By Ben Morse
This July, X-MEN: SCHISM kicks off a startling metamorphosis in the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe that will split the Children of the Atom and lead to ReGenesis in the fall along with two new ongoing series, each featuring it’s own distinctive team: UNCANNY X-MEN and WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN.
With change in the air, here on Marvel.com we’ll be regularly gathering the creators and editors responsible for guiding the X-Men’s destiny to dissect each of their charges to examine what makes them tick and perhaps lend some insight into where they will find themselves once the Schism ends and the new Genesis gets underway.
This week, we start Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, a founding member of the X-Men, the team’s most tenured team leader, and the current custodian of the mutant race.
How would you describe the core of Cyclops and what is most important to Scott Summers?
Kieron Gillen (writer of UNCANNY X-MEN): Responsibility, duty and necessity.
Rick Remender (writer of UNCANNY X-FORCE): He’s the eldest son. The weight of the world is on his shoulders. He’s had to stand up and carry the weight of the family as the world conspired against it. He’s Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” taking up the mantle when father is ill. It is hard for him, Scott’s always been self-serious, but I think the events of the past few years [have] turned [him] into an entirely different person.
Victor Gischler (writer of X-MEN): Duty and obligation are at his core, I think. Every day the guy feels the weight of his responsibility to lead mutantkind and make tough decisions, decisions those closest to him often question. It's not a job, I'd want, that's for damn sure.
Jason Aaron (upcoming writer of X-MEN: SCHISM and WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN): He's the ultimate general, who has trained his entire life for just this moment. And what's important to him is quite simply the future of mutantkind, a future that has never been more in doubt than it has these last few years.
Nick Lowe (X-Men Senior Editor): Cyclops at his core is a man of duty. He takes responsibility for himself and for those around him and anything else falls to the background. Every minute he spends not doing his duty feels like a minute wasted, no matter how hard he tries to fight it at times.
Mike Carey (writer of X-MEN LEGACY): I see Cyclops as someone who came to huge responsibility very early in his life, and didn't break. But the way you keep from breaking in a situation like that is by taking all the tortuous weight into yourself; so total control on the outside, most of the time, [but] deep fracturing that nobody sees. Yes, everybody probably does have a black bug room, but Scott's bugs were big!
What is Cyclops’ view of how the mutant race should conduct itself moving forward?
Lowe: I think Cyclops would find this subject irrelevant until he feels that they are more secure as a species. Until he thinks there is some safety to be had for his species, everything else is noise. In an ideal world, he still believes in Xavier’s view: mutants and humans living as one society. Heck, the times when he has left the X-Men in the past, his life was a monument to this, living amongst humans quite well.
Gischler: Some might think Scott a little too hardcore. There are so few mutants, that each one is precious—but also a valuable weapon.
Gillen: The mutant race doesn't have the luxury of acting in a way other than being the mutant race. You should help the world. You should be better. But, fundamentally, we have to make sure there's still a mutant race tomorrow—and that's far from certain.
The question and the conflict is that now we're abstractly in "peace-time" after the triumphs of Second Coming, how much should we still stick to that hard-line? Are we meant to act like we're at a war together? Or should we start actually trying to live as well as survive?
Aaron: Cyclops has drawn his line in the sand on Utopia and will do whatever it takes to make his stand there. He feels that if mutants run again, then they will always be running.
Carey: There's a paradox here, in that he's still sold on the same integrationist model that Professor X pursued for so long, and yet he's lead the X-Men into a redoubt, a fortress—isolated them, in effect. But that's a response to an extreme situation and maybe this is where we start to see the fracturing. He's not leading a nation, despite the recent uses of that word: he's leading a very small number of mutants and trying to keep them alive and keep them together against longer and longer odds. That's led him into some contradictory and maybe indefensible positions, but I defy anyone to find an easy right answer, a solution to all the problems that currently face mutantkind.
Remender: Scott’s number one priority is survival. I see Scott as being more pragmatic than any of the other [X-Men] at this point in time. Pragmatism can lead to cold calculated decisions. It’s easy for those mired in ideology to judge, but Scott’s kept the family intact. And you can’t argue with results.
The other side of the coin is ideology, the dream, the way you would like things to be. There [are] a number of characters in the current X-Men family that are holding on tightly to the sunny days of the past in hopes that there can be softer resolution to the problems they now face.
Why is Cyclops uniquely qualified to lead the X-Men and by extension the mutant race? How has Cyclops gained and earned the acceptance and respect of his peers?
Carey: He's not. He's just the guy who stepped up to the plate. And let's not forget that he has a team behind him: he's first among equals.
I guess, by leading them through one massive crisis after another and always having a response, a strategy [he has earned their respect]. He's been tested again and again and he's never cracked, never faltered or stopped moving. That's a hell of a gift.
