The Wedding Issue: Scott Summers and Jean Grey
Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, Bride-to-Be Rebecca Henely and her Maid of Honor Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the dress? And more importantly … why did (or didn’t) the marriage last?
The Couple: Jean Grey and Scott Summers
The Issue: X-Men #30
Published: March 1, 1994
Today: Ended with Jean’s death, and now Scott’s dead too. (But their time-traveling teenage selves are still around. Comics!)
Rebecca: Between deaths, Phoenix possessions and being relegated to a love triangle that only furthers Wolverine’s character development in the X-Men movies, Scott and Jean have had it rough for well over a decade and a half. Looking back, it’s almost strange to think of them as one of Marvel’s former power couples, popular enough that their wedding merited a full, lavish party issue in 1994 at the height of the X-Men animated series’ popularity.
Kayleigh: Scott and Jean’s wedding was an event thirty years in the making, and Marvel went. All. Out. This comic came with its own trading cards! Besides X-Men #30 there was also a “Wedding Album” comic and a wedding edition of What If that spelled out all the ways the universe would have exploded if Scott and Jean hadn’t fallen in love. I have an X-Men activity book from the 90s that has Scott and Jean paper dolls you can dress up in a wedding gown and a tuxedo. It’s adorable.
Rebecca: I’ve always been fairly neutral on Jean and Scott. I am the Internet’s Foremost Wolverine Hater so I can’t say they were my least favorite part of the franchise, but I was always more interested in Storm, Beast and Rogue when I watched the cartoons. However, given that I’ve actually seen your substantial Jean Grey statue and action figure collection, I know you’ll have a lot more to say, Kayleigh.
Kayleigh: Okay, so we’ve all read the Max Wittert comics and yelled “JEAN!” in sync with the YouTube vids, but Scott and Jean were seriously the X-Men power couple for decades. At their best, Scott and Jean truly complemented each other; Jean’s passionate nature helped Scott connect with his emotions, while Scott’s strength kept Jean tied to her humanity even when she became a cosmic entity. After so many X-Men movies, cartoons, and spin-offs, it’s easy to take the Scott/Jean romance for granted, but it was an epic love story.
Rebecca: I first read this issue pretty much contemporaneously. My brother bought it when we were both fans of the X-Men cartoon and I read it after he did. In my mind, it’s still the quintessential wedding issue for me. Unlike the wedding of Sue and Reed which seems like the bookends for a monster crossover fight, X-Men #30 is a slow, sentimental character study that takes the reader from the dress adjustments in the bridal suite to the last dance and packing for the honeymoon. The only villain who wants to break up the fight is scared off by Wolverine and the rest of the issue is hugging, cake-smashing and bouquet/garter throwing (caught by second most popular couple Rogue and Gambit, of course).
Reading it again, I still enjoy the issue. Some parts tend toward too quippy—Remy, please don’t flirt with Ororo while she’s walking down the aisle. I also have no idea why Professor X is pretending that this is a wedding of normal people when Storm’s already changed the weather to 70 degrees in January and there are four people at the ceremony with blue skin. On the other hand, X-Men stories so often devolve into epic hordes of mutants fighting each other or complicated continuities that it’s kind of nice to take the breather and enjoy these characters we like having a moment of happiness—however fleeting. What’s your take?
Kayleigh: This is a very sweet comic that hits the right emotional beats. Jean welcoming Rachel Summers (her adult daughter from an alternate future) into her family is the kind of simultaneously touching and bizarre moment only the X-Men can pull off. I also love Jean telekinetically dancing with her mentor Professor X. A wedding is two families coming together, and Scott and Jean’s wedding really feels like one big, happy, blue-skinned, time-traveling, claw-popping family celebration.
Rebecca: Let’s talk about the really important things first: DRESSES! I really love Jean’s dress. This issue’s not particularly good-looking because it has that 1990s rushed ink work, but I live for the diamond pattern on the bodice, the mermaid cut with the big flounce and the hood-veil that still somehow lets Jean’s red hair flow everywhere (telekinesis, I guess). Ororo looks OK as the maid of honor. It’s a very 90s aesthetic with yellow off-shoulders and the black-blue rest of the dress. I don’t like how the pink part around her bodice points to her crotch, though. I also want to give a shout-out to Rachel Grey’s bizarre “four bows around the boobs with one knot” dress. It certainly is a look.
Kayleigh: Fashion designer Nicole Miller sketched Jean’s wedding dress and it still looks beautiful. The hooded veil feels especially appropriate for a superhero bride. Marvel made a good investment hiring a real garment designer for Jean’s gown, because Andy Kubert’s dresses for the rest of the X-Women are a sea of generic strapless, skin-tight gowns with tiny skirts and opera gloves. With so many colorful female characters in this comic, shouldn’t their dresses express their different personalities? Rachel, with her punkish, leather-and-spikes aesthetic, should have come to the wedding in something much more interesting than that frilly nightmare.
