Art by Salvador Larroca and Frank D’Armata
- Name: Scott Summer
- Code Names: Cyclops
- First Appearance: X-Men #1 (September ’63)
- Powers: Optic Force Beams
- Teams Affiliation: X-Men, X-Factor
In his one-man show My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Mike Birbiglia describes his mania after being wrongfully found at fault in a car accident. After alienating his friends and family, Mike was left with just his girlfriend Jenny by his side, but the case had become all he could talk about. One night at dinner, after watching Mike frantically scribble his ideas about the case on a napkin, Jenny told him exactly what he needed to hear. “Mike, you’re right, but it’s only hurting you”. This broke Birbiglia, after months of trying to prove he was in the right, he realized, it didn’t matter. That’s the thing about the concept of right, being intellectually correct is different than making the best decision, and this is a concept I struggle with. I am an opinionated and intelligent individual, and I struggle to do the “wrong” thing when I know there is a better way. That’s why I related to Scott Summers so much, because just like him, I am right, but it isn’t doing a damn bit of good.
Portrayed by James Marsden, Tye Sheridan, and Tim Pocock (not pictured) in the X-Men film franchise
Scott Summers did not have the world’s best childhood. Scott was on a flight with his parents and little brother Alex, when the Shi’ar attacked. Major Christopher Summers knew they only had one parachute in their de Havilland Mosquito and did what any father would do. He strapped Alex and the parachute to Scott and pushed them to safety. The landing was rough but Scott escaped with just a concussion. Seeing his parents plane go up in flames, left a much deeper scar (but it isn’t as straightforward as that). The boys became wards of the state and were separated when Alex was adopted and Scott sent to an orphanage in Nebraska. His memory of the orphanage was blurry, maybe from the crash, but he had flashes of tests, experiments, something about the place was off. At sixteen he ran away and was soon found by Charles Xavier who had a plan for the boy.
Art by Jesse Delperdang, Andy Lanning, and Matt Hollingsworth
Xavier had an idea, a school where mutants could be safe, a place where they could learn to control their fantastic abilities, and Scott was to be his first student and leader. He struggled with leadership at first but his dedication to perfection proved to be an asset for the boy. He wanted to make sure that with everything he did, he was right. It was at the school Cyclops met the red-haired girl and the universe readjusted forever to her slight presence. He was in awe of her, intoxicated with her, and though it took some time, he began courting Miss Jean Grey and Scott would be bound by his love for her forever.
Art by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson
Scott led the X-Men on countless adventures, including saving Alex from a cult leader obsessed with Pharaohs, but none were as game-changing as Krakoa. The X-Men were captured by a living island, and Cyclops was the only one to escape. To save them, Xavier assembled an all-new, all-different team of X-Men who Scott commanded in the rescue mission. Cyclops took charge of these new mutants with the same aplomb he had done with the originals and found his leadership skills to be growing. These skills were tested on a mission in space when the X-Men’s reentry craft was damaged and Jean was the only one who could save them, at the cost of her own life. Scott tried to stop her, he couldn’t lose Jean, but she knocked him out with a psionic blast. He awoke screaming, only Colossus could hold him back, but it was too late. Jean’s last thoughts were of her Scott.
Art by Dave Cockrum and Bonnie Wilford
The vessel crashed into Jamaica Bay and Cyclops swam frantically to find her. The water bubbled, then erupted in a blast of waves and foam. A voice boomed “Hear me, X-Men! No longer and I the woman you knew! I am fire and life incarnate! Now and forever, I am Phoenix”! Scott should have listened, as he looked up as the red-haired woman, clad in green and gold. Instead he rushed toward Jean, content that she was alive again. Soon Jean was manipulated (which gets covered in greater detailed here) and lost control of these new abilities. The Phoenix went mad and destroyed the D’Bari sun, killing the galaxy (who, true believers, we eulogized here). Scott was able to connect with his lover, he calmed her down and allowed her to control the darkness that loomed inside her, but the damage was already done. The destruction of billions of lives was not something the Shi’ar could not tolerate. The captured Scott, Jean, and the other X-Men and sentenced Jean to trial by combat for her sins. Cyclops fought valiantly for her, when faced with certain demise, the two faced it together. He was left trembling when Jean confessed that she couldn’t control the Phoenix inside her and again, Cyclops had to watch helplessly as the only person in the world to understand him sacrificed herself for the greater good.
