Why I looked up to Cyclops

by J.D. Cook

Growing up Cyclops was not only my favorite X-Man but by far my favorite superhero. I’ve recently done a bit of thinking on why that is and the answer became stunningly clear to me…

The first comic book I ever read was Giant Size X-Men # 1. In it Cyclops is the last X-Man left standing after the living island Krakoa destroys the original team. He is sent back powerless to Professor X before returning to the island with the lineup of X-Men that would define the team for the next two decades.

So why did I become so drawn to Cyclops out of that huge cast of X-Men? The answer is staring you in the face…literally. He had glasses! The connection goes deeper than that as I will explain in a moment but that was definitely one of the biggest reasons I started rooting for the character. It was either right after I read that first comic book or right before that I first started having to wear glasses full time myself. Being extremely near sighted I could hardly ever remove my glasses and still do anything I liked to. So I really connected with Cyclops because he was in a similar boat. If I took my glasses off I couldn’t see and if he took his off…well he blasted a hole in whatever he was looking at.

The other thing that I always loved about him and related to was his attitude. He knew his best weapon wasn’t his optic blasts but his mind. He spent his time training and staying focused and he reveled in those things. It was real life and being a normal social person that he found challenging. So when he got his girl he kept her…until she died before his eyes. In a lot of ways Cyclops is similar to Captain America if he had a lot more issues with his role as a leader. On that note…the last thing that connected me to Cyclops was his self-doubt. Cyclops was never the completely self-assured righteous leader. He was the guy who did what needed to be done in the moment but questioned his own actions for weeks afterwards. He let his one mistake dominate his hundreds of correct actions. He was a completely realistic representation of what a good leader should be.

Many years later when I would say I was getting ‘serious’ about reading comics I re-connected with Cyclops thanks to Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. In that story Cyclops’s demons are examined and he has some of the best moments of his entire existence as a fictional character when he finally confronts them. I won’t spoil them for those who haven’t read that run but if you are an X-Men fan and you have not you need to! Unfortunately since Astonishing X-Men ended Cyclops has been…well there is no easy way to say it…ruined. In an effort to freshen up the character Marvel has developed him into another version of Magneto. The worst bit of characterization came when he killed Professor X while empowered by the Dark Phoenix. While the pair’s relationship had been strained in the comics for some time it just does not make any sense that Cyclops would kill the man who made him into who he was. It irked me on many levels as a fan.

After that, as if Marvel knew it had pushed Cyclops character past the point of redemption, the original five X-men (Iceman, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel and Cyclops) were brought to the present so that fans were given a younger Cyclops untainted by the original’s sins. I liked some of the initial stuff I read about the young Cyclops but at the end of the day I just want my one cold, calculating morally upstanding hero back. It’s a dark time to be a Cyclops fan as he only makes a cameo in X-Men: Days of Future Past and was only done full justice as a character in the original X-Men film. I think lazy writers have found it much easier to gear the X-Men films towards Wolverine, who is much more simplistic as a character. My one tiny hope is that Cyclops will be a primary character in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse because he has always been heavily tied to that villain and even more so to Mr. Sinister if he shows up.

Hopefully the smart geeky kids with glasses out there eventually get the Cyclops they deserve back but until then I guess I will just have to bide my time by reading Greg Rucka’s new Cyclops series which seems to be off to a pretty great start. It’s essentially a road trip story through space with Cyclops and his space pirate dad Corsair! Who can’t get into that?

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