Athlete and low-key genius, Vic Stone is involved in an accident — sometimes mundane, sometimes cosmic — and has the majority of his body replaced with ludicrous hardware. Then he inevitably decides to become a superhero named Cyborg. Originally a member of the Teen Titans, later the Justice League, the details of his backstory vary but his origin is basically what it says on the tin . He is part-man, part-machine, ALL HERO!
I’ve always liked Cyborg, but I have to admit it was a little strange to hear that he was going to join Doom Patrol in the live action adaptation, especially since there’s already a very similar character in the Doom Patrol comics named (even less subtly) Robotman. This means Cyborg will appear in screen adaptations of the Teen Titans, Doom Patrol and Justice League concurrently provided the DCEU movies don’t fall apart completely. So what gives? Why is Cyborg such a hot commodity?
Domo Arigato Diverse Roboto
The obvious answer is that he’s a person of color. Right now there is a strong call for diversity and DC/Warner Bros. has been put on notice by fans multiple times for having movies with zero, or almost zero, non-white main characters. Cyborg is a black superhero who has largely avoided stereotypical portrayals, and as an added bonus doesn’t have the word “Black” in his name. I’m looking at you Lightning, Panther, and Vulcan.
Still, that doesn’t explain why it has to be Cyborg, specifically. DC has a large stable of characters of color. The aforementioned Black Lightning, along with Vixen, Blue Beetle, Rocket, and Static come to mind immediately. Now, a lot of those characters are being used in other properties, but obviously that’s not an issue. The CW The Flash show didn’t stop them casting a different Flash for the movies, and as we established, Cyborg was already in two high-profile projects before Doom Patrol was announced. So why, if there are so many potential choices, is Cyborg in so many shows and movies?
Mister Meatball Disaster
I believe that Cyborg is seen by upper level DC/WB executives as a diversity pick that is also safe, in large part due to his many appearances outside of comics. In fact Cyborg’s TV history goes all the way back to The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians in 1985, which was the continuation of the legendary Super Friends TV show. Since then, Cyborg has had around 30 appearances in television, movies and video games, including the Injustice series, shows like Smallville, Justice League Action, and of course Teen Titans (2013), but also animated movies like Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, Justice League: War and a bunch of Lego DC movies.
Seen through this lens, it’s not so strange to imagine that Warner Bros. thought it would be a good idea to replace angsty, bionically augmented race car driver Robotman with angsty, bionically augmented football player Cyborg. It’s the safe choice. People, especially kids, know who Cyborg is, and Warner Bros. is probably counting on some people checking out the series simply because they already like Cyborg.
So at this point you might be saying: “Hey, Cyborg is not in every team! What about that Titans show coming up that doesn’t have him on at all?”
You’re right. Cyborg has, in my opinion, two very notable absences: the 2010 Young Justice animated series and this upcoming gritty, “Fuck Batman!” Titans reboot. When you look at the timing of things, Cyborg’s absence in the former makes sense. Young Justice was trying to establish itself as different from the 2003 Teen Titans cartoon, so only Robin is in both rosters.
The Titans reboot is a little trickier. The upcoming Doom Patrol series is supposed to exist in the same universe, so maybe the story mandated that Cyborg be introduced later. Honestly, though, I expect that the biggest issue was money. Cyborg is not an easy character to portray effect-wise and judging from the trailers, the Titans special effects budget seems … strained.
So What Does This Mean for Vic?
Is Cyborg’s being in multiple teams (but not in all Teen Titans teams) a bad thing for the character? Maybe. There’s a reason why there’s a Robin in every version of Teen Titans. There’s something about that team that feels weird without Batman’s sidekick, and the more distance Cyborg gets from the team, the less resonance he has there. I can certainly see a future where someone young discovers the 2003 Teen Titans cartoon and goes “Huh, I didn’t know Cyborg was a Teen Titan.” That happened to me with the Wally West Flash when I was just getting into comics.
In the long term, though, this might be good for Cyborg. Slowly the character has been separated from his roots as a Teen Titan and propped up in the public consciousness as someone who can hang with the Justice League. Again, we already saw that with Wally West appearing in the critically acclaimed Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated shows. Meanwhile, all the video games, movies and TV shows continue to expose young audiences to the character, making him more recognizable each time. Maybe by being in multiple squads Cyborg will eventually dethrone Batman as “smart guy that can be on any team.” Although I’m guessing that would just mean that he and Batman would be on every team. Batman isn’t going anywhere.