David Walker Seeks the Man Inside the Machine in DC's "Cyborg"

DC Comics will take its publishing line in some new directions starting in June, with a couple dozen new series aimed to embrace diversity in their creators, characters and tones. One such new title is a solo "Cyborg" book, written by DC newcomer David Walker -- likely best known as Dynamite's "Shaft" scribe -- and high-profile publisher mainstay artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, who have previously teamed on a number of projects written by DC's Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns (including Blackest Night," "Brightest Day," "Justice League" and more.)

CBR News spoke with Walker this past February at a DC Comics press event held at the publisher's new Burbank headquarters, to discuss the writer's long-term love for "Cyborg," and his plans for the new series -- which includes exploring the dual nature of the title character, and expanding his solo world with villains and a supporting cast. Even though Cyborg has been around for 35 years, is a primary member of the "Justice League" team and is set to be played by Ray Fisher in Warner Bros.' franchise of DC-based films, there's still a lot of potential to build around the character, Walker shared.

Additionally, here's the solicitation text for July's "Cyborg" #1:



Art and cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO

1:25 Variant cover by TONY HARRIS

On sale JULY 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

The machine that gives Cyborg his powers is evolving! The only problem is that machine is his body and he has no idea what's causing these changes!

CBR News: David, to start in general terms, what was it about this opportunity and this character that was exciting to you?

David Walker: DC approached me and said, "Would you be interested in writing Cyborg?" "Yeah, I'd be a little interested in writing Cyborg, but I'd be really interested in writing Vic Stone." To me, Vic is one of the most interesting characters, I think, in the DC Universe, at least from a visual standpoint. From a story standpoint, he's not as well-developed as he could be. He's not nearly as tragic as he needs to be. He's the unintentional hero.

In The New 52, he's 18. He's still in high school when he becomes Cyborg, same with the original "Teen Titans" version. I think people forget that. They look at him and they see him as a man, and he's 18. You're not a man yet -- you think you are. So that's what really attracted to me to the character, the opportunity to delve into, "Who is Vic Stone, human being, and how does he reconcile the fact that he's trapped in this mechanical body?"

The character already has a high-profile, from his comics history to the "Teen Titans" cartoons, and now bring a primary part of the New 52 era "Justice League" with future appearances in live-action movies -- yet, there still seems to be a lot of room to explore there. He's not as locked in as other characters in that same sphere.

That's the thing. If they had asked me about Batman, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a Batman story that's really original, that both DC and Warner Bros. would be like, "OK, we're going to let you do that." With Cyborg and with Vic, there's so much room there. I started buying that comic when it came out, when [Marv] Wolfman and [George] Perez were doing it in '80, '81. Then with the newer incarnation of him with the New 52 and "Justice League," that also raised some day-to-day questions. That's what really, really intrigued me about it, and that's what intrigues me now: That relationship between him and his father. Ultimately, both Cyborg and Vic Stone are competing for the attention of Silas Stone. Silas Stone cares more about Cyborg than he does Vic. Until there's some sort of health crisis, and then after it's over -- "Let's put some cybernetic lungs on you, son." It's kind of sad, actually.

So it's a character that you've been a fan of since his earliest days.

Oh yeah. "New Teen Titans" came out in '80, and that was the book that brought me back to DC. This was the height of the Claremont and Byrne "X-Men" run, and I was totally enmeshed in that. And then I saw "New Teen Titans" -- not even at a comics speciality store, we're talking, like, at a 7-11 -- and there was Cyborg. I was like, "Oh, wow, there's a Black character there." So I picked that up. This was maybe issue #4 or #5 -- I was probably like 13 at the time. At that point, DC to me was "Superfriends," it was, "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" You're trying to be an adult, you've just become a teenager, you're like, "I don't have any time for this stuff." Even looking at the title -- "Teen Titans." But I was hooked.

When I think back to the heyday of my collecting comics, that run, Wolfman and Perez, it still holds up to me. It's still amazing.

You've written some very pointed criticism of attempts at diversity and representation that weren't quite what you were looking for, and a big part of what DC is doing here is an effort to be more inclusive with its characters and creators. What do you like about what DC is doing with this new initiative, and what made it something you wanted to be a part of?

