Recently in Marvel Comics, Cyclops, famed leader of one of their most popular properties, The X-Men, has had a rough go. This week I’m going to dive into Cyclops as a character as well as what caused him to stray from his path as a hero and turn him into a fascist militant leader of Mutantkind.
Let’s start off with a rundown of his origins and his fall from leader to criminal.
Scott Summers aka Cyclops, first appeared in X-Men of September 1963, he was created by the dream team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
*Despite the length, this will be a brief rundown of important events in his past that I believe led to his downfall and redemption. *
Scott Summers was born to Maj. Christopher Summers of the U.S Air Force and his wife Katherine Ann. He was the oldest of their sons, his younger brother, Alex Summers, is known as Havok. One day, while on a flight with his family, a Shi’Ar Empire scout ship appeared and in an effort to hide their presence, set the Summers’ plane ablaze. Katherine took her two boys and strapped them together on the only available parachute, pushing them out the door of the plane. As the parachute deployed, some of the falling debris caused the parachute to catch fire. As they plummeted to the ground, Scott utilized his optic blasts to slow their descent. Upon impact with the ground he suffered a head injury that removed his ability to control his optic blasts. Unbeknownst to the two Summers boys, their parents were teleported onto the Shi’Ar ship before their plane went down. Their mother was also pregnant with another child at the time of their abduction. The third Summers boy, Gabriel, grew up to be known as the villain Vulcan.
Scott and Alex suffered amnesia as a means of coping with the event and were hospitalized where they were looked after by Nathaniel Essex aka Mr. Sinister. Essex took an interest in Scott and believed him to be the stronger of the two. He arranged for Alex to be adopted separately to cause Scott to become emotionally vulnerable. One night while experiencing a nightmare, Scott opened his eyes and destroyed the roof of the building with his optic blasts. He then passed out and fell into a coma for a full year. When he awoke and recovered he was placed in an orphanage in Omaha Nebraska called State Home of Foundlings. Essex continued to experiment on Scott for his formative years and well into adolescence, continuously intervening if anyone ever came close to adopting him. Essex, disguised as a specialist, actually crafted Scott’s first pair of Ruby Quartz lenses.
After an accident where he lost control and obliterated a crane causing it to drop its load. An angry mob believed Scott tried to kill them, despite him saving them from the dropped debris. He was chased out of town and fled on a freight train. Scott fell in with a bad crowd, in particular Jack Winters aka Jack O’Diamonds, a notorious thief who wanted to use Scott’s abilities for crime. When Scott refused Jack would beat him until he agreed. Charles Xavier and the FBI tracked Scott and rescued him from Jack with Xavier offering him a full ride to his School for Gifted Youngsters, and the first member of the X-Men.
Scott was a natural leader but lacked the social skills to bond with his teammates. He fell in love with his teammate Jean Grey but was unable to express his feelings for a long time. Eventually Jean revealed she had a crush on Scott and the two of them began to date. Following the apparent death of professor Xavier, Scott was named Trustee of his Estate and ordered to continue his teaching and running the school. Xavier was revealed to be alive and in a subsequent mission Scott was reunited with his brother Alex who joined the X-Men as Havok. The team went through an overhaul and new members Storm and Wolverine were added to the roster.
THE PHOENIX SAGA
Arguably one of, if not THE most prominent X-Men arc, The Phoenix Saga sees Scott’s long time girlfriend Jean Grey become the cosmic entity “The Phoenix”. Without getting into too much detail, after a successful space mission, the X-Men are returning to Earth and must pass through a solar storm. Jean is possessed by the cosmic Phoenix Force and becomes the embodiment of the Phoenix, and uber powerful entity with cosmic level destructive power. The Phoenix then goes a little off the rails and decides to eat a sun, the Shi’ar Empire is having none of this and wants to kill her. The X-Men then battle with the Imperial Guard of the Shi’ar Empire to protect Jean/Phoenix from them. Realizing that she could never control the darkness inside of her, the Phoenix sacrifices herself on the moon leaving no trace of herself. Scott fell into a deep depression as he believed the love of his life was gone forever.
