This article is from the X-Men Comic Books FAQ, by Kate the Short (firstname.lastname@example.org) with numerous contributions by others.
As almost everyone known, Cyclops has a major vision problem. Namely,
he can't open his eyes without blasting everything in sight. Xavier
was able to create ruby quartz glasses to keep the powers in check.
Readers figure that the ruby quartz happens to share complementary
properties with Scott Summers' eye blasts, and contains the energy in
some way. The energy could overload the quartz, allowing Scott to
break through the visor in an emergency, but the quartz would normally
keep the beams in check (which is why Scott's "casual" red eyeglasses
don't come flying off his face from the blast force).
But what about contact lenses? Why couldn't Scott just do that?
For years, dedicated readers of the X-titles suggested this very idea,
only to be confronted with the facts: Scott can't wear contact lenses
because the beams come out of all of his eyes, not just the iris area.
A number of back issues regularly showed Scott covering his eyes with
his hands if his visor was broken, with red energy seeping out from
around his eyes. Apparently Scott isn't susceptible to the damage of
his eye blasts, just like he and his brother Havok were shown to be
immune to each other's powers; something in his DNA ensures that his
eyelids are not immediately blown to bits, so covering his eyes with
his hands makes enough sense.
The problem with contact lenses is that nobody can explain how they can
effectively work in Scott's case. If his whole eyes need to be covered,
he'd probably need full-eyeball contact lenses made out of ruby quartz
crystal. Not only couldn't the eye breathe (which would cause major
pain), but combat response time from Cyclops would be a bit hampered if
he tried to take out his contacts while foes attacked. It's no wonder
that Cyke carried a small pair of glasses, sort of like goggles, as an
Of course, these reasons didn't stop Grant Morrison from providing
Cyclops with a pair of "emergency" contact lenses in New X-Men #115.
This created a whole new set of problems. The art portrayed the lenses
as the everyday kind, not the full-eyeball style, so it's odd that his
energy beams weren't already coming out all over the place. Readers
likewise can't figure out how Scott got the lenses in his eyes in the
first place. To put the lenses in, he'd either have to be in a very
controlled ruby quartz room, which could stand the force of his beams,
or he'd likely end up destroying the ceiling as he looked up and tried
to place the contacts on his eyes. While Scott could put his glasses
and goggles on without the need to open his eyes, the contacts don't
quite provide that luxury.
Contact lenses might be great for cosmetic purposes during a leisurly
stroll in Manhattan, or for a day at the beach, but X-Man Cyclops is
likely to get attacked, or need to help someone out, wherever he goes.
Now, Cyclops calls these his "emergency" contact lenses. If these are
supposed to be full-eyeball lenses, they should effectively shut down
his powers. If he removes them, Cyclops can't really *see*, and thus is
shut down as an effective fighter. If these contacts are for emergency
situations, shouldn't they help him easily get out of a situation, not
create more problems? This FAQ-keeper can just imagine the potential
damage if Scott drops one of the contacts on the floor while he's trying
to put it in...