DC Doesn’t Know Cyborg
In 2015, Cyborg finally received his first ongoing solo series. Unfortunately, DC Comics had no idea how to handle its most prominent black character, thus, he failed to capture an audience. Writer David F. Walker, a black man who has become noted for writing black characters in The Supernals, Shaft, Nighthawk and Occupy Avengers, came aboard to write the title, but was met with resistance from the beginning.
As Walker himself discussed in an interview with CBR back in April 2017, DC didn’t exactly know what they were doing with the character. He left the title just nine issues in, due in part to DC editorial’s inability to acknowledge who Cyborg really is: A black man.
According to Walker, he told DC. “it’s not the story about, ‘Is he more man or is he more machine?’” Walker felt distinctly that, “He is more man,” and, “If he was 99% machine, he’s still gonna be more man.” Rather than allowing a Cyborg comic to focus on Vic Stone as a man, and as a black man, DC preferred to go with the man vs. machine storyline that seems to control every aspect of Cyborg’s existence.
We get it, he’s half-human and half-machine, so his search for humanity is always going to play some part. But as Walker puts it, “Black characters meant more to me than they probably should have, because there were so few of them.” DC went out of its way to add a black man to Justice League (a title written by a white man). But when it was time to actually discuss that blackness, editorial bristled at the idea. It seemed like Walker had an actual vision for the character, but DC was unable to see or understand it.
When John Semper, Jr. launched the Rebirth Cyborg title, he spoke about much of the same dilemmas as Walker, involving Vic’s story of being “a black man in Detroit.” It felt like maybe DC had learned its lesson, seen Walker head off to Marvel and create several well-regarded titles, and now the publisher wanted to make right.
Unfortunately, Cyborg Vol. 2 fell flat on arrival, thanks in large part to its continuous man vs. machine narrative. Semper’s heart was in the right place, introducing several new black characters, but it was not the definitive statement Walker wanted to make so we could all move on and explore what actually makes this character tick. Now, Cyborg is coming to an unceremonious end, and the stories of Vic Stone as a black man may never be told.
The Justice League Debacle
All the changes that were made to Cyborg’s origin -- from his inclusion in the Justice League to the fact that he is now a walking, talking Mother Box -- were seemingly implemented for the sole purpose of one day integrating him seamlessly into a live-action Justice League movie. One where it “made sense” for him to actually be there in the first place. We saw the results, and fans voted with their wallets. It’s not good.
By now, we know Warner Bros. was not happy with the return that Justice League brought back on the studio’s investment. For a movie that cost $300 million to make to only get back around $600 million, when the studio was (somehow) expecting The Avengers money, is nothing short of a disaster. Perhaps the film's biggest failure of all, though, was its inability to drum up any kind of interest in Cyborg.
Justice League was able to generate some heat around The Flash and Aquaman, but Cyborg seemed to do very little for the moviegoing public. Ray Fisher’s performance as Vic Stone was uninspiring, and his unenthusiastic BOOYAH -- meant to be a simple homage to the Teen Titans animated series -- created a small whirlwind of controversy about the portrayal of people of color in film.
Add this reaction to the fact that Warner Bros. initially planned a Cyborg solo film to see release in 2020, for some reason, and it’s hard to see how any momentum for this character was supposed to be built. So far, no details on the solo film have been made public, and it remains the only officially announced DCEU movie with no creative team attached. Essentially, it’s just hypothetical at this point. Considering the fact that Justice League 2 is still nowhere on the schedule, it’s hard to see where Cyborg is even seen again.