cure. Hero Points= -30

During the Dark Reign storyline, San Francisco is in the grip of anti-mutant riots, whipped up by Simon Trask. This leads to The Dark Avengers having to get involved and Norman Osbourne asking Emma to lead a Dark X-Men team to stop the riots. Whilst Emma's team succeeds in getting the riots under control, Scott is off directly confronting Osbourne, the most powerful man in America at that point and making an enemy of him. He leads every mutant in his care, including numerous teens and children against the forces of the Dark Avengers, Dark X-Men and H.A.M.M.E.R, and whilst the X-Men do escape and technically have the victory (with Emma and Namor switching back to the X-Men's side), Scott came off looking very bad in this situation, being played by an anti-mutant bigot and putting everyone in the city in danger by trying to take on the US Government, especially the last remaining mutants on Earth, whom he put directly in the front line, even if he was standing up to a known villain. Hero Points= -40

So after that debacle, Scott sets up his own Mutants only country and is so bad at running it, he alienates Beast and gets Nightcrawler killed. This eventually leads to the Schism event, where Cyclops has a kid kill the entire Hellfire Club, puts children on the frontlines against a Sentinel invasion and ends with Wolverine taking half the X-Men and leaving. Rogue even states that she is leaving because Cyclops has reached a point where he refuses to accept that he might ever be wrong. Hero Points= -50

And now, the big one. Scott, in his infinite wisdom, decides to take on the Avengers over the Phoenix Force. He becomes an avatar for the Phoenix himself, alongside Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik, and basically becomes a god on Earth. But this goes down hill rather quickly as the Phoenix Force corrupts them all, they become tyrants and Scott ends up betraying Emma to steal her portion of the force and then kills Professor X, the character who had been his mentor and father figure. And then in the aftermath he sides with Magneto and becomes a terrorist, which is where he's pretty much stayed. Hero Points= -100

So, we all know that the only people with the means and the opportunity to carry out such a malicious murder were Marvel themselves, but what was their motivation? Well, look at the date that Marvel really started going in on ruining Cyclops' reputation. Yes, they started in the 80's, but they only properly went for it after the year 2000. And what happened in the year 2000? The first X-Men movie was released, and the main star of that wasn't Cyclops, the long time leader of the team, no. It was Wolverine. Even back in the 80's, Cyclops' first fall from grace came right around the time Marvel were getting ready to publish Wolverine's first solo comic. And since the year 2000, the one character Marvel have pushed above all others (apart from maybe Iron Man) is Wolverine. You can see it in each storyline. Who is the one Jean turns to when Scott is having his affair? Wolverine. Who confronts Scott about his affair with Emma after Jeans death? Wolverine. Who calls Scott out on him putting X-23 in the X-Force? Wolverine. Who leads the way out of Utopia when Scott's actions become too extreme? Wolverine. Who becomes a member of the Avengers whilst all this is going on? Who ends up being in every X-men title there is and most Avengers titles? Who is put on the Avengers side in Avengers vs. X-Men as one of the good guys against Cyclops' bad guy? The systematic destruction of Cyclops has only been to the benefit of Wolverine and whilst I will admit Wolverine is more popular than Cyclops, was it really worth ruining a classic character just to make an already more popular character look a bit better? I don't know, what do you guys think?

Anyway, I think I've made my point. And with that

JR out.

JR19759

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12 Responses to What Were They Thinking: In Memorium- Scott Summers

  1. I’m going to assume you haven’t read the latest tragic tale in the story of Scott Summers, regarding his war against the Inhumans.

  2. @Anarchangel- Lemme guess, he died? I gave up on X-Men when they did the time-travel thing to bring the team from the 60’s into the present. That was the point were they properly jumped the shark for me, even with all of the bs they’d done previously.

  3. It’s actually kind of gratifying for me to see someone else as upset over what has been done to the Cyclops character (and all for Wolverine’s sake, essentially). Wolverine replaced Cyclops in the hearts of X-Men writers, artists, and editors long before the 2000 film came out. The film itself was just further evidence of Marvel’s overt preference for the anti-hero Wolverine. Cyclops was the antithesis of everything that the writers wanted Wolverine to be, so they made Cyclops despicable. Since Wolverine was supposed to be tough and a great fighter, then Cyclops couldn’t be either of those things (at least, not to any degree that is comparable to Wolverine). Since Wolverine was supposed to be willing to do what needed doing, even if it wasn’t socially acceptable, then Scott was going to be worried about image and “rules”, so on and so forth.