ROAD TO HIS DOWNFALL
Scott came out of his depressive state and met a woman named Madelyne Pryor, who bore an incredible resemble to Jean. Madelyne was a clone of Jean sent by Nathaniel Essex to seduce Scott and bear him an offspring that Essex could use for his own ends. Scott and Madelyne were married and she eventually bore him a child which was named Nathan Christopher Charles Summers aka Cable.
When Jean is discovered alive at the bottom of the bay in Jamaica where the Phoenix had first emerged, Scott packed his things and left his home in Anchorage with Madelyne and his son to be with Jean. When he met with Jean she explained that she believed the X-Men had strayed form Xavier’s dream for the team Together they founded the X-Factor with other original X-Men members and worked to help young mutants master their powers.
Eventually Scott and Jean are married and begin a life together while both remaining active members of the X-Men. After a particularly taxing battle involving Apocalypse and some Skrulls, Scott sacrificed himself to help stop Apocalypse. He was eventually found alive by Jean and his son Nathan in a village in Egypt. They helped to restore his psyche and cleanse Apocalypse’s influence from his mind. Scott began to grow more militarized and grimmer than he was before his death. He sought out counseling from new X-Men recruit Emma Frost, which only served for him to partake in a telepathic affair with Emma . Jean and Scott took a break and both contemplated on their relationship. Jean was killed by John Sublime who had taken control of Xorn and attacked the X-Men. As she died, Scott apologized for what he had done and how he had hurt Jean. Jean, seeing Scott’s sincerity, told Scott to move on and live his life without her. Scott and Emma Frost formalized their relationship and Scott found happiness for the first time in a long time.
Following the events of the House of M story line and “M Day”, mutants became an endangered species the world over. Scott and Emma opened the doors of Xavier’s school as a refugee camp for any mutants, no questions asked.
Shortly after M-Day, The X-Men saved the city of San Francisco from a rogue mutant known as Goddess. As a thank you, the mayor and people of San Francisco offered the help re-establish the X-Men in their city. Scott and Emma took the offer and closed Xavier’s school relocating to a new compound in San Francisco. It was also during this time that Scott’s mentality moved from the ‘defend mutants at all costs’ to ‘kill or be killed’. Scott also formed the lethal covert team, the X-Force, and put Wolverine in charge as the team leader.
In the Utopia story arc, Osborn and his Dark Avengers were forced to stop rioting in San Francisco between mutants and humans following some devastating media footage depicting a mutant baby blowing up a small town. The Dark Avengers began abducting mutants and taking them to their Alcatraz facility where their powers were being siphoned into “Weapon Omega” aka Michael Pointer/ Guardian. Scott, appalled at what was going on, had Magik teleport the entire X-Force onto Alcatraz island where they did battle with the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men to buy Magik time to teleport all the prisoners away. At the conclusion of the arc, Scott has ‘M Asteroid’ raised out of the pacific (where it had crashed several years before) and declared it Utopia, the home of all mutantkind. Magneto joined the X-Men on Utopia swearing his allegiance to Scott stating that he had done what both Magneto and Charles never could, unite all of mutantkind.
Scott believed it was his duty to protect mutantkind at any cost and he became ever more militaristic and dictator-like to protect those living in Utopia. When the villain Bastion opened a time portal allowing sentinels through in an attempt to kill Hope Summers (Scott’s daughter from an alternate future) Scott ordered the X-Force to get Hope to Utopia at any cost. In the end it cost both Nightcrawler and Cable their lives to get Hope to safety and stop Bastion. Out of guilt for Nightcrawler and Cable’s death, and the countless other mutants who died, Scott disbanded the X-Force and buried his son. Several long time X-Men members began to resent Scott for his militaristic attitude and blamed him for the deaths of fellow teammates. When a massive Sentinel was sent against Utopia, Scott and Wolverine got into an argument about how to defend the island. Scott believed that it was every mutant’s duty to defend their home, even the children. Logan believed that the older X-Men and X-Force members should defend the island and the children should be evacuated. This led to a bloody battle between Logan and Scott, which resulted in Logan, and several other members who agreed with him, leaving to go back and re-open Xavier’s school that had been closed when the X-Men relocated to San Francisco.
