Cyborg, the techno-powered teenage superhero, is rising to the ranks of peers like Superman and Batman by headlining his own comic book series. But what makes him different from other mainstream superheroes? For starters, he’s black.
A freak accident turns Victor Stone into the half-human, half-robot hybrid hero with Herculean strength and mechanical telepathy. In spite of his of abilities, Cyborg has a complex life dealing with the challenges of being different both as a black male and as a superhero.
David F. Walker, the award-winning journalist and author who penned the series of black private-eye and vigilante Shaft, is the writer bringing Cyborg’s story to life. We caught up with Walker to get the scoop on the cultural impact of the prolific comic book publisher DC Comics and spearheading a leading storyline for one of the greatest black superheroes ever to exist.
The Huffington Post: Who is Cyborg, and how did he gain his powers?
David F. Walker: Cyborg is Victor Stone, who first appeared in the pages of a series called The New Teen Titans, back in 1980. Vic is a young African American man who was nearly killed in a laboratory explosion, only to have his life saved, and his body restored through the use of advanced cybernetics. Vic is somewhat unique, in that he doesn’t have an alter-ego, and Cyborg isn’t so much of persona as it merely is his state of being — the result of this devastating accident that almost took his life. The technology that is used to keep him alive makes him look more like a robot, gives him incredible strength, and allows him total access to the Internet by way of the computer implanted in his brain.
What sort of significance do you think it means for Cyborg, a black superhero, to officially have his own series?
There simply aren’t that many black superheroes with their own series, which leaves a rather large cross section of the comic-reading audience under-represented. I go to conventions, and I see incredible numbers of women and people of color in attendance — in some case making up the majority of convention attendees — and yet that is not reflected in the mainstream comics on the shelves. Cyborg having his own series is a step in the direction of greater representation, which is significant for quite a few reasons. Perhaps the most significant reason is that it helps to activate the dreams of young black people. Lack of representation becomes a form of oppression, sending a message that there is no place for black people or women or the LGBT community in these fantasy worlds that serve as a metaphor for the lives we live, and an escape for the horrors of everyday life.
What traits make Cyborg an interesting hero?
I could say that it is the fact that he is more machine than man — that he can fly, and possesses superhuman strength, and that his brain has the most advanced computer in existence plugged right into it — but that’s not what makes him interesting. What makes him interesting — what makes all heroes interesting — are the flaws and weaknesses that remind us of their humanity.
What things can we look forward to in the Cyborg solo series?
Obviously, there will be action. This is, after all, a comic book, and action drives a large part of the American superhero comic genre. So, we will see Vic facing various threats, from cybernetic-aliens looking to hijack his tech, to super villains we love to hate. But the thing that I think many people are looking for, and that I hope to deliver, is the development of Vic Stone as a character. Cyborg has been around for 35 years, and we’ve seen bits and pieces of his life, but he has always been a co-star in team books like Teen Titans or Justice League, which means there is only so much of his story that can be told.
What elements do you think make for a great superhero comic?
I may get in trouble for saying this, but superheroes are the modern equivalent to the gods of ancient mythology. These are power fantasies and morality tales that are meant to help us better understand the way we live our lives, and give us an escape from both the mundane and horrific that we face on a daily basis. A great superhero comic is brimming with the same things we deal with, only exaggerated to the most wild of extremes.