Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, is one of the first recruits at Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and could be argued to be the very first member of the X-Men. Cyclops debuted in The X-Men #1 in 1963 and, since that first appearance, fans have developed a love/hate relationship with him. He’s been considered a teacher’s pet, devoted husband to Dr. Jean Grey, Wolverine’s least favorite teammate, a womanizer, mutant savior, and --spoiler alert -- a dangerous foe capable of killing Professor X.
Good, bad or evil, we all know Cyclops’ mutant ability. He can project concussive beams of ruby-colored energy from his eyes. These optic blasts are capable of leveling mountains and can be controlled enough to use as a pool cue. If you don’t think that’s impressive, our advice is: don’t be anywhere in his field of vision when Cyclops opens his eyes. He rarely misses.
Cyclops has been depicted in virtually every X-Men property in pop culture-- comics, films, animated series, and video games. By now, we think we know everything about his powers, but check out these 15 Facts About Cyclops’ Optic Blasts You Didn’t Know.
15 His Eyes Are Brown
Since Cyclops’ mutant abilities first manifested when he was a teen, he hasn't been able to control them. So, anytime Scott opened his eyes, his ruby-colored energy blasts would fire. When he became a student at the Xavier School of Gifted Youngsters, Professor X helped Scott design a visor to prevent random discharge and better control his powers.
For many years, comic readers didn’t even know the real color of Cyclops’ eyes. But, during Joss Whedon’s highly acclaimed run on Astonishing X-Men, Cyclops and Emma Frost had an intimate relationship and therapy sessions about Scott’s youth, training with Professor X and his powers. Emma helped Cyclops realize that he placed mental blocks on himself that were preventing him from fully controlling his mutations. Using her telepathic abilities, the White Queen convinced Scott he was strong enough to let go and control his blasts.
With two words - ”You’re free” - Cyclops finally opened his eyes and we learned they are brown. Unfortunately, Cyclops’ new confidence didn’t last and he went back to using his sunglasses and battle visor.
14 The Source of His Optic Blasts Has Been Retconned
When many of the most popular Marvel characters were first introduced in comic books, the U.S. was in the middle of the space race and science fiction was everywhere. Writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby injected lots of pseudo-science into the origin stories of his characters and the stories. That’s way the Fantastic Four were bombarded with cosmic rays, the Incredible Hulk was exposed to a gamma radiation bomb, and Spider-Man was bitten by an irradiated spider at a science demonstration.
Cyclops’ mutation was originally the ability to absorb ambient energy, such as sunlight and discharge from his eyes. There were even stories where Cyclops was rendered inept because it was night or there wasn’t enough solar energy around him.
After some time, writers realized that couldn’t have the leader of the X-Men be “afraid of the dark,” so his optic blasts were ret-conned and his eyes became inter-dimensional apertures between this universe and another. The power source was infinite, so Cyclops had unlimited firepower. These days, his optic blasts are simply part of his mutant ability.
13 His Damaged Psyche is Stronger Than A Concussion
During the early years of Uncanny X-Men and X-Factor, Scott’s inability to control his powers was attributed to a head injury he suffered during his family’s life-altering plane accident. Scott’s parents, Christopher and Katherine, were thought dead, and Scott and Alex were pushed out of the plane as it exploded. Before Scott was admitted to an orphanage, he was diagnosed with a major cranial injury, resulting in brain damage. That brain damage was the cause of his inability to control his optic blasts.
Fast-forward to confrontations with Mister Sinister and we learned that the villain placed mental blocks on Cyclops to prevent him from controlling his optic blasts. The blocks would be in place until Scott matured and would become a willing slave of the villain.
If that wasn’t complicated enough, in Astonishing X-Men, Emma Frost (under the subliminal control of Cassandra Nova) pushed Cyclops to the truth. Rather than fully embrace his abilities, Scott blamed the abandonment in his childhood on his abilities and placed mental blocks on himself for controlling his optic beams. For some time, this mental clarity allowed Cyclops to control his blasts without his visor, but it didn't last. Why he still uses these “blocks,” we still don’t know.
12 They're Faster Than a Speeding Bullet
Fans often compare Cyclops’ optic blasts to Superman’s heat vision or Darkseid’s Omega beams. While they are all drawn similarly, there are some very stark differences. But, like the Man of Steel himself, Cyclops’ blasts are faster than a speeding bullet, estimated to travel at the speed of light in the direction he is looking. Also, while this hasn't been fully verified by Marvel, it appears that the range of Cyclops’ beams is approximately 2,000 feet.
Cyclops's eyes are obviously not like those of any average human. Instead, they are inter-dimensional apertures between Earth-616 and another, where our laws of physics don’t exist. This universe is filled with an infinite amount of particles that resemble photons, yet they interact with Earth-616’s particles by transferring kinetic energy. That’s why rather than giving off heat, his blasts strike with concussive force.
The only limit of how hard Cyclops can hit an object is psychological - and whether or not he is wearing his visor, which again limits his optical discharge, but adds a certain level of control.
