Cyclops: the Worst Leader (an interview)
So, you’re a teacher at a school where mutant kids can learn to control their powers. What tricks do you use to keep your powers under control?
I don’t. I have a special pair of glasses that does it for me.
Without them, I am helpless and blind.
Well, designing them must have taken considerable ingenui—
I didn’t design them. The Professor did.
Oh. Well, that was kind of him. He also asked you to lead his team of mutant superheroes, the X-men, from their inception. What qualities led him to trust you to lead at such a young age?
I am a natural leader.
Er, yes. How so?
I am very good at leadership.
But what aspects of leadership?
The part where I am the leader of the team.
Let’s try this another way. How did a teenager handle the responsibility of making decisions under pressure without Xavier’s help?
By asking him psychically what to do.
For the first few years, he stayed in constant contact with the entire team using his psychic powers every time we went on a mission. He would come up with plans, coordinate our actions, and make critical decisions in the heat of battle.
Oh. Um. Well, what did you do?
I led the team.
What were your responsibilities as team leader, I mean?
I would tell them to carry out the Professor’s orders, mostly.
So, the Professor would come up with a plan, and you would say, “do that?”
Yes. With my natural leadership skills, it was easy.
I see. Well, you said this was only for the first few years. What happened after that?
For a while, we all thought the Professor was dead. It was a very difficult time.
Oh! So, you stepped in to fill in his role?
No. Around that time, Jean’s telepathy developed, so she took over the Professor’s old duties.
…led the team. I would tell them to carry out Jean’s plans. Which, it turned out, were also the Professor’s orders.
Yes. It turned out the Professor hadn’t died after all. He had to fake his own death in order to focus on a critical long-term threat.
He let his own students think he was dead?!
Yes. Except for Jean. He made sure to tell her what was going on.
So he faked his own death, entrusting his responsibilities and the knowledge of his survival to one student, and that student was Jean Grey.
And you… led the team.
Moving on, then. Let’s talk about the personnel change that many say redefined the X-men. The entire team left, except for you!
Yes. I wanted them to stay, but they ignored me.
You had to rebuild the team from scratch.
It was the hardest time for me as a leader. There was no one to lead.
What was your role in the recruitment of the new cast of international heroes?
I mostly had to be patient while the Professor recruited them. It was very difficult.
Surely there was more to it than that?
Well, of course. First he had to scan for them with Cerebro. Then he had to build dossiers, drawing on his contacts in the government and his abilities for any information he could find, trying to decide whether they were suitable for the team. Then he had to fly all over the world, trying to convince them to sign up.
Ah. And, if I may venture a guess: you led the team?
No. There was no one there to lead. I thought I explained this.
Sorry, my mistake.
For a while, it felt as though my role as leader was just an empty title.
But then the Professor came back with a new team for me to lead! It was a great moment.
And then you went back to telling the team to do whatever the Professor told them to do.
Of course not. First, I had to train them.
Oh, really? So you trained the new team? Teaching combat skills must be a great challenge.
It sure is! Fortunately, the Professor built a special room full of automated training machines and scripted a whole series of programs for me to use.
The Danger Room is amazing.
But you still had to tutor them in controlling their powers, at least?
Well, this team was made up of adults rather than teenagers. They already knew how to use their powers. Many had been relying on their mutant skills for a living. Some even had combat training.
So what exactly were you teaching them?
How to work as a team.
That does sound important… So, you forged them into a coordinated fighting force?
Well, that was the goal of the training. Unfortunately, they weren’t very good at it.
So you were unable to teach a group of combat-trained mutant veterans with good control of their powers to function as a team?
Yes. I told them to work together, but they wouldn’t. I mean, sometimes they would, when they felt like it, or when it was their own idea. But for some reason, I could say “work together” all I wanted and they still wouldn’t.
What did you do to teach them the value of teamwork?
Well, I told them teamwork was valuable and that they should work as a team. I don’t know what more you could ask of me than that.
Some of them seemed to actually get a kick out of ignoring me. Heck, a lot of them still do.
I can’t imagine.
I still maintain that Thunderbird might have lived if we had been more coordinated.
You lost a team member?
On our second mission, yes.
That must have been terrible.
I told them, “This is what happens when you don’t work as a team! Next time listen to me better!”
And you must have reexamined yourself as a leader after that.
Well, it certainly made me feel like less of a leader.
I mean, one day, I was leading seven people. Then the next day, I was only leading six.
Well, six isn’t that few. At the beginning, I had only been leading four.
But you didn’t reconsider your leadership style?
I thought about it, sure. But the problem wasn’t my leadership style, it was their following style. I said “work as a team,” and they didn’t work as a team. I think it’s pretty clear where the problem was.
So you seriously think leadership responsibilities begin and end with “tell people what to do”?
You forgot the training part.
Which didn’t actually work.
Correct. They were impossible to train.
You said many of them already had training.
Yes. In things like combat, espionage, acrobatics, thievery, and controlling their unprecedented superhuman abilities. Learning to look out for your teammates must be harder than all those other things.
One of them was a Russian communist! You couldn’t teach a child of the Soviet Union to think of the common good?
Well, he did seem a little more promising than the others.
So, you don’t recruit, you don’t plan, you don’t make decisions, you don’t control your powers, no one listens to your orders, no one trusts you with important information, and your idea of training is “tell someone what to do and then hope they do it.” Do you do anything? Conduct job interviews? Help your teammates with their personal lives?
I’ve never thought of that. I bet I would be really good at dealing with people’s personal problems! I mean, no one who hasn’t been there knows what to do when your true love dies in your arms.
Finally we’re getting somewhere! What do you do in that situation?
Well, the first time—
The first time?
Yes, the first time, I married her exact physical duplicate who wasn’t related in any way, and quit the team.
Well, technically I was forced off the team by Storm, who thought I should concentrate on my wife and son.
But then I heard my original girlfriend was still alive, so I abandoned my family with no explanation to join a new team with the original girlfriend.
Of course, I didn’t tell the original what was going on, either, and swore everyone who knew I was married to secrecy so I could go back to dating my resurrected girlfriend in peace.
You have got to be fucking kidding me.
When my wife came to find me, demanding to know what the hell was going on, things looked pretty grim for a while.
Hard to believe that would bite you in the ass.
But fortunately it turned out that she had been a clone all along.
So you mean totally identical, unrelated women aren’t that common?
Also, maddened by jealousy, rage, and grief at our son’s kidnapping—
Kidnapping?! You didn’t think this was worth mentioning?
—she had struck a bargain with a demon to give her incredible powers so she could take revenge.
Why ever would she want to do that?
So we just defeated her like any other supervillain, and she committed suicide. Things sorted themselves right out after that!
Well, on the bright side, now I know why people don’t come to you for help with their personal problems. On the other hand, this interview is over, asshole. Rot in hell.
Wait? Don’t you want to hear what I did the second time she died…?