Art by John Byrne, Terry Austin, and Jim Novak
Scott wandered for a while after that, eventually making it to his grandparents in Anchorage, Alaska. There he met a pilot who worked for them, she wore a green jacket, gold scarf, and had fiery red hair. Scott couldn’t believe how much this Madelyne Pryor looked like Jean, even as he started courting her. Eventually, with Maddie, Scott came to terms that Jean was gone and he could move on. The two married and soon found themselves with child, but Scott found it hard to commit fully. He was being a half-hearted X-Man and a half-hearted husband, culminating in him missing the birth of his son, Nathan Christopher Charles (Dayspring Askani’son) Summers, for an X-Men mission he wasn’t even supposed to be on. Soon, Scott was confronted by Storm, who had developed as a leader in his absence. She challenged Cyclops to a duel for control of the X-Men, and Maddie made him promise that if he lost, he would leave the X-Men behind. Cyclops thought he would be able to defeat the depowered thief. He was wrong. Scott Summer retired from the X-Men and moved with his family back to Alaska, trying to live a normal life.
Art by Rick Leonardi, Whilce Portacio, and Glynis Oliver
For the man known as Cyclops, normal was never an option. He soon got a phone call from his old teammate Angel. Jean was alive again. He tried to rush out of the house without any explanation but Maddie stopped him. She told him just how tired she was of revolving their lives around the X-Men and gave him an ultimatum. Her or the X-Men. Scott got on the first plane to New York, leaving his wife and infant son without a word. He was overwhelmed seeing Jean again, babbling incoherently and keeping his new family a secret. Scott’s mind broke and he began wandering the streets of the city for days until his old friends found him. They told him they were reforming the original X-Men and they needed their leader. Wanting to go back to the only life he knew, Scott joined them in X-Factor, regressing to his teenage years.
Art by Jackson Guice, Josef Redinstein, and Petra Scotese
Months later, Cyclops finally came to his senses. He told Jean about Maddie and Nathan and decided to make contact with his erstwhile family. He called but no one answered, he asked around but no one even knew Maddie existed, he visited their home but found it empty. There isn’t a single word to describe the emotions Scott had when he saw Maddie on television with a message for him, she was sacrificing herself and begging him to find their missing son. Scott knew he could never fix how he ended their marriage, but he could do right by his son and enlisted Jean to help find him.
This journey led to the single most important man in the life of Cyclops, Nathaniel Essex, the mad geneticist known as Mr. Sinister. Scott learned the Sinister had become obsessed with his bloodline and manipulated the social services system to placing Scott in his orphanage where he experimented on the boy. Sinister had cloned Jean Grey and placed her in a position to marry Scott and bare his child. Scott had been manipulated for so long by this man who was now threatening Nathan and Jean, and he refused so see it go any further. He unleashed his rage, reducing Sinister to nothing but bone.
Art by Walter Simonson, Allen Milgrom, and Joe Rosen
After that inferno, Scott, Jean, and Nathan continued as a makeshift family, but it wasn’t long until Apocalypse captured the child and injected him with the techno-organic virus, slowly killing him. Cyclops had to make a horrible decision and sent Nathan into the future, where the virus could be contained. X-Factor soon rejoined the X-Men and Scott was home again. He and Jean finally married, and spent their honeymoon in Nathan’s future, raising the boy. Cyclops ensured that he would be there for his son, even if he made the wrong choice in the past.