    The point is, Cyclops was an inconvenient character to have as a noble leader for the X-Men, because Wolverine was NOT noble but he was VERY popular. The Wolverine of the comics was not even a good guy, for goodness’ sake! He was a jerk and an egomaniac who always had to prove how tough he was (and, thanks to “great” writing on Marvel’s part, Wolverine was ALWAYS tougher than ANYBODY he was matched up against. *rolls eyes*). In Marvel’s overt promotion of the Wolverine character, they destroyed Cyclops’ character.

    Marvel is really bad about this kind of promotion of favored characters, when that character is a current cash cow. They did the same type of thing for Spider-Man and, more recently, Iron Man.

    On a side note, Fox knew that Wolverine was the most popular character in the X-Men line-up, so that was why Wolverine was the main character. That said, Fox also knew that comic book Wolverine would probably NOT be as broadly acceptable to viewers who weren’t already comic book readers. They specifically made Wolverine friendlier, more responsible, more noble, more humane, etc, because comic wolverine would have come off even more like a jerk, if they’d written his on-screen persona in the same way that the comic book character was written (for DECADES by that point). Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is actually a pretty good guy, which has helped to make the series of films successful, even when the critics and/or fans thought a particular movie wasn’t that great (every movie has still been a box office success).

  4. I never liked Cyclops, all the way back to X-men 93 when the new team was put together. (I started reading comics around X-men 200, but quickly collected back to 93 as my ‘starting point’) Scott always came across as having a stick up his arse. However, when he received the phone call that Jean was still alive, and he walked out on Madelyn and his son, he was dead to me. It was an action perfectly in line with his character, so I don’t see it as any ‘character assassination’ by the writers, but it was a D**K move. There’s a million other ways he could have, and should have handled it. But he just walked. And what, a few issues later he finds out the house his former family lived in was attacked and torched. And he just gets on with his new life with Jean. :/

    I probably stopped reading around issue 300 or so. But I never liked Cyclops. He seemed to suck the fun right out of the pages.

    I wasn’t particularly fond of the way they killed him off in the movies, but hey, the actor shouldn’t have signed on for a bit part in the Superman movie.

    So yeah, opinions and all, but I never liked the character. Nightcrawler and Kitty were always favorites, and Wolverine grew on me.

  5. [SPOILERS AHEAD]

    Cyclops is probably my favourite X-Man (possibly tied with Storm) so to see the way he has been treated is hard. I agree with all the points JR and DV have made (I’ve never really been a fan of Wolverine but I like Laura as the new Wolverine) but the worst thing to happen to Scott has to be the most recent in Death of X.

    I’m not so annoyed that they killed him, a good character death can be great, but rather I’m annoyed at the way it happened.

    After the whole Secret Wars thing, everything jumped forward 8 months and we learned that Scott was dead. We weren’t told how until about a week or two ago when Death of X concluded. What annoys me is that leading up this, it was implied that Scott had done something terrible before his death and even the X-men now hated him. He had somehow become mutant Hitler. Only in the final issue of Death of X, we learn that what he did wasn’t so bad at all.

    I understand why the Inhumans may hate him but there is absolutely zero reason for the way he has been treated by the people that were like his family. It’s just another example of Marvel demonising Cyclops for something he doesn’t deserve.

    I realise I’m probably way more annoyed about this than I should be but I’m an angry nerd, damn it!

