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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 One_Eye

@Knightwraithe My thoughts exactly bro! There's SO much that I could elaborate on but a lot of folks have hit the nail on the coffin for me, thankfully! From Cykes doing what he's had to do in regards to being deemed a "boyscout",  the current state of mutants, and just the overall pressure; I like the current Scott Summers. I was even a fan of the guy during the 90's era cartoon. I read Essential X-Factor Vol. 1 just so that I could get a better read on his earlier ventures. And so when I read about how he jobbed out to Storm, all because Claremont couldn't decide what to do with the character; I get pretty infuriated about the ordeal. During the 80's Storm led the X-Men without ANY interference from neither Scott or Xavier and everyone seemed just fine with it, Wolverine was ever the distant, beer-swilling loner, and Magneto seemed to just be there. Now I'm now about to turn this into a bashing any character but to say that Scott's is heartless just seems pretty crass.
     I try to read the 90's comics but I can't read anything other than  Zero Tolerance and even then I don't remember Scott doing much aside from getting a bomb implanted in him. I've read countless opinions of people wanting the "old Scott" back but what much did he accomplish during his boyscott days? Now I'm not saying that he didn't accomplish anything but somebody tell me what notable stuff that he did, please! Regardless I still love the character even during his lesser days and will go as far as to say that he's my favorite Marvel character.
     To compare him to Captain America is like comparing apples to oranges as they're two totally different characters. Leaders? yes Strategist? Yes. Heroes,?Yes. Same teams and circumstances? no. The X-Men aren't your typical superhero team and it's important that they never have been as such what such they require a different approach. Could Captain America lead a team of individuals with radically different goals and  origins whom are persecuted on a daily basis? I don't know. I don't think anyone would unless it was to happen but to say it wouldn't be an adjustment is just foolhardy.
      I'm not going to say something as biased as "Scott's da greatest leader evah! He can beat anyone! Durpa durpa!"  But he's one the characters I've grown to both love and respect just because of his evolution. Aside from Hank Pym and Janet I haven't seen anyone else in Marvel develop as richly. Every character has to go through phases and it's quite possible that during those periods they may not be as likable and easy to follow. However, to me that just leaves the potential for growth.
     The X-Men is a book in which I want to like as many characters as possible but possibly due to writers, maybe it's just that I don't gravitate towards the characters who are cool by default, but it's just not easy in all honesty. Here's hoping that Schism is more than just "Civil War: Now With Mutants Flavor."

Posted by Havok80

I must say he is a dick yes, but I like it! He for a long long time kinda well sucked. He didn't have much of an identity and now he does. I look forward to Schism, seemingly there will be a fight between him and Wolverine. I hope Scott blows him in to pieces and then scatters them every where so there is no way he can ever come back to live, that's just my wish! But I think when Scott had the psychic affair on Jean that was the start of his spiral into the person he is today. He was always a wishy washy sap, Oh jean, Yes jean... It was pathetic, he is a man now, he has a lot of stress and I think he is acting as most men would. Stubborn, Pig Headed and sometimes heartless. I think he is and should be the true leader of the X-men. The idea of having Wolverine ever lead the X-men would seriously upset me, I might not read and I have been reading for 20 plus years and own thousands of books. I think he should kick the crap out of that little B**** Hope Summers, she is freaking annoying and so far a HUGE let down to the fans. I have a feeling Bishop was right in wanting to kill her, bc she is an idiot. However I am not to thrilled Slim sent his own son on a suicide mission to guide Hope through time, for him only to die at Bastions hands. But a good leader needs to make hard decisions, and he has had some tough ones. I also miss Havok ( hence the name ) very much, I know he is coming back, but it isn't soon enough in my mind. He needs to lead a team again, I am a fan of the Summers brothers! PS Bring back Vulcan for some cool story!

Posted by EpitomeofCool
@HexThis said:
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.


*applauds* QFT....cyclops really is a douche bag...
 

STORM FOR LEADER!

seconded...
Posted by ScarletGhost

I personally, think its time to turn Cyclops into a Villain.

Posted by Timandm

A leader often has to make hard decisions while ignoring how he might 'feel' about the decision or the outcome.
 
A ship's captain must think the passengers first, ship second, and crew third.  In a battle, if a captain must order a crewman to perform an action that will save the ship but cost the crewman his life, in order to save the ship, then THAT is the right decision.  It sucks to no ends, and yes it's sad and unfair, but it is the right decision.
 
