EXCLUSIVE: Greg Rucka Takes "Cyclops" on a Cosmic Road Trip

SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for "All-New X-Men" #23, on sale now.

Life's not easy if you're a young Cyclops. First, he and the rest of Marvel's Original Five X-Men were transported from the past to the present, where he learned that the present version of himself ended up being possessed by the Phoenix, and killed their mentor, Professor Xavier. Things haven't gotten much smoother for the teenage Scott Summers since then, ranging from explosive encounters with evil future mutants to romantic frustrations and altered allegiances.

Luckily, some good news came in the form of this week's "All-New X-Men" #23 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen. The issue contained the revelation that Cyclops' father, Christopher Summers -- better known as space pirate Corsair, leader of the Starjammers -- is in fact alive, after having been presumed dead since the 2007 storyline "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire."

So what's going to get Scott out of this funk? Outer-space road tripping with his dad, as detailed in a new "Cyclops" ongoing from the team of writer Greg Rucka and recent "Nightwing" artist Russell Dauterman. Rucka, returning to Marvel following his 2011-2013 run on "Punisher," spoke to CBR News exclusively about the unique father/son dynamic of the new series, set to debut in May.

CBR News: Greg, recently your comic book work has focused more on the creator-owned realm: "Lazarus" has been a success at Image, "Veil" debuts in March at Dark Horse and "Stumptown" returns at Oni Press this summer. What was intriguing about returning to Marvel with "Cyclops?"

Greg Rucka: I was offered the book by [editor] Nick Lowe, and he basically said that he had been talking to Brian Bendis, and he had suggested me, because, I believe as Bendis put it, "Greg's got a son about Scott's age, and it seems that could be a really good fit." And that was how Nick sort of pitched it.

I thought about it, and I was like, "Well, that sounds like it would be a hell of a lot of fun. Let's try it." There are a whole lot of irons in the fire right now, and timing for a freelancer is everything: When there's a gap in the schedule, when you're free, when you're not, what's coming up, what fell through and what didn't. This was the right offer at the right time. 

It feels like I've been misquoted about this: I've never felt like, "Eh, fuck work-for-hire." Work-for-hire has been very, very good to me, in many, many ways. It is a privilege, more often than not, to get to work on iconic characters. You're talking about Scott Summers. Come on! This is a cool opportunity.

It sounds like you still have plenty to say in the work-for-hire world.

I was talking to another creator yesterday; he made the comment, "The thing is, I could write other stuff" -- I'm sort of paraphrasing here -- "but I genuinely love this." You can't diminish that. These are characters and stories and books that have had huge impact and meaning on my life, personally, not to even begin to talk about what they mean to other people.

It's the right thing for now, and it'll be fun. I think that's important, too. I think Scott needs a little fun. That's something that we really want to try to bring to the book.

EXCLUSIVE: Greg Rucka Sees Past Horror's "Veil"

Is Cyclops a character you've always seen potential in and enjoyed? Over the years he's had a bit of a bad rap with some fans, but there are also the people who really love him -- and lots of interesting stuff done with the character in recent years. What was your take on Cyclops going into this book?

When I started reading "Uncanny" way back in the day -- and I mean way back in the day -- there were characters I loved, and there were characters that I was kind of "meh" about. I was "meh" about Scott at the start. I had been collecting for about a year and a half, and I came to a realization -- "Why is it that I feel like I haven't connected with this guy?" Then the penny dropped for me, which was, "Oh, because he and I are an awful lot alike." [Laughs] We're very serious people; we take our responsibilities very seriously, we expect others to do the same, and we're often frustrated by their lack of doing so. And we internalize a lot. If I were an X-Man, I'd probably end up being Scott -- but I'd be the Scott who never, ever, ever managed to make anything work with Jean. [Laughs]

There's something Gary Cooper about him that I really like. There's something about this kid -- and I'm looking at him very much as a kid; for our purposes he's 16 -- he's really trying to figure out how to be a stand-up man. Right now, he's got an example that he's not in love with. The stand-up man version of himself is problematic!

I really like the character. I'm not sure Scott will ever be "cool." Logan's always going to be cool. Scott's the guy who gets stuff done.

Right -- Scott being "uncool" is part of the appeal of the character.

One of the duties of the X-Men -- we've talked about this for years and years -- is the metaphor of being the outsider group. One of the things that Marvel has always done so well is talk about teenage trauma, and the difficulties of that. In so many ways, Scott is perfectly that. He is a young man trying to be a good man, and trying to stand for what he believes in, and trying to figure out how to love, and how to make new things work, and how to be responsible for other people -- which is a huge thing.

Scott's always been a little too mature for his own good; certainly, young Scott. I find that incredibly appealing.

Greg Rucka Talks Loyalty, Lies and Love in Second "Lazarus" Arc

A big part of the "Cyclops" book looks to be the dynamic of the father/son relationship in this series between Cyclops and Corsair -- would you say that's the defining aspect of the series?

There's a line in the first issue where Chris has been talking to Hepzibah, and Hepzibah basically says, "Look, all he wants is time with his father." Chris is like, "I'm not sure I know how to be his father." Near the end of the issue, there's a moment between Scott and Chris, and Chris says, "I'm pretty sure I suck as a dad." Scott says, "That's alright, I suck as a 16-year-old." Chris says, "I'll tell you a secret, Scott: We all suck as a 16-year-olds."