  6. William Peterson

    Yup, I agree with Gene, Cyclops was never a favorite of mine, never really did a good job of leading the team, and has gone pretty much straight downhill, ever since leaving Maddie and her kid.
    And, I also agree, even given all that, that Scott’s been getting the shaft since way back when Storm lost her powers, and took over the team… I mean, how embarrassing can you get?
    By the time killed Professor Xavier, I could kind of understand the motivation…
    Charles was never all that subtle about using his powers to get what he wanted,
    even if what he wanted was *usually* the best. It’s no fun having someone turn you into
    a puppet!
    But, no, I don’t blame Wolverine. I don’t even blame Fox. The Movie industry is a lot more in love with anti-heroes than it is with Pure, Noble Heroes…
    Captain America, Superman, and Cyclops were BORING!
    Good guys to have on your team, perhaps, always trying to do the right thing, but…
    not much of a story to tell there…
    Iron Man, Batman, and Wolverine give a scriptwriter a lot more to work with, especially
    if you’re trying to recycle decades old action/adventure plots, by combining them with
    superpowered characters..

  7. I seriously think that Marvel doesn’t much like noble-type characters. They prefer really flawed characters. I have always thought that this is one of the reasons that they keep Spider-Man so immature, Wolverine such a jerk, Iron Man so egotistical, etc. Noble characters, for whatever reason, seem to be bit players, in Marvel’s eyes. The only exception has been Cap. Lately, though, they can’t even seem to stomach keeping Rogers as Capt. America (and don’t even get me started on their pick for carrying the shield).

    I’m okay with flawed characters. Flawed people can, obviously, be noble, too. People who actually try to be the BEST person they can be, though, are rare in Marvel’s comics. Well, DC comics too, to be fair. Maybe it’s just a cultural thing, for the last few, you know, DECADES. *face palm* It’s really kind of annoying, though. I digress.

    There was no reason to believe that Scott Summers would go on to do the DUMB and jerkish things he did, based on who the character was and his personality/actions, as they were laid out. Characters change, yada yada yada, blah blah blah… Sure, characters change, but there wasn’t really a point at which the change(s) made SENSE for Scott. It was as if Marvel, one day, just said to themselves, “You know, Scott Summers is kind of boring as a goody-goody, so maybe we should make him into a creep and a sleeze? What do you think? Yeah? Okay, it’s done – Scott Summers is a total D from now on.” *sighs*

  8. William PetersonThe Movie industry is a lot more in love with anti-heroes than it is with Pure, Noble Heroes…
    Captain America, Superman, and Cyclops were BORING!
    Good guys to have on your team, perhaps, always trying to do the right thing, but…
    not much of a story to tell there…

    Why?

    Trying to do the good thing is boring? Not taking the easy way out is boring?
    Being the kind of person one can aspire to be is boring?

    These are only different characters, just as there are different persons in life. So you need different characters, you need to see them interact.

    Writing a story in which cyclops never doubts and is always right is boring. It’s also crappy writing: Trying to do the right thing isn’t knowing what is the right thing, nor is it never doubting yourself or being always right in the end. Just like in real life.
    And likewise? Writing a story in which wolverine is constantly an egotistical, self-serving jerk which is full of himself is boring too.

    You may find him boring, but movie cap was very important to me. If you take out the muscles, the bravery and the good looks, I see a lot of myself in Cap 01.

  9. darkvatican:
    (and don’t even get me started on their pick for carrying the shield).

    I actually much prefer Sam Wilson as Cap. I was never really a fan of Rogers.

  10. William Peterson

    Sorry if you misunderstood me, there. It’s not that *I* find Cap, Superman, or original Cyclops boring, but that Hollywood does. You CAN tell a good story about a good person…
    But Hollywood likes the ‘plug and play’ approach, where you can insert Archetype #43 into Scenario #27b, add in plot twist 33q, and hire somebody to fill in the rest of the dialogue from there.
    If you’re using an “old, stale” Archetype, you’re going to have trouble selling modern producers on your movie. Yup, it’s lazy, and not at all memorable, but it IS easy, and often profitable..

    Arioch: Why?

    Trying to do the good thing is boring? Not taking the easy way out is boring?
    Being the kind of person one can aspire to be is boring?

    These are only different characters, just as there are different persons in life. So you need different characters, you need to see them interact.

    Writing a story in which cyclops never doubts and is always right is boring. It’s also crappy writing: Trying to do the right thing isn’t knowing what is the right thing, nor is it never doubting yourself or being always right in the end. Just like in real life.
    And likewise? Writing a story in which wolverine is constantly an egotistical, self-serving jerk which is full of himself is boring too.