11 His Visor is the Ultimate DIY Project
For all Cyclops' training as a member of the X-Men and his skills in manipulating his mutant ability, the beams continuously from his eyes whenever they are open and unprotected. To prevent the destruction of any objects in his field of view, Cyclops uses a pair of ruby quartz eyeglasses developed by Professor X to contain the rays. In the X-Men film franchise, however, the origin of the visor has changed. As seen in X-Men: Apocalypse, Beast helps fashion Scott's first sunglasses with ruby lenses he had around the mansion.
Cyclops has used at least five different versions of his yellow battle visor instead of glasses. His classic visor features right-handed and left-handed firing studs, two ears locks, and a bunch of mechanical devices, such as lenses, gears, bearings, and brakes. This device is a lot more than a ruby-colored horizontal prism that looks like KITT's light bar.
In the event of power failure, his apertures are spring loaded to automatically close so Cyclops can at least see normally. He has also been observed using casual sunglasses and contact lenses made from the same ruby quartz as his visor lens. Peter Parker could take some lessons from Cyclops, Beast, and Professor X.
10 He Should Be Awarded a Ph.D. in Geometry
Mutants hold a special place in the Marvel Universe. While their abilities are "extra" ordinary, the mastery of their powers demands a lot of specialized training. Think of it this way: Captain America would just be another pumped-up soldier if he wasn't constantly training in hand-to-hand combat, military strategies, and the most effective use of an indestructible shield.
In the case of Cyclops, his time on the battlefield has made him one of the greatest leaders in all of Marvel, and his training in the Danger Room honed his “Super Trigonometry” abilities. Cyclops can perfectly reflect his optic blasts off of other surfaces and still hit his intended target.
Cyclops may be one of a handful of heroes who can compete with Hawkeye in marksmanship. Some words of advice... don't ever challenge Cyclops, Hawkeye or Captain America to a game of "Nine-ball." We are talking to you ,Wolverine. They understand angles and trajectory that most of us haven't even thought of.
9 They Can't Burn You, But They Still Hurt
We've talked about the similarities of Cyclops' optic blasts and Superman's heat vision, at least in the ways they are drawn, but the abilities are as different as night and day. Cyclops' eye beams act more like a huge punch from his eyes, from a fist made up of pure kinetic energy. The limits on the force of his blasts are solely based on Cyclops' levels of control and the mental blocks he has placed on himself.
Kryptonians' heat vision comes from their absorption of radiation from Earth's yellow sun into their bodies, like a battery, which is then emitted in focused beams of heat from their eyes. Most likely the energy would be in the form of infrared light.
Interestingly enough, there is speculation that if heat vision and optic blast met in a dark alley, the beams would pass through each other and Cyclops would end up fried and the Man of Steel would shrug off the blasts, just like any other blow he's ever received. Paging Bill Nye the Science Guy or Neil deGrasse Tyson please.
8 He's Impervious To His Own Power
Now here is some weird science for y'all. Cyclops's mind has a particular psionic field that is compatible with the apertures that have taken the place of his normally functioning human eyes. Because his mind's psionic field envelops his body, it automatically shunts the other-dimensional particles back into their point of origin when they collide with his body. Therefore, his body is protected from the concussive force of the graviton particles he emits, and even his thin eyelids are strong enough to block the emission of this kinetic energy.
This all means that Cyclops' body breaks one of the fundamental laws of physics and objects in motion. Also, the synthetic ruby quartz crystal used to create the lenses of both Cyclops's eyeglasses and his visors are similarly calibrated to his minds' psionic field. Talk about trippy. Or as the kids say: Cyclops is rubber and you're glue. His laser beams bounce off him and hurt you.
7 Family Matters
Let's review the Summers family. For many years, readers thought there were only two Summers brothers, Scott and his younger brother, Alexander Summers. Havok is a mutant possessing the power to absorb ambient cosmic energy, process it and emanate it from his body as waves of energy. This results in control over an extremely powerful destructive force. Bottom line, when Havok hits a target, it's destroyed - unless that target is Cyclops, who is immune to Alex's powers, and vice versa.
Then in the early 2000s in the pages of X-Men: Deadly Genesis, we learn that Scott and Alex had an older brother who also led a team of Charles Xavier's X-Men. The formation of the Giant Size X-Men team that included Cyclops and new recruits, Storm, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, and Wolverine were intended to find Gabriel's team and bring them back to the X-Mansion. They never found the team and Gabriel Summers, aka Vulcan, was thought dead.
Gabriel considers himself the most powerful of the Summers brothers because he is able to control energy in nearly every form. Gabriel can deflect Cyclops’ eyebeams, resist psychic attacks, and even hijack or absorb the abilities of mutants around him. Plus, he still holds a grudge against Professor X, his brothers, and anyone associated with them.
6 He May Be A Jerk, But His Powers Are Awesome
We know, Scott Summers isn't exactly everyone's favorite mutant. He is not as cool as Wolverine, he is a bit a jerk, afraid to lose control, and hooks up with women that are way out of his league. Dr. Jean Grey, Madelyne Pryor, Psylocke and Emma Frost... really? Plus, when he is not wearing his goofy visor, he wears his sunglasses at night.