Art by Andy Kubert, Matt Ryan, and Joe Rosas
Cyclops was given another opportunity to prove his worth as a father. Apocalypse captured Twelve mutants, including Scott, Jean, Cable (who was Nathan back from the future and now older than Scott), and X-Man (the Age of Apocalypse version of Nathan) in a plot for immortality. Apocalypse attempted to steal X-Man’s body, as the Egyptian mutant’s was burning out, but Cyclops couldn’t stand to see his potential son transformed into a shell for Apocalypse. He took his place and merged with En Sabah Nur. The other X-Men were able to defeat the abomination of Cyclops and Apocalypse, but Scott was missing after the conflict. Jean and Cable led a search for him and were able to purge the spirit of Apocalypse from him, however, the experience left a deep scar on Scott’s psyche.
Art by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Steve Oliff
After coming back, Scott began to grow distant from Jean. Out of anyone, she should have known the difficulty of life after sharing a body a malicious entity but he struggled to talk to her about the experience. His new teammate, Emma Frost, noticed this and was willing to listen. She was everything Jean wasn’t, and everything he needed. They started meeting for frequent therapy sessions. These began innocent enough, and Scott was unwilling to do anything physical, but the therapy turned into a psychic affair. Secrets, however, don’t last at the Xavier Institute and it wasn’t long before Jean discovered her husband’s infidelity. The psychic bond between Scott and Jean was such an important part of their relationship that perverting it was even worse to Jean than any physical affair. Scott ran away from his problem to get drunk at the Hellfire Club but events had started to take shape and Xorn’s plan was underway. Scott didn’t have any time to reconcile with his wife before Jean was killed.
Art by Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, and Dave McCaig
Standing at her grave, yet again, Scott contemplated leaving. The mutant race didn’t need him; others could take his place. He had just watched his second marriage fall apart because he screwed up, because he was wrong. He was haunted by her last words, “Live, Scott, live. All I ever did was die on you.” Could he even do that? Was his life, his mission worth it anymore? Emma tried to help him but he blamed her almost as much as he blamed himself. He had all the intention in the world of quitting, but the Phoenix had different ideas. In the White Hot room, outside of time and space, Jean saw what would become of the world if Scott gave up. She saw the Armageddon that would commence if he left the X-Men and she reached across the barriers of life and death to reassure her message to him. Live. And with Emma by his side, he returned to the Institute to lead the X-Men into the next generation.
Art by Salvador Larroca, Danny Miki, and UDON
They needed his leadership when M-Day occurred and depowered all but 198 of the world’s mutants. Cyclops turned from the leader of a school to the figurehead of the mutant race and quickly became jaded. Mutants were pushed to the brink of extinction and the world still hated and feared them. He felt isolated from everyone except Emma, no one else understood the pressure he faced. When the first mutant, Hope, was born after M-Day, he felt a renewed sense of purpose. Threats came from every side, with some seeing Hope as an evil to be eliminated and others seeing her as a tool to be used. In the end, Scott decided to send hope into the future with Cable. There he knew she would be safe and Cyclops prepared the mutant race for her return.
Cyclops began to take drastic steps towards the preserve and protect the mutant race. He enlisted Wolverine in the creation of a secret kill squad to deal with threats before they can hurt any mutant. If that wasn’t enough, he filled the team with young mutants like Wolfbane, Warpath, and most controversially, X-23. Logan was appalled that Scott would force Laura to become an assassin again, but for Cyclops, protecting the mutant race was more important than how he protected it.
Art by Clayton Crain
At the same time, the X-Men relocated the San Francisco, but Cyclops no longer trusted anyone but himself. Norman Osborn had taken control of SHIELD and was not thrilled with how brazen the mutant nation had become. He tried to assert his dominance on the X-Men, but Cyclops had other plans. The X-Man enlisted his brightest minds to raise Asteroid M from the bay and created a sovereign mutant nation known as Utopia. His inner circle began to grow as both Namor and Magneto fell in line with his leadership. However, many of the other X-Men questioned the company he kept. Beast was tortured by Osborn and felt betrayed that his friend didn’t come to his rescue. Nightcrawler was killed protecting Hope, recently returned from the future. Cyclops was even willing to sacrifice his own son on a suicide mission to protect Utopia. Some of his closest friends were terrified at how far Scott had strayed from Xavier’s dream.
