DC’s Cyborg is the perfect comic-book metaphor for a New Detroit

The rebooted comic-book series follows the man, the machine and the Motor City.

RoboCop isn’t the only cybernetic hero to call Detroit home. Victor Stone was an honor student and a star high school quarterback before a freak accident devastated most of his body. To save his life, Victor’s father Silas Stone augmented him with the most advanced technology at his disposal. Now with a new lease on life, Victor fights for the side of good as the hero known as Cyborg.

Cyborg was created by Marv Wolfman in 1980. While he was a staple of the Teen Titans comics for decades and was character on the SuperFriends cartoon during the 80s, he owes most of his recent popularity to Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans cartoons. In 2011, DC’s “New 52” universe reboot made him into a founding member of the Justice League alongside the legends of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Played by actor Ray Fisher, he’s slated to appear in a number of DC’s upcoming live action films including Justice League in 2017 and his own solo film in 2020.

When DC Comics rebooted its universe in 2011, Detroit became Cyborg’s hometown. Part of DC’s new Rebirth line of comics, Cyborg is getting a second ongoing solo series, this time written by Spider-Man: The Animated Series and Static Shock alumnus John Semper. Semper is excited to take the young hero in a new direction and let readers get to know the man in the machine.

ADVERTISEMENT

In Semper’s upcoming series, Detroit is more than just a place where Cyborg lives. Just like New York City is an essential part of what defines Spider-Man, Detroit will help shape who Cyborg is.  

Detroit is the perfect choice for Cyborg’s hometown. Back in 1996, Juan Atkins, the Detroit-born pioneer of techno music, spoke about how the city where “industry must die to make way for technology” was crucial to the development of the genre, which has always been closely tied to futuristic science-fiction aesthetic. A man who traded in his game-winning throwing arm for a sonic cannon makes good company with a city looking toward technology-based companies to fill the hole left by manufacturing.

Every city has its own identity, its own spirit. When a city’s gone through as much as Detroit — corruption, destruction and now, gentrification — people start to worry that it’s lost its very soul.

Cyborg is going through a similar crisis. He’s always dealt with the existential question of whether his machine parts make him less than a human. In the first issue of the new run, he stumbles upon some information that changes everything.

Hidden deep within S.T.A.R Labs he finds an audio recording made by his father. In the recording, Silas ponders if Cyborg is really his son, or just a software imitation piloting his body. “In my zeal to keep him alive, had I, in fact, preserved his life, his essence? Or had I just created a technological shell — a ghost — that simply replicated my son?”

This may sound familiar to anyone who has talked about gentrification in our city or heard the term “New Detroit.” While new businesses cropping up catering to hipsters and tourists may be injecting new life into the city, there’s plenty of legitimate concern that these places are creating a new place where the culture and residents from before don’t fit in. Even if these businesses end up saving Detroit economically, will it still be Detroit?

DC’s Rebirth series is all about taking the relationships characters have with each other and putting them back in the forefront. The new Cyborg run will stay consistent with that mission.

According to Semper, comic books at the moment are plagued with an overpopulation of super-people dealing with other super-people. The last few years of comics have been dominated with end-of-the-multiverse crises and enormous hero vs. hero wars. Even outside of the big events, heroes crossing over into each others’ books has gone from a rare treat in itself to a common occurrence.

While all that is going on, the common people these heroes are supposed to be fighting for get lost in the chaos. Semper says he’s tired of seeing a bunch of heroes sitting in a room hanging out with just each other. What he wants to accomplish with his Cyborg is to get back to basics by introducing a huge roster of normal, everyday human characters for Victor to interact with.

John Semper’s Cyborg is published twice monthly digitally at DCComics.com and in issue form available at local comic-book shops.

COMMENTS