Character Issues: Cyborg

The Stats:

Name: Victor (Vic) Stone (Cyborg)

Height: 6’6

Weight: 385 lbs

Powers: Cybernetic Being (Enhanced senses, Cognitive and Physical Abilities. Technopathy) Genius-Level intelligence.   

Type:  Nondescript Metal Punching Bag

Excels at:  Being part of a team

Fails at:  Being an interesting part of a team.

The Character:

Victor Stone is one of DC’s most enduring Black Characters.  He has been an integral part of the Teen Titan’s mythos and recently has been the ranking member of the revamped Justice League.   He’s taken the role the Martian Manhunter occupied in the Justice League TV show and has been front and center in many of the recent JLA books and crossovers.  It’s really obvious that DC is heavily invested in making Cyborg a key player in their Comic, Animated and Cinematic Universes. Vic is being cast as the Everyman character in his recent comic book characterizations and is supposed to represent the reader, a normal person facing down extraordinary threats.  Many of Cyborg’s past storylines, were in the mold of ‘Man vs Machine’.  This specific narrative is as an American standard.  The best way I can think to describe Vic’s character is a modern day John Henry.  His battle with machinery is an internal one since he is integrated with mechanical components.    

The Issues:

There are a few directions I can go with this.  I think Son of Baldwin best explained the problematic depiction of Vic Stone as the Mechanized Black Buck here….  I’m working a different angle.  

I’m going to be clear here Cyborg is a Titan….

Check out this issue.

NOBODY is excited about Cyborg being in the Justice League. We weren’t excited about it in the old Super Powers Team show, we aren’t excited now. This is the same sort of “we need a Black guy” thinking that gave us Black Vulcan.

Black Vulcan
Exactly NOBODY’s favorite superhero.

Nobody asked for this.  Cyborg is best as member of the Teen Titans.  Aging him and sticking him on the JLA was the wrong way to handle this character.  I understand that Marvel and DC have a difficult time writing believable Black Teenagers, but making them adults is kind of a cop-out.  There are no less than FIVE Robins and to my knowledge, none of them are older than 25. While Cyborg is about 18 but is written with the voice of a 38-year-old gym teacher.

While Pre-New 52 Vic has an expansive history full of being on the wrong end of curb stompings by villains looking to earn their “I’m a legitimate threat” merit badges….

Cyborg Defeated
Vic in his default state…

…the modern Cyborg is about as appealing as a cup of cold saliva.  He is so infinitely dull as a character, you could replace him with a wicker chair without taking away much from the overall story.  Vic on the Titans had history and supporting characters. New 52 Cyborg does not have any character development outside of the JLA related story-lines.

His entire history as a member of the Teen Titans, has been retconned out of existence.  All of his relationships and experiences no longer exist. DC took the things that gave Vic his humanity and invalidated them.   Cyborg on the JLA is Johnny 5 without the personality.

Johnny 5 doesn't approve

Granted, Vic was the world’s primary hero in the Flashpoint reality,  but he was placed in that position without context or substance.  Continuing this hollow characterization while placing Cyborg as a central character on DC’s highest profile team is just re-enforces him as DC highest profile token black guy…the Ben Carson of the DC Universe.

The Fix:

I imagine a few potential fixes.  DC could bring back Cyborg’s history with the Titans or incorporate some elements of his character from the Teen Titans Animated series.

Cyborg Animated

The television version of Vic was much more interesting than the comic book version.  He had a consistent voice, was a pretty well-balanced character and his temperament matched the mannerisms of an older teenager.  There was an obvious effort to blend humorous and serious notes to establish a range of emotions for the character.

If including the history with the Teen Titans and television series are off the table, David Walker’s nine-issue run with Cyborg’s solo series should really be the template for the character moving forward.

David Walker's Cyborg
Get it here and show some love to a Black Writer.

Walker really put in a lot of work into humanizing Cyborg for a modern audience and ditching the one-note nature of the character.  We deserve Black characters that are as well defined as their white counterparts.  David Walker really elevated the modern incarnation of Cyborg, giving him the depth of character he needs to stand out among the archetypal heroes on the JLA.

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