As one of the founding members and longtime leaders of the X-Men, Cyclops is one of the most iconic and fan-favorite members of Marvel's Merry Mutants. Ever since his debut in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's X-Men #1, the character has been unable to control his powerful optic blasts constantly projected from his open eyes, resulting in him wearing a signature visor or specially designed sunglasses to contain the immense energy.
Now, we're taking a close look at Scott Summers' mutant power, how it's been revised over the years and how exactly his unusual eyewear is able to stop his optic blasts from constantly destroying everything in sight.
What is Cyclops' Mutant Power?
Scott Summers' mutant power was unlocked when he and his family were attacked by a Shi'ar spaceship during a private flight. Parachuting to safety with his younger brother Alex, Scott accidentally struck his head on a rock upon landing, and the trauma supposedly made him unable to control his optic blasts later in life. After growing up in an orphanage, the young mutant would be found by Charles Xavier and given his signature eyewear to prevent the blasts from striking anything in Scott's line of vision.
The optic blasts themselves are a powerful concussive force -- not heat-based as occasionally depicted in places like X-Men Origins: Wolverine -- that constantly emit from his eyes involuntarily. Able to knock back virtually any target, Cyclops has used his optic blasts to rupture strong metal alloys, puncture Blob's skin and blast through alien spaceships. After living with the power most of his life, Scott has trained himself to be immaculately accurate with his beams, with the energy generated once measured by Iron Man to be approximately two gigawatts, roughly equivalent to half the energy output of a nuclear power plant.
How Cyclops' Optic Blasts Have Changed
Originally, Cyclops' optic blasts were fueled by solar energy metabolized by Scott, with blasts visibly weaker when Scott had been out of direct sunlight for an extended period of time. This power source was retconned to be Scott drawing fuel for his blasts through unseen extra-dimensional energies similar to his brothers Havok and Vulcan, which also serves as an explanation as to why the Summers Brothers are resistant to each other's energy attacks. Additionally, the Summer Brothers' mutation was retconned to include generating a psionic field rendering them immune to their own blasts and why Scott's eyelids were unaffected by the optic blasts.
Initially, Scott's inability to control his own optic blasts was linked to the childhood head injury. However, Joss Whedon and John Cassady's Astonishing X-Men run revealed that this was due to his subconscious mental blocks stemming from the traumatic incident. Emma Frost was temporarily able to lift the blocks to allow Scott to see without use of his usual eyewear for the first time in years, although eventually the inability to control them returned. After briefly bonding with the Phoenix Force, Cyclops' control of his powers was fractured for a time, resulting in even more erratic optic blasts. The errant blasts were later revealed to be exacerbated by Dark Beast infecting Cyclops with nanobots, but his abilities went back to normal after they were removed.
Appearing ever since the debut of the character and all subsequent media adaptations, Cyclops is rarely seen without his protective eyewear -- with the visor and glasses being protection for others instead of himself. The material used was revealed to be a translucent mineral called ruby-quartz that nullifies the optic blasts, absorbing the energy constantly emitting from Scott's eyes. Xavier would later reflect that he had made dozens of visors for Cyclops due to the strenuous superhero work his star pupil undertook.
While a similar pair of sunglasses with the lenses made from ruby-quartz simply cancel out the optic blast, the visors contain various sets that allow Cyclops to adjust the intensity, size, and shape of his optic blasts to varying levels of pinpoint accuracy and devastating effect. Monitored constantly by neutron detectors and regulated with powered microchips installed within it, the visor allows Cyclops to project a blast small enough to fire through a standard coin or wide and powerful enough to punch through an entire mountain.