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The Evolution of Cyclops—How the X-Men's Leader Lost His Heart

How did the X-Men's leader change from compassionate teammate to ruthless tactician?

Being a comic book fan can sometimes feel like an uphill battle; one where you, the reader, are so heavily invested in any given character, concept or title for years; but are virtually helpless in the direction of said character or concept. The direction of a character is left up to the creative team of the title or book—and when you have over fifty years of character history that has changed hands from one creative team to the next, the character is bound to evolve in one way or another.

Sometimes, characters change so much, that they are hardly recognizable when compared to their first appearance. One example of a very prominent character that has undergone drastic personality changes is Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men.

== TEASER ==

This observation sort of came out of left field for me since I had never really been invested in Cyclops as a character, and I hadn't really read many of Cyclops' past appearances, up until recently when I had to read some back issues of Chris Claremont's X-Men searching for Moira MacTaggert's first appearance. It was in the first few pages of X-Men #96 that I was completely caught by surprise.

Who the heck is this guy? He looks like Cyclops- blue suit, funny visor—but he's not acting like the Cyclops I'm familiar with. The first few panels in X-Men #96 take place after the death of one of Cyclops' former teammates, Thunderbird. It was Thunderbird's second mission, and he failed in his attempt at stopping Count Nefaria- a move that ultimately led to his death. It was a death that happened under Cyclops' watch and there was nothing Scott could do to stop it. In the first few panels of the issue, Scott is depicted walking through the woods, mourning the death of his teammate and the fact that there was nothing he could do to stop it. In fact, he is so overcome with emotion and grief, that he momentarily loses control of his powers.

Fast forward to the relaunch of X-Force by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost. In the very first issue of the series, and within the first few panels, Cyclops approaches Wolverine and tells him that not only does he want to relaunch X-Force to do the X-Men's dirty work- but that he had already sent Wolverine's "clone," X-23 into battle. X-23 who is a fragile, teenage girl; had been manipulated and used as a weapon to kill and was created as a result of the Weapon X project. Cast aside and treated like less than a person, X-23 falls victim to Cyclops's inability to acknowledge her as anything but a tool.

This Cyclops has a blatant disregard for a child's psychological instability and has no problem treating her like she's always been treated- a weapon. This Cyclops is pretty heartless. Why would he send a fragile X-23 off to join X-Force, a team of mutant killers that have to put their code of ethics to the side to get the job done? Rather than exhibiting the same concern that Xavier did for Scott as a young mutant trying to find himself, Scott has no concern for Laura. This is not the only time Cyclops has nonchalantly sacrificed a team member, either. Towards the end of Second Coming, Cyclops sent Cable along with X-Force forward into the future in order to shut down the Nimrod production line—knowing full well that there would be a good chance the group would not be able to return. The result? Hope is left helpless and without a father, with only Scott to blame. Essentially, Scott killed his own son.

When did Cyclops go from an emotional and caring team member, to a heartless team leader whose only concern is to get the job done? Cyclops' first real dramatic change in character occurred after X-Men: The Search For Cyclops in which Cyclops was consumed by Apocalypse. Even after Scott was saved by Nate and Jean Grey, Scott was permanently altered. His personality changed and he eventually has an affair with Emma Frost. Hand spirals even further into darkness following the death of Jean Grey.

The question is, must Scott sacrifice compassion for his teammates in order to be a powerful leader? Does this lack of compassion make him a better leader, anyway, or could it be hindering him in some way? What do you think of Scott Summers' evolution from then up until now, and do you think he's making the right decisions for the X-Men? Could his decisions be what cause the 'schism'?

283 Comments
Posted by cattlebattle

Leave Cyclops Alone!!

Posted by Scattershot

i LOVE this scott, the heartless part of him is just epic!

Posted by InfinityOmelette

Cyclops lacks confidence. That's his weakness. Given too much time he second guesses decisions. It makes him a hard man to follow.

...I miss Jean Grey...

Posted by SleepyDrug


Cyclops has unquestionably lost his heart.  He is totally ruthless in team decisions.  He cheated on his wife with Emma Frost (who dispite a noble attempt to whitewash her past actions is someone who had less morals than anyone in the MU except maybe the Red Skull).

