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Writer Mark Sable Talks DC Special: Cyborg Mini-Series

Writer Mark Sable Talks about the DC Special: Cyborg Mini-Series

Sable on DC Special: Cyborg
by Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer
courtesy of – February 22nd

When Marv Wolfman and George Perez re-launched DC Comics’ “Teen Titans” in the 1980s to critical and commercial acclaim, the team was led by three of its original founding members — Robin, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl — but it was the creation of three new characters that made a lot of the noise: The alien princess Starfire, the mysterious empath Raven, and the half-man, half-machine Victor Stone, also known as Cyborg.

Over the past 25-plus years, Cyborg, specifically, has gone on to become one of the most popular characters in the DCU and mentor to the Teen Titans’ latest incarnation, yet has never been featured in his own series. That all changes this summer when rising star writer Mark Sable (“Grounded,” “PopGun,” NBC’s “Heroes” comics) explores the world of Vic Stone in the six-issue miniseries “DC Special: Cyborg,” with art by Ken Lashley (“The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive”) and Jonathan Glapion (“Batman”).

“I was shocked, during research, that no one had ever attempted an ongoing, let alone a mini with Cyborg,” Mark Sable told CBR News. “To me, he doesn’t deserve to fight alongside the big dogs, he is a big dog. I grew up on the Super Powers incarnation of ‘Super Friends,’ so in my mind he was a member of the Justice League before the Teen Titans. Unlike Black Vulcan, Cyborg never felt like a rip-off of Tony Isabella’s Black Lightning or a token. I just assumed if he was good enough to hang with Batman and Superman, he was in their league.”

Sable, who has a second “top-secret” DC project in the works that may be announced this weekend at WonderCon, said his take on Cyborg started with a question. “We live in a world where people, particularly soldiers, are maimed every day,” explained Sable. “If Vic can have cybernetic limbs, why can’t wounded veterans returning from war? If this question occurred to me, it had to occur to other people in the DCU as well. And if it did, how would Vic feel if his cybernetics were used in a way that was anathema to who he is and what he stands for?

“Vic is going to be confronted with these issues and be forced to make a very, very tough personal decision about how some might see as his gifts, but he sees as a curse, is used. And along the way he’s going to have to beat up a hell of a lot of people.”

While not a re-imagining, Sable says Cyborg’s origin is retold in issue #1, in stores on May 21. “The first issue is his origin up to the present day, bookended by a major event in his personal life on one end and a horrible act that propels the rest of the series forward on the other,” said Sable. “The next five issues are completely new stuff that runs parallel to current DC continuity, although you don’t need to be familiar with what’s going on in any other books to follow this story. It’s very much stand-alone.”

Sable said what makes Cyborg interesting subject matter is his past, which is filled with considerable highs as well as tremendous lows. “Before the accident that transformed Vic Stone into Cyborg, he was an Olympic class athlete and a genius with an IQ above 160,” said Sable. “He was also an African-American character torn between his gang-member friends and the then-emerging black middle class that his family represented. So he was rife with conflict even before he had Molybdenum steel grafted to his body. Once he became Cyborg, both power and pathos were added to the mix. He’s physically more than a match for most heroes, and I’m not sure we’ve fully explored just what he can do with machines. And although he’s evolved, he still carries around the whole Ben Grimm/Thing angst about whether he’s a man or monster.”

Sable acknowledged there will be meaningful appearances of not just one but two teams of Titans in the book, plus plenty more other cameos and even some debuts. “There’s a rogues’ gallery of familiar DC villains that I think were perfectly tailored to bring Vic down, a Cyborg Revenge squad if you will,” said Sable. “And best of all there’s an all-new group of adversaries called The Phantom Limbs that Vic will come into conflict with, and whether they’re good, bad or somewhere in between is something that Vic, and the reader, will have to decide.”

The writer was ‘blown away’ by artist Ken Lashley’s first pin-up for “DC Special: Cyborg,” a drawing that later became a cover, and was equally blown away by Jonathan Glapion’s inks. “This is the first time I’ve worked extensively with an artist who wasn’t inking his own work, so I was thrilled when I saw what Jonathan brought to it,” said Sable. “More specifically, I think that the comic industry in general has a bad history with their depiction of African-American characters. This book is filled with a variety of non-whites in pivotal emotional scenes and it’s a testament to both artists that they were able to make them look authentically different from one another without resorting to stereotypes.

“Lest you think this book is filled with static scenes, though, Ken and Jonathan handle the many, many battle scenes with aplomb. There’s a great Beast Boy splash in issue #2 that is just incredible.”

Dropping a Beast Boy reference, the 32-year-old Sable is definitely a “Teen Titans” lifer. “The Wolfman/Perez run on ‘New Teen Titans’ was revolutionary, ranking up there with Claremont/Byrne run on ‘X-Men.’ They took what was a sidekick book and created new, compelling characters that could stand alongside 25-50-year-old icons,” said Sable. “If ‘New Teen Titans’ was DC’s ‘X-Men,’ I think Cyborg was their Wolverine.

“More recently, Geoff Johns’ ‘Titans’ run was what got me back into reading DC after a long break,” Sable added. “And one of the pleasures of this project was all the research I did, going back and reading just about every major ‘Titans’ arc, featuring Cyborg.”

Sable has a law degree from the University of Southern California, and, as such, CBR News had to know how he ended up writing comic books. “Did my parents put you up to that question? Seriously, after college I struggled for five years trying to get writing work, and at some point I felt like I needed to have a good fallback in case this writing thing didn’t work out,” laughed Sable. “I lucked out when ‘Grounded,’ my Image Comics series with artist Paul Azaceta, was published right after I graduated, so I’ve never had to practice.

“I’d like to think [my law background] helps me understand contracts a little better, or gives me a little insight when I’m writing say, a well-known District Attorney character.”

Sable, who co-wrote “Supergirl” #16 with Joe Kelly, credits DC associate editor Jeanine Schaeffer for him landing the Cyborg gig. “She was then [“DC Special: Cyborg” editor] Eddie Berganza’s assistant and discovered me after ‘Grounded,