[identity profile] minisinoo.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] ship_manifesto
Title: X-Men's 'First Couple'
Characters: Cyclops/Phoenix, or Scott Summers/Jean Grey
Author: Minisinoo
Spoilers: Both films + all comics to date
E-mail: minisinoo@yahoo.com
Website: The Medicine Wheel: X-Men Fanfic

So you think canon couples have to be boring?

It's an all-too-common assumption, at least in some corners of fandom. If it's canon, especially het canon -- and they're the 'good guys,' to boot -- it's too easy. It's running with the default. Unexciting.

Phooey.

There's a old writing maxim that there are no bad characters, only bad writers. Likewise, there are no boring relationships (or romances), only writers who lack imagination (or perhaps experience).

But before I get into just what makes this couple interesting, and a challenge, let me make a confession.

I don't believe in OTPs (one true pairings). I don't believe in them in real life, and I don't believe in them in fiction. I'm not a romantic, I'm an iconoclast.

So if that's the case, why on earth do I write one of THE canon couples of the Marvel universe? How much more ... vanilla ... could you get?

But see, that's just it. Who said it's vanilla? For me the challenge of this particular couple is figuring out WHY they work. It's NOT good enough to say, "But they've been together forever!" or "They're soulmates!" or "They're meant for one another!"

Why? They come from different worlds, and have very different personalities. It takes more than chemistry or some mystic notion of 'soulmates' to make a relationship work, especially past the infamous 7-year itch. There's GOT to be more to it than that.

Uncovering that 'more' is what makes this couple a challenge to write. My own form of iconoclast rebellion is to take the traditional, the canon, the 'boring,' and shake it (hard) until I figure out what makes it tick. I employ a similar tact with characters. (See "Why Writing Good Girls and Boys is Subversive.")

But it's not just the challenge of the canon relationship. It's also the challenge of portraying an ongoing relationship, and making it vibrant. While there certainly are "how they got together" romances about them; one can jump straight to writing about their ongoing relationship -- and feel no need to justify how it came to be -- because canon's already done that.

But what one can't get away with (not in good fiction anyway, imo) is failing to explain WHY it works. One can't use "canon" as an excuse to avoid that question.

Let's explore the two of them, first, then take a look at the various canonical challenges to their relationship. Because I'm dealing with a pair who've been in the comics since X-Men #1, waaaaaay back in the early '60s, I'll make absolutely NO attempt to cover their entire (very convoluted) history. And because there are MULTIPLE canon incarnations of them, ranging from the movies and the Evolution cartoon, to various AUs (including the recent Ultimate revampt) to the original "616" universe, I'm not going to try to detail all those variations ... or we'd be here all night (and brevity was never my strong suit).

Scott Summers (Cyclops)

Two things define Scott in (almost) every incarnation: he's stuck with those damn glasses 24/7 (no one can ever see his eyes), and he's an orphan.

Both these details are critical to understanding his character. He's been cursed or blessed -- depending on your perspective -- with a very powerful, very deadly 'gift.' And he can never turn it off. He can only learn to manage it, safeguard it, control it. If he doesn't -- if his glasses slip even a little -- he could knock a hole in a wall, or a ceiling ... or a person. That's a hell of a burden to carry. Most mutants CAN turn their powers on and off, but Scott can't due to a childhood brain injury.

This leads directly to point #2 -- he received that brain injury as the result of a hard fall in a parachute, after being pushed out of his parents' small-engine plane when it caught fire in midair. He was only 8 years old (or 12, by some counts). The fall put him in a coma for a few months, and while he was in that coma, his younger brother was adopted. Thus, he awoke to find his entire life changed, and he was alone, foisted on the foster care system (or an orphanage, if you go back to the original comics before the deinstitutionalization of the '70s). From that point on, he had almost NO control over what happened to him until he became a legal adult. He was first a ward of the state, then of Charles Xavier.