 

He is no longer worthy of being the guardian of Xavier's dream.

Posted by thecheckeredman

Cyke has always been my favorite X-Men character and one of my top 5 favorite Marvel characters of all time. That being said, I don't read any of this current X-garbage so I can't weigh in on his "current" self. He's a great classic character and I always saw him perhaps evolving/growing into a perfect balance between Xavier and Magneto.


PS--That X-Force art is awful. >:oP 
Posted by Ferro Vida

I've been a big Scott Summers fan for years now. I have followed the growth of him as a character, and for someone who read his progression in chronological order (seeing his reaction to Thunderbird's death before seeing him reforming X-Force, and everything he experienced in between), I feel that Cyclops today has learned that sometimes death is unavoidable, that if you try to save all of the people then you will only end up killing all of the people, and that when ruthless tactics are well used (when they are used out of nececssity), they can be forgiven over time.


It is fair to say that he was using X-23 as a tool, but that is exactly what she was designed to be. It is the only life she knows, and after everything she has been through I don't think it is fair to call her a fragile little girl. She had the skills and powers necessary for the job that he needed to be done. What else could he do? Send one of the other students? Have someone who didn't have that experience kill enemies of the mutant race?

And Cable knew exactly what risks were associated with the mission. All of X-Force did. He wouldn't have accepted it if he wasn't fully aware of them.

Scott Summers has suffered through a lot of crap. More than most characters have. And he has grown accordingly.
Edited by Duo_forbidden

Cyclops is a douche. I'm sorry to say it. In the 90s, I loved Cyclops. The only thing that's good about him now is that he's dating Emma Frost. That's probably keeping me from hating him completely. She helped him open up a little bit. He's one step from being a villain or anti-hero. In Schism, I hope Wolverine knock some sense into him.

Posted by Primmaster64

...Off-topic...Has Hope met X-Man?(Nate)

Posted by The Sadhu

Never thought of it that way... interesting read!
Posted by coolbeans

Honestly he is doing the best he can with leading the mutant race.  He makes the tough decisions that no one wants to make which often puts a heavy load on his shoulders.  I like the direction he is going in.  It almost reminds me of Rick Grimes making difficult choices as a leader.  Cyclops has slowly become one of my favorite characters.

Posted by FoxxFireArt

Hey, I don't think we can be too judgmental against Scott for his personality change. With as many times as his own wife has either died or revived on him.  It would leave anyone cynical. Not to mention that when she is alive she's frequently flirting with Wolverine. She was obviously never satisfied with her marriage and never completely committed to it. That marriage has been the most perverse exercise in "till death do us part" I've ever seen.

Remember that his affair only started because Jean was pushing him away. He was trying to get help, but Jean refused to even try to help him with this darkness. Instead she went into the arms of Wolverine. The only reason that didn't turn into an affair was because Wolverine pushed her away.

Edited by HexThis

It's really true, Scott's sense of entitlement has skyrocketed in the past decade.

What eludes me is why accepting everyone has been about it. The guy was a field leader, a general but civil rights movements like the mutant right have to be headed by ideology and when it comes to compassion and civility Scott is an idiot.

He hasn't even really been the X-men's paramount leader. Has everyone forgotten that he scampered away to Alaska while Storm & Magneto managed the X-men during the 80's? In the 90's he was also barely a leader, the X-men were far more democratic back then but with the 00's everyone all of a sudden bowed down and hailed Scott as if he'd always been the best.

Scott Summers was once a sensitive, sweet man with a degree of self-doubt, a penchant for strategy, and a boy scout mentality. Now he's just the douche every guy wishes he could be when he's all those things but tries to change so he can be "cooler". Well he's not and hopefully Schism will tear him down from his ruby & diamond throne.

STORM FOR LEADER!

Posted by Ferro Vida
@SleepyDrug said:


Cyclops has unquestionably lost his heart.  He is totally ruthless in team decisions.  He cheated on his wife with Emma Frost (who dispite a noble attempt to whitewash her past actions is someone who had less morals than anyone in the MU except maybe the Red Skull).

 

He is no longer worthy of being the guardian of Xavier's dream.

1) Any actions from his personal life that may seem morally dubious have nothing to do with his ability to lead the X-men. He's working to build a better future for humans and mutants, and having a psychic fling with Emma Frost doesn't affect that in any way.

