Friday, February 22, 2013

Black Superheroes: Cyborg


Technically this is Cyborg from an alternate Earth
But it's a cool image nonetheless
Name: Victor Stone

First Appearance: DC Comics Presents #26 (1980)

History: As a child Vic Stone’s scientist parents used him as a test subject in an experiment that granted him greatly enhanced intelligence. However as he gets older he comes to resent his parents for their manipulation and rejects scholarly pursuits for athletics and the occasional criminal engagement. One day Vic visits his parents at S.T.A.R. Labs only to get caught in an interdimensional experiment gone wrong that kills his mother and destroys most of his body. Desperate to save his life his father fits him with incredibly advanced, but experimental, prosthetics, essentially making the teenager a half-man, half-machine. Greatly depressed and suicidal following the surgery Vic’s finds himself unable to reallocate into his old life. Now an outsider Vic finds his place when he foils an attack on the United Nations headquarters. With renewed purpose the newly dubbed "Cyborg" becomes a crime fighter and soon joins and becomes a key member of the superhero team known as the Teen Titans.

Beta Says: Jesus Christ, where do I start with this guy? Well I suppose to should mention that Cyborg is one of the longest serving members of the Teen Titans and their Titan spin-off groups. Before the Teen Titans cartoon Cyborg was pretty below the radar as far as pop culture went. His stock greatly rose when he suddenly was a cast member of a hit cartoon show. Recently DC Comics have taken things even further by promoting him to the Justice League. In fact he’s a founding member of the team in the shitty reboot continuity. That’s a pretty big jump in popularity and relevance. Too bad prior to that he was a victim of the Dark Age of Comics.

More on Cyborg after the jump.



Welcome to the gun show
Cyborg was a part of The New Teen Titans, a new version of the classic team. For those of you not in the know much of the 80s were dominated by that book and Marvel Comic’s Uncanny X-Men. It’s generally considered that The New Teen Titans was DC answer to that title’s runaway success…and it worked as their book too became a hit. The Titans featured a mix of several older sidekick characters teamed with mostly new ones free of links to established heroes. So Cyborg isn’t someone’s sidekick the way Robin or (Bleh) Kid Flash were. He was a new teen hero which meant that back in 1980 the sky was the limit for him.

Sadly Cyborg didn’t amount to much more than a steadfast and loyal member of the team, but honestly none of the newly introduced characters one really broke out from that version of the Titans back then anyway (at least not as a big solo character). Vic was just sort of the reliable, if angst filled, part of the squad in the way a lot of characters sort of filled a space on a superhero group. At some point however the 90s happened and DC took a big dump on the character, as both they and Marvel loved to do to their characters enduring into that decade. As I understand it Cyborg, through a weird encounter with the Technis, an alien robotic collective, he ended up being way more robot in appearance and personality and renamed himself Cyberion before leaving Earth with the Technis for no other reason than DC wanted the reader to feel as down as possible (probably). Cyberion later returned to Earth, this time as a super villain that fought both the Teen Titans and the Justice League. Because, you know, when a machine intelligence goes to find itself in space it inevitably goes insane and decides to attack Earth. Anyway Cyberion is stopped and Victor’s restores consciousness is placed into the Omegadrome which makes him yellow and gives him shape shifting powers that make him more like Plastic Man than Cyborg. Ah, 1990s comic books: you can’t go very long without trying to “update” or “improve” on old characters with your own brand of senselessness can you? Other heroes the 90s tried to ruin include Spider-Man (the Clone Saga), Hal Jordan (Parallax) and Iron Man (Teen Tony, the worst thing you forgot existed).


I feel like Cyberion might not be black anymore
Anyway eventually all that stuff simply went away (cloning was involved, of course) and Cyborg went back to being a half man/half machine without his bizarre metamorphosis coming up all that often. This would have been the most interesting aspect related to the character except that in 2003 Cyborg suddenly became one of the most well-known heroes in Pop Culture when Cartoon Network released the Teen Titans cartoon. Now I personally never liked the show; it was simple, the animation was too wacky, and I constantly felt like it was dumbing down its source material (very different from the Justice League cartoon). However everyone else seemed to love it and as a result DC ended giving Cyborg (along with Starfire, Raven and Changeling Beast Boy) a larger role in the comics due to his new found popularity among the kids. Within about two years Cyborg went from being just another damaged second stringer to being one of the most recognized black superheroes in the world.

Eventually Cyborg made it to the Justice League but it didn’t really feel like DC was ready to get behind him until some years later in Flashpoint/The Great DC Reboot of 2011. In Flashpoint, which was a “Oops, I time traveled to do something good but instead ruined the present” story Cyborg is depicted as America’s greatest superhero, taking the spot form a nonexistent Superman. I’m not sure why they thought Cyborg of all characters would fit that role, but I also don’t care so I guess it’s fine. When the timeline was restored irrevocably altered by the incompetence of Barry Allen Cyborg has now become a founder of the newest version of the Justice League alongside the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Meaning that Cyborg gets to be depicted among the most iconic DC characters of all time on a regular basis which will only help his own popularity. It’s possible that Cyborg could be one small push away from being one of the top characters in DC’s library.

Now this is all on paper. After all Plastic Man and Superman knock-off Steel were both in that same spot in the JLA book from the late 90s and neither of them got an ounce of benefit from it. (Seriously, why the hell was Plastic Man even there?) So Cyborg could end up being placed right back in the Titans doing the “Big Smart Guy” routine he’s done for over twenty years but perhaps within a few years we’ll be hearing about the critically acclaimed Cyborg comic or casting news of a from a future Justice League film featuring Victor Stone. All I know is that in a world where so many black superheroes are underused it’s nice to see one that the company is taking a chance with. We’ll see how long that lasts.


Interestingly Starfire is actually wearing more clothes than Cyborg
Next time we’ll be taking a look at a character that I absolutely do not care about in the slightest save from her participation in the best comic book of the 2000s and possibly in all of space and time. However for more about Cyborg click here.

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