Once in a while, a character becomes popular in spite of their origins, and today's subject is a good example of this. Today's hero doesn't have a bad origin, but it is full of stereotypical tropes, and one element that just screamed at me to be lambasted (read on and see if you can pick that moment out). The mainstream media has heard of him, thanks to his appearances on popular children's cartoons, but even then his origin was glossed over. That's why I am here for you, with the Secret Origin of... Cyborg!
As is the case with a lot of these origins it's told in flashback. In Cyborg's case, he's on a bit of a furlough with his teammates in the Titans. The Titans sup and the conversation turns to the team seeing each other as friends. This causes Cyborg to reminisce that he lost all of his friends when he became the half man, half machine he is today. Before you know it, we're off into flashback-ville. Cyborg, aka Vic Stone, relates that while his parents loved him, they were a bit pre-occupied with their careers as research scientists, and the environment he was raised in wasn't exactly nurturing.
The experiments were pretty successful, and Vic ends up with an IQ of 170, well past genius-level. The result of this, is that Vic's early childhood is filled with learning more than anything else, living quite a sheltered existence. When he got to be 8 years old, he started using those smarts to sneak out at night, just to experience the world around him, unfortunately for Vic, his wide-eyed innocent and naïvety leads him to almost be hit by an oncoming truck. Fatefully, he was saved at the last second by someone who would affect his life profoundly...
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="675" caption=""I was smart enough not to wear the same stupid hat, however.""][/caption]
Of course this sort of behavior is going to catch up to you sooner or later, and Vic gets caught. A long and drawn out conversation with his parents ensues where both parties plead their case. Vic wants to go to public school so he can have something resembling a normal social life, and his father thinks that Vic should be doing so much more with his life, given his potential. Of course, he tells Vic in the form of a guilt trip, so he's not exactly feeling the love. Time passes and Vic gets his wish to attend public school. While there, he focuses on sports, honing his body as much as his parents honed his mind. While he didn't run with Ron's gang any more, he still considered him a friend. Things at home still aren't great though, as evidenced by this exchange:
After Vic leaves, his dad says a boy so full of rage is bound to explode sooner or later, and his words end up being prophetic when Ron returns from reform school. Ron asks Vic to lend his significant athletic prowess to join him in a "rumble". Vic initially refuses, but is goaded into it when his life debt to Ron and race is factored into it, and the fight is on. Vic gets cut up a bit, and the beast within is unleashed.
Thankfully, Ron still has Vic's back, owing him yet again. It isn't long before police sirens wail, and everyone high-tails it out of the fray. Back home, Mom and Dad Stone are pretty ticked off that their boy is still getting into this sort of crap. Vic's dad actually renounces any claim of fatherhood, and walks out, leaving Vic and his Mom alone. You might think his mother would be nurturing, even when her son seem like a common thug, but you'd be wrong. This is the straw that broke the camel's back...
Sadly, Vic is still pretty hard-headed and he walks out. Time passes and Vic is nearing adulthood when he gets a message from Ron. Ever the good (yet not too bright) friend, he stops on over. Ron's latest scheme to get back at 'The Man' is to take over the Statue of Liberty, by um, climbing it like a chimpanzee. Since Vic is educated, Ron wants him to be their spokesperson, but Vic actually shows some sense and tells him how stupid this course of action is. Ron tries to lay the guilt trip on Vic, but it doesn't work. Vic, finally letting his mother's words sink in tells Ron that breaking off their friendship is Ron's decision, not his. Ron ends up in prison for his actions, while Vic is getting his own life back on track, becoming an Olympic hopeful! He even decides to square things with his Mom, so he visits her at STAR Labs. It seems Mom and Dad are working in probing other dimensions and military research respectively. This will define Vic's life from this moment on as an experiment gone wrong brings Vic to the edge of forever...
Sadly, Vic's mom was utterly consumed by the blobby-thing and it takes all of his Dad's effort to reverse the dimensional portal to banish the thing back from where it came. Vic ends up with a good portion of his body literally dissolved. That's where Vic's father comes in. One of the weapons he was working on was a cybernetic suit specifically designed for war amputees. Before you could say "Six Million Dollar Man montage" Vic is rebuilt, given steel to replace lost skin. Thankfully, he is unconscious throughout the entire procedure. That doesn't last forever though, and a month later, Vic wakes up...
After awakening, Vic confronts his father, who is grateful his son is alive. Vic, on the other hand, is royally P.O.'ed that his father his literally made him into the man he always wanted. He curses his existence and curses his father, saying outright that he hates him. The hatred only grows, because while Vic is alive, he isn't ready to rejoin society just yet, he spend half a year rehabilitating his body, his father there every step of the way. You would think the two might have bonded after this experience, but Vic is still pretty hardheaded.
So Vic leaves again, continuing the pattern that has made his life such a bowl of cherries so far. Fate like repetitiveness it seems, because just then Ron re-enters Vic's life. Ron has another "opportunity" for his "best friend", but Vic is at least bright enough to reject his offer. Ron tells Vic that all of his problems are the fault of "Whitey" and he'll come to realize it soon. Vic's life continues, but he falls deeper into despair as his girl doesn't return his calls, is thrown off the basketball team, and loses his scholarship. Ron is waiting on his doorstep. Vic breaks down and asks Ron what he wants. Ron's plan is to set off an explosive device at the United Nations, because there is nothing like blowing up the symbol of unity to promote solidarity. Vic prepares himself for his role in this little play. He finally puts that genius IQ to work though and realizes he's being set up as a patsy.
Cyborg shows some real heroism, making short work of the ill-advised thuggery. In the scuffle, Ron falls off the side of the UN building, hanging on by a thread. He begs Vic to save him, and of course he will, being a hero. There is a monkey wrench thrown into it all though, as it turns out the explosive device was jostled and is now about to explode, leaving Vic/Cyborg is a pretty big predicament.
So Cyborg hurls the bomb where it can't damage the building. Vic intends to save Ron right after, but he couldn't hang on long enough. The cops never found his body, but his death wasn't for anything. Vic finally discovers that his life is in danger of being consumed by anger and hatred just like Ron's. He eventually meet the Titans and learns what having real friends are like, and he even reconciles with his dad.
So Cyborg's story ends on a bit of an up note. He went on to get involved with all sort of convoluted history that there is no way I'm going to get into now, but it is pretty cool to see a character break from the "angry black man: mold and become such an enduring character. He's even getting a star turn in the upcoming Flashpoint event, so keep your eyes open for more Cyborg exploits!
This tale originally appeared in Tales of the New Teen Titans Vol. 1 #1 June, 1982 It was reprinted in New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 3.