He’s been a leader and a revolutionary, a husband and a father, a hero and a villain–He’s Cyclops, the first X-Man. The many roles Scott Summers has played since his debut in 1963 have made him one of the X-Men and comics’ most complex characters. In honor of Slim’s full-fledged return from the dead in this week’s Uncanny X-Men Annual #1, AiPT! is proud to present: CYCLOPS WEEK!
Scott Summers had it bad for Jean Grey the first moment he laid his eyes on her. On Page 8 of The X-Men #1, Professor Charles Xavier calls his male students to a window of the mansion so that they can observe their next member arriving at their door. Cyclops, Angel, and the Beast nearly collide through the frame to get a good ogle while Iceman retreats into his “No Girls Allowed” adolescence. As Jean steps out from the cab, Scott exclaims, “Wow! She’s a real living doll!” which is immediately followed by equally lustful proclamations from Warren and Hank. The race was for her heart was on, but the melancholy boy scout would eventually be the one to stake a claim.
The Comic Book Couples Counseling podcast was born from this brief encounter that would snowball into a decades-long, doubt-filled courtship challenged by death, resurrection, marriage, a time-traveling honeymoon, psychic betrayal, another death, another resurrection, another death, and another resurrection. In the 55 years since their creation, the characters passed through the minds of dozens of creators. We tend to remember Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Len Wein, Dave Cockrum, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, and Joss Whedon but we rarely consider the impact of Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Bob Layton, Jackson “Butch” Guice, Scott Lobdell, Louise Simonson, and dozens more.
Well, maybe some of you do–high five to you rad folks. We’re sure there are even a few champions of Fabian Nicieza and Steven T. Seagle out there. The point is that these characters we love so much went through a creative meat grinder and it’s a miracle they came out the other side, not as hamburger mush, but as a well-sizzled, if seriously tenderized steak. The Scott Summers and Jean Grey who are about to collide into each other in Matthew Rosenberg’s Uncanny X-Men basically behave emotionally like the teenagers they were way back in The X-Men #1, and a desire to chart that course is what launched our podcast.
2019 marks the 10th year of our marriage. We were looking to celebrate beyond the expected gifts of tin and aluminum (um, yeah, who decided those boring metals represent a decade of romance?). Forget tradition. We’re millennials (or at least one of us is by the skin of her teeth), so we’re commemorating this personally epic year by tag-teaming on a new podcast venture. The goal is to explore our relationship through the prism of our favorite comic book couples, and there was no better place to start than the first twosome that we engaged with as readers.
Now, we are no experts on love by any means. There are no Ph.D.s at the end of our names. We’re just killing it every day and night, and we have a microphone and a machine to trap our voice. To aid in our romantic discussion, we reached out to a supposed expert that at least has made a financial killing by putting his words on paper. Whatever reaches The New York Times Bestseller list must be of some quality, right? Using that logic, we landed on Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages as our conversational tool.
Chapman’s theory is based on the idea that initial romantic love fades. When you first meet someone and fall in love, a rush of endorphins strikes you. However, that cloud-nine feeling typically dissipates after marriage, and that’s when couples end up on the rocks. After that point, Chapman submits that love has to be a choice, and love has to be an action that you commit every day to maintain the marriage.
He claims that each of us operates under a specific Love Language, and you must understand your language as well as your partner’s Love Language to function successfully as a couple.
The Five Love Languages are:
1) Receiving Gifts – presents as a sign of affection
2) Quality Time – sitting together, talking, and feeling understood
3) Words of Affirmation – compliments, praise, saying “I love you”
4) Acts of Service – doing good deeds for your spouse, having your spouse do good deeds for you
5) Physical Touch – sexy time, hugs, kisses, holding hands, etc.
Every person has inside of them a Love Tank that is longing to be full, and the way that is achieved is by having someone speak to you in your Love Language. When someone’s Love Tank is empty, they tend to act sad, they can feel needy, and sometimes they lash out. If you read all of this and cry “B.S.” or roll your eyes, we understand. Chapman is a not a guru for everyone, and if you listen to our first episode, he is not a man we’re necessarily willing to support wholly. There is a seedy underbelly to The Five Love Languages that we don’t have the space to go into here, and yes, that’s just a cheap plug to encourage you to seek out our podcast.
For our purposes, The Five Love Languages acts as a means to measure the consistency of Scott Summers and Jean Grey’s character. We launched our show by applying Gary Chapman’s theories to four separate story arcs: “The Dark Phoenix Saga“ by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, the first six issues of X-Factor by Bob Layton, Louise Simonson, and Jackson “Butch” Guice, The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix by Scott Lobdell and Gene Ha, and New X-Men Ultimate Collection Vol. 2 by Grant Morrison and a variety of artists. Why those four random arcs? Cuz they held significance in our memory and nothing more.
In “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” it seems pretty apparent from the jump that Scott’s Love Language is Acts of Service. A lot of his relationship issues with Jean stem from her possession by the Phoenix Force; she is so powerful that she no longer needs his help in a scuffle. He is confused to the nature of the Phoenix Force and is suffering from a sense of inadequacy. That is compounded by Professor X’s recent return and his critique of Scott’s leadership abilities. Cyclops needs a pat on the back, and he needs a “good boy” desperately.
Jean’s primary Love Language is Quality Time with a minor in Physical Touch. Whenever she has an opportunity, she wants to be held by Scott, but since they work in a group dynamic with the X-Men, her Love Tank concerning both Quality Time and Physical Touch is empty. They rarely have a moment alone together. Scott and Jean have to escape to unreachable buttes for a make-out session, and even in that instance, they have to kick Angel to the ground floor.