With that in mind, Cyclops has simply grown into the leader of mutant kind...  I don't like cyclops character personally, but his ability to make the tough decisions without tearfully regretting said decisions is one of his good points...
 
What I don't like about Cyclops:
 
1: His hypocrisy.  The whole, 'X-Men don't kill' lie.  Get over it and tell the truth.
 
2: His belief that he has the right to be judge, juror, and executioner of all mutants  on earth.  He and Emma lock mutants in their 'Brig' without authority, without arrests, without trials, and without explanation.
 
3: His belief that he somehow OWNS Hope Summers and has the authority to dictate what she does with her life.
 
4:  His lie to and manipulation of King Namor.  He and Emma conspired to make Namor believe Emma had killed Sebastian Shaw so that Namor would join the X-Men.  What happens when THAT lie is exposed?
 
5:  His situational ethics...  Situational ethics always piss me off.  It's okay for X-Men to kill ONLY WHEN cyclops says it's okay...  It's okay to use brutal force ONLY WHEN cyclops says it's okay...It's okay to endanger civilian's ONLY WHEN cyclops says it's okay...  It's okay to ignore government authorities ONLY WHEN cyclops says it's okay...It's okay to desert your wife and child ONLY WHEN cyclops does it...
 
But, to be fair, I suppose all these flaws that Cyclops has makes him a more believable character.  Important leaders tend to be either loved or hated and he does fit that bill...

Posted by Scoobypuff

i'm sorry but the title of this article gets me mad..."leader to jerk" it s a loaded question...come on sara. if ur trying to pose a question to create conversation thats one thing but when reading this article i just felt that i was getting what ur personal opinion of the character is...now yes u had facts to support what u are saying but i think what u are really to do here is look at the reason of why he went from "boyscout to general" which is what u should have called it.
 
as for sending x force to the future and sacrificing cable...cable is a grown man who has fought in wars his whole life. he is a soldier, he knows that with victory come sacrifce as does everyone else in the x force. there are wave after wave of killer robots coming to kill not just u but everyone and thing u care about. wouldnt u do anything to stop them even if it meant losing ur life? if i'm cable and i know that by going on this mission it means saving the lives of my family and friends then i'm going!!! people look at that scene of scott sending x force to the future all wrong...it's not about one mans decision to risk the lives of a few men and women...it's about the decision of a few men and women to do the impossible, to do what it takes, to be heroes! oh and sara the resault of all this is not that "hope is left fatherless" it's cables daughter is still alive.
 
as for x23, yes cyclops did use her and there's no getting around it however did wolverine pull her off the team? wolverine brought her to the x men so she could learn to be a real person and start a new life? that is bullsh*t! knowing the history of a group u belong to like wolverine does, why would u bring her there to get away from violence? hmmm as a would-be father let me say i wanna take my clone/daughter away from the hard life of murder and mayhem and let me put her into a group with black op hit squads.mutants, monsters and robots trying to kill us on a weekly basis and into a well known public group that the general public fears and some who hate... and the father of the year award goes to...lol you may say that cyclops used x23 but he was up front about it unlike wolverine who if he really wanted to give x23 a chance at a "real life" would tell her to leave and never come back.
 
so now that i got that all off my chest let me say im hungry and mcdonalds breakfast is call my name.lol

Posted by KDarkholme

I used to like Cyclops but I dont anymore.
Posted by save.me.now

Scott just can't win. First, he was too much of a boyscout, not enough of a badass. Not like wolverine. Now, he's gone too far. He's too much of a hardass. Too cut-throat. Scary even. Getting on his case for the cable thing is a little ridiculous, considering what would have happened if he didn't send cable. It's either mutants have a strong leader who can make tough decisions for mutantkind or it's Days of Future Past. Those are pretty much the options on the table. I just think Scott's one of those characters that people love to hate.

Posted by SpidermanWins

I smiled when I read the title =)

Posted by nutzac4888

I just can't wait to see Scott break.  He was my favorite X character when I was a kid and I still enjoy his antics today.  I feel like he, as a character, is going to have to justify his actions to  someone along the way and he will finally snap under the pressure that has been placed on him for so long.  He will justify it not only to his fellow X-men, but also me as a reader.  Seeing him blow a hole in the moon or something along those lines would be interesting. 

Posted by none4romir

I agree that he's become more of a douche  now, nevertheless, I'm liking it.  
 
I thought it was funny when they keep addressing him as "General" - heartless army guy, yeah, gimme some of that, Scott's character just got deeper cause I'm sure he's weighing his options feeling regrets and stuff but he's trying to keep that stone cold persona.  
 
