What does Cyborg mean to you? I ask this question because in the weeks leading up to the release of Justice League, I noticed an alarming amount of people who either dismissed or rejected the DCEU’s interpretation of the character. If you grew up during the era of Toonami, you almost certainly remember watching Teen Titans every week. For many of us, that show was our introduction to DC characters outside of Batman and Superman. Cyborg and Beast Boy were considered comic relief for the show; they played video games and enjoyed pranking each other—things that made these superhumans relatable to kids who did the same.
That’s the thing—Teen Titans was a show geared towards pre-teens. It successfully tackled serious subject matter when the storyline needed it but at the end of the day, it was for kids. We’re now in an age where representation is an ever-growing topic. It’s important to acknowledge and recognize what superheroes mean to us. Us is a vast category—many fans come from marginalized backgrounds and how they interpret representation is different compared to someone who frequently sees themselves portrayed in the media.
DCEU Cyborg is more than the comic relief that we saw in Teen Titans. In fact, there’s no comedy in his origin story. Victor Stone is a character who has suffered incredible loss—not just physical, but also mental and emotional. In the DCEU, we finally see his story played out in live action: a star athlete at Gotham State University with a bright future that’s cut short when he’s involved in a near-fatal accident that should’ve left him dead. His father, scientist Silas Stone, uses the Mother Box in a desperate last attempt to save his son’s life.
The result leaves Victor with cybernetic body parts and the ability to connect into any technology around the world. Sounds cool, right? Not for Victor. He’s now disabled and has no choice but to adapt to his new body parts. As we saw in Batman v Superman, the transformation was painful for him. He doesn’t think he should be alive. He abandons football and hides from the world.
Before meeting Diana in Justice League, he spends his time at home. He might as well be dead since Silas has told everyone that he didn’t survive the accident. Victor’s identity has been erased and he ends up resenting his father for it. Why save him when he can’t live a “normal” life afterwards? We love to see our favorite superheroes be badasses and show off their powers but we have to remember that it’s a process to get there. These are the early stages of Victor’s superhero arc; it’s before he even calls himself Cyborg.
He still hasn’t accepted what he looks like and what he can do. At times, he’s afraid of it. There’s a moment in Justice League where he flies up mid-air and tells Silas that he wasn’t able to do that the previous night. Every day, something new is happening to his body and he has to go along with it. Being disabled, he doesn’t want people to see his appearance now. He saw how society reacted to Superman’s existence and he fears that he’ll be treated the same way—only they won’t understand that he wasn’t born with these powers.
Victor isn’t able to blend into the crowd like Clark was, he has to literally wear his abilities on his face. And as a result, he always covered up. Always wearing a hoodie that shrouds his face and his body. He’s ashamed of his appearance. It’s not until his father’s abduction that he realizes he can use his powers for good. He still shows frustration towards Silas, but knows that his father is trying. They both have to heal and Victor deciding to join the League is the first step in that journey to recovery. Being a part of a team of superheroes helps Victor as well; he bonds with Barry because they both got their powers by mistake. He doesn’t have to feel like an outcast anymore, there are others in this world who use their abilities to save lives.
Ray Fisher’s portrayal of Victor introduces us to a side of Cyborg that needs to be seen. Cyborg is more than a superhero, he’s a disabled superhero of color. How often do you see disabled characters portrayed as heroes? How often do you see them as people of color? Just because he has these “gifts”—as Diana said, doesn’t mean he always accepted them. His scenes in Justice League show him struggling with the fact that he’s still alive. He’s not the person he used to be and it would be unrealistic for him to suddenly accept these new changes to his body. He adapts to them and learns how to control them over time.
In an interview with Geek Magazine, Fisher discussed how Cyborg is meant to represent people with disabilities, saying: “I’ve had lots of fans who come out and say ‘Listen, I can relate to Cyborg because I lost a limb,’ or ‘I have this cochlear implant.’ It’s one of those things when you actually start seeing it, when you actually start hearing about it, that made Cyborg more relevant to me than I think he ever had been up until that point.” Cyborg’s journey to self-acceptance was always a conscious decision by Zack Snyder.
Earlier this week, deleted scenes from Justice League were leaked online, with the majority of them focused on Cyborg exploring his abilities. The scene that stood out the most involved him on the roof of his apartment, prepping himself to fly. He struggles at first, but gets the gist of it then shoots into the air and it’s so satisfying to watch. His first flight directly parallels Superman’s first flight in Man of Steel. It’s the beginning of them embracing their differences, and accepting who they are.
Knowing that Snyder directed these deleted scenes and has previously stated that Cyborg is the heart of Justice League is bittersweet—although his role in the film is important, it was always meant to be more. There are parallels that Cyborg sees between himself and Superman; that’s the reason why he was initially worried to present himself to society. He saw how negatively the world reacted to an alien and knows that there’s a strong possibility that they’ll do the same thing to him. But like Superman, he takes the risk because he knows that he can use his newfound powers to save lives.
Another prevalent parallel is the fact that both Victor and Clark have lost their one of parents. It’s alluded to that Victor’s mother is gone but Fisher himself has said that there was a deleted flashback before her death and his accident: “There were some things that you’ll probably end up seeing later on, that didn’t make it into this version of the film. There’s a scene with Victor Stone, when he still was Victor Stone, and his mother, that was really special to shoot.” Mothers have always been the focus of Clark, Bruce and Diana’s decisions and it would’ve been just as important to see this scene with Victor and his mother. It could add another layer of depth that hasn’t been considered when thinking of Cyborg as a character.
If what you take away from watching Justice League is “Why wasn’t Cyborg funny?” then you’re not looking in the right place. The emotional impact is what matters. Seeing disabled fans represented on the big screen was always the intention behind Cyborg. His character shows that it doesn’t matter if you don’t look like someone else, it doesn’t matter if you’re disabled, you can still be a hero just by being a good person. The journey to that isn’t easy but seeing it portrayed on film can highlight the steps that are made towards recovery and acceptance.
If you haven’t, please consider signing this petition asking Warner Bros. to release Zack Snyder’s original cut of Justice League. Parts of Cyborg’s story are still hidden due to a heavy number of scenes being cut and adding your name can amplify the voices of fans who want to see Snyder’s intended story.