The iFanboy Letter Column – 05/22/2009

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means it’s time to really give some thought to how much food you can eat in one 48 hour period without moving. For others, Friday means it’s finding out who’s holdin’.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming —


I’ve been thinking about something ever since I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine and its amazing meandering mediocrity. I’ve never understood Cyclops power and its not even the optic force blasts vs. fire lasers things. How does he see? If he doesn’t wear his glasses and his eyes are open beams come out, so he closes and his eyes to stop the beams. His glasses are just glasses right just made out of ruby quartz or something. So him wearing the glasses shouldn’t stop the beams from coming out. How does he see if his eyes are always blasting out?

Jamez from Maine

I couldn’t help myself from answering this e-mail as it relates to one of my favorite characters, Cyclops. I thought I’d first start by answering with what I believe to be how Scott Summers (Cyclops) power works based off my years of knowledge from reading the X-Men comics, and then compare that with some “research”. So let us begin.

Cyclops eyes fire “optic blasts” that are not heat rays, rather energy beams. They’re like a really strong punch. These blasts come out of his eyes every time he opens them. Somehow, Professor Xavier discovered that ruby quartz has the ability to block or absorb these blasts, and made Cyclops a visor (and glasses) so that he could control the blasts. His visor can be adjusted to control the size of the blast, either a huge blast that could level a mountain, or as fine as a laser (as seen when Cyclops punched a hole in a dime). Cyclops can see through these beams though, as they’re just light energy, but I believe he sees everything with a red hue.

So that’s how I interpret Cyclops power. To fact check this, I went to Wikipedia first and found that, for the most part, I was correct with some additional facts. But there were some other facts that are too funny not to share. Here is my favorite:

“Other accounts suggest that Cyclops’ eyes may contain apertures to another dimension, releasing powerful energies from that dimension into his own in the form of beams.”

Really? Now, I’ve read a lot of comics with Cyclops. I have never even heard of this theory/explanation for his powers. If anyone knows the source of this, please let me know. Oh, Wikipedia….

I did find another article about the Science of The X-Men (excerpted from that book) with a lengthy description of how Cyclops powers could work in the real world and guessing as to how ruby quartz could be used to block the beams and allow Scott to see. Fascinating stuff. Basically, where it nets out is that while they look like beams in the comics, it’s energy that is transparent to light, so therefore light could pass through it, allowing him to see.

I love trying to figure out how powers would work in the real world and recommend picking up books like the Science of The X-Men and the Science of Super Heroes if this sort of thing fascinates you too. I hope it’s a bit clearer now as to how Cyclops powers work and how he’s able to see.

Ron Richards


In Atlanta, I’m lucky to have a good LCS a few blocks from my office. Now, I’m sent on a business trip to Detroit for two weeks. According to Google, the closest LCS is six miles away. So… I walk the six miles in downtown Detroit on a cloudy Saturday morning to a local shop, Green Brain Comics, to buy six comics and a trade. Luckily, I found out where the local bus would pick me up and take me back toward the hotel (as it started to rain). Six miles for funny pages… the shop guy called me “hard core”… I think “soft cabesa”. What is the stupidest thing done for your comic fix?

Robert B. from Atlanta, GA

Back when I had just started going to the comic book store every week to buy new books — I must have been around around 11 years old — I was very seriously committed to going every week. It was all very exciting! New comic books! Every week! I couldn’t miss out on that, no way, no how.

One week into that super-committed period I got very sick. Not “call an ambulance, he’s dying” kind of sick, but I got like 100 degree fever sick. I stayed home from school and my parents went off to work and took my brother to school with them. There I was stuck in the apartment knowing that there were new comics to be had.

At the time we lived on 81st and Broadway in Manhattan and my regular comic book store was West Side Comics on 86th and Columbus Avenue. That’s a distance of five regular blocks and two avenue blocks (about the length of two regular blocks). Not a bad walk by any means, the roundtrip was probably about a mile.