Art by Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, and Justin Ponsor
Everything came to a head when Scott instructed the teenage mutant Oya to end an assault by Hellfire Club soldiers by any means necessary. After everything that had happened with Laura and X-Force, Wolverine was unwilling to see these students turned into soldiers. Soon the island of Utopia was under siege from a massive Sentinel and only the students were around to protect it. Cyclops was ready to use them as soldiers, after all, isn’t that what Xavier did to him? Wolverine saw it differently and threatened to destroy Utopia rather than see the children used like that. The two men were as stubborn as ever and it soon came to blows. They were able to save the island, but the division between the two tore the rest of the X-Men apart. Wolverine headed back to West Chester to establish the Jean Grey School taking many of the students and senior X-Men with him. In the wake of the schism, Cyclops doubled down on his convictions and created his Extinction Squad. They were a team of the strongest and most dangerous mutants around, his nuclear deterrent against the world that he no longer believed in.
Art by Carlos Pacheco, Cam Smith, and Frank D’Armata
This posturing would prove to make matters worse when the Phoenix Force approached Earth. Cyclops believed that it was coming for Hope, coming to breathe new life into the mutant race and he was willing to sacrifice anything to see that happen. He pushed Hope, pushed her past her limits, but she still didn’t feel ready. The Avengers had been monitoring the situation, knowing what happened when Jean lost control of the Phoenix, and they were terrified. Captain America marched to the shores of Utopia and demanded that Cyclops hand Hope over. Cyclops disagreed with conviction. Soon, an all-out war erupted between the Avengers and the X-Men, one Cyclops was determined to win. Hope ran, afraid of what might happen and the Avengers enacted their contingency plan. Iron Man tried destroying the Phoenix but instead split it into five parts. They passed over Hope and inhabited Magik, Colossus, Namor, Emma Frost, and Cyclops himself. The Phoenix Five had become akin to gods with the power to reshape the world for mutants.
Art by John Romita Jr, Scott Hanna, and Laura Martin
Scott Summers had spent the last few years trying to change the world and now he had to power to do it. No more war. No more hunger. No more Avengers. Trust the Phoenix Five. Do not question them. Enjoy the prosperity your gods had given you. He couldn’t understand why the Avengers were still trying the stop him. Yes, Namor had lost control, but Scott was stronger than that. Perhaps their treatment of prisoners had good too far, but that could be fixed. Yet, even against the gods, the Avengers made inroads. As each of the Five fell, their powers were split into the remaining avatars until only Emma and Scott remained. Cyclops attacked the Avengers in their hideout in K’un-Lun but he was rebuffed by Hope, who had aligned herself with the Avengers and he realized he needed more power. Even the other X-Men had turned against him, but it didn’t matter. Cyclops knew he was the only one who could save the mutant race, even if he had to save them from themselves.
Art by Adam Kubert, John Dell, and Laura Martin
The Avengers and X-Men, led by Charles Xavier confronted Cyclops on Utopia, but he cared little. His powers had grown so much that he and Emma were having a telepathic dinner as the world’s strongest heroes tried to take them down. In the physical world, the Avengers made progress in stopping the Phoenix powered Scott and in the realm of the mind Emma told him that she was having an affair with Namor. He struck her down and took the full Phoenix Force for himself. Xavier tried to talk some sense into his star pupil but Cyclops cared not to listen to anyone. He was right, why should their opinions matter? He struck Charles Xavier down and lost control. He was fire and life incarnate, now and forever, he was Phoenix.
