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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 Aeroman

You think the reason why he is a jerk has to do with him having the lamest power

Posted by ltbrd

I think this change of character in Scott is a good way of looking at just how much a person can truly take before they start to change and that the only way to prevent that change is to have someone to lean on. Of all the X-men (even to an certain degree Xavier), Scott has been the heart of the team and has believed the most in what they stand for and their mission. Even when crap was hitting the fan or Xavier was walking out on them Scott was there to keep everyone together. But, that was because he also had Jean there to back him up.


Who exactly does he have today? Emma Frost? As was already pointed out her morals are worse than just about anyone's and can anyone remember a story in which she actually comforted Scott in any way? I remember some of the comics recently where Emma was staying in her diamond form and Scott trying to comfort her but I don't remember it going the other way. How about Wolverine? He's definitely honorable and he'll fight for Scott but he's not exactly a person Scott will confide in or seek solace. That's just not Wolverine's character. Xavier? Scott's gone beyond running to him for help. Magneto? Scott doesn't even like him.

Not that I'm complaining at all about this change because I think it is a good move for the character. It will be interesting to see the writers completely break him down to his lowest point and then see what they come up with after that.
Posted by Hailinel

Cyclops.  Where other characters are heroes, anti-heroes, or villains, he is simply a dick.

Posted by Ferro Vida
@Aeroman
Posted by wingster

" Cyclops' first real dramatic change in character occurred after X-Men: The Search For Cyclops in which Cyclops was consumed by Apocalypse."


Parallax corrupted Scott Summers? Oh, wrong universe... Seriously, Marvel can revert Scott back to his former self with a "parallax" storyline.
Posted by God_Spawn

Scott finally grew some balls, you want to say Emma ruined fine, but with Jean he never would've reached his full potential. He's had to do to help his race survive and has more over his head than most other leaders. He's done a good job at it. As Ferro said, he has grown accordingly and that's the truth.

Moderator
Posted by longbowhunter

I for one hated Cyclops growing up. Its only now that I really like the character.
Posted by hulk_beyond

Give him back Jean, his kids (X-Man, Marvel Girl and maybe find a way to bring back Cable) and his brother(s) he might get better.. eventually.

Posted by Ferro Vida
@hulk_beyond said:
Give him back Jean, his kids (X-Man, Marvel Girl and maybe find a way to bring back Cable) and his brother(s) he might get better.. eventually.
Jean should really just stay dead, X-man is still alive, but I don't know where he is right now. If Havok and Rachel came back I think it might help him.
Posted by Darkmount1

.......I am getting really sick of the current depiction of Cyclops. He's now more like a comic version of Malcolm X than Magneto was. He's militant, serious, and dare I say it, ruthless. I'd say it was the fault of the unchecked trauma of being merged with Apocalypse for that brief amount of time, and he retained some of the immortal mutant's aggression. Scott nowadays even reminds me of a more antihero-esque version of the GI Joe villain Serpentor. So I'd say it's about time he stepped down and went to "find himself" for a while. 'Cause there is no way I am going to stand his tenure as X-Men leader any longer, unless the guys at Marvel finally bring him back to his senses.
Posted by SC
@JoseDRiveraTCR7 said:
@SC: Can I get a link to Joe Casey's rant?

Sure, PM sent. 

@The Dark Huntress said:
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.

Does it not annoy you though, that the reality is (reality as in creative decision making), that all other X-Characters including Cyclops former characterization, so Cyclops himself, are being sold out (sold out is my subjective choice of words, its of course a lot more complicated than that, but case in point, Xavier acting like a villain and suddenly incompetent, Magneto bowing, kneeling and acting humble all of a sudden, Emma being written like a bimbo, hardly any X-Men caring about X-Force and what they were doing and Cyclops being so staunch, about not killing, and verbally ripping to shreds those who used the same reasoning that he himself uses in last few years, so thats like a few characters), to create this idea and perception of this tough leader who makes tough decision, that are unpopular with some, but necessary to others? I mean, the writers get to decide what's better for the good, no matter the bits in-between. They could have Cyclops decide to declare war on clouds in the sky, and after Storm has cleared them all away the narrative could explain how he just saved mutant kind. Shifting clouds? Uh... okay... except so many of the objective decisions he has made are from a real life perspective rather flawed tactically speaking, but.. then again, thats the writers fault as well. Those students killed? Kurt's death? Improper use of Forge? All avoidable if the character really knew how to make tough decisions for the better good. 