Remender: Because of his focused ambition; in that single-mindedness, that almost fanatical fixation with the task that he is been born and bred to take on. Failure is not an option in Scott’s mind. He’s worked too hard and too long and taken on this responsibility. There is also a somewhat narcissistic side: when it’s on you when you’re the one who has to carry the weight, it’s more than just the lives of the people you’re protecting on the line—your competency is on the line.
He has not relented in the face of incredible opposition. He has sacrificed aspects of his own ideology in return for the safety of his family. The sacrifices take him steps away from his former self—that isn’t an easy decision for him—but it is the one that he feels he must make.
Gischler: Hey, the guy has been there from the start. He's paid his dues and proven he can hang in even the toughest situations. Nothing succeeds like success, they say. So that's how Cyclops has proven himself. Yes, there have been bumps in the road, but few would dispute his success as a leader.
Gillen: I'm going to state the obvious twice over: He's been doing it for a long time. And he's earned the acceptance and respect of his peers for doing it for a long time. He's been trained for as long as he could train to do it, and he's done it in some of the most extreme situations imaginable.
With post-House-of-M, with Utopia, with things as dark as they've been for the X-Men, he's helped the mutant race survive. When Hope came back and mutants started being born, his arguably strangest beliefs have been proven correct. Even from those who'd question his methods—and whether methods are correct has lain at the heart of the book for the last few years—can't really question the results. Mutants remain here today. There will be more tomorrow. And Scott has all that on his CV.
To choose two impressive examples: the Professor and Magneto. Neither of them united the mutant race. Both of them wanted to do it. Cyclops did. They can't help but respect that.
Lowe: I remember being truly moved in college when we were reading Plato’s “Republic” and he discusses that one of the key traits of a leader is that they don’t want to be a leader. It isn’t a desire or an ambition thing. It is that their skills are needed and they have a duty to do. That is Cyclops. He gained the respect of his peers when he stepped up and took the leadership and made tough decisions to back it up.
Aaron: I wouldn't say he's "uniquely" qualified. Neither would Wolverine, judging by the events of Schism.
For years Scott Summers was held back by insecurity and self-doubt—how did he overcome it? Is it still there beneath the surface?
Carey: I don't think something like that ever goes away, so my answer would be yes. Probably he doesn't directly acknowledge it much any more. It's been a long time since he's had much leisure for introspection, and even if he did, he's in a situation now where confessing any doubts or insecurities might have disastrous consequences in itself. But the deeper you push the inner voices, the more damage they can do; if they are there, they're working away at the roots of his personality now.
And the thing about self-doubt, too, is that it's not susceptible to evidence. You can be a Nobel Prize winner with fame, wealth and adoration and the world at your feet and still not feel secure with any of it.
Remender: Trial by fire. I think everybody deals with insecurity and self-doubt, those who don’t tend to be to egotistical and headstrong, bad traits for a leader when the storm comes. In Scott you have somebody who has been preparing and working his entire life to serve his family, but he was never arrogant about his ability to do it. He was willing to be flexible in regards to a once rigid adherence to Xavier’s dream.
I believe it’s there beneath the surface for all thinking people. True egotism, however, people who speak of themselves in the third person, or completely buy into their own manufactured hype, it’s normally just a wall built around them to protect the quivering mass of insecurity within. It’s overcompensation for the insecurity that turns into something inversely ugly. All real life villains follow some variation on this path.
Gillen: Practice, I dare say. He's had to deal with it because if he didn't, he wouldn't be able to do his job—and not being able to do his job right is the thing that haunts Scott. In fact, he's ended up using self-doubt and insecurity as a fuel. Look at how Scott plans and worries; his plans are so thought out because he can't and won't let it go. Fear that he may be wrong makes Scott make sure that he rarely is. Using your negative traits for fuel strikes me as an X-Men-y thing.
But it lurks. It lurks for everyone, but with Scott it's very much the big red buttons which you can press. Actually, considering that he's spent most of his adult life knowing someone hanging around is trying to get in the pants of his better half—Jean and Logan, Emma and Namor—I think he does fairly well on the security front. If a perfect-physique ruler-of-a-country who spends his life walking around in Speedos kept on flirting with my missus, I dare say I'd be a damn sight more insecure than Scott is.
How did the death of Jean Grey and his subsequent romance with Emma Frost shape Scott into who he is today?
Gischler: How does it shape anyone? We learn, adapt. A little chunk inside of us gets a little bit tougher for next time.
Remender: The transformation that took place between the two relationships can be summed up as simply the path from boyhood to manhood. He let go of the girl he pined for as a young man, the familiar, and allowed himself to grab for what he wanted as an adult, the unfamiliar. He uprooted his life in an attempt to be more true to himself and happy, I think that’s a sign of character growth.