It's a combination of factors. It's not just the characters and it's not just the creators, it's the two. When the dust settled, and I was looking at that list -- "Man, they've got Gene Yang writing 'Superman.'" He's not writing whatever throwaway character it might be. This is it. This is Superman, and he's an amazing writer. Everyone talks about "American Born Chinese," but for me, it's "Boxers & Saints."

And it's some of the pairings that we're looking at. Khary Randolph is working on "We Are Robin." Khaki's an amazing artist, period. Ming Doyle is working on two books. My whole argument has always been that diversity has to exist on two fronts -- it has to be the content that's being created, and it also has to be the creators. But it doesn't mean that a woman writer has to write "Wonder Woman," or has to write a "Starfire" comic, or whatever. Get great creators, and give them the opportunities. My cousin's daughter, she's 12, if she wants to get into comics, she should get into comics. She shouldn't be going, "Oh, someday I want to write 'Supergirl,'" because that's all she thinks she can do. She should be able to write Superman. That's what I love about what's going on.

I [wanted] Cyborg. When Brian Cunningham got in touch with me, he said, "There are a couple characters we'd like you to pitch for..." I have no interest in writing Aquaman. It's not that there's anything wrong with the character, but Cyborg, I can relate to him on a lot of levels. I knew I could bring my strengths to the fold. If Hawkman had been on the list, I could have brought some strengths to Hawkman, too. But Aquaman? Arthur Curry just doesn't do it for me. [Laughs]

And Cyborg is an important character within DC Comics and superhero comics in general, because he's a minority, but he's his own hero. He's not an adjunct of a more famous one.

He's not like, the Bionic Soul Brother. And the funny thing is, as much as Cyborg's a superhero, he's just a guy. In the archetype sense of it all, he is someone the gods have touched, but he didn't want to be touched. Batman has made that choice, and Superman made that choice, whereas with Cyborg, it's sort of like, "What are you going to do now?" A lot of that's the influence of the adults around him. Again, we keep forgetting, we're talking about a guy who's 18, 19 years old. He could have just as easily become a villain if he'd been around the right sphere of influence. And that's some of the stuff I wanted to play with.

You're collaborating with one of DC's marquee art teams in this, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado -- what has you excited about that?

Ivan has me excited, and Joe has me excited. [Laughs] They asked to be on the book. They saw my pitch. They both love that character, and they like the direction I'm taking. So, to me, when they first said, "So what do you think about Ivan?" I was like, "Wait a minute, you're joking, right?" I don't even have to write a good book now. I can just coast and let the art carry it. You sort of dream of that. To have your first project at DC, and to have them go, "We clearly have confidence in the character, because we're putting one of our heavy hitters on the art side. But we also have confidence in you as a writer." I really want to make this, no matter how long we're together as a team, something that people are talking about. "Do you remember when Walker and Reis and Prado did 'Cyborg' together?" That's the ego in me. But if my aspiration isn't to write the greatest Cyborg stories you've ever read, then I'm wasting DC's time, I'm wasting the fans' time and I'm wasting my own. I just want to bring something to that character, and to this medium that I love. I grew up reading this stuff.

Is part of the fun figuring out who to put around Cyborg -- supporting cast, villains? Since he's mostly known in the context of being part of a team, seems like there's a lot of potential there.

There's a ton of it, and we're still ironing out who's available. "OK, can I bring in these guest stars. Who are the villains going to be?" I put together the list, and we're culling through it. Then I'm bringing in his own supporting cast, because at this point his entire supporting cast would be preexisting characters, so he needs his own Jimmy Olsen or his own Perry White.

And that's been really, really fun -- figuring out who they are, and what side of the equation they are. Are they on the man side of the equation, or the machine side? What are they doing to either bring him closer to his humanity, or pull him further away? Right now, I think the Metal Men are going to play a big role. In terms of villains, there are some villains that really hit me a couple of days ago -- they haven't been seen since before the New 52. But I'm not going to say who.

"Cyborg" #1, from David Walker, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, is scheduled for release on July 22.

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