Art by Olivier Coipel Mark Morales, and Laura Martin
A portion of the Phoenix Force was godly, the whole thing? He wondered how Jean contained it for so long. Time and place meant nothing to him, he simply was. Beast tried to stop him with his brain, Wolverine with his brawn, but they were like ants, no, less than ants. An ant can be a pest, a harmless annoyance. The X-Men, the Avengers, they were but bacteria. Everything was so small. The fighting continued on Earth, and yes Cyclops razed the planet to hold the army of heroes back, but it was just reflex. His mind elevated towards the White Hot Room, the home of the Phoenix, and he heard a voice, familiar but distant, silent but screaming. “You’re an idiot” it spoke with love and conceit. Perhaps it was the voice the brought him back down to Earth, perhaps it was a sucker punch from Hope, but it didn’t matter. The Phoenix Force left him for the red haired girl and Scott Summers closed his eyes knowing he was right. It was all about Hope.
Art by Dale Eaglesham and Matt Milla
When his eyes opened it was as a prisoner. The realization of what he had done weighed on Scott’s soul and the immediate lecture from Hank McCoy did little to help. But Beast let his secret slip, Hope was able to be a conduit for the Phoenix Force, and while it brought destruction, it also brought rebirth. Cyclops was right, and for the first time in years, mutants were back from the brink of extinction. It didn’t take long for Magneto to stage a rescue, but Scott left a message for the Wolverine. In a reverse of those years on Utopia, Wolverine could lead the next generation of mutants and Cyclops could protect them. He was still hated, still feared, and still standing.
Art by Dale Eaglesham and Matt Milla
With the new mutants came new anti-mutant sentiment, and Cyclops made sure to be there for every new member of the mutant race. He began recruiting for his new mutant revolution, calling his mutant brothers and sisters to join him against the rest of the world. Xavier was dead, and his dream with him, or so Cyclops thought, but this position did little to improve his standing with the rest of the X-Men. They saw him as a threat more dangerous than Magneto ever was and brazenly challenging the Avengers and SHIELD, didn’t help matters. Scott was getting reckless, he was putting innocent lives at risk, even if no one was killed. Not everyone stood against him, and after the Battle of the Atom, Kitty Pryde and the time-displaced original five X-Men (who were only brought into the future to show Scott what he had become) joined his side.
Art by Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend
The last will and testament of Charles Xavier was uncovered and its’ contents shocked the collected X-Men. The mutant revolutionary and killer of Charles Xavier was bequeathed the entirety of Xavier’s estate, the Jean Grey School included. Scott struggled to process what it would mean and walked out of the mansion without a word. Awaiting him was Tempus with a stern message, a version of him had died today because he was reckless and the only reason he was alive was because she fixed it. She told him to get his act together or be held accountable to her. Something finally clicked for Scott and he walked back in, signed the school over to Storm, and shut down his revolution.
Art by Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend
Emma, who had stood with him even if she couldn’t forgive him, demanded answers, what was this revolution? Cyclops told her, it was a threat, it was all they had left. They had tried integration, they tried isolation, they tried to be superheroes but nothing worked. Emma rebuffed, it didn’t matter if he was willing to go through with his threats, that in the end he would do the right thing, because everyone thought he was serious and that meant enough. Cyclops told all this to his brother Alex, and Christopher Summers’ boys had an idea. The revolution could take a new form as Cyclops led the mutant race to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to do, well, nothing. To show the world mutants could exist in peace, even if he had become the boogeyman that men like Graydon Creed and William Stryker had long warned about. He parleyed this into the creation of Nation X, a safe haven for mutants and the first step in fixing his relationship with the rest of his race.
Art by Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend
Warning! Everything after this point contains spoilers for Death of X, including issue #4 which came out today so you have no one to blame but yourself.