    You may find him boring, but movie cap was very important to me. If you take out the muscles, the bravery and the good looks, I see a lot of myself in Cap 01.

  11. Your words, my thoughts. Like, literally to a ‘T’.

    Storm’s my favorite fictional character (not just in the X-Men, but of all time), but I used to really love Cyclops, back in the days of the 80s and 90s. Yes, he screwed up with Madelyne Pryor, and screwed up hard, but he was sufficiently punished, and felt guilty enough about it afterward that I could let it slide. Then when he was back with Jean, Scott loosened up and lightened up enough during that period that I felt like he was really going somewhere. He was always a good strategist, reasonably smart, with a slightly put-upon air that made him relatable. Even Wolverine started to like him after a while, giving him their blessing at their wedding even if he couldn’t be there in person (he’d ridden off to deal with some injuries at the time, thanks to Magneto recently ripping the adamantium out of his skeleton).

    Sadly, all Scott’s good went out the window as soon as Grant Morrison brought Emma Frost into his sphere. Now, I LOVED Emma Frost in Generation X; she had a long redemptive arc where she went from the villainous 1%-er White Queen to a caring, if ruthless, headmistress. She developed some protective instincts that would almost be called motherly, except that she never lost her dangerous edge, her snark, or her superiority in the process. This made her complex and interesting, even a little unpredictable. Cue the end of Gen X and the arrival of Morrison.

    Now, Grant Morrison can be an amazing writer. I love his work on Justice League and All-Star Superman. And he had some really good ideas about the greater scope of the X-Men’s role in the Marvel Universe — mutant pop culture, a boom in the mutant population, some really interesting, sci-fi ideas about non-human mutations like sentient bacteria, fundamentally world-changing stuff. But he didn’t do a lot of research on the characters or their history, which is as much a core concept of the X-Men as the mutant angle. So when he wrote Scott, Jean, and Emma…things went awry. (I won’t get into how he butchered poor Magneto, because I have to leave in 15 minutes and I do not have the time to work out all that bile)

    I have a feeling Morrison never read an Emma Frost story in his life before he started writing her. Indeed, his Scott and Jean felt like bastardized versions of their Silver Age selves, with Jean acting as though she’d been a housewife for 20 years instead of, you know, one of the X-Men’s most powerful and prominent members.

    Jean had taken on the Goblyn Queen, Sabretooth, Onslaught, and Apocalypse more or less by herself and acquitted herself admirably in all those battles. She’d been part of teams that had tackled the Brotherhood, the Four Horsemen, and Operation: Zero Tolerance. She’d lost her telepathy, regained it, lost her telekinesis, regained that, even confronted the Phoenix and absorbed its memories into herself, thereby eliminating the dichotomy between herself and the cosmic avatar that had saved the universe (and blown up the D’Bari star). But it seems Morrison hadn’t even read an abridged summary of all this when he wrote Jean.

    So he wrote Scott into a ‘Betty and Veronica’-type story, not considering that ‘Betty’ in this case was just as complex, interesting, and badass as ‘Veronica’, just slightly less of a stereotypical ‘bad girl’. That said, I do love the scene where Jean crashes Scott and Emma’s psychic play date and proceeds to make a mess of Emma’s mind.

    At the time Morrison was writing, Emma Frost was not only getting shafted in the backstory department, but HEAVILY publicized at the expense, not just of Jean, but of every other female X-Man in publication at that point. Psylocke was killed off shortly before Jean was (she got better), newcomer Sage was written into the sidelines, and the only people who seemed interested in writing about Kitty Pryde, Rogue, or any of the others was the man who created them: Chris Claremont (all hail the X-Father).

    Fortunately, Astonishing X-Men came along and made the whole thing palatable (all hail the Joss :p).

    Sorry for the off-topicness. Anyway, it’s easy to blame Wolverine for the fall of Scott Summers, but I feel like there was a LOT more going on than just the big Wolvie push.

  12. I agree with most of the comments because I feel the writers aren’t researching the character anymore and just writing what fits their plot even when it goes against the long established character’s personality and history.