AVENGERS VS X-MEN
Scott was training Hope very aggressively and refused to give her an answer as to why. She grew angry and flared up with the power of the Phoenix Force. Meanwhile, across the country in New York, Nova crashed to the ground and when they Avengers found him all he said was “it’s coming”. The Phoenix Force was once again burning a path through the cosmos on it’s way back to Earth. After Captain America asked Wolverine about the Phoenix, Wolverine told him and the rest of the Avengers about Hope Summers. After seeing Hope’s ‘Phoenix Power’, Scott became convinced that it’s arrival would herald the salvation of mutantkind. So, when Captain America and the Avengers showed up to Utopia demanding Hope as a precaution against the coming threat, Scott attacked Captain America.
After seeing Scott blast Captain America into the ocean, a SHIELD Helicarrier uncloaked and the Avengers invaded Utopia. Hope seeing what she had caused, and fearful of the Phoenix Force, fled. Eventually, the X-Men surrendered to the Avengers, who then began making plans to apprehend Hope and take her into protective custody. Scott and the X-Men teleport away and begin their search for Hope before the Avengers. Scott goes to Westchester in an attempt to convince Wolverine to switch sides and recruit any other mutants to fight for their own kind. Hope flees to the moon in hopes to reduce the damage the Phoenix Force could cause should it find her on Earth. The Avengers and Scott discover her location and both head to the moon. Scott brings Colossus, Emma Frost, Magik, Namor and Wolverine. The Avengers arrive shortly before the Phoenix and another fight breaks out with Iron Man trying to make a weapon to defeat the Phoenix. He inadvertently causes the Phoenix to split into 5 pieces, with each piece possessing one of the X-Men. Unable to defeat the X-Men, the Avengers regroup to come up with a new plan while the “Phoenix Five” take Hope back to Earth to “prepare her”.
With the power of the Phoenix, the Five begin reshaping the world to make it better. They outlaw wars and provide the necessities of life to everyone under their rule. The Avengers oppose them and even convince Hope to come with them, which prompts Cyclops to declare “No More Avengers”. Namor tracks the Avengers to Wakanda and went to confront them on his own, when he is beaten, his portion of the Phoenix Force leaves him and enters the others, strengthening them. The Avengers hide Hope in K’un L’un (home of the Iron Fist), in a different dimension, to buy time to come up with a plan. Colossus and Magik get into an argument and knock each other out, further strengthening Scott and Emma. Scott uses his immense power to break the dimensional barriers and enter K’un L’un to get Hope back.
Hope, appalled at what her father has done, banishes him to the moon. This pushes Scott further over the edge, knowing he could win if he had more power, he returned to Utopia to find Emma. Though he is unable to attack her, the intervention of Professor Xavier and the Avengers ignites another battle. As the battle rages, it begins to turn in favour of the Avengers and X-Men who are trying to stop Scott and Emma. Scott knocks Emma out and absorbs her portion of the Phoenix Force. As the sole owner of the Force, Scott goes insane and becomes the Dark Phoenix. When Xavier tries to shut his mind down, to end the fight, Scott loses control and kills him. Hope and Scarlet Witch manage to exorcise the Phoenix Force from Scott and use it’s power to “restart mutantkind”. They reignited the X gene on the planet allowing mutants to be born again.