On that fateful day, and suffering under the haze of a 100+ degree temperature, little 11(ish) year old Conor decided it would be a fine idea to go get new comic books. So I did. And I have no memory of the trip. I do remember being back home with new comics and I remember my mom asking me how I go them. And I remember telling her that I went to the comic book store. And I remember her not being all that thrilled about that. I also remember telling her that I really couldn’t remember all that much about going. I have a memory of leaving the building that day and that’s about it.

But, hey, once I decided to start going every week to get new comics, it was well more than a decade before I missed a week. So I have that going for me.

Conor Kilpatrick


I’m just wondering how come a comic like Proof or Wasteland, (that only sells over 2,000 copies) isn’t cancelled and a comic like Captain Britain and MI13 is cancelled and it sells over 17,000 copies?


It’s all a matter of economics. One thing to remember is that it’s all (usually) about making money. If it’s not making money, then it’s not getting published.

So why can a book like Captain Britain survive when it seems to be selling 10 times as many copies as an Image book? That’s a simple matter of overhead. A Marvel comic book has a much higher overhead than most Image comics. At Marvel, they pay the writer, artist, colorist, letterer, editor, assistant editor, production artist, and overhead of having an office in Manhattan. For them to make a profit on that book, they’ve got to sell a lot of them, over 20,000 it would seem. Image Comics works completely differently. There is no money up front at Image Comics. For a book like Proof, Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo deliver their book in its entirety to Image, who basically solicit it, print it, and ship it to stores. Based on the amount of comics that are ordered, Image takes a publishing fee from the money that comes in, and if there’s a profit above that fee, that money goes to the creators. If Image makes their money back, and the creators make no money, it’s up to them to keep making it. If not even Image makes their money, then they probably won’t keep printing the book. The threshold for sales is much lower than that of a Marvel or DC book. I think Dark Horse falls somewhere in the middle, and I’m not sure exactly how that works.

There are other factors at work as well. Sometimes a publisher will keep breaking even or even losing some money on monthly issues, because they make money back on eventual trade collections, which can be sold in many more outlets than issues, like book stores or And they can keep selling in perpetuity, where issues can only sell for the month or so that they’re new. I’m guessing Marvel was waiting to see how well the trades did on Captain Britain and MI13, because it was just out, and it didn’t perform as well as they thought, so they finally decided to pack it in. Rest assured, if they were making money on that book, it wouldn’t go anywhere. It’s depressing, but that’s how it works.

Josh Flanagan


  1. I always wondered how closing his eyes prevents Cyclops’ force beams from coming out. Eyelids are just flaps of fleshy flesh, right? Shouldn’t the eyelids have been utterly destroyed the first time he projected the beams? Also the flesh surround his eyes? Or are they lined with some kind of organic ruby-like goodness? Or is his flesh/skin/DNA immune to the force beams? This might explain why Havok is immune to Scott’s eye juice due to similar DNA. This needs further investigation by the top comic book pretend research teams.

  2. Very solid explanation Josh.  Your explanation also highlights why market share isn’t as big a deal as many people make it out to be.  If Marvel is pulling in 50% market share and Image is pulling in 5% market share many people will immediately assume Marvel is doing well and Image is struggling.  However, profit is the most important measure of sucess, so if Image has a considerably higher profit margin per book they can be doing better financially than Marvel with a much lower market share.  (I am not saying this is the situation for Marvel or Image, just an example).  For a very powerful real world example of this you need only look at Microsoft and Apple in the Desktop computer and notebook computer markets.

  3. "Cyclops eyes fire "optic blasts" that are not heat rays, rather energy beams.  They’re like a really strong punch."

    If they’re a strong punch, why can they cut through someones body in Astonishing X-Men?  Or cut through an entire school in some cases?  His powers, though awesome, still don’t make sense.  Either they cut through flesh (Making them constantly deadly) or they just punch you.  One or the other.

  4. Ron, I remember hearing somewhere that Cyclops optic blasts are solar powered. Of course, I’m sure that’s been ignored or rewritten a few times since then. Also, according to Grant Morrison (or was it Joss Whedon?), the visor tints Scott’s vision yellow.