2) The remaining mutants are constantly under threat of being made extinct. If he wasn't capable of making ruthless decisions when underhanded tactics are necessary then he have failed at keeping the mutant race alive. Maybe he isn't as "holier than thou" as Xavier once was, but he's much more pragmatic. Xavier barely managed to lead a team. Cyclops is leading an entire race.
Posted by danhimself

the Cyclops from the 90's would never have the balls to lead all of mutant kind in the situation they are in now....he changed into what his people needed him to be...he's not just the field leader of the X-men now, he's the leader of a nation...a nation of an endangered species...so under those circumstances it's understandable that he's had to make some hard decisions and you may not agree with them but they needed to be made to keep mutant kind alive

Posted by Edamame
@Primmaster64 said:
...Off-topic...Has Hope met X-Man?(Nate)
Not yet.
Posted by Ultimate_MiracleMan

I remember in X-23 #1 he talked about X like she was nothing but a tool, and the weird part is Emma Frost was against that. You must be a real cold hearted bastard for that to happen, or am i get it wrong somewhere (haven't even read an book with him as a re-occurring character).

Edited by JoseDRiveraTCR7

 "When did Cyclops go from an emotional and caring team member, to a heartless team leader whose only concern is to get the job done?"

When the mutant race was getting attacked from every f-ing direction and he needed to get the job then. Personally, as much as I liked the Cyclops of old, the caring, but somewhat repressed leader, the emotionless, prick general that he has become is a lot more interesting. He does what it takes. And I don't think Scott has sacrificed his compassion. I think he doesn't show it because he can't, because he has a job to do in leading the mutant race in a time when Xavier's dream is too far to reach. I think it was in a issue of X-Men during Dark Reign that Scott and Emma shared their dark secrets and their regrets and Cyclops felt guilty for what he has done, though he said it had to be done.

I'm positive that his problem with Wolverine will probably be about how he's been acting, but I'm surprised it's going in that direction since I would expect Wolverine to somewhat understand.  Wolverine has always had that paternal instinct of defending his friends, but I would still think he knows that Scott is just doing the best with the situations they are given.

Posted by Overlander

You go to battle with the army you have.


Being the leader is no easy task. After the betrayals of Xavier and years of shouldering the burden of leading not only the X-Men but all of Mutantdom, Cyclops carries an awful responsibility.

His infidelity with Jean Grey and Madelyn were poor choices on his part. But surviving the precarious situations of being a Mutant after M Day are sure to be taxing. Wolverine has always been nipping at the heels of Cyclops. Whether it was jealousy for Jean choosing Scott or his lone wolf tendencies, or any myriad of other rivalry reasons, the two of them have long been at odds. 

Scott makes the hard decisions and could probably use more support and less rebellion or criticism from the faithful. At the same time, I would love to see him find again that sensitive side that allows him to really connect with people.
Posted by Ferro Vida
@Ultimate_MiracleMan: If you look at how X-23 has been written in the last few years, that's often how she is portrayed. She rarely displays emotion, is cold and calculating, and is completely obsessed with getting the job done.
Posted by ImperiousRix

Cyclops did used to be one of my favorite characters in comics, period.  However, as was detailed here, at some point he lost a lot of humanity.  While that seems to be his M.O. nowadays, and the way writers feel the need to portray him, I don't think it necessarily makes him a better leader.  He was always a good leader, he just has become a much shrewder one. 


 Captain America is a great leader, and he doesn't sacrifice his soldiers.  He just has much more confidence in the ability of the individual.
Posted by StarKiller809


I like Cyclopse. I know he isn't as compasinate as he once was, but I think that this is a hard point in his life. I think it is good to see characters change. If they didn't change I think that readers might get a little bored. Cyclopse has always been my favorite X-Men and probably will still be.

Posted by Ferro Vida
@ImperiousRix said:
Cyclops did used to be one of my favorite characters in comics, period.  However, as was detailed here, at some point he lost a lot of humanity.  While that seems to be his M.O. nowadays, and the way writers feel the need to portray him, I don't think it necessarily makes him a better leader.  He was always a good leader, he just has become a much shrewder one. 