Scott was imprisoned for his actions in the Avengers vs. X-Men story line and remained there for some time until mutant hating humans killed his only friend and fellow mutant. Magneto and a small team destroyed the prison and broke Scott out, setting him on his new path. Scott went around liberating unjustly imprisoned mutants, helping them to master their abilities and offering him a spot on his new team. As he rescued more and more people, the citizens on the street started calling him a revolutionary and sporting signs and shirts saying “Cyclops was right”. This brought him into conflict once again with the Avengers who attempted to bring him in for his past crimes. Scott fled with the help of some other mutants and returned to Westchester and the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.
During the Incursion events leading up to Secret Wars Scott revealed that he was in possession of a phoenix egg and was willing to use it if necessary. At the battle of the final Incursion, when Earth-1610 (The Ultimate Marvel Universe) is on a collision course with Earth-616 (Main Marvel Universe) Scott uses the Phoenix Egg. At the battle of Manhattan Scott bonds completely with the Phoenix Force, now in full control of it’s power, Scott uses it to obliterate the forces of Earth-1610 and the Children of Tomorrow. As the Worlds are lost, Scott is transported onto the Illuminati’s Life Raft where he survives the smashing of the two universes and the subsequent emergence into Battleworld.
As the heroes on the life raft are forced to fight the Cabal on Battleworld, God Doom arrives to quell the fighting. When Scott attempts to use the full power of the Phoenix Force to destroy Doom, Doom shrugs off the hit and proceeds to snap Scott’s neck, killing him.
When Franklin and Reed Richards remade the multiverse Cyclops was resurrected along with all the other heroes and villains where he joined the X-Men once again. While his team was responding to a call on Muir Island, Scott came into contact with some trace remains of the Terrigen Mists. The Mists had been released by Black Bolt and his brother Maximus to spur the creation of more Inhumans, the only downside, the Mists are fatal to Mutants. When Scott was exposed to the mists, he began to die. He collapsed into the arms of Emma and pleaded with her to help him. He pleaded for it ” Not to end like this” before dying in her arms. Wracked with grief Emma used her powers to make a mental projection of Scott still alive and well. This projection of Scott was able to reverse the effects of the mists and stood down a large contingent of Inhumans. The projection of Scott was killed by Black Bolt, Leader/King of the Inhumans, and was mourned as a hero by the X-Men and the mutant community as a whole.
Teenage Cable from the not too distant future returned to the current timeline and paired with Paul Douek from Stark Industries to find a way to bring his father back. Utilizing leftover energy from the Phoenix Force, the duo were able to resurrect Cyclops. Scott needed time after his resurrection to examine the points in his life that led to his downfall and reflect on his choices and actions. During his reflection he was visited by Magneto who delivered some hard hitting advice, which helped Scott to realize his error and what he had become before his death.
Scott’s inevitable downfall came from him constantly seeing that the pacifist approach of Charles didn’t work. While Charles would advocate for action when necessary, he preferred words to fists. Watching the love of his life die (repeatedly), being betrayed by his father figure and having to bury his own son, Scott slowly lost his grip on his moral compass. He began to think that everything could be solved with the proper application of force and that by showing Mutants as a strong people, they would be respected. While his tactics worked sometimes, most of his actions caused people to distrust mutants less and less, causing them to become violent and Scott to respond to their violence in kind.
Scott began to see himself as the only person actively working to keep mutants safe and felt he needed to resort to aggressive tactics to maintain that strength. He lost long time allies like Beast and Wolverine because of his inability to see the faults in his actions and caused the death of dozens of fellow mutants in his militaristic ideals.
Deep down Scott is a good person, he’s flawed, but that’s what makes him such a compelling character. You need people like Superman and Captain America to always be the voice of reason and to fight the good fight, but flawed characters that make very real and relatable mistakes are more compelling and draw more comparisons to real life. For all his bluster and grand standing, at his core Scott is a good man who wants to do the right thing. He tries to keep control so he can always see the outcome and never be surprised; even though that doesn’t always happen. He knows that Xavier’s teachings won’t work in the long run but neither will militaristic action and he’s constantly trying to find a balance between the two in order to etch out a place for his people in the world.
There you have it! Cyclops’ fall and rebirth into the hero he once was! See you next time!