I feel bad for Cyclops. It’s hard to be the upstanding, righteous, Boy Scout character. Just ask Captain America, who is pretty much not allowed to be anything else. In the movies, it was even worse. You don’t even need to see the movies; just look at the movie posters. For the poster for X-men, Cyclops is at the top in the front, and Wolverine is at the bottom. By the movie poster for X-men 3, Cyclops is second from the back and Wolverine is standing in the front. That’s pretty much sums up the relationship of Cyclops to Wolverine since Wolverine was introduced way back when.
I understand the problem, as it’s something of a reflection of what our society values. Bad Boys are always more interesting than Boy Scouts. Women are attracted to Bad Boys, and guys want to be Bad Boys. Who’s more popular, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? Exactly. So poor Cyclops was at a huge disadvantage when Wolverine was introduced. Then Wolverine makes the moves on Jean, who reciprocates because of the rule of Bad Boys, and much drama ensued. Of course, in real life, such relationships seldom work out. Jeff Foxworthy had a bit about this phenomena. He was commenting about how these women’s magazines had articles about “How to Win a Bad Man,” “How to Make a Bad Man into a Good Man,” and so on. His punchline was that when a woman actually married a bad man, she ended up on an episode of “Cops” with the bad man being dragged out of the trailer and her yelling, “You lock him up this time!” He is, of course, quite right.
But comics are not real life, so the extra drama is generally seen as a good thing. From a writing standpoint, when dealing with a group dynamic, it’s good to have the Boy Scout and the Bad Boy. One can be played off the other in situations, as in the best writing Cyclops and Wolverine were. Wolverine wanted to break the rules and do things his way even if that way was morally ambiguous or worse, and Cyclops wanted to play by the rules and do things the right way. The X-men, of course, are not the only example of this. How many fights did Captain America get into with Hawkeye? How many times did Superman and Batman clash over the best way to handle a situation? But the set up of Boy Scout versus Bad Boy is all fine and good. But unfortunately popular opinion favors the Bad Boy to the exclusion of the Boy Scout. However, popular opinion doesn’t seem to realize that if the Boy Scout is no longer there, than the Bad Boy loses some character as well. It’s hard to rebel if there’s no authority to rebel against. It’s hard to break the rules if there are no rules to begin with.
Despite this, my feeling is that the writers and/or fans and/or Boardroom level and/or a combination of all of the above got annoyed that Cyclops was not Wolverine, especially in the last fifteen years. Instead of embracing this as a necessary dramatic component of writing a group comic, efforts were made to make Cyclops into more of a Bad Boy. I am very unkeen on this whole process and consider a lot of the writing more character assassination than character development and it’s gone way too far. Some characters lend themselves better to being made darker and edgier than others, and Cyclops is not one of them.
To be fair, in the past Cyclops has had some shining moments of douche-baggery and somehow managed to regain Boy Scout status, although it involved the new writers essentially saying, “Please ignore this thing that happened because we are.” The most outstanding moment of inexcusable actions was when the original X-Factor comic was started. Cyclops was married at the time and just had a baby. On the mere rumor that Jean Grey might possibly be alive he left his wife and baby saying that he was going to “see about a friend,” not about his ex-girlfriend. When he came back to check on them, the house had been burnt to the ground by the Marauders, who practically left a calling card. So, what did our Boy Scout do? He went back to X-Factor, told them his family was dead, and that was that. He didn’t check the house for bodies. He didn’t go after the Marauders. And when the X-men told him that his family survived, not only did he not go back to Madelyne and his baby son, but he didn’t even tell Jean. Frankly, after all that, I can’t blame Madelyne for trying to kill him during the Inferno. Also, I will admit Jean doesn’t look very good through all that because she didn’t kick him in the junk right then and there for being a total douche-bag. Wolverine was disgusted by his actions. When the Bad Boy is digusted by how morally depraved the Boy Scout is acting, that should say something, damn it. X-men writers, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I’ll just say after that I skipped more than a few X-men and X-factor comics.
I have an idea as to how to save the character, and I do think it would work, but I don’t think anyone is truly invested in doing so because Cyclops is not Wolverine. This process of trying to turn Cyclops into Wolverine has advanced to the point that Cyclops and Wolverine have practically switched roles. Wolverine is running a school for mutants, and Cyclops organized a team to take out mutant-haters by any means necessary, including killing them. What the hell happened? The defining moment of douche-baggery in recent comics is, to me, and the moment I decided that the X-men were dead to me, and the moment I decided to not renew my subscription, was the issue after the whole “House of M” storyline when Cyclops threw all the non-mutants out of the mansion. That’s right, he threw them out, even though many of them had no place else to go. He threw out Robert Drake (Iceman), a person he had known since they were teenagers, a person he’s been on a team with since the X-men were born, a person who is in many ways more of his little brother than his actual little brother Alex. And he just threw him out without a second thought. I should note too that awfulness of this incident was compounded by the fact Wolverine didn’t punch Cyclops out for turning out Jubilee, or that Beast, who also has known Bobby since forever, just let Cyclops do this awful, awful thing.
What the hell, hero? Seriously, what the hell? If only the people involved had just let Cyclops be a Boy Scout and made their peace with that, the writing would have been so much better, and I might still have a subscription.