The Phoenix Force allows Jean to get a lot done for herself. She does not need Acts of Service, she does not need Gifts (she can manifest whatever she wants out of thin air), but Quality Time and Physical Touch are things she cannot do for herself. Those are also the Love Languages that are exploited by the evil Mastermind; he can give her both Quality Time and Physical Touch in the time slip reality he’s concocted around her. Through exploitation of the Love Languages, she is manipulated to fall for the bad guy, and the emotional torture shatters her mental stability allowing for the birth of the Dark Phoenix.
In publication history, let’s jump ahead six years to the launch of the X-Men spin-off title, X-Factor. Bob Layton was eager to reunite the original core mutants, but to do so would require a massive editorial mandate, the resurrection of Jean Grey, and the disbanding of Scott’s marriage to Madelyne Pryor. The decision to reunite the original X-couple would send shockwaves through continuity that we’re still grappling with today, and we’d need another 2,000 words just to properly vent the complicated feelings we have surrounding the narrative fallout.
What’s fascinating is how the Love Languages of both Scott and Jean carry over those six years as well as Claremont and Layton’s differing vision. In learning that his psychic rapport with Phoenix was with an entity that replaced the physical body of Jean Grey (this has all been retconned, of course – see Generations: Phoenix), Scott retreats further into himself, building emotional barriers between his teammates and family. The only time he breaks from his moody withdrawal is when he’s leading the charge into battle, rescuing late-blooming mutant Rusty Collins from the clutches of a hateful military, and hearing Angel’s compliments of his tactical leadership. Gotta love those Acts of Service, Cyke.
Meanwhile, Jean Grey is in a constant search for Quality Time and Physical Touch from Scott. He cannot bring himself to reveal his marital status to his old girlfriend, finding ways to distance himself from her through work, but she is attacking him head-on with pleas of “We need to talk.” While his response is to get snappy or to lockdown in a silent brood, Jean decides to move on. Believing that Scott cannot possibly love her after loving the Phoenix entity, Jean also throws herself into the mission, pushing X-Factor into an educational center for Rusty Collins and newbie Leech.
Scott and Jean would not be allowed to embrace each other until Louise Simonson replaced Layton on issue 6, and immediately went to work unveiling the dark influence of Apocalypse and the diabolical machinations of Mr. Sinister. Madelyne Pryor could not remain; The Goblin Queen was the only answer to eradicating the cheating heart of Scott Summers.
The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix represents the one arc in our series that truly highlighted a unified romance between Scott and Jean. Pulled 2,000 years into the future by their alternate reality daughter Rachel Summers, Scott and Jean spend their honeymoon acting as true parents to Nathan Dayspring (a.k.a. Nathan Christopher Charles Summers a.k.a. the boy who will be Cable). Without the distraction of the rest of the X-Men, the rechristened Slym and Redd are free to enjoy as much Quality Time, Physical Touch, and Acts of Service as they can provide each other. Sure, there are Apocalyptic forces constantly on their hide, and the world’s end appears a near certainty, but Slym and Redd are one. As much as we enjoy the relationship melodrama of the X-Books, it’s nice to live with a unified, loving couple for a bit.
Now, let’s end things by entering the darkest hour in Scott and Jean’s relationship. In 2001, Grant Morrison went in for the kill with New X-Men. The writer uses a previous crossover storyline in which Cyclops and Apocalypse merged into one horrifying being as another method in emotionally shutting Scott Summers down. This trauma was so appalling that it triggered the vilest aspects of his personality; aspects he didn’t even know he was capable of possessing. Once again, self-loathing drives Scott away from Jean.
Scott questions his relationship with Jean because he cannot possibly be worthy of this beautiful creature. “She’s a real living doll!” He has put her so high on a pedestal that when the self-loathing kicks in, he believes he doesn’t deserve her affection. Naturally, when a baddie like Emma Frost starts appreciating his Acts of Service, Scott offers his Love Tank to be filled by Jean’s psychic competition.
Once Scott succumbs to the mental affair with Emma, he leaves very few options for Jean. She can go full-beast mode and obliterate them both, or she can simply retreat herself. Scott has no more Quality Time or Physical Touch for her. Morrison dragged their relationship into a bright furnace of anger, and for them to recover it will take as much time and as many writers as it did to erase that whole awkward Madelyne Pryor business of 1986. Death and resurrection, wash, rinse, repeat.
When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby positioned Scott Summers as team leader, doubt became his natural narrative conflict. Internal turmoil is essential to his persona, and should not be dismissed as blah-blah brooding. Then Chris Claremont and John Byrne pushed his romantic partner to the brink of omnipotent power, which only hardened Scott’s psychological struggle, and stirred their relationship woes into a furious/glorious soap opera.
Would we find a consistency of Love Language in any selected story arc, or only within these four particular random selections? Certainly, once we latched onto the labeling, we found ways to make them work for our conversation. The miracle occurs in how dozens of writers and illustrators maintain the personalities of Scott, Jean, and the rest of the X-Men over 55 years of comics, allowing yokels like us to slap broad statements upon them. We may not like where the narrative takes them, but it’s uncanny how emotionally uniform they have remained since creation.
The Comic Book Couples Counseling podcast covers a different couple every month. You can follow the show on Twitter for the latest updates from Brad and Lisa!