 Captain America is a great leader, and he doesn't sacrifice his soldiers.  He just has much more confidence in the ability of the individual.
Captain America is an excellent leader, but he rarely has to lead an entire species. In fact, the teams that he usually lead consist of around ten people, most of whom are more powerful than he is and usually have some degree of invulnerability. Even though Cap tries not to get anyone killed, he hasn't been able to prevent people dying (Swordsman, Mockingbird, Wonder Man, Bucky, Hawkeye, etc...)
Posted by Midnight Monk


The article had some nice point but only proves Scott in the only person capable of leading the X-Men now, hes the only one willing to make the hard choices where guys like Hank McCoy who rather abandon his own people and be an Avenger because of his ethics. Scott didn't chose to be put in the situation but he's reacted accordingly, he relaunched X-Force because frankly the team was needed and nessesary  especially with every Mutant hater in existence gathering together to wipe out a dying race. Much more than that if it wasn't for X-Force he would not have even known about Bastion's return at all.

 

As for sacrificing Cable, another needed choice since only Cable had the time travel tech available to save Mutantkind from an all out Nimrod invasion. it was a hard choice but a nessarcy one, Scott has said it himself he;s not proud of the lines he's had to cross but all those bleeding hearts would to long dead before they judge his leadership skill had he not chosen to cross those lines

Posted by JoseDRiveraTCR7
@Ferro Vida: This. Captain America doesn't deal with a potential genocide every other arc.
Posted by -Vigil-

I never liked Cyclops much, but in recent years I've truly come to detest him. How come this jerk lives and we lose someone as great as Nightcrawler?
Edited by Solitaire

I think having to watch the love of your life die or disappear for only to reappear years later would be an incredibly traumatic experience for anyone.

Cyclops has had to deal with that experience repeatedly. That's gonna seriously mess you up, no matter who you are. That, plus all the other ridiculousness that goes along with being a member of the Summers family (Vulcan, in particular springs to mind), not to mention all his trials and hardships of being the X-Men's leader (especially the falling out between him and Xavier, his adopted father figure in Corsair's absence), I think Cyclops has just hardened himself into what we see now because someone needs to make the decisions that nobody else can, or at least that's how he's justified himself.

With mutant's on the verge of extinction he's convinced himself that this is the kind of person he needs to be to get things done. Whether or not that's the case is still up for debate.

I am in no doubt whatsoever that this is precisely what will inevitably lead to "Schism"

Posted by Ferro Vida
@-Vigil-: Because Nightcrawler's death was for shock value. He didn't play a major role in the events that were going on, but people loved him.
Posted by Sawcesome

At this point, I think Cyclops does put his emotions on hold.  He sorta strikes me as a jaded vet fighting the same war he's fought his entire life (which he kinda has).  It's not that he doesn't care, I think he wants to care but he can't anymore.  The whole Spock mentality has probably taken over.  He wants peace for his people so bad, he's willing to make sacrifices.  So yeah, go Cyclops!

Posted by tximinoman

Right now, with the mutant kind almost extincted just because some crazy bitch with family issues cursed their whole race, the X-Men (and all the mutants) need a heartless and tough leader that can make decissions without hesitate.

He is the leader they need right now.

Edited by HexThis

I find it interesting people are saying he "makes the hard decisions" and cite the recent mutant genocide as reasoning for his behavior.

Well, can I just say that it Scott's brilliant idea to lead everyone into the House of M using a sentinel as a trojan horse to directly attack Wanda while she was essentially the nexus of reality?

So, in other words, rather than exploit the various trained field agents in the group to infiltrate the palace or use more complex tactics, Scott told everyone to just come toppling down on the House of Magnus....which caused Magneto to awaken....which caused Magneto to kill Pietro....which caused Wanda to panic and lose what was left of her mind....which caused M-day ultimately. Wanda could've been easily neutralized some other way but Scott chose the battle and the battle bit back.

There was a "hard decision" fail. He's good at assembling troops, he's good at being somewhat decisive but simply because he has to make hard choices that doesn't entitle him to make bad choices.

