When Marv Wolfman and George Perez re-launched DC Comics' "Teen Titans" in the 1980s to critical and commercial acclaim, the team was led by three of its original founding members -- Robin, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl -- but it was the creation of three new characters that made a lot of the noise: The alien princess Starfire, the mysterious empath Raven, and the half-man, half-machine Victor Stone, also known as Cyborg.
Over the past 25-plus years, Cyborg, specifically, has gone on to become one of the most popular characters in the DCU and mentor to the Teen Titans' latest incarnation, yet has never been featured in his own series. That all changes this summer when rising star writer Mark Sable ("Grounded," "PopGun," NBC's "Heroes" comics) explores the world of Vic Stone in the six-issue miniseries "DC Special: Cyborg," with art by Ken Lashley ("The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive") and Jonathan Glapion ("Batman").
"I was shocked, during research, that no one had ever attempted an ongoing, let alone a mini with Cyborg," Mark Sable told CBR News. "To me, he doesn't deserve to fight alongside the big dogs, he is a big dog. I grew up on the Super Powers incarnation of 'Super Friends,' so in my mind he was a member of the Justice League before the Teen Titans. Unlike Black Vulcan, Cyborg never felt like a rip-off of Tony Isabella's Black Lightning or a token. I just assumed if he was good enough to hang with Batman and Superman, he was in their league."
Sable, who has a second "top-secret" DC project in the works that may be announced this weekend at WonderCon, said his take on Cyborg started with a question. "We live in a world where people, particularly soldiers, are maimed every day," explained Sable. "If Vic can have cybernetic limbs, why can't wounded veterans returning from war? If this question occurred to me, it had to occur to other people in the DCU as well. And if it did, how would Vic feel if his cybernetics were used in a way that was anathema to who he is and what he stands for?
"Vic is going to be confronted with these issues and be forced to make a very, very tough personal decision about how some might see as his gifts, but he sees as a curse, is used. And along the way he's going to have to beat up a hell of a lot of people."
While not a re-imagining, Sable says Cyborg's origin is retold in issue #1, in stores on May 21. "The first issue is his origin up to the present day, bookended by a major event in his personal life on one end and a horrible act that propels the rest of the series forward on the other," said Sable. "The next five issues are completely new stuff that runs parallel to current DC continuity, although you don't need to be familiar with what's going on in any other books to follow this story. It's very much stand-alone."
Sable said what makes Cyborg interesting subject matter is his past, which is filled with considerable highs as well as tremendous lows. "Before the accident that transformed Vic Stone into Cyborg, he was an Olympic class athlete and a genius with an IQ above 160," said Sable. "He was also an African-American character torn between his gang-member friends and the then-emerging black middle class that his family represented. So he was rife with conflict even before he had Molybdenum steel grafted to his body. Once he became Cyborg, both power and pathos were added to the mix. He's physically more than a match for most heroes, and I'm not sure we've fully explored just what he can do with machines. And although he's evolved, he still carries around the whole Ben Grimm/Thing angst about whether he's a man or monster."
Sable acknowledged there will be meaningful appearances of not just one but two teams of Titans in the book, plus plenty more other cameos and even some debuts. "There's a rogues' gallery of familiar DC villains that I think were perfectly tailored to bring Vic down, a Cyborg Revenge squad if you will," said Sable. "And best of all there's an all-new group of adversaries called The Phantom Limbs that Vic will come into conflict with, and whether they're good, bad or somewhere in between is something that Vic, and the reader, will have to decide."
The writer was 'blown away' by artist Ken Lashley's first pin-up for "DC Special: Cyborg," a drawing that later became a cover, and was equally blown away by Jonathan Glapion's inks. "This is the first time I've worked extensively with an artist who wasn't inking his own work, so I was thrilled when I saw what Jonathan brought to it," said Sable. "More specifically, I think that the comic industry in general has a bad history with their depiction of African-American characters. This book is filled with a variety of non-whites in pivotal emotional scenes and it's a testament to both artists that they were able to make them look authentically different from one another without resorting to stereotypes.
"Lest you think this book is filled with static scenes, though, Ken and Jonathan handle the many, many battle scenes with aplomb. There's a great Beast Boy splash in issue #2 that is just incredible."
Dropping a Beast Boy reference, the 32-year-old Sable is definitely a "Teen Titans" lifer. "The Wolfman/Perez run on 'New Teen Titans' was revolutionary, ranking up there with Claremont/Byrne run on 'X-Men.' They took what was a sidekick book and created new, compelling characters that could stand alongside 25-50-year-old icons," said Sable. "If 'New Teen Titans' was DC's 'X-Men,' I think Cyborg was their Wolverine.
"More recently, Geoff Johns' 'Titans' run was what got me back into reading DC after a long break," Sable added. "And one of the pleasures of this project was all the research I did, going back and reading just about every major 'Titans' arc, featuring Cyborg."
Sable has a law degree from the University of Southern California, and, as such, CBR News had to know how he ended up writing comic books. "Did my parents put you up to that question? Seriously, after college I struggled for five years trying to get writing work, and at some point I felt like I needed to have a good fallback in case this writing thing didn't work out," laughed Sable. "I lucked out when 'Grounded,' my Image Comics series with artist Paul Azaceta, was published right after I graduated, so I've never had to practice.
"I'd like to think [my law background] helps me understand contracts a little better, or gives me a little insight when I'm writing say, a well-known District Attorney character."
Sable, who co-wrote "Supergirl" #16 with Joe Kelly, credits DC associate editor Jeanine Schaeffer for him landing the Cyborg gig. "She was then ["DC Special: Cyborg" editor] Eddie Berganza's assistant and discovered me after 'Grounded," Sable explained. "She asked me to pitch 'Titans' and 'Supergirl' stories to Eddie. I pitched a number of 'Titans' stories, one of which became a two-issue arc, which was supposed to have been the first meeting of the younger Teen Titans and Flash's Rogues. It also resolved a dangling plot thread from 'Identity Crisis' and tied it into something that we saw in Geoff Johns' 'Titans' Tomorrow' arc. Artist Sean Murphy illustrated the hell out of it and I still hold out hope it will see the light of day.
"Another of those pitches evolved into 'DC Special: Cyborg' with the help of Eddie and assistant editor Adam Schlagman."
Sable, who says he would hate to sound like he was campaigning for someone else's job, obviously has an affinity for youth-oriented characters and would love to more work for DC and rival publishing powerhouse, Marvel. "I'm doing what I'd consider a dream project for DC right now -- that should be announced at WonderCon this weekend -- that deals with older characters in a more noir-ish world," teased Sable. "I'm still dying to play in Marvel's sandbox, as well. And I'm going to be doing creator-owned work for Image as long as they'll have me."
Sable also confirmed he is penning a "Cthulhu Tales" story for BOOM! Studios, as well as contributing to "Comic Book Tattoo," an anthology of comic book adaptations of Tori Amos songs. He is also developing an original animated series for Cartoon Network.
Next week is also a big one for Sable as he has not one but two books coming out on Wednesday, February 27. "I hope everyone will check them out," said Sable. "One is the fourth and final issue of my Image miniseries 'Fearless,' co-written by David Roth with art by PJ Holden. It's about a vigilante who's addicted to an anti-fear drug that he needs not only to fight crime, but to function as a human being.
"I also have my graphic novel 'Hazed,' a dark comedy about sororities and eating disorders illustrated by Robbi Rodrigues ('Maintenance'). It's a politically incorrect 'Heathers' or 'Mean Girls' set in college, and I'm as proud of it as anything I've ever done."
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