Rebecca: Random question, but just because this was an era-specific reference that stuck out in 1994 and sticks out even more in 2016—there’s one part where Lila Cheney (who headlines the wedding band)—says Scott and Jean’s song is “Hyperactive” by Thomas Dolby before saying “Just kidding!” and playing “One” by U2. Had you heard either of those songs at the time? I have to admit I assumed “Hyperactive” was going to be some sort of over-the-top rock or metal song because those are always what these types of jokes are about, so I was surprised to actually listen to it and hear an odd, groovy synthpop song. “One” is way more appropriate for a wedding, but kind of fades from the mind easily. I think I’ve heard it in commercials since then—sorry, Bono lovers.
Kayleigh: “One” is a classic example of a “love song” that’s heavier and more bitter than people really remember. It’s not necessarily a bad pick for Scott and Jean, whose relationship had all that “you thought I was dead and married my clone” baggage, and Phoenix dancing to a song with the lyric “have you come to raise the dead?” is a sly little wink. Still, fifteen seconds of Googling told me that Bono thinks it’s “mad” that people play “One” at their weddings. Oops!
Rebecca: Did you like any cameos this time around? This was a mostly mutant-only affair, but I liked seeing the Quicksilver/Crystal/Luna family from back when that was a thing. And Polaris saying she would wrap a Buick around the head of whoever asked when she and Alex Summers were going to get married made me laugh.
Kayleigh: I think Shatterstar and Rictor are sitting next to each other? It’s nice to see Artie and Leech; the years Scott and Jean took care of them in X-Factor aren’t referenced often.
Rebecca: Before I re-read this issue I actually tracked down the wedding of Scott and Madelyne Pryor first for comparison. While there’s an actual villain in Mastermind, it seems like the main conflict of that story is Scott trying to say goodbye to Jean so he can love Madelyne (something we’re basically going to see again in Spider-Man’s wedding issue). Still, there’s so much of Jean in the issue and she’s such a huge presence (Mastermind basically torments the X-Men with visions of Phoenix) you have to wonder how genuine it was meant to be at the time. In contrast, Madelyne is basically a cryptic reference to “Scott’s first marriage” in this issue. Does knowing what happened beforehand make this issue less authentic for you? To me, it’s a little hard to buy Professor X’s “My children are growing up!” raptures knowing that Scott was previously married. Not to mention the catastrophic way Scott and Madelyne split up …
Kayleigh: Madelyne Pryor, the clone of Jean Grey that Scott swiftly abandoned when Jean reappeared, is the elephant in the room. Even Uncanny X-Men #310, which is about Scott bonding with his estranged son Cable right before his bachelor party, doesn’t mention Madelyne. Scott marrying Madelyne was like re-writing the end of Vertigo so that James Stewart and Kim Novak live happily ever after. It doesn’t work; a relationship with someone who has an uncanny resemblance to your dead lover isn’t supposed to end well. Jean’s presence was always too big to be permanently laid to rest, and honestly, Madelyne was boring. (“Not Jean” isn’t actually a personality! [I OBJECT — Ed.]) Call me when she becomes the Goblin Queen and makes “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” her Facebook status. But given Scott’s rotten treatment of Madelyne, it’s not surprising that his deep personality flaws doomed his second marriage too.
Rebecca: Scott and Jean get the Prince Charles and Princess Diana treatment of superhero weddings, and like them the couple ended badly. It’s strange to see this issue opening with a letter from Wolverine telling Scott and Jean how great they are when the movies are all about how Jean should leave Scott for Wolverine. Despite their rocky past, I did feel like reading this issue that writer Fabian Niceza and artist Andy Kubert be meant for this couple to be true love. However, the latter day urges of writers to always add romantic conflict (should I ask your thoughts on Emma Frost?) and Wolverine generally sucking up all the attention in the franchise maybe was too much even for the leader of the X-Men and one of the most powerful telepaths in the galaxy.
Kayleigh: Only a few years after Jean and Scott’s wedding, their “perfect” relationship was shattered by Scott’s psychic affair with Emma Frost and Jean’s death. (My thoughts on Scott and Emma in three words: I hate them.) It’s bittersweet re-reading X-Men #30 because the perception of Scott and Jean’s romance, inside and outside the Marvel Universe, has changed so dramatically. This was the greatest love story the X-Men had ever known. Deaths, resurrections, clones, Jim Lee’s pouches—Love Had Conquered All, and this wedding cemented it. But now their story is more about tragedy rather than true love, so much so that when Scott and Jean’s teenage selves were plucked from the past, right at the beginning of their puppy love, they turned away from each other in horror at what their lives would become. The 21st century has been very hard for Scott/Jean fans, though X-Men: Apocalypse makes me hopeful, as Tye Sheridan and Sophie Turner are very adorable as young Scott and Jean. So while the sensational nature of superhero comics denied Scott and Jean their happily ever after, maybe in the movies, at least, ol’ Slim and Red still have a chance at love?