And people wonder why Scott Summers has control issues. ;>

His father (Chris) was an air force test pilot, who served in Vietnam (and survived a POW camp), and the Summers family has a career military history, but not terribly high ranking. Scott's background is pretty thoroughly middle-America middle class. (One exception to the above may be in the universe of the movie, where his history hasn't been explained much at all.)

In any case, and in all universes, his personality is staid, quiet but authoritative, stubborn, and occasionally given to fits of rage (when he's suppressed it too long). He's a 'realistic optimist,' despite everything that's happened to him. Yet -- when in the hands of better comic writers/scriptwriters -- he has a cynical, wise-cracking edge and a dry sense of humor. ("What would you prefer? Yellow spandex?")

Delving a bit more into his comic background, he's a history buff, particularly military history, and while he's not an intellectual, he's shrewd and has more than his fair share of common sense. He also inherited a natural gift for tactics and strategy from his father (something you'd never know or believe if only watching the films!). Yet both Summers men are quintessential flyboys -- ice cold under pressure, never letting the enemy see them sweat, reliable, steady -- but not very good at showing their 'softer side.' Besides any strategic-tactical skill or piloting reflexes that Scott inherited from his father, his mutation grants him a natural propensity for geometry. He has the uncanny ability to judge distances and trajectories and target on instinct.

Jean Grey (Phoenix)

If Scott is reserved, cool, organized and controlled, Jean is his antithesis. She's ebullient, enthusiastic, charming, maternal, a bit on the wild side -- and possessed of a terrible temper if crossed (that, she and Scott have in common).

Unlike Scott, Jean came from a stable family with supportive parents who never rejected her for being a mutant. Her father was a history professor at Bard College, and her social class could be estimated anywhere from the academic upper middle-class to the middle rich. She grew up in the same town where she was born (Annandale-on-Hudson), in contrast to Scott's experience as a military brat, and -- if not for her mutation -- she would have had the classic suburban New England upbringing.

But her mutation did intervene. Just as Scott's uncontrollable mutation and early orphaning marked him, the early and traumatic manifestation of Jean's telepathy marked her. At the age of 10, Jean witnessed the death of her best friend, who died in her arms -- and not only did Jean see it, she FELT it. Annie's death blasted Jean's mutant telepathy open prematurely, leaving the prepubescent, traumatized Jean in a catatonic state from which only Charles Xavier was later able to rouse her. So although Scott was Xavier's first formal student, Jean was his first real student, and he saved her sanity. She's been grateful to him ever since, and fiercely devoted.

Perhaps due to the traumatic nature of her manifestation, Jean is the most empathic telepath among the X-Men. Xavier, Emma Frost and even Betsy Braddock are all far more controlled or emotionally reserved than Jean. Like her (eventual) namesake, the Phoenix, Jean is a passionate individual. She has no trouble expressing her emotions. And perhaps, due to her early years of privilege and her parents' later protection (or overprotection), she's drawn to the 'quick and dangerous,' at times -- has a fascination for the dark side ... whether to heal it, or simply to experience it. She finds a certain romance in the rebel.

Scott and Jean as a pair

This is a classic 'opposites attract.' Scott and Jean share a common mission and outlook, but in personalities, interests, and family backgrounds, they've two quite different people.

In short, it's a recipe for disaster, if not balanced just right.

At it's best, Jean finds steadiness, reliability, and a good dollop of old-fashioned horse sense in Scott. She admires and respects him, and he grounds her. For a woman who spends so much of the time in her head -- both as a telepath, and as the daughter of an academic -- Jean needs that grounding. It's too easy for her to get caught up in what she thinks and feels. If we were to assign Jean a Myers-Briggs rating, she'd no doubt be an ENFP. Scott, by contrast, would be an ISTJ.

For Scott, Jean offers inspiration -- his 'muse,' if you will. She puts him in touch with the emotions that scare him, and occasionally reminds him that he CAN be 'out of control,' and it's all right.