Anyway, sorry. I just.. if there is one person in this thread that can convince me, of the positives that have happened to this character, its pretty much only you that can Dark Huntress lol Like I said before, I think they have made 'Cyclops' a more interesting character/protagonist, but he leaves a trail of bodies and stories, and creative decisions, and story plots under his wake. Your expanded opinions if you wish to share them, I value extremely highly though as well. 
Moderator
Posted by Xenozoic Shaman

At first Cyclops always seemed like such a teacher's pet.  He was always so straight-laced, and by the book.  It may be that he's lost a lot of that, but in exchange, he's become something of a jerk.  Perhaps it is necessary to carry them through these troubled times, but that doesn't mean we all have to like him.


In any case, whether it was realistic or not for him to change thusly, there are plenty of heart-hearted leaders out there, and it only adds to the realism in other ways by having some present in their group.
Posted by hulk_beyond
@Ferro Vida said:
@hulk_beyond said:
Give him back Jean, his kids (X-Man, Marvel Girl and maybe find a way to bring back Cable) and his brother(s) he might get better.. eventually.
Jean should really just stay dead, X-man is still alive, but I don't know where he is right now. If Havok and Rachel came back I think it might help him.
I dont really care whether she returns but shes been giving Scott a lot of messages lately and with her "kids" showing up again and the stuff with Hope signs point to a return.. but hey ive been wrong before.
Posted by Ferro Vida
@Darkmount1 said:
.......I am getting really sick of the current depiction of Cyclops. He's now more like a comic version of Malcolm X than Magneto was. He's militant, serious, and dare I say it, ruthless. I'd say it was the fault of the unchecked trauma of being merged with Apocalypse for that brief amount of time, and he retained some of the immortal mutant's aggression. Scott nowadays even reminds me of a more antihero-esque version of the GI Joe villain Serpentor. So I'd say it's about time he stepped down and went to "find himself" for a while. 'Cause there is no way I am going to stand his tenure as X-Men leader any longer, unless the guys at Marvel finally bring him back to his senses.
If you compare the Age of Apocalypse to Cyclops' tenure as leader of the X-men I THINK you will find a few differences. Apocalypse was ruthless for the sake of being ruthless. Cyclops is ruthless out of necessity.
Posted by fbdarkangel
@Hailinel said:
Cyclops.  Where other characters are heroes, anti-heroes, or villains, he is simply a dick.
amen, amen!
Posted by Captain13

 To paraphrase a quote from The Dark Knight, Cyclops is "not the hero [the mutant race] deserved but the hero [they] needed."

He's grown stronger, tougher, and shrewder because he's carrying the fate of the mutant world on his shoulders.

NONE of the X-Men are perfect. NONE. Cyclops just gets the most heat because he's the best and because he's in the limelight.

Edited by Icon

I think this article is a little unfair, and it's frankly disingenuous to judge a characters evolution when you admittedly have not been following along for most of it.  


As others have said, Scott is very much a leader who knows that sometimes (maybe most times) you have to put personal feelings aside when making difficult choices, especially in life or death situations. That he has the balls to take on the bulk of that burden (sparing others I might add) and carry on as well as he does given all the X-Men (and perhaps him in particular) have been through shows a lot of strength, not weakness.
Posted by SC
@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?

Personally, if this Emma Frost, Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler, or Storm... or Xavier... or Dani Moonstar.. (I am listing all my favorites lol) 

I personally would be complaining like a billion times more than I am now. If all this effort and time, with other characters characterization and books involved, were used and spent to develop them, my favorites in a way similar to Cyclops has had happened? Just yeah. Just to make them more interesting? A bigger name? Psst Just get better writers. Morrison was raising his awareness and popularity just by writing him each issue without so many of the drastic changes and creative decisions. Probably some writers who could have done that without putting him with Emma as well. Cyclops doesn't need other characters, but even Morrison being as acclaimed as he is, expressed that he needed a catalyst. 
Moderator
Posted by bunkerbuster05
@Captain13 said:
 To paraphrase a quote from The Dark Knight, Cyclops is "not the hero [the mutant race] deserved but the hero [they] needed."He's grown stronger, tougher, and shrewder because he's carrying the fate of the mutant world on his shoulders.NONE of the X-Men are perfect. NONE. Cyclops just gets the most heat because he's the best and because he's in the limelight.
I dig this answer a lot.
Posted by RedK

gota say as someonewho's hated the guy since the x-men animated show from the 90's, he's become alot more of an intresting character and someone i've started to like since Grant Morrison's run on the x-men, i think is is due to the fact that he's with Emma now instead of Jean

Posted by KJPPPimp

I love current Scott Summers, though I was kind of mad about the X-23 thing when I first read the issue. He's one of my favorite comic book characters because of the way he's grown over the years. He's been fighting a war for mutant rights and, more recently, their survival as a species since he was a teenager. He's seen good people die and seen what evil men are capable of, so it would only make since that by this point he would have changed from the bright-eyed (excuse the pun) teenager that believed in Xavier's dreams of hugs and kisses to a realist who knows he has to make tough decisions that not everyone will be happy about, especially after the revelations about some of Xavier's past decisions. It's not like he's a completely different character, he's still insecure and self-conscious just like when Stan Lee first created him but he's also a time-tested leader with his back against the wall most of the time; he doesn't have the luxury of getting everyone in Utopia to take a vote when a move needs to be made. He's made some cold decisions but without him sending Cable to the future with Hope, she wouldn't be alive today and without him creating X-Force, Bastion and his crew would have struck without warning. Not every reader likes it, and that's understandable, but if Marvel pulled a Parallax/ Brand New Day move on Cyke, I'd have to stop reading X-Men.