But every once in a while, Cyclops shows that he is not to be messed with. He's fought and defeated his whole team of X-Men by himself, disintegrated Mister Sinister with one shot, blasted the top of mountains off, liberated Mjolnir from Thor's hand, and in Astonishing X-Men #8 when a Sentinel attacked the school, Cyclops calmly removed his visor and unleashed the full power of his optic blasts on the killing machine. As the full panel goes red, Wolverine says, "Every now and then Summers... I remember why you're still in charge."
5 He Could End An Energy Crisis By Himself
In Civil War X-Men #4, Marvel's resident electrical engineer, futurist, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, measured Cyclops's optic beams to be almost two gigawatts. Two gigawatts is about half the peak power output of a nuclear power plant and when Cyclops released this much energy, he lost control over his optic beam and had to shut down by the mutant Leech.
Just to put that number in context, it only took the DeLorean in Back to the Future 1.21 gigawatts to travel 30 years back in time to 1955. If you wanted to weaponize that energy output, a real life commercial class handheld laser can output between 0.7 W and 2 W of continuous power, or in other words, 0.000000002 gigawatts. If you just switched on that laser without wearing eye protection, you would suffer permanent eye damage.
As Marty McFly would say, "Whoa, that's heavy."
4 They're Mister Sinister's Achilles' Heel
We've talked a great deal about the bane of the Summers/Grey family tree -- Mister Sinister. Nathanial Essex is obsessed with Scott, Alex, and Jean's genetics. He's tried to clone them, kill them, or kidnap them on various occasions. This doesn't bode well for the next generation of the marriage, Cable (Nathan Summers), Hope Summers, X-Man (Nate Grey), and Marvel Girl (Rachel Summers).
You might think a genetic genius with regenerative abilities would be unstoppable, but in addition to his silly name and ridiculous uniform, Mister Sinister he has one major weakness -- Cyclops’s optic blasts.
For some unexplained reason, Cyclops’s optic blasts damage Mister Sinister, to the point where his regeneration ability is useless. The effects have varied from one X-Men writer to another, but the weakness was really exploited in the classic ’90s X-Men animated series. In several episodes of the show, whenever Cyclops’ hit Mister Sinister with an optic blast, we would see an open wound that would bleed green blood.
3 They Have Nothing To Do With Deadpool's Eyes
Look, there was a lot of wrong with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Gambit being played by Taylor Kitsch, will.i.am as John Wraith, and Wolverine's amnesia being caused by an adamantium bullet shot from a pistol! But the worst aspect of the film was how it screwed up Deadpool, the "Merc with the Mouth." The large black diamond shapes around his eyes are Wade Wilson's signature look. They are on his mask, which hides his horrendous face, not as a result of obtaining Scott's optic blasts in a Weapon XI experiment conducted by William Stryker. Hell, even producer Lauren Shuler Donner when asked about a solo Deadpool film in 2011 said, “Yes he was treated totally wrong in the Wolverine film and yes we will redeem him,” replied Donner.
If you want a better depiction of Deadpool's relationship with Logan and the Weapon X program, watch the underrated animated film, Hulk Vs. (2009).
2 They Can Curve
Cyclops optic beams are usually depicted as straight streams of ruby-colored energy, but they have shown the ability to evolve. In Avengers vs. X-Men, his optic blasts could curve after he absorbed the Phoenix Force and became a member of the "Phoenix Five."
During this storyline, Iron Man attempts to destroy the Phoenix Force but only manages to break it up into several pieces amongst a group of X-Men, who then form a new team known as the Phoenix Five. The mutants Cyclops, Namor, Colossus, Emma Frost, and Magik all become one with the Phoeni. They're hoping to bring peace to the world by creating a floating fortress for mutant kind known as Utopia. As the Phoenix Force gains more control of its new hosts, its darker side is revealed. This storyline ends with the unforgettable panel of Cyclops killing Professor Xavier and becoming the new Dark Phoenix. Who's the teacher's pet now?
1 They Can Destroy Adamantium
Well, not in all adaptations, but in one of the most popular X-Men storyline, Age of Apocalypse, Cyclops was taken in by Mister Sinister at a young age. He has risen high within the ranks of Apocalypse’s forces, though he still maintained some of his trademark heroism.
At the start of the series, Cyclops only has one eye, naturally. This is because he battled Wolverine at one point in the past. He managed to utterly destroy one of Wolverine’s hands (adamantium included), while Wolverine took out one of his eyes. Seems like a fair exchange, Cyclops got the girl (Dr. Jean Grey), he was the prodigal son of the X-Men and the ultimate boy scout, while Logan was the brooding loner, who would always be in conflict with authority figures, and live by his own moral code. We can only wonder what a real Cyclops vs Wolverine face off would look like in the Marvel live-action movies.
Do you have anything to add about Cyclops' optic blasts? Let us know the comments.