In a recent Reddit AMA, Chris Claremont didn’t shy away from explaining why he thought Wolverine was cool and Cyclops wasn’t.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby may have created the mutant superteam, but it was writer Chris Claremont who made The X-Men what they are today. As is the case with most, if not all, of Marvel’s Silver Age comic book gold, it took time before the stories and characters found their footing. Before Claremont, the X-Men universe was without Phoenix, Rogue, Mystique, Gambit, Jubilee, and Mister Sinister—to name but a few. The list is long. Claremont is also the writer behind such pivotal storylines as “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past”. All this to say that this man knows what he’s talking about, so when he took to Reddit, people were listening.
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In a recent Reddit AMA promoting The Marvel Made Paragon Collection, Claremont had lots to say and fans were very happy to ask questions. One of the more noteworthy moments came when a user asked, “Why does everyone think Wolverine is the bee’s knees when Cyclops is the best X-Man?” For context, though Claremont didn’t create Wolverine – that credit goes to Len Wein, Roy Thomas, and John Romita Sr. – he was responsible for bringing him into the fold of the X-Men and significantly developing the character. Claremont’s first response to the question was blunt: “Logan is cool, Scott is not.” Thankfully, he elaborated.
On the face of it, it’s easy to get why; Wolverine is a scruffy anti-hero with badass claws, a mysterious origin story, and a super-healing factor that most readers would want for themselves, whereas Cyclops has often been written as a painfully earnest boy scout, and his uncontrollable optic blasts are more visually appealing than useful. For Claremont, there’s more to it than that.
“My problem is I thought Scott was a wonderful character until the moment he walked out on Madelyne, and went back to Jean—and that was dishonorable and destroyed him as a character. Logan wouldn’t do that. He’d kill you but he’d do it for the right reasons.”
The Madelyne he’s referring to is Madelyne Pryor, Scott’s first wife who is later revealed to be a clone of Jean Grey created by Mister Sinister. The story he’s referencing is X-Factor #1 (1986), written by Bob Layton and penciled by Jackson Guice. Scott and Madelyne are quietly tucked away with their newborn somewhere near Anchorage, Alaska when the book starts, but there’s trouble in paradise. Despite the idyllic setting, Scott hasn’t been able to adapt to civilian life after leaving the X-Men. He’s restless and preoccupied, and can’t connect with his family or the happy ending he got after going through so much tragedy. When he hears that Jean Grey has returned, he immediately leaves home, even after being told by his wife that he wouldn’t be welcomed back.
Claremont remains a little bitter that the retirement he’d planned for Scott was ended so soon, and in such a way as to stain the character at the heart of his vision of The X-Men. With time, it appears that all sins are forgotten, however, and most readers today wouldn’t recognize the name Madelyne Pryor. It doesn’t hurt that X-Men comic continuity has been re-written so many times it’s almost impossible to tell what’s canon anymore. Nevertheless, when the architect behind the X-Men’s rise to prominence points to this specific event as marking a fundamental turn in Cyclops’ character, it’s worth thinking about. Perhaps Wolverine is cooler because even if he is a lone wolf most of the time, he remains true to the pack and to his word.
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