Posted by the_fallen11

scott is interesting now...no more boy scout. gotta do what ya gotta do to ensure the your people make it...i love it.

Posted by SC
@RedK said:
i think is is due to the fact that he's with Emma now instead of Jean

Sorry, this is not me making fun or your post/point, I agree with the sentiment by now I just can't stop thinking along the lines of... 

"Emma Frosts legs. Saving the mutant race since 1980" 0_0 lol
Moderator
Posted by lorex

Cyclops is not just a team leader anymore, he is responsible for the safety of virtually all Mutants and has to be be a bit heartless in his decisions. Even when he sent his son on a dangerous mission to the future knowing full well he might die. He doesn't have the luxury of getting all broken up and emotional because its all on him and there is no one else.

Posted by crusader8463

I too never liked Cyclops, but I must say that the idea of all those years of leading a team and having people under his command die finally taking a toll on him sounds cool. I picture him as the weary old company commander in the WW2 movies, that stops seeing his men as men and just people to get the job done, because it's the only way he can keep himself from going insane because he knows most of them are going to have to die to accomplish the mission.


Add's a depth to the character that makes him interesting to me if that's really how they are planning it. Kind of like a Nick Fury feel to it.
Posted by Newport1991

Well after losing his wife several times seeing his kids from the future like several times, and finding out he had a brother who he never really knew(vulcan), feeling betrayed rightfully so by Prof.X maybe he snapped he has a right i mean he was mister perfect for several years nobodies perfect.

Posted by Gaveedra7

I like how there is a defining moment for Scott's change with his time with Apocalypse. 
Also after reading "Second Coming" I really understand where Scott's new militaristic attitude is coming from. He is the de facto leader of an entire species that is not only dwindling but also actively being persecuted. He is doing everything he can to hold them together whether he likes it or not. What choice does he have? If he doesn't who steps up? Magneto? Namor? The other options are even worse than the blood that is on Scott's hands. That being said it would be nice to see Scott just breaking down in a few months with the weight of holding his heart inside and locked up.

Edited by Fantasgasmic

i hope Cyclops dies and Jean comes back to life to lead the team. I would LOVE if cyclops were to be dead for at least 3 years. And I don't want him to die some noble, heroic death, I want him to go out like a total jackass; disregarding the safety and welfare of everyone he claims to care about.
That… would be… AWESOME!


Edit- also acceptable: if he were to die crying like a little bitch.
Posted by Mr. Dead Pool

I must say a this point MAG-FREAKING-NETO would do a better job with leading the X-Men.

Posted by Ferro Vida
@Mr. Dead Pool: That would just give ammunition to every enemy the X-men ever had. If those anti-mutant politicians found out that a former terrorist was in charge of the mutants then they would receive a huge ground-swell of support.
Posted by monsterstudio

Anybody get the feeling he will get a whole lot darker. I don't know Hopefully
 
Posted by Mr. Dead Pool
@Ferro Vida: Maybe but it just shows how bad Cyclops is right now
Posted by Avenging-X-Bolt

i feel sorry for Scott deeply. its impossible to imagine the pressure on that poor man's shoulder.
Posted by Ferro Vida
@Mr. Dead Pool: Because you think Magneto would do better?

Who do you think would do better than Cyclops and why?
Posted by JonesDeini
@Ferro Vida
Bingo!!! The world has changed and he's changed in order to survive in it. He's playing the role of the bad guy so everybody else won't have to do it. If he didn't make the tough decisions he's had to make then I'm 99% certain we wouldn't be having this convo because they wouldn't have made it through Decimation/Messiah War/Second Coming. Sometimes you got do what works instead of what's "right". Sometimes the ends do justify the means. People on their moral high horse should consider if they in the same situation would've been willing to face down the laser of a nimrod unit secure in knowing that "Yeah I'm Dying...but by God I'm dying with honor!!!". As far as Scott organizing X-Force goes, yeah he did it, he made a black ops team to do what had to be done. So what? Me personally I have no issue with heroes killing so that isn't even an issue for me. And by the way, he didn't make Emma brainwash them into doing it, he didn't threaten their friends or families, he didn't  force their membership. They all had the option and right to say no. Hell the Thunderbolts are down right slavery by comparison. And to further my point, once the threat was addressed he DISBANDED THEM!!! But does anybody wag their finger at Logan for getting the band back together? No many of you laud it as the best X-Book on the market. I'm not even a Cyclops fan, in fact I used to HATE HIM SOOO MUCH!!! But he's become a far more interesting and complex character. I don't know what the rest of you have been reading Cuz I saw how every single decision has weighed on Scott and ate away at him. If it's one thing that Slim has in plenty it's guilt, hell his entire AoX experience reveals how he feels about himself. Basilisk was butcher of his own, despite all he's had to sacrifice for the sake of those around him, he still sees himself as a monster. Chuck's dream was just that, a dream. Magneto's war would benefit nobody. He's taken the best of both of their philosophies and made it into a realistic working model.     
Posted by Nighthunter