Anyways, I'm saying that because the way he talks to Sam Guthrie regarding leading New Mutants, it's like he's telling Cannonball never to make the mistakes he's done.  
 
I bet we'll see Scott reach his limits soon and just fall apart or explode or something... Nevertheless I still love this guy.

Posted by Antonio_Blackheart

i like him better now  when  he was a boy scout he was just  a bi!ch
Posted by Phoenix_Pulse

I use to like Cyclops in the past but now all recent versions of him have him being a real douche he maybe a cause of the schism

Posted by Dominic_Del_Toro

He got married, thats how..

Posted by Ebbm

*shrug* characters change. Considering was an idealistic young mutant in the first scan and considering what he's been through and what rests on his shoulders... I don't think it's that big of a leap to take.

Edited by mark5
@Ebbm said:

*shrug* characters change. Considering was an idealistic young mutant in the first scan and considering what he's been through and what rests on his shoulders... I don't think it's that big of a leap to take.

I agree, i like that he has evolved.
Posted by pijuyo
He's such a heartless asshole now, that even Magneto follows him blindly. 
 
I think that the mutant race needed a leader of that sort, but they should have picked another character for the job, and they should have left the traditional Cyclops intact as the mere leader of the X-Men.
Edited by LB70145

I am really torn when it comes to this topic. I like the awesome General Cyclops has become. But at the same time, he's turned into one of the most unlikeable characters. We'll see how he deals with Schism.

Posted by Osiris1428

Cyclops is a douche!!!!

Posted by One_Eye
@mark5 said:
@Ebbm said:

*shrug* characters change. Considering was an idealistic young mutant in the first scan and considering what he's been through and what rests on his shoulders... I don't think it's that big of a leap to take.

I agree, i like that he has evolved.
 
Same here. I think it's realistic that not everyone is going to likable 100% of the time.
Posted by Durakken

When the love of your life dies as much as Scott's does I'd bet you start being a jerk too

Posted by TheMess1428

Wait, so Hope is considered Scott's granddaughter?

Posted by Omega Ray Jay

I didn't really know the full extent of his change of character, although he is under pressure to safeguard a diminishing race some of his atcs are indeed very questionable.

Posted by xVikkix

he useed to be good now hes an azzhole! worst x-men character, period.  
 
@TheMess1428 said:

Wait, so Hope is considered Scott's granddaughter?
Scott is her grandfather, adoptive
Posted by fivestarga

What good is having a heart if you and your entire race is killed off? Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown people.
Posted by fivestarga
@Aetheldod
 
Well, I'll brief you since you don't read the comics. The jerk Cyclops saved the mutant race and has been leading them for years. Ten Wolverines couldn't have combined their brain power and done such a feat.
Posted by Drefan21

Well said fivestarga.

I find it kind of funny how people say Wolverine should stop Scott..... What gives Wolverine the right to judge Scott? Hater gonna hate.

Posted by fivestarga
@Drefan21
 
Exactly. Wolverine has become the John Cena of Marvel. I hate referencing WWE but I feel it's fitting.
Posted by Rudyftw

I always thought the TRUE Scott died when Jean did. How else are you gunna act when you're with a complete B**** like Emma Frost 24/7. TRUST ME, I WOULD KNOW! B***** girlfriends drain all your emotion and humanity like a succubus.

*cough* Issues *cough*

Posted by Underwaterlad

I'm a huge fan of Cyclops' character development. I think a theme that is constantly running in the background of X-Men is the effects of the constant weight of leadership and responsibility. We saw it with Xavier back when he called the shots: initially he seemed calm, collected, and in control. Only later do we find out the decisions he made in order to keep the team together. He didn't make mistakes like Scott did; Xavier made calculated, morally-grey decisions that, in retrospect, are actions akin to that of a villain. And when it comes to Scott Summers, it's clear that he has started down that path, perhaps suggesting that this evolution is inevitable for someone with the weight of an entire race on their shoulders.

Sure, it's a big departure from the Cyclops we used to know, but it's clear that this is a natural evolution. Maybe we will see a change in the near future, maybe we wont. The fallout from Scott's reckless decision to use Oya as a fail safe in Schism could be the catalyst that causes him change his ways, or maybe he will continue down the same path and turn into a control freak like Xavier. Honestly, I'm hoping for the latter.

Edited by Drefan21

First they say Scott is a boring boy scout now he is a jerk,,,,He can´t win people will hate him. They always assume the worst of him. Some people were Scott was at fault before even reading Shism!?!