That's at it's best. There's a darker side, too. Like I said, I don't believe in OTPs, and I think this relationship can be either healthy or unhealthy, depending on how it's handled. So ... the dark side of Scott and Jean. Why might they NOT work? It's a question that must be asked.

The dark side is that Jean uses Scott as her safety net. She knows he'll be there, waiting. He is reliable, more like a brother than a lover. And Scott can use Jean as his emotional proxy. Instead of learning to express himself with her help, exactly the opposite happens -- he doesn't have to learn. She can read his mind. It makes him emotionally lazy. Put those two failings together and one gets a very unhealthy relationship.

So one can read Scott and Jean either way. More often than not, I've read it in the positive, with novels like An Accidental Interception of Fate, or Special: the Genesis of Cyclops that explore why they work. But I've drawn it negatively, too, in Heyoka: the Advent of Grace. I wrote the latter specifically to explore why the relationship might be a BAD one, an unhealthy one. But I'm not the only one to have explored the 'dark side.' Even Marvel itself has recently broken UP their Golden Couple in New X-Men. I wasn't terribly keen on how Grant Morrison went about it, but he did make an attempt to ask the question, "You know, what if 'Scott and Jean' is a really BAD idea, not a good one?"

It's a valid question.

Challengers

The pairing of Scott and Jean has had to face numerous trials and tribulations from circumstance alone, in the comic -- including the "death" of Jean (the famous Dark Phoenix Saga). I won't go into all those here. Suffice to say their relationship has been as complicated as any Daytime Soap.

But there have been challenges from other potential love-interests as well. Let's consider a couple of the more significant, or at least, better-known:

Wolverine (Logan)
We've seen this triangle in almost every universe (except Evolution). Jean has always harbored a certain attraction to Wolverine. It's his WILD side, and perhaps also the desire to 'heal' his deep-seated wounding. In (almost) every universe (with the possible exception of the movieverse), I tend to view this pairing as unstable and a Really Bad Idea.

Remember, I'm not a romantic. I don't credit passion or 'true love' as a good enough reason for any long-term relationship. A short-term fling? Sure. A long-term relationship? No way. There has to be more, or it sinks. Jean and Logan are too much alike in all the wrong ways, and too different. They tend to exacerbate each other's faults -- the wildness, the emotional instability, the temper -- and have almost no common interests (beyond the X-Men). They may share a passionate attraction, but it's not a very healthy one. I think they're often as attracted to the idea of each other as anything. In the comics, they realized this a long time ago, and have become close friends, though both continue to harbor a mutual attraction they don't typically act on. Jean is attracted to Logan, but loves Scott. Logan is attracted to Jean, and respects (even reluctantly likes) Scott. There, the triangle ended (at least until recently). Other universes seem headed that way, as well (Ultimate X-Men and the movieverse), although it's less cut-and-dried there.

Emma Frost (The White Queen)
This applies ONLY to the main marvel universe (616). Without going into detail, when Scott returned from his merger with Apocalypse, he returned psychically wounded, even more unable to open up to others than before -- including Jean. He had a 'dark stain' he didn't want to reveal. So he began first a psychic, and later a physical affair with Emma Frost -- a former enemy and even now uneasy, if committed ally. (Side note: Scott seems to be a telepath magnet ... three of the women attracted to him, and four if one counts latent Madelyne, were telepaths.) In any case, and like the attraction between Logan and Jean, I see this as a Really Bad Idea, Take II.

Like Jean and Logan, Scott and Emma are too much alike in the wrong ways (emotionally cool, controlling natures), and not enough alike in common interests, or even outlook. This doesn't strike me as a healthy 'opposites attract.' One might make an argument that Scott can be more 'real' with Emma, not afraid to show his dark side to a woman who was once a 'villain' ... except that applies to Jean as "Dark Phoenix," as well. One might make a better case that Emma is attracted to the 'light' in Scott, and loves him because of it. Could be. But it could equally be Emma's final revenge against Jean Grey ... who just happens to be one of her oldest enemies. Emma does seem to genuinely love Cyclops, perhaps against her will, but the depth of it remains to be seen. And Scott's attraction to her (beyond the obvious) is difficult to fathom.