  5. It’s a very strong punch.  When concentrated into a smaller area by the visor, there’s no reason they blast couldn’t go through flesh.  Punch hard enough, you’ll pierce the object.  A cannonball is a very hard punch, and it could take your head off.  Same deal.

  6. I remember reading somewhere years ago that Cyclop’s optic beam was a "force" beam, measured in pounds, which I guess fits in with Ron’s theory that they are like a "strong punch," like a weight falling, but like @KickAss (no relation to me) mentioned above, I was under the impression that the optic beams were not variable in terms of "force," meaning, like he, or she, mentioned, "Either they cut through flesh (Making them constantly deadly) or they just punch you.  One or the other."

     oh comic book logic, what great debates you have given us…

  7. @NickKickAss: As Josh said above, a strong enough punch can cut into you.

  8. I guess the thing about the blast is, he shouldn’t be able to wreck a school once, and then "punch" someone without tearing flesh the next.  He can go from level 0.01, to 20?!  It’s too big a range.  Either he should be not that powerful to where he can’t destroy buildings, or very powerful to the point where he doesn’t want to blast people for fear of killing them.  Or at least lets consistently use the power and define the amount of power allowed.

    Human Torch is an example of this, in a sense.  He never burns people, cause that would be murderous.

    Plus a punch can’t break through a building or cement, not counting the UFC block breaking types.  They break blocks, not buidlings.

  9. I saw that a Captain Britain & MI13 omnibus was just solicited. Kind of weird, in my opinion, that they’d recollect the series for that sort of project, which I would assume would have significant overhead compared to regular trades.

    Excellent questions and answers this week, guys. Growing up, the two nearest comic shops were about an hour and a half away, in opposite directions, so pretty much every trip to the shop was a ridiculous adventure. Especially if I was JUST going to the comic shop for one particular comic, and then turning around and driving another 90 minutes to get home. 180 total minutes driving, burning who knows how much gas, for a single $2 comic. That’s dedication. That’s insanity. Of course, usually I would purchase more than one comic. But sometimes that entire trip was just for one.

  10. @KickAss: It’s not a literal human punch.

  11. @KickAss You are confusing an explanation with what is actually happening.  He called it a punch because it’s a concussive force, like a punch is.  But an explosion is also a concussive force, and shrapnel slying though the air can definitely cut people in half.  Cyclops’ visor allows him to adjust the force and the size of the beam.  He can make it large and weak to make it feel like a strong punch, or he can concentrate all the power into a smaller area allowing it to cut through people or take down buildings.

  12. "concussive force" is excellent.

  13. human concussive optic punch force beam is the technical term

  14. Recall from long ago and far away that Cyclops’ power doesn’t affect his brother, Havoc, and vice versa.  Stands to reason his force beams don’t directly affect him either.  This might also "explain" why despite hundreds of years of acceptance of Newtonian physics, he doesn’t get blown backward everytime he uses his powers, either.

    Hey, maybe that whole "tiny portals to another dimension" thing might make sense after all…naaaah.  Just keep saying over and over, "it’s only a comic book, it’s only a comic book…". 

  15. wouldn’t the force from his magic eyes push a regular pair of glasses of his head though?

    Stupid thing i ever did to get a comic fix: for a few months or longer when i was about 13 i used to steal every issue i wanted while is paying for the ones a could afford (i properly lifted about half of Grant Morrison’s JLA run). I was addicted, i NEEDED them, i’m not proud of it. AS soon as i started to make some cash at my first terrible teenager job at KFC i started paying for the whole bunch

  16. man. i just enjoy these discussions about superhero powers. i love this site. =)

    so cyclops’ power is actually a concussive energy beam, which in wolverine movie was messed up. They should have brought bj abrams or singer to do the movie. As for the LCS, I’m just glad that I live in NYC. Even though there are not that many LCS in my area of Queens, at least public transportation helped me to be able to go to the big ones in the city. And with people are more acceptable toward comic books, i’m not embarrassed to read them on subway anymore. =)

  17. who’s bj abrams? a porn star? that movie woud be XXX-men or something

  18. You know, I think the problem with the Captain Britain trade was the price over the content.  If I recall, it was a $16.99 trade and it only had 4 issues and a lot of reprint material.  That’s just not a good value.  What probably could have increased sales is if they just collected the four issues and priced it at $12.99.  Of course, I’m not a professional, and there’s maybe some reason why they may have done the trade the way they did.  I just think that may have added to the whole thing. 

