Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
As X-Men Monday’s a column tailor-made for X-Men fans, today’s guest requires no introduction–but he’s getting one anyway. It’s writer and editor Jay Edidin, who also happens to co-host the Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men podcast (maybe you’ve heard of it)! On September 16, you’ll finally have a chance to read X-Men: Marvels Snapshots #1, in which Jay, artist Tom Reilly and color artist Chris O’Halloran bring us a tale of teenaged, pre-X-Men Scott Summers at the dawn of the Marvel Age.
In his own X-Men Monday Creator Spotlight (posted earlier today), Tom referred to Jay as “THE Cyclops fan,” so you better believe Jay has a lot of very thoughtful things to say about Slim. So without further ado, here’s Jay!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Jay! First, for the more casual X-Fans reading who aren’t familiar with Jay & Miles X-Plain The X-Men, how long has the podcast been running and why should fans of Marvel’s merry mutants listen?
Jay: Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men is pretty exactly what it says on the tin–we work roughly chronologically through the ins, outs, retcons, clones, and time travel; as well as the line’s creative and publishing history and cultural context. It’s conversational but structured–we don’t script, but we work from tight outlines–and built on the dual principles of making this massively convoluted narrative behemoth accessible to newcomers and casual fans; and providing a model of simultaneously celebrating and critically examining and challenging media you love.
With the exception of a brief hiatus when I moved from Portland to New York in 2017, we’ve been updating weekly for the last six years and change, and so far made our way from the Silver Age to roughly 1996, with occasional digressions into the present. (If you don’t want to jump in with the current stuff but would like a point of entry with less backlog to work through, I’d recommend starting with Episode 287 – Welcome to the Age of Apocalypse, which is the most recent of a few mid-series episodes we designed as jumping on points.)
AIPT: Definitely worth checking out! So how did the opportunity to write X-Men: Marvels Snapshots come about? Was this a project you pitched or was it pitched to you?
Jay: The latter, which was immensely flattering. Kurt Busiek is a longtime friend–we’ve worked together on and off for years, and talked a lot about X-Men in that time–and it was his call to bring me on for this.
AIPT: That’s so awesome. Now, Cyclops is my favorite X-Men character, so I want to dig into his appeal. While Scott Summers hasn’t always been the flashiest Marvel character, countless fans consider him not just their favorite X-Men character–but their favorite character in all of comics. In your opinion, why do so many readers gravitate toward Slim?
Jay: There’s a critical caveat to the answer to any question like this, which is that, depending on where you’re standing, one of the best or worst things about characters in long-running franchise comics is that you can pretty much cherry-pick continuity to support any interpretation. No matter what I list, there’s going to be at least one die-hard Cyclops fan who’s appalled that someone could misinterpret their favorite character so grievously.
That said, X-Men tends to attract a lot of people who are or see themselves as outsiders; and I think Cyclops tends to resonate with a specific group of those fans–particularly the ones who find themselves feeling alone within groups and found families, who also tend to be the folks in those dynamics stuck with being the literal or metaphorical adult in the room or the person who makes the unpopular calls nobody else wants to. In a lot of ways, he’s the quintessential parentified oldest kid, both in relation to his actual brother and the other X-Men.
He’s also heavily coded as neurodivergent and textually damaged in ways that are comparatively rare among superheroes, who are presented as at least nominally aspirational figures; and if you’re coming from an analogous place, that’s a rare and valuable paper mirror to find.
AIPT: Interesting… and why do you connect so strongly with Cyclops?
Jay: All of the above, honestly. I joke that I connect most closely to the ways that Cyclops sucks, but it’s really more complicated than that. A few years ago, I made a zine called Ruby Quartz Panic Room, which is basically a meditation on exactly this stuff, and one of the things I explored in it is that I’d been reading X-Men for a long time when I realized that a lot of the characteristics I relate most closely to in Scott are ones intended to be read as unsympathetic, which are also characteristics that correlate really closely with the intersections of expressions of autism and the adultification of profoundly gifted kids. As someone who internalized impossible standards very young, there’s a lot to connect with Scott Summers over, even beyond superficial overlaps.
AIPT: Scott’s been at the center of so many iconic X-Men–and Marvel Universe–stories. What did you find appealing about exploring Scott’s earlier days in the orphanage–a period of his history that hasn’t been covered as much?
