Welcome to the five hundred and seventy-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, were Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor really going to live happily ever after? How did Neal Adams change the ending of the famous Green Arrow/Speedy drug storyline? Finally, was Bruce the Gargoyle on the Spider-Man Animated Series a Batman reference?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Chris Claremont invented Madelyne Pryor strictly as a way to give Cyclops a happy ending to write him out of the X-Men.
Recently, we’ve been looking at the troubled relationship between Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, including how messed up it was that Cyclops ditched her and their kid to go running once he found out his ex-girlfriend, Jean Grey, was alive. And then how weird it was for the X-writers to then decide to blame Madelyne for the whole thing.
To recap, in Uncanny X-Men #168 (by Chris Claremont, Paul Smith and Bob Wiacek), Cyclops met Madelyne Pryor, who, of course, looked exactly like Scott’s dead girlfriend, Jean Grey…
He and Maddie work fast, as he already tells her he is a mutant by Uncanny X-Men #170…
And then he accepts a rather major red flag in the next issue…
and they’re married within seven issues of meeting each other…
The question a number of readers had, though, was basically, “Okay, so let’s say X-Factor never happens. Does Cyclops seriously end up with Madelyn Pryor, living in Alaska with their kid?” In other words, “What was Chris Claremont’s PLAN exactly?”
Here are a sample reader question (courtesy of commenter Green Luthor):
Did Claremont ever actually have a plan for Maddie before all this? It seemed like he went out of his way to establish that she wasn’t a clone of Jean, and then the big payoff turns out… she’s a clone of Jean. I have to assume that wasn’t his original plan, but what was?
As it turned out, it was, indeed, to just give Cyclops a happy ending. Claremont explained it all in an interview with a Danish comic book site:
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 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
Now while I certainly feel for Claremont to have his story disrupted like that, on the other hand, it’s awfully hard to believe that Marvel would just let one of their major X-Characters just sit on a shelf like that. Even by this point in time, Angel, Iceman and Beast had formed their own Defenders team, so everyone at Marvel was hot to use X-characters, so one of them just living happily ever after seemed unlikely. In addition, having her be identical to Jean Grey was just weird, as it forever made Madelyne a Jean Grey substitute, even if the character had remained her own character and Jean never returned. “Oh phew, my girlfriend is dead. Luckily, I met someone who looks just like her! Close enough for a happy ending!”
But there ya go, folks, that was Claremont’s original intent.
By the way, the little girl version of Madelyne that showed up in Avengers Annual #10 was just a coincidence based on the fact that Claremont just really liked the name Maddie Pryor.
Thanks to Green Luthor and a bunch of other commenters for asking what the original deal was going to be! And thanks to Chris Claremont for letting us all know what the original deal WAS goign to be!
Go to the next page to find out how Neal Adams changed the ending of the Green Arrow/Speedy drug storyline pretty dramatically!
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