Get ready for the best part of your weekend as we roll out another Representation and Health Black History Spectacular! There’s someone I’ve been waiting to discuss as he was part of the main reason I even read comics today.
After a tragic accident, over half of his body was replaced with sophisticated cybernetics, allowing him to accomplish amazing feats in battle and with technology. He’s been one of the most popular mainstays of the Teen Titans and a dear friend to many of his teammates. I present to you the half-machine, half-man Cyborg!
Vic’s first appearance came in DC Comics Presents #26 in 1980 and most prominent role in DC has been as a member of the Teen Titans. He would serve with different members and incarnations of the Titans throughout his history. After sustaining injuries from the Wildebeest society during Titans Hunt, Vic’s mind would not be fully restored until he came into contact with the Technis, eventually donning the name Cyberion and assimilating with the race of technorganic life. Fused with the Technis, Vic came to Earth, causing a brief battle between the Justice League and past and present Titans. As this conflict was resolved, Vic regained his body, though still had to adjust to being more human.
From here, Vic would help usher in a new team of Titans, the youngest protégés of the Justice League, many of whom were the former members of Young Justice. After traveling with Donna Troy to help remedy the interstellar conflict during Infinite Crisis, Vic found himself fused with Firestorm and then in stasis and Wendy and Marvin helped to repair his body. Later, Vic formed Titans East, only to have the team massacred and his body again ravaged by Trigon and his forces, leading to Vic joining a new iteration of the Titans with his former teammates.
During Blackest Night, Vic would come face to face with many of his former teammates and help to quell the Black Lantern threat. As the DC Universe approached the Flashpoint, he even briefly became a member of the Justice League. After the New 52 was established, Vic became a founding member of the Justice League as Darkseid began an invasion of Earth that lead to Vic becoming Cyborg. He currently stars in a solo series and maintains his ties with the Justice League.
My first introduction to Vic was through the Super-Friends, which I still have no idea where and how I watched that show. At first I was all, it’s a Black robot man! And not much more. Then, I became acquainted with him through the Teen Titans, which actually began my foray into comics.
After I started reading comics and explored the many volumes of Teen Titans, I understood Vic’s importance. He is logical and lighthearted, willing to be serious when he needs to. His team trusts his intelligence and his abilities and on numerous occasions he’s proven himself to be a stellar leader. These qualities and more highly the value of Vic now being associated with the Justice League and having his own title. Yet, there’s much more to him underneath his chrome plating.
I’m not sure how, but before writing this article I didn’t fully realize how Vic is an important figure through which we can discuss disability and adjustment. You really don’t even have to look that close to see that Vic has experienced numerous trauma, from severe injuries to his mind no longer being intact. Recognizing these factors make not only his underlying pain but his relationship with his father that much more heart-wrenching. He lost his mother in the accident that lead to him becoming Cyborg, and he has a strained relationship with his father, creating a complicated emotional experience.
Vic offers an exploration of the constant adjustment to disability. Especially in the George Perez and Marv Wolfman run of Teen Titans, there are some moment where Vic’s existence is underlined by a sense of pain, loss, regret, and sometimes despair. He is not sure how to live in a world in which he constantly receives stares.
Compared to Misty Knight, who’s bionic arm is often treated as relatively ‘invisible’ in many stories, Vic does not always have the opportunity to be seen as himself, rather than a walking piece of metal with spots of Black skin. These feelings are important, as they address the difficulty some disabled people experience for many reasons.
From prosthetics to assistive devices, there are some markers of disability that are present. The things many of us take for granted, such as vacations or everyday mobility, may be more difficult for disabled people. Then consider that disabilities that aren’t visible, such as being neuroatypical or experiencing mental illness, still create barriers but are not readily or sometimes easily perceived by others. Vic’s narrative highlights an important part of disability that shouldn’t be dismissed. Yes, we need stories about disabled people where they are happy and not just at the mercy of their barriers. However, we also need to take a long hard look at some of the difficulties that exist because they are real.
As with Misty Knight, Vic’s cybernetic enhancements may not fully capture the experience of disability for people who live in our world. While Vic feels conflict about who he is and what he had before as an athlete, he still has a body that is mostly functional through the use of technology. Disabilities are not so easily alleviated, so I think it’s important to say that, while Vic adds some important emotional narratives for Black disabled characters, there are ways that he exists that do not address the reality of various disabilities.
I appreciate that there is a genuine examination of Vic’s feels as Cyborg because it’s necessary. While it does not seem as though this part of him is explored in more modern comics, there are definitely moments in his earlier publication that speak to his feelings, even with a loving group of friends surrounding him.
If we are going to prioritize representation, we need to highlight positive portrayals, but also what it’s like to experience pain. Vic is an excellent look into adjusting to trauma, especially in terms of disability, and what it means to bounce back and create a life for yourself, but also what some of the difficulties are in this process.
What are your thoughts on Vic Stone? What are the narratives he represents to you? Let me know on Twitter at @80Grey and cuddle up with some Representation and Health Black History Spectacular this weekend!