Fear Itself teaser - Cyclops
Posted by DeawonCDelaney

The world has changed and so has Scott Summers, I mean you look at him in the 90's yes he had compassion but he was also a pushover, a lapdog, who was two steps away from having Wolverine take Jean from him. Lets get to the big picture outside of the X-Men (I will not even go as far as to say the mutant community), nobody thought twice about Cyclops, now when they have those "Top Men" meetings I guarantee they are calling Cyclops now where the only thing he could done before is to make sure Xavier's wheelchair was packed properly.

Posted by Mr. Dead Pool
@Ferro Vida: One word: BEAST!!!!!! He's smart and has a waaaaaaaaay better conscience than Scott does at this point
Posted by JoseDRiveraTCR7
@Nighthunter: Just because the people at Marvel have interpreted Cyclops one way doesn't mean we have to.
Edited by Ferro Vida
@Mr. Dead Pool: And he bailed on the entire mutant species in their hour of need because he couldn't stomach some of the things Scott had done. I lost a lot of respect for him when he did that. So he didn't agree with what Scott had done; that's no excuse to abandon everyone who is counting on you. Beast is a scientist, not a soldier. He wouldn't be able to fight in a war. Hell, joining a Secret team of Avengers is about as morally dubious as he can get.

To say that Beast has a better conscience would insinuate that Scott doesn't know that some of the things he has done are ruthless and brutal. He does. He just can't afford to let that stop him.
Posted by JonesDeini
@Ferro Vida
He's going to be searching for Rachel soon in Legacy. I think the pages with them in 148 was really sweet and show's how he cares for his children no matter what reality they're from. 
Posted by Ferro Vida
@JonesDeini: I'm looking forward to her getting back into the main X-books. Havok too. He and Scott don't always see eye to eye, but there are times when you can tell that they really do care for each other.
Posted by fbdarkangel
@cattlebattle said:
Leave Cyclops Alone!!
  
Posted by ImperiousRix
@JoseDRiveraTCR7 said:
@Nighthunter: Just because the people at Marvel have interpreted Cyclops one way doesn't mean we have to.
True.  At the same time, though, the comparison is apt.  One of the main things that separated Cyke from Magneto, heck even from Xavier, was his compassion and the equality he put himself at with the people he was fighting for.

As time has gone on, however, Scott's become more callous and more of the "general" rather than the squad leader; more willing to send others in to do what he could/should be handling personally.
Posted by Aetheldod

Im not  a reader of x men , but I saw the 90 animated show and cyclops was a jerk and I hate him , Wolverine should kick his ass and be the head of the x men

Posted by Ferro Vida
@ImperiousRix: Sure he could do some of the things that he is sending other people to do. He has done a lot of it on other occasions in the past. But he isn't just heading up one team now. He needs to mastermind multiple operations, which means if he is injured in the field then his whole battle plan goes to Hell. And when the chips were down, when Bastion was attacking, he didn't run away. He stood and fought with all of the others because it was all he could do at that point.
Edited by Ferro Vida
Edited by Anodyne


As far as I'm concerned, Cyclops' first revealed the dark side of his character occurred" in Unanny #201, when he was more interested in clinging to his position of leadership than in bonding with his newborn son; and in X-Factor #1, when he ran out on his wife and baby without telling Madelyne the real reason he was leaving.  If he was too  poleaxed by the news of Jean's return to think clearly, how come he had the presence of mind not to tell Maddie what was going on?  Maybe Scott married Madelyne for the wrong reasons, but he did marry her.  He swore solemn vows and ignored them.  If he regretted the marriage, he should have asked for a divorce before leaving.  Maddie was entitled to honesty; if the truth was painful, she could at least have dealt with her anger before the demons got to her..  

 

If some of Cyclops' old friends are now questioning his behavior, it's about time.

Posted by The Devil Tiger
@ImperiousRix said:
 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.


This.