  19. I think Marvel TPBs are overpriced in general.  I’m totally willing to pay issue price for a SC trade, but it seems Marvel TPBs are more than that.  I know they have a lot more overhead as far as issues go, but trades are all but paid for, as it only costs them printing, royalties, and minor design fees.  I think they may be afraid of trades taking over the issue format, but I don’t think they have much to worry about.  Looking and the Image and Vertigo trade programs, the trades seem to bolster the issues and make lots of money.

  20. @ ron-  the whole dimension thing is a deux ex machina that marvel does when they cant explain powers.  EXAMPLE shape shifters and those who can grow large get the extra mass from another dimension.   if you pick up any of the older ( OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE) its chopped full of that stuff.

  21. @YoSoyJU: Marvel’s not afraid of trades, that’s DC.  Marvel’s got a pretty stellar trade program.

    As for Marvel’s trades being over-priced, you can get CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI:13 VOL. 1 for just about ten bucks on Amazon. That’s below cover price.

  22. @Conor I do applaud the trade program for getting stuff out in a relatively timely manner, but I do think that they have slightly overpriced MSRPs.

  23. @YoSoyJU: There are no lack of places to get trades at discount.

  24. The only knowledge of Cyclops I get is from Marvel vs Capcom 2.

    His blasts never go threw anyone. The blast collides with the person and keeps hitting them; while the stuff not hitting the person goes around them like a barrier. There….problem solved?

  25. If the Ruby quartz glasses acts as a shield or barrier to the beams, is it possible that the quartz act as an absorbing agent as to not knck his glass off his head?

  26. @BrianBaer: I’m pretty sure I remember the thing about Scott’s vision being tinted yellow too. I want to say it was in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, the issue of Torn where Emma helps him control his power. I want to say #14?

  27. This is a Sad day.

    This is how I find out my Favorite Marvel Book get’s cancelled.

  28. Somebody asked why it doesn’t tear through his eye lids. His body can absorb the energy and his brother Havoks ad infinitum.  

    Sad to hear about MI-13, I didn’t read it but always hate to hear a book going down. 

  29. its a shame about MI-13 I admit I was biased when it first came out, despite all the good reviews people gave it, it came down to me not digging secret invasion so therefore it must be evil. and this bias stuck. Funny thing is I was thinking after hearing more about this that after the current arc wrapped up I was going to jump on with the next story, its a shame to hear that its not going to make it.

  30. There is a silver lining with Captain Britain’s cancellation:

    A nice 15 issue hardcover. 

  31. I just sent an e-mail to Ron, but I will post a summarized version here as well:

    The bit about Cyclops’s eyes being apetures to another dimension, where his optic blasts come from…that’s not just Wikipedia gobbeldy goop, believe it or not. It actually comes from the 1983 edition of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe–so you have Mark Gruenwald to thank for that little tidbit.

    According to the OHOTMU: "Cyclops’s eyes are no longer the complex organic jelly that utilize the visible spectrum of light to see the world around it. Instead, they are interdimensional apetrures between this universe and another, non-Einsteinian unvierse, where physical laws as we know them do not pertain. … Cyclops’s mind has a particular psionic field that is attuned to the forces which maintain the apetures which have taken the place of his eyes. Because his mind’s psionic field envelopes his body, it automatically shunts the other-dimensional particles back into their point of origin when they colide with his body. Thus, his body is protected from the effects of the particles, and even the then membrane of his eyelids are sufficient to block the emission of energy."