This is a story about the two of them. At the heart of everything we're going to do here, it's about these two. When you think about that 16-year-old Scott, what he's carrying into this is pretty obvious. "I've spent eight years as an orphan, I've moved from place to place, and some places have been awful. I got to a place that was a good place, relatively, I had a father figure in Xavier, and I had a purpose -- and then all of that got disrupted. And then here comes my real dad, and he's Han Solo!" So that's awesome right there.

For Chris, who has had reconciliations with Scott and Alex, but had them late, this is a very different opportunity. This is a chance to be there when he was maybe needed most. There's friction between them. There are valid questions that Scott has that Corsair has to answer. By the same token, this isn't meant to be angsty, "Dad, you don't understand me!" That's not the adventure that they're going on.

What does seem notable about this series is that, for a character that's been around as long as Cyclops -- about 50 years -- we really haven't seen much of the father/son dynamic, especially with the young Cyclops. You're getting to do that in an entire series, which has to be a cool opportunity for a writer.

It is. It's really exciting. If your dad came to you and said, "I have a spaceship, and there's a whole, large galaxy out there. What do you say we take a couple months, and just you and me do a road trip?" How do you say no? Especially when you are leaving things behind that you really don't want to have to deal with. All of the stuff that Brian's done with the time travel, with the book where it stands, with Jean in particular -- it's such a great opportunity.

The one thing I want more than anything else for this is, I want the book to be fun. It's got to have heart, otherwise it's pointless, but it's got to also be fun. And it raises some interesting questions, because Brian plays things very close to the vest, and he and I haven't talked about this at length, but eventually, the time travel story is going to resolve, one way or another. It's going to have to. It's interesting to wonder, "How does this change Scott?" What will this allow him to become? If you take some of that trauma away, and presumably he moves forward in the timeline, he becomes a different person. And it can be very subtle. But how cool is that?

That's interesting, because the time travel storyline has already lasted longer and gone a lot further in different directions than a lot of fans guessed at the onset.

I know Brian enough to know that when he moves in to upset the apple cart, he does so with great deliberation. He's not flying by the seat of his pants. I don't know what his plan is, but I know there's a plan.

"Cyclops" is its own book, and this story is its own thing. But it has to be relevant to the story [Bendis] is telling, otherwise there's no point to it. He and I have had a couple of conversations.

It's early, but to whatever extent you can share at this point, what can you talk about specifically in regards to the initial mission that Cyclops and Corsair are going on together?

The first three issues are done-in-ones. The first one is basically the decision that Scott and Corsair reach to go, "OK, hey, let's go do this thing." The second issue is them visiting galactic Manhattan, for lack of a better word, and interacting in a wonderful space city environment; them kind of feeling each other out, and getting to know each other a little better. Then in the third issue something happens that changes their relationship, and I don't want to talk about what that is specifically. It's not a "changes it for the worse," it's not necessarily "changes it for the better," but something happens that puts them both in a situation where they can't hide from each other behind all the other stuff that's going on. Because there's a lot of other stuff going on! If you're at Mos Eisley, for lack of a better example, there's stuff going on that you're checking out. You're not really going to have a chance to have a heart-to-heart. Issue #3 puts them in a position where they really don't have a choice. They have to rely on each other in a very, very different way. Then that opens up into a larger multi-part [arc].

I don't want to give too much away. The first three issues are all designed to be easy entry points to move them forward, and into a place where the grand adventure can begin.

Russell Dauterman, the artist on the book, is someone who you haven't worked with before and doesn't have a ton of published comic book credits to his name. Have you started collaborating with him much at this point?

He and I haven't had a chance to talk yet. With the shift in the X-office this last week, I think that further delayed it. Nick [Lowe] suggested him -- I got presented with samples from a variety of artists, I suggested a couple of people, we went back and forth, and we kept coming back to Russell. One of the things I really liked is, I want the teenagers to look like teenagers. I don't want them to look like small grown-ups. I want them to be a little awkward, and a little gawky, because a lot of what is going on here is that dynamic between father and son, and son is at an awkward age. He's going to interact with others that are at a similarly awkward age. One of the things that I loved about Russell's work is that he can do that. It's not an easy thing to do. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he delivers.

I spoke to Tom Brennan, who is going to be editing the book. One of the things Tom said is, "There are some editors who don't want artists and writers talking -- I want you guys talking. Talk a lot!" I can't wait. It's a collaborative medium. You will get better collaborations if you're talking to the person you're collaborating with.

Is there anything else people should definitely know at this point about "Cyclops?"

They know Cyclops. And they can expect to see the root of the character. That's not going to change. This is the Scott they know from those early, early days. How he changes, and what he learns, and where this takes him, I think is a worthwhile story. I think that's a fun adventure. I think it's going to be a hoot and a holler, and I'm hoping that people will come along and enjoy it with us. 
Scott's coming out of so much darkness. It's horrible for him, if you think about it. You look at this poor kid's situation, and then this opportunity comes along? Oh, hell yeah. "I'm going with him." No pause at all. I suspect some people will go, "Scott would never abandon his friends," and I do think it's crucial to bear in mind that I don't think he thinks of this as abandonment. He's got such a sense of responsibility. This is him, in large part, going, "This is an opportunity for me to get my head straight. Once my head's straight, then I can come back and I can do the things I need to do, and I can be the person I need to be."

Spawn #302 Covers Feature Todd McFarlane's All-New She-Spawn

More in Comics