Black Superhero Month: Cyborg

February 18, 2011

The quarterback son of successful research scientists, Vic Stone was brutally mutilated by a protoplasmic alien from another dimension, so his father did what every father would do: replace the teen’s destroyed body with robotic parts. This is actually more common than you think; scientists who develop ways to open interdimensional portals also usually tend to be working on advances in cybernetics at the same time. They are also gourmet chefs and really good golfers.

Vic became Cyborg, the most interesting member of the New Teen Titans back in 1980. For those of you young types, please remember the impact this comic had on us geeks back then; it brought DC’s silver age into the modern era, seriously updating some trite old characters and adding Starfire and Raven to a roster that also included Kid Flash, Robin, Wonder Girl and Changeling, who used to be Beast Boy and is again, and for some reason used to wear a mask to keep his identity secret, despite the fact that he was green.

In Cyborg’s first few years, he was very much the Angry Young Black Man. Len Wein wrote him that way to explore the concept of difference — he wasn’t angry because he was black; he was angry because he was a robot, and also because we all saw the protoplasm crush his Lil’ Stones, so we knew that silver spandex bikini was “bionic.”

One of the best moments in the series came at a wedding when Vic couldn’t figure out why people were treating him normally; he learned Mento, a superhero with the power to control minds and also create fresh breath, was using his powers to mask his appearance. Vic got mad and finally came to terms with his appearance.

Sadly, DC couldn’t; Cyborg spent the next two decades being messed with, rewritten, retconned and renamed. It was until the mid-2000s Titans revival (aka Titans Revival #48) that he was restored to his original splendour; now he’s a major figure in the DC universe as a member of the JLA. He was even on a cartoon and on the Smallville TV show, so there’s that. And he remains one of the most visually striking character designs in comics.

Cyborg was the first DC character to tap into what made the X-Men work over at Marvel. More so than the Doom Patrol, Cyborg’s writers made it clear that while he was amazingly powerful, and had interchangeable components and probably a laser, he was a hero because of tragedy, and in the end, he would rather just be himself again.

But since he can’t, he just kicks ass. Robot-fu, baby.


One comment

  1. Booya! While I would argue that Raven was more interesting for purely prurient reasons, Cyborg rocked! (and yes, Teen Titans are one of the few comics I’ve actually read)

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