Lowe: The death of anyone close to you is incredibly shapeable. He carries baggage from it. But the relationship with Emma helped free him in a lot of ways, helping acquire the confidence that has helped him step up.
Gillen: They're two powerful, independent and extremely different women. To love and lose anyone changes you. He's dealt with grief twice over with Jean, so the awareness of loss is important. He knows what it's like to lose someone in tragic situations, which colors his experience with Emma more than a little.
And part of me suspects that knowing that he can survive even something that horrific makes him know that he won't break—which is a hell of a thing to know about yourself.
Aaron: I think Jean's death freed Scott to finally become his own man; to fully step out from behind the shadow of Xavier and to forge his own path for the X-Men. And Emma has really been the rock at his side. They are, without a doubt, my favorite couple in comics.
Carey: I think his relationship with Emma was a turning point for him, and probably pivotal in changing the way he views himself and his role in the X-Men. For so long, his entire life was about unattainable ideals: idealized love, idealized comradeship, selfless altruism in trying to serve the world. Betraying Jean with Emma was surrender to the human. Personally I view that as a survival tactic. He was headed for self-immolation, for martyrdom of some kind, and he brought himself down into the world. He admitted that he was just a fallible guy in the one arena where he was allowed to fail.
Is Xavier still Scott's primary role model? Are there others who have shaped his development?
Lowe: One of the things we’ve been trying to illustrate is how Xavier shaped him and also how Magneto shaped him. Those two always had the most succinct philosophies and strategies that Scott analyzed. He gleaned his own philosophy from both of those primarily.
Gillen: Xavier certainly was his role model. I'm not entirely sure he is any more. Scott has graduated. In fact, generally speaking, I don't think Scott has role models. He has plenty of people he admires; part of being the tactician that Scott is about weaponizing his ability to see the best traits in people. He at least admires some things in people which he knows will never be in him, which is the ability to like something without thinking it's ever going to be something he's going to be himself.
Aaron: Scott has really moved beyond Xavier's teachings. He's moved beyond the whole Xavier vs Magneto argument that once dominated the X-verse. He's charting his own course at this point.
Carey: Xavier is still a huge influence, despite Scott now seeing his failings and his inner contradictions. You know that moment in “X-Men: First Class” where Magneto says "I am Frankenstein's monster, and I'm here to find the man who made me"? I think Scott is Charles's monster—his biggest success and his biggest failure, all rolled into one.
Who else would Cyclops trust to lead the X-Men besides him? Who would he willingly follow?
Lowe: He trusts a lot of his X-Men and were he not around, he’d think the X-Men in good hands. But right now, no one else can do a better job than him, in his opinion. This is not a prideful outlook. He sees it as the facts.
Carey: Tough question. I think he'd trust the people he's known for longest: Hank, Bobby, Warren. I think he'd trust Emma. I'd suggest he would also trust Cannonball, although in light of Age of X, I would say that, wouldn't I?
But "who would he willingly follow" is a different question. When Storm beat him in the leadership contest [in UNCANNY X-MEN #201], his first response, right out of the gate, was "There's no place for me here." Great leaders seldom make willing followers.
Aaron: Hope perhaps, if she were ever to ascend to that point. Scott believes in her as much as anyone.
Gischler: I would hope Storm. I've always felt she had top-notch leadership qualities.
Gillen: If Scott was dead? There's a short list. In more traditional situations from the X-Men's history, it's a longer list. That's about being a good squad leader, and there [are] a lot of X-Men who could pull that off. But in terms of leading the mutant people and the almost-nation-state of Utopia, it's a bigger gig. He'd trust Emma, but knows that the X-Men as a group wouldn't follow her. He knows that the X-Men as a group would follow Storm, but he also knows that her morals wouldn't have made the hard decisions that got them through Second Coming.
"What if it's not Peace-time?" is a question that haunts Scott. What if it gets really bad again? Because if his life has taught him anything, it’s that for mutants it always gets bad again. In an ideal world, he'd want someone like Storm in peace-time and Magneto in war-time, ideally blended into one to take off the "worst" excesses of both of them.
Who would he willingly follow? In traditional X-Men situations, a lot of people. Right now? If another leader of Utopia emerged, he'd have no choice but to follow them. This is about the mutant race. He would never abandon the mutant race, no matter what. This isn't about him.
But I suspect the experience would drive him mad.
Remender: At this stage in the game I don’t think [he] would trust it to anyone. I think Scott has so immersed himself in the role as head of the X-Men I can’t imagine that he would hand over the reins to anybody at this stage, given the danger his family faces.
X-MEN: SCHISM #1 hits stores July 13, ReGenesis commences this fall, and the X-Perts reconvene soon right here on Marvel.com! And be sure to visit our X-Men: Schism event page!