Art by Aaron Kuder and Morry Hollowell
Months later, Cyclops received a distress single from Muir Island. The Terrigen Mists, the holy chemical that was the catalyst to give Inhumans their abilities, had descended on the island and was causing the mutants there to become sick. He rallied a team to investigate and Cyclops began coughing when he landed, but that momentary discomfort was nothing compared to what he saw through the fog. Jamie Maddrox, hundreds of him, dead and dying. The sight was almost too much for him. They pressed further into the island but Cyclops’ head was light and his breathing heavy. He passed out and awoke hours later to a distraught Emma. He was unwilling to see his people face extinction yet again and began making preparations to halt the Mists.
Art by Aaron Kuder and Morry Hollowell
Cyclops had Storm lead a mutant evacuation of Madrid, the next major area in the Mists path, and began recruiting a different force with Emma at his side. Tensions rose when he broadcasted his warning about the Mists across the globe, and Madrid fell into chaos. The X-Men and Inhumans argued about the best course of action but Cyclops raised the stakes when he sent Magneto as back-up, and he did not come peacefully. Cyclops team moved to intercept the Mists and using the matter changing powers of Alchemy, they neutralized the threat of the Terrigen Mist. The gathered Inhumans took this as sacrilege and Cyclops defiantly, suicidally, faced them. He preached that no matter what they did to him, Cyclops told them that he represented something greater than himself. If they struck him down, he would become an idea, and ideas never die. King Black Bolt was more than willing to call that bet.
Art by Aaron Kuder, Jay Leisten, and Morry Hollowell
Alex Summers stood with Emma at Scott’s grave stunned and in disbelief. His brother had spent his entire life fighting, never giving up, why would he do something so careless now? He pressed Emma for the truth and she showed him just what she had done. When Cyclops passed out on Muir Island, he didn’t wake up. As breath left his body he told Emma not to let their work die, and she made sure Cyclops didn’t die in vain. She gave him immortality, made him a legend, it didn’t matter if he was vilified, he was an idea, and ideas never die.
Art by Aaron Kuder, Jay Leisten, and Morry Hollowell
Scott Summers has been in a ton of great stories. I could recommend Astonishing where he shows everyone why he is in charge or the Proteus arc where he throws coffee in Wolverine’s face but I want to talk about my favorite comic of all time. The event Avengers vs X-Men had some problems but everything was worth it for this fantastic tie in from Kerion Gillen. Uncanny X-Men #19 shows what happens when the man who thinks he has all the answers gets the power to execute his solutions. It is a glimpse into the mind of a god and it is perfectly paced to allow the reader to understand what’s happening while keeping very engaged. The moment you are done with this article you better get on Marvel Unlimited and read this issue.
Art by Luke Ross
Cyclops was defined by doing what he thought was right. He was obsessed with the strength of the mutant race, that he lost sight of the mutants that made the race up. His greatest weakness, his tunnel vision, was just his greatest strength, his passion, pushed too far. Make no mistake, the X-Gene survived because of Scott Summers, but the spirit of the X-Men, it survived in spite of him. He became the radical revolutionary, the terrorist, the villain. He worked towards the right outcome or his definition of it, but it is telling that his end goal was only accomplished when Hope stopped him. If Jean were alive, I expect she would say that same thing that Jenny told Mike, “You’re right, but it’s only hurting you.”
This was the best thing to happen to Scott Summers as a character. Him just being right is boring. Him being factually correct and making all the wrong choices because of that? Brilliant storytelling. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to love about Cyclops. I could write a whole article on his relationship with his father or his control issues and I didn’t even talk about those here. He is my favorite character in all of fiction, not because he was right, but because he was so broken and complex. No question that we have a new number 1 on the Xavier Files.
Cyclops was requested by me on account of it being the 1 year anniversary of starting this blog! Thank you to everyone who has been reading, it means the world and especially thanks for all the requests. I have a list stretching into May of 2018! If you want to cut to the front of the line, we have a Patreon if you want to support it and get a line cutting reward for just a $1 pledge. We just need $7 for me to start reviewing every X-Book each week. Oh and we also have exclusive physical items so check those out!
If you have a request just submit it at the bottom of this article and I will add it to the list!
Next week I talk about Surge. See you then!