Jay: Almost all the stories set in Scott’s time at the orphanage–really, the whole period from the death of his parents to his leadership of the X-Men–are about things happening to him. Kurt was the one who suggested making this about Scott reacting to the advent of superheroes; but part of why I was so excited to run with that pitch was the chance to tell a story in which Scott actually got to do something. (The result was an almost meta twist on that–the story in which he gets to have agency as a teenager ended up being about him claiming agency.)
AIPT: From a writing perspective, how did you balance being a longtime X-Men fan with writing the best story possible for a general audience?
Jay: I’ve been working on other people’s IP as a writer and editor for almost 15 years, so I’d like to think that’s a situation I’m pretty qualified to handle at this point. Honestly, the hardest thing was not overcompensating and locking my options down too tightly.
AIPT: What makes your artistic collaborators Tom Reilly and Chris O’Halloran the perfect team to bring this story to life?
Jay: I mean, have you seen it?! Tom’s art style is perfect for a comic set in the chronologically nebulous Marvel past: there’s a really timeless quality to his work that evokes the Silver Age without feeling dated or locking the story to a specific year or era. Chris is a phenomenally deft and expressive colorist; of all of us, I think he’s been by far the most critical piece in setting the comic’s emotional tone.
AIPT: As a Cyclops fan, this seems like a hard opportunity to top. But do you feel like you have more X-Men stories in you if Marvel’s interested?
Jay: Absolutely. (Seriously, does anybody ever answer “no” to that question?) The stuff I really love in connection to the X-Line–the stuff I’d climb through a crowd to pitch–tends to be to the side of the big central narratives. In my wildest dreams, I’d love to write and curate an anthology series somewhere between Ultimate X-Men and What If?–a couple self-contained stories per issue, but instead of linked to current continuity, they’d explore other iterations of the X-Men across the multiverse–but I’ve got a lot of other pitches sloshing around in my head and hard drive as well.
AIPT: Your desire to play around in the X-Men multiverse makes me wonder if you have a favorite X-Men story of all time.
Jay: I don’t! I know I probably should, but there are so many I love for so many different reasons that ranking them always feels unforgivably reductive. Off the top of my head: “Inferno” is definitely on the list–it’s such a sweeping epic, with years and years of groundwork. As mini-series go, I fiercely love Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown; it’s so different from anything that existed around it at the time, and such a weird and effective character pairing and art approach. X-Men: Season One is one of my go-to favorites, and probably the single volume I’ve recommended most frequently.
AIPT: Finally, you’ve now written Cyclops in an official Marvel story, so you have an eXtra bit of insight into the mind of Scott Summers. So… what’s one thing you know about Cyclops that no one else knows?
Jay: This is an incredibly mundane detail, but I’ve always figured Cyclops as an incredibly detailed and obsessive note-taker. It fits his general meticulousness and contingency planning; but he’s also had his memories messed with by so many telepaths that I could see keeping some kind of concrete physical record of the moment becoming a really important touchstone for him.
AIPT: Wow, I never thought about that, but considering his close relationships with Xavier, Jean and Emma, that makes total sense. But that’s all my questions. Jay–thank you so much for swinging by X-Men Monday to share your Cyclops insights! As an eXtra treat, here’s an eXclusive page from X-Men: Marvels Snapshots #1 illustrated by Tom and colored by Chris!
Spooky! Remember, X-Fans, X-Men: Marvels Snapshots #1 goes on sale September 16, so be sure to pick up a copy!
So, before we wrap up, you’ll notice I have a bit of a problem. Cyclops pretty much destroyed the X-Men Monday template with a single optic blast.
AND, he did it right before the highly anticipated, milestone X-Men Monday #75! Thanks, Scott!
I guess we’ll need a new template.
While I figure that out, I could use some help coming up with questions for this column’s next installment. So, definitely make sure you’re following AIPT on Twitter so you can see the official call for questions tomorrow morning (Tuesday, September 1).
And if you don’t have a Twitter account, create one just so you can ask a question. Because you’re going to want to ask a question.
X-Men Monday will be off next week and return Monday, September 14 for X-Men Monday #75, so put an X on your calendars! Until then, X-Fans, stay safe and be eXceptional!