– Narration from Uncanny X-Men #137 by Chris Claremont & John Byrne
For over thirty years, Scott Summers and Jean Grey, Cyclops and Jean Grey nee Phoenix nee Marvel Girl, were the heart of the X-Men. They were the couple at the center of a title which reveled more than most in the soapy attributes of long-form comic book storytelling, and to someone like me, for whom the X-Men were the gateway into the world of comic books, they were the epitome of comic book romance.
They began pining for one another almost immediately, way back during the team’s initial run in the Sixties, when, as was the style at the time, their romantic interactions were little more than the tortured longing of unspoken thoughts (conveniently, Jean wasn’t yet telepathic). By the time the book went on hiatus, they had finally admitted their feelings to one another, and when the “All New, All Different” X-Men burst onto the scene, their romance survived the transition. Jean helped pull the taciturn and repressed Scott out of his shell (something which resonated with at least this socially-awkward nerdy teenager), while Scott helped ground Jean, and acted as a sea of calm amongst the swirling thoughts of everyone around her along her own growing power. Then, tragedy struck and Jean, consumed by cosmic power, sacrificed herself, choosing to die a human rather than be corrupted by godhood, in the climax of the seminal “Dark Phoenix Saga”, what is considered by many to be the zenith of X-Men stories. For many readers, the romance between Scott and Jean ended there.
But death is rarely permanent in the world of serial fiction, and eventually, Jean came back, and after some hiccups (not the least of which being the clone of Jean which Scott married and who eventually went murderously insane), they rekindled their romance and their retook their position as the romantic bedrock of the X-Men. It was thus entirely appropriate that to celebrate the 30th anniversary of what had by then become a bestselling multi-title franchise, Scott and Jean were married (one of the few comic book couples to do so). Things unfortunately went downhill from there: Scott died (he got better) then Jean died, again (she hasn’t gotten better. Yet.), and Scott moved on to new, arguably better, romances.
But there’s no denying that for over thirty years, Scott and Jean were the power couple of one of comic’s most powerful groups. There are certainly more intriguing, more passionate, more thematically-resonant romances in comics, and even in the X-Men (heck, as much as I love the Scott/Jean pairing, I’m a big fan of the Scott/Emma Frost relationship as well), but few romances are as deeply embedded in the DNA of a specific title, nor are as integral to the success of one of the most highly regarded stories in comics.
Comics are rife with great romances, but there’s something to be said for your first. For me, that was Scott and Jean, two young heroes in love, and no matter what, I’ll always carry a torch for those two crazy kids.