Once envisioned as a vital part of the DC Extended Universe, Cyborg was introduced on the big screen during a brief cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before actor Ray Fisher reprised the role in Zack Snyder's Justice League, where the character stole the show during his scenes with Ezra Miller's Flash. But after the poor reception the movie got, Cyborg's solo movie--once slated for 2020--seems all but certainly canceled. Fans of Victor Stone didn't need to worry, however, since the best portrayals of the character came to our TV screens in 2019, from Cyborg's introduction in DC Universe's Doom Patrol to the character's long-anticipated return to the team where he was first created in Young Justice.
Created in the '80s by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Victor Stone is the son of two prominent scientists at STAR Labs who treated him as a mere experiment. Victor got his superhero name when one day, while visiting his parents, an experiment on dimensional travel went horribly wrong and allowed a monster to crawl into our world, killing Victor's mother and then mutilating Victor's body. Though his father, Silas Stone, managed to save Victor, he did so by equipping his body with experimental cybernetic prostheses that forever changed his appearance and self-image. After that, Cyborg was added as a member of The New Teen Titans, where he could be amongst other outsiders like Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy.
The trauma and darkness of Doom Patrol
When we meet Victor (Joivan Wade) in Doom Patrol, he's already been working as Cyborg for a while. The first time we see him, he's stopping a robbery with Silas Stone acting as a sort of Alfred to Victor's Batman, except way more manipulative and controlling. Silas is constantly scolding Victor for spending time stopping small crimes instead of focusing on their goal: joining the Justice League.
What makes Doom Patrol special is the way it deals with trauma and self-acceptance. Though the show skips the early days of Cyborg and his brooding over his new condition, we do see a flashback to the fateful accident that resulted in his cybernetic implants and the death of his mother. The feeling of guilt haunts Victor, as he relives the images of her mangled body in his sleep every night. The belief that he caused his mother's death informs Cyborg's character, as every criminal he busts or innocent person he saves is an attempt to make his mother proud by becoming a hero.
As with the other members of the Doom Patrol, Cyborg's journey is not only one of healing or overcoming the past, but simply of being able to live with his demons and move on. Even as part of an ensemble, Cyborg has enough time to shine in Doom Patrol.
If you wanted to see more of Cyborg in Justice League and left disappointed at the lack of resolution to his character, look no further than Doom Patrol. Since the show skips the initial surprise of his origin story, it allows the audience to see an aspect of the character's development we hadn't seen before.
Young Justice lets Cyborg play New God
Young Justice, on the other hand, takes us back in time to those first few months after Victor's accident. Even if we have seen that duality and self-hatred before (even as recently as the Justice League movie), the writers change things up by focusing on the larger context. This version of Cyborg doesn't seek out the Teen Titans after months of being rejected, but instead is left in the care of "The Team" so he can receive treatment for his spreading cybernetic virus.
Because the plot of this season is the public discussion that's happening around the emergence of metahuman kids all over the world, Cyborg is no longer as big of an outsider as he was when he debuted in the '80s. Sure, we do see him dwelling on his newfound condition, but the show is more interested in exploring Victor's experience with his powers, instead of his physical appearance.
On the Grid
Where previous adaptations of the Cyborg mythos rely on the basic idea of Cyborg’s powers coming with a physical change in Victor’s body, it wasn't until recently that even the comics started exploring the idea of Cyborg’s powers being themselves a threat to his body and mind. In 2013, writer Geoff Johns introduced the idea of "Grid," the name given to the sentient computer system that appeared in the backend of Cyborg’s programming, and quickly became obsessed with hunting down metahumans.
Grid makes an appearance in Doom Patrol as a more aggressive side of Victor that wants to take over his body, but Young Justice takes that idea a step further by making the very technology that turned Victor into Cyborg evil. This season of Young Justice introduces the New Gods, highly powerful beings that live on the idyllic planet of New Genesis and the hellish Apokolips. Like in both the New 52 DC comics reboot and the live-action Justice League movie, Cyborg’s origin was changed to include a piece of New Genesis technology fused with his body.
Young Justice, on the other hand, turns Cyborg into the result of an Apokoliptan living computer fusing with his human body. Due to the evil origins of the computer, Cyborg's transformation this time around is a horrific scene of body horror a la The Fly. Though his screen time this season is short, this version of Cyborg truly accentuates Victor Stone's struggles to control his powers and accept them, turning his powers into an actual threat for Victor and others, and making his arc of self-acceptance into one where he learns to balance the evil and anger within him with a higher call and purpose.
We may not get a solo movie or series for Cyborg, and that's ok. TV alone is giving us new sides of the famed superhero that we haven't really seen in his nearly 40-years-long history. Though many '90s kids remember him as the pizza-loving member of the Teen Titans, this year has shown us that there are many layers to Cyborg, and we're just scratching the surface.