Scott Summers and Jean Grey: the OTP of the X-Men. Right? Well, maybe not, but for a lot of us, growing up they were the only couple we could rely upon to be, forever, “a thing.” Comics, cartoons, live-action films—Scott and Jean, Jean and Scott, we like dysfunction, it is hot.
Maybe we didn’t like it (I sure didn’t—that Summers is the coldest fish in the sea and sweetheart Jean deserves better), but we knew it was there. From the first issue of Uncanny X-Men to the time Jean “died” and became Phoenix, and then Phoenix “died” but actually went to Scotland while Scott shrugged it all off, and then went Phoenix Dark and died for real, and then Jean came back and Scott left his new identical wife for her, and then she died and Jean and Scott went to the future to raise Cable, and then they came back and got married, and then Scott was possessed by Apocalypse and got better, and then Scott cheated with Emma and then Jean died for real. And a few other detours, here and there, that are too much to mention. But dang it all, what’s a hang-up or two between soulmates? From first to last, it’s Scott and Jean, Marvel Girl & Cyclops, the ever-sprawling Grey-Summers family tree. As it was and will be. Just ask Nathaniel Essex.
So let’s consider the top five romantic moments between young Scott Summers and Miss Jean Grey. Their tender moments, building this relationship’s half-century legacy. From the moment they met as classmates, to the time Jean died and Scott lost her. (Deaths might be reversible, but they still matter between intimate relations.) Because it’s interesting, isn’t it, to consider these stories as they were told. This is how it unfolded. This is how the story became history.
Or in other words: let’s scour eleven years of reprints for the two on-page kisses these crazy kids shared, and get stuck into a whole lot of angst. This is a relationship that launched in fits and starts, really only beginning to soar when the impostor-Jean, Phoenix, came into play. Although at the time Phoenix really was intended to be Jean…
The important thing to consider is that Phoenix, Jean or not, was so powerful she could alter reality, effectively; removing the threat of Scott’s Cursed Mutant Eyes (TM). Scott was devoted, quite devoted, to using these as a reason for his emotional abdication. Get rid of his mutation, get temporarily rid of his frigidity. Which led to that time they boinked in the desert-
But no! Let’s hold off on what came after, and look at Scott and Jean: the definitively human years.
Giving her up, for the greater good
Jean Grey’s parents, aware that she’s now of college age, enrol her at Metro College. Dropped off by Warren and Scott, both unspoken suitors, Jean meets Ted Roberts. Ted is her regular companion during her time at university (it’s inferred that he guesses her X-dentity and keeps it quiet out of common courtesy) and a decent enough sort. Scott, of course, is over-dramatic and secretive about his jealousy—Jean, for her part, tries to let it go. Scott’s so cold towards her, so why pine? She doesn’t manage to shake off her sense that Mr. Summers needs and maybe does want her, but she gives it the literal college try. It’s for the best! Scott! You hero!
The goodbye kiss
This is the first time Scott and Jean ever kissed on-page—or ever admitted their feelings to each other in view of the reading audience. Four of the original X-Men (Hank, Bobby, Warren, and Jean) reveal that they’ve grown up and decided to move on from the X-Men. They spent their late high school years and their early years of majority there, and they grew there, but now it’s time to go. Scott, of course, stays behind. Yes, True Believers: the entire initial run of our X-Men featured Scott pining after Jean, and Jean pining after Scott, and nary a step forward made by either of them. This was the last opportunity, and Claremont, Wein, and Cockrum took pity on long-term readers, giving them some sort of closure.
The retcon kiss
Claremont again! You rotter, Chris. This kiss appears during a Scott Summers memory monologue that recaps the entire history of the X-Men (and the Scott-Jean relationship, it goes without saying) thus far. But it’s situated within the evening of Bobby Drake’s eighteenth birthday, and gives a different version of the events of X-Men #32, where said birthday originally appeared. In the ’67 telling, Scott and Jean hang out a little and are clearly designated as each other’s party partners, but do no more than hold each other’s arms and flirt chastely. As Claremont has it, they leave their coats somewhere and take a night walk in Central Park…which leads to an opening of the emotional floodgates, and open-mouthed kissing. Did it happen before Phoenix took Jean’s slot in the comic’s line-up? No. Did it happen before Phoenix made her debut in the internal timeline of Earth-616? Grudgingly, yes, it did.
The Christmas date kiss, with Jack & Stan
So it seems like they did keep in touch, after all! Four issues after the goodbye kiss (…and the MAN called CYCLOPS is ALONE), X-Men past and present go Christmas shopping together. Some guys named Jack and Stan are hanging around ogling the necking mutants like a couple of weirdos (that’s Kirby and Lee, kids (so like, that’s their parents, man!)). Ah, they’re finally together, after all those years of strife and distance! Guess what happens in this issue? Jean and half the X-Men are kidnapped into space and involved in intergalactic politics, where in two issues time…
The last moments of Jean Grey. Okay, that’s not at all the actual case, but that’s what they both thought. And in fact, it was ten years before this Jean was found, cocooned, at the bottom of Jamaica Bay. For the fresh, just-me-and-you relationship between Jean Grey and Scott Summers, Cyclops and Marvel Girl, this was it. Next time they met, there were two clones and more between them. And she still went back to him. On the strength of this list.
What had they had between their own lone selves? A little kiss here and there. Worry. Rejection. Hidden secrets and teenage feelings.
No wonder it never really stuck, for all it was a sticking point.