Posted by Ferro Vida

I think it's a misnomer to call Cyclops heartless. He might play the part of the cold, calculating leader, but we still see him show emotion sometimes. He cried and was rendered speechless at his own son's funeral. I have never seen him rendered speechless before. For me, it was like the reader was being given a peak into the mind of man who is being torn apart by the decisions that he has made. He hasn't even worked through his grief over Nightcrawler's death yet, and Kurt was one of his oldest friends. I think if he lets himself feel anything right now he is worried that he won't be able to turn his emotions off, and right now the mutant race doesn't need a compassionate leader. They need a leader who can secure their future safety.

Posted by KumoriKunoichi

Babs, I now love you and will stalk you to the ends of the earth. you ROCK for posting this (jk about the stalking part, but i think i should start a fan club...)


Yes. Scott summers is a jerk. A big fat jerk. I think, call me crazy, but I think Rogue and Logan should lead the X-Men. Rogue needs to be a leader, not only because she's one of the biggest guys they have, but people LIKE her and trust her and she cares about them. Wolverine? High party morale (you don't piss wolverine off and get the job done and he doesn't kill you) and deep down, the ol kanook is caring.

Scott? He just needs to get Emma in bed more. Actually Emma needs to get Scott. I will give kudos to scott, he refused to send Pixie out during second coming because she could have died.

But still. He is a jerk.
Edited by Doombert

Cyclops is doing what needs to be done.  It pains him to make some decisions.  It pains him to lose a teammate.  You could see it in his face when he lost Kurt.  He is the leader of an entire race and cant be seen as weak by those that follow him, especially kids.  How can he keep a giant group of kids from freaking out if he is?  How can he keep them alive...by taking a democratic approach?  He has been trained his whole life to take the wheel at some point, now that he has, everyone is complaining about it.  Adapt and overcome.  I believe inside this is all terribly taxing on Scott and he is eventually going to have a meltdown. 

BTW if Cap led the mutants during second coming every mutant would have died...unless he went all WW2 leadership...

Posted by JoseDRiveraTCR7
@HexThis: How does making a bad choice disprove that hard choices had to be made?
Posted by SC

Can't divorce myself from reality when it comes to discussing Cyclops. Its like the Maddie situation. I like Cyclops, but I can't buy the excuses and justifications set up creatively to deal with his decisions there. Not that I blame the character, I know why the creative change were made and it had nothing to do with evolution of the character and all to do with a new book being put out. Just like a few years ago I read how X-Editorial wanted to build up Cyclops into a bigger character within the franchise, even if it meant downplaying other characters and lol, anyone read Joe Casey's semi rant the other day? About Marvel/DC still being editorial driven. So anyway, this decision was directed at writers, and some writers ran with this better than others, but I feel the franchise as a whole has suffered, the writers who did worst with the characters have made him unlikable to many, and the ones that did good with the character, just made him more interesting than ever? Which is great, but if it takes having to dumb down other characters in the process, is it worth it? Pay off has not been worth it to me. lol,and to make the character bigger to fans, they have him banging psychic ghosts during missions, killing dinosaurs randomly to relieve stress, and sending out a damaged girl to do the stuff she went to the X-Men to get away with. Oh and moving everyone to an island with no ice cream. I am so glad that I still got to read the character in First Class books, Astonishing, and Legacy and even in X-Force he actually came off well in parts. overall direction of character so so, his characterization in Uncanny, holy one eyed, concussion blasting buttercups its drowning the X-Franchise. 


Alaska! Holiday! 
Moderator
Posted by Mercy_
@JoseDRiveraTCR7 Well said.
Moderator
Posted by Bobby_Rico

I used to really like cyclops during the early 90s when he was the consummate leader- flawed certainly, but respected even somewhat begrudgingly by guys like Wolverine.  He certainly has lost a lot of his former charm in exchange for his current cold, if not somewhat sterile personality.  As many have stated before though, I think given his current responsibilities and status, he needs that emotional detachment to function.

Posted by PrinceIMC

I think Cyclops might not be the leader the X-Men deserve but he is the one they need right now.

Posted by Midnight Monk


@ImperiousRix

 

Oh please Steve Roger is not a Mutant, all he has to worry about is some costume psycho threating New York(since he nevers leaves the city apparently =p)

 

Scott has worry about the safety of an entire race, leading a single team of individuls who are several times more powerful than you is not the same as ensuring the survival of an entire species and dealing with bigotry and hate from any racist willing to pick up a gun

Posted by Ferro Vida
@HexThis: You make it sound like they all knew exactly what the score was going into that situation. They didn't know for certain why Wanda had done what she did, and the battle itself was to serve as a distraction so that Emma and Cloak would be free to find Xavier and so that Strange would be free to reason with Wanda. If Magneto was essentially the king of the world, not to mention one of the most powerful mutants in the world, don't you think they would need to employ blitzkrieg tactics at a relatively open event if they wanted any hope of having access to the House of M? Magneto would have had extensive security measures in place around his family at all times, which meant that anyone who tried to sneak onto the island would have been detected without something to draw the attention of his security forces.
Posted by JoseDRiveraTCR7
@SC: Can I get a link to Joe Casey's rant?
Posted by biggkeem89

Cyclops went from leader of the X-Men to the leader of the entire mutant race. Of course he has to make tough, sometimes heartless decisions for the good of the species. To quote Mr. Spock: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." The guy's not a jerk, he's a leader that has to keep the lives of his people safe. He reminds me a lot of Cao Cao from Romance of the Three Kingdoms/Dynasty Warriors. Give the man a break

Posted by pixelized

@HexThis said:

What eludes me is why accepting everyone has been about it. The guy was a field leader, a general but civil rights movements like the mutant right have to be headed by ideology and when it comes to compassion and civility Scott is an idiot.

THIS!

I distinctly remember Scott and company confronting Xavier about his actions regarding how he began treating his students. X started viewing his "youngsters" as soldiers and made too many off the cusp decisions to be trusted, yet here we are with Scott and no one cares. Storm needs to raise some hail.

God that was clever.

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Posted by Mercy_

Being the leader of a race on the brink of extinction requires making tough decisions. Decisions that may not make you popular, but that are for the better good. That's what's happened.

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Posted by Ferro Vida
@biggkeem89: If one focuses on the good of the few instead of the good of the whole, then the whole will eventually wither and die, and the few will die with it.
Posted by JoseDRiveraTCR7
@pixelized: I don't think no one cares. In fact, a lot of people are complaining and it looks like there's going to be an event where the X-Men become split on the issue. My question is if this was Wolverine would this many people be complaining?
Posted by Trodorne
@SleepyDrug said:


Cyclops has unquestionably lost his heart.  He is totally ruthless in team decisions.  He cheated on his wife with Emma Frost

He is no longer worthy of being the guardian of Xavier's dream.

Okay first of all Jean was not as faithful to him. She was getting freaky with Wolverine or did everyone forget that?

  Second, Cyclops has done what he has needed to do in order to protect less then 200 mutants that are still left in the world. would you just let regular humans hunt you down and try to restrict everything you do because they fear your powers?
Posted by stepford

Emma ruined him

Posted by ssejllenrad
@Ferro Vida said:
I've been a big Scott Summers fan for years now. I have followed the growth of him as a character, and for someone who read his progression in chronological order (seeing his reaction to Thunderbird's death before seeing him reforming X-Force, and everything he experienced in between), I feel that Cyclops today has learned that sometimes death is unavoidable, that if you try to save all of the people then you will only end up killing all of the people, and that when ruthless tactics are well used (when they are used out of nececssity), they can be forgiven over time.

It is fair to say that he was using X-23 as a tool, but that is exactly what she was designed to be. It is the only life she knows, and after everything she has been through I don't think it is fair to call her a fragile little girl. She had the skills and powers necessary for the job that he needed to be done. What else could he do? Send one of the other students? Have someone who didn't have that experience kill enemies of the mutant race?

And Cable knew exactly what risks were associated with the mission. All of X-Force did. He wouldn't have accepted it if he wasn't fully aware of them.

Scott Summers has suffered through a lot of crap. More than most characters have. And he has grown accordingly.
This I agree with!
Edited by pixelized

@JoseDRiveraTCR7 said:

@pixelized: I don't think no one cares. In fact, a lot of people are complaining and it looks like there's going to be an event where the X-Men become split on the issue. My question is if this was Wolverine would this many people be complaining?

Well yeah, obviously someone cares with Schism coming up, but there's been a general acceptance of it, like how quickly Storm got over her discovery of X-Force.

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