Warren Worthington III (Angel, or Archangel)
This is the original triangle in the Marvel universe: Scott/Jean/Warren. Warren Worthington is heir to a vast international industry, certainly one of the Fortune 500, and he was attracted to Jean Grey, the first X-Man to put the moves on her, when they were teens. Warren and Jean are a good example of "lots in common ... but little fire," at least on Jean's part. The whole time she was dating Warren (not that long, in canon time), she was secretly pining after Scott. Did Warren really love Jean? It's hard to tell. Warren's good at covering up his feelings, too, albeit in other ways. But one has to be careful about Warren, not take him as a shallow playboy. Of the original 5 X-Men, only Warren had been actively trying to use his mutation to help people before Xavier found him, as the "Avenging Angel." He's a good guy, under the suave exterior. It seems that, in Evolution, there's been a bit of play on this old, canon attraction.

Lee (Aletys) Forrester
This was just a brief fling of Scott's after the (first) death of Jean. Trying to 'get away,' Scott left the X-men and served for a while on Lee's shrimp boat. She's tough, brave, and has a good right hook. She also never seemed interested in a long-term relationship with him. But in typical Marvel weirdness, she later went on to date his son Nate, or Cable (don't ask, it's REALLY confusing), and even Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto). Lee Forrester isn't a mutant or X-Man.

Madelyne Prior
Madelyne Prior is Jean's clone. Yes, more Weird Marvel Science. I'm not even going to TRY to explain this one. Suffice to say, Madelyne wound up being Scott's first wife (Jean had 'died' before they'd married). Maddie and Scott had Christopher Nathan Charles Summers (later called Nate, or Cable). Once Jean 'came back' from the dead, Scott left a splintering marriage to Madelyne to return to Jean and his other old friends. Then in a bizarre turn of events, Madelyne lost her mind and mutated into the Goblin Queen, where she took up with Scott's little brother, Alex.

Besides the above, Scott and Jean have had other romantic interests, but they tended to be fleeting. Candy Southern (in X-Factor #10) once snarkily declared that Jean's real mutant gift was making all the men fall in love with her. And I've already mentioned Scott's propensity for attracting telepaths.

Where can I find more info or stories about Scott and Jean?

There are sites devoted to each of the characters individually, but one might want to take particular note of these:

The Scott and Jean Archives -- Largely a collection of information about their appearances in various comics. If you're trying to make sense of 40 years of canon, go here.

Cyke and Logan Pages at comicfic.net -- This used to be the Itty Bitty Archives, which outgrew it's 'itty bitty' aspect relatively early. It's entirely comicverse, and focused on Scott, but has a lot of Jean by default.

Fic Favorites -- My own (annotated) page of story favorites. I haven't added to it in a while, and it does include things besides Scott and Jean, but at the time I created it, it was the only 'recommendation' page that focused primarily on Scott and Jean, and included BOTH movieverse and comicverse stories. (Because I do not follow Evolution, it has almost no recs from that -verse.)

X-Men Hero: Cyclops, Scott and Jean Page -- The subpage specifically devoted to fanfic about these two, found on Nadja Lee's comprehensive website about Cyclops. (Main page entry found HERE.)

Redshades -- This archive is now defunct, but still has a lot of fanfic, both comicverse and movieverse.

So, those are all good places to look for Scott/Jean fic. What authors might one want to look FOR (besides me)? Any of the following are noted for writing Scott/Jean. I'm quite sure I'll leave out someone (particularly for Evolution), so if you know someone who OUGHT to be on this list and isn't, feel free to name her/him in comments:

(In alphabetical order): Bishclone, L. Burke, Mara Greengrass, Jen (Little Sorta Redheaded Girl), Kaylee, Lisea, Domenika Marzione, Penknife, Q, Rae Dances, Seema, Sequoia, Shalnyx, Amanda Sichter, Smogyi, Crys Wimmer.

Keep in mind, these are NOT the only authors to write Scott and Jean as a couple in stories, or even to focus a story on Scott and Jean in particular -- and some of these authors are also known for writing other couples and/or fandoms. But all of them have written more than one story that focuses on Scott and Jean and aspects of their relationship. I resist labeling anyone (including myself) a "Scott and Jean writer," but if you're looking for a place to start, look up stories by any of these authors at some of the fiction archives linked above.

Date: 2004-10-05 05:37 am (UTC)
titti: (X Boys)
From: [personal profile] titti
This is a great essay. I still don't like them together, but I think you hit all the right points.

It's interesting to see how different Scott is in the new Astonishing title, but then Joss Whedon has always been a little revolutionary on his take of things. (I'm still upset that Marvel didn't go for this Logan/Scott storyline. LOL )

Date: 2004-10-08 11:58 am (UTC)
titti: (Default)
From: [personal profile] titti
I can't stand Claremont. He's too cut and dry. I hate his ideas of eternal love and soul mates, but even his action is too repetitive.

I am loving Joss Whedon's Scott. He's got some doubts that he rarely shows and makes him more human. I also love how he's almost afraid of Emma. heh

Date: 2004-10-05 07:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spirit0fstlouis.livejournal.com
Damn, I love your essays. Thanks so much for linking to this one from your own LJ! (And thanks for listing me and Raedances up there with the "Scott/Jean writers" - I know you're really not a Evolution fan, so... yes, thank you.) :)

Date: 2004-10-05 08:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baffledking.livejournal.com
This was great, especially with all the time you had to cover. Great essay.

Date: 2004-10-05 02:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baffledking.livejournal.com
Ahhh, do you still have the original?

Date: 2004-10-05 02:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baffledking.livejournal.com
Alas. It was wonderful though.

Date: 2005-10-17 05:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] becky-h.livejournal.com
That is my Scott/Jean. That is my Scott period. Hell, these are *real* people and not just icons of twu wuv and Romeo and Juliet and this-

This is beautiful. This is wonderful. This makes me happy. THis excites me even.

Thank you.

Date: 2005-10-17 06:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] becky-h.livejournal.com
You know, I wouldn't mind Jean/Logan if it would deal with the sheer devestation that sort of thing can cause.

...I may try to write it. Then encourage someone who can do it well to do it. *G*

Date: 2006-06-17 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] likeadeuce.livejournal.com
Belatedly commenting -- I read this way back when it was shiny-new, but I didn't know enough Xmen canon at the time to comment. I have a renewed interest in the fandom, and in Scott/Jean, since X3 so I reread this and found it awesome -- along with the comments on canon het in general. So, way to go!

Date: 2006-06-17 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] likeadeuce.livejournal.com
Yes, because Cedric clearly loves Harry Cho! *g*

But seriously, except for major exceptions like Buffy/Spike, there isn't a lot of interest in 'ships -- or even sexual tension (also with big exceptions like Mulder/Scully and arguably BSG-Kara/Lee) that is clearly canon. I like to think that it has more to do with feeling the canon covers it than with "eww, get that icky girl out of there so the boys can do it!"

Of course, the anti-canon thing doesn't only apply to het either -- for instance, in Buffy fandom, I've seen more Willow/Fred than Willow/Tara or Willow/Kennedy.

Your essay makes a great argument about the possibilities of canon ships in general, and it was one of the things I was thinking of when I made this icon (if only Janssen and Marsden got to do that in the movies, or, you know, touch each other more than twice. Sigh).

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