As most listeners of Comic Book Noise know, Cyclops is my favorite member of the X-Men and one of my favorite comic book characters. That said, I always preferred Madelyne Pryor-Summers, his wife, to his old girlfriend, Jean Grey, and it bummed me out when he ran out on Maddie and the baby.
Tom Brevoort answered a question about Maddie on Formspring by saying “I don’t really know much about the inter-office politics of the era, but I do think that Madeline Pryor was a train wreck from beginning to end, from her first appearance to her latest.” While appreciate his frank answer, he is wrong about two major things: 1) It’s Madelyne, not Madeline, and 2) She didn’t start about as a train wreck, she was made that way.
According to Chris Claremont, there was not only a different fate in store for Maddie, but also for Scott and eventually, the rest of the X-Men.
“The original Madelyne storyline was that, at its simplest level, she was that one in a million shot that just happened to look like Jean Grey, [a.k.a. the first Phoenix]! And the relationship was summed up by the moment when Scott says: “Are you Jean?” And she punches him! That was in Uncanny X-Men #174. Because her whole desire was to be deeply loved for herself not to be loved as the evocation of her boyfriend’s dead romantic lover and sweetheart.
I mean, it’s a classical theme. You can go back to a whole host of 1930s films, 1940s, Hitchcock films—but it all got invalidated by the resurrection of Jean Grey in X-Factor #1. The original plotline was that Scott marries Madelyne, they have their child, they go off to Alaska, he goes to work for his grandparents, he retires from the X-Men. He’s a reserve member. He’s available for emergencies. He comes back on special occasions, for special fights, but he has a life. He has grown up. He has grown out of the monastery; he is in the real world now. He has a child. He has maybe more than one child. It’s a metaphor for us all. We all grow up. We all move on.
Scott was going to move on. Jean was dead get on with your life. And it was close to be a happy ending. They lived happily ever after, and it was to create the impression that maybe if you came back in ten years, other X-Men would have grown up and out, too. Would Kitty stay with the team forever? Would Nightcrawler? Would any of them? Because that way we could evolve them into new directions, we could bring in new characters. There would be an ongoing sense of renewal, and growth and change in a positive sense.
Then, unfortunately, Jean was resurrected, Scott dumps his wife and kid and goes back to the old girlfriend. So it not only destroys Scott’s character as a hero and as a decent human being it creates an untenable structural situation: what do we do with Madelyne and the kid? … So ultimately the resolution was: turn her into the Goblin Queen and kill her off.”
Can you imagine if Marvel had actually let their characters grow older and be replaced by different characters? Of course, it couldn’t happen, so they had to get rid of the reason why Scott Summers would even believe he grow up and be an adult. Remember that at the time, whatever affected the X-men affected the rest of the Marvel Universe. If they grew older, then so would The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, etc. I wish I knew about the inter-office politics then, because 1983 seems like a good time to try and change how comic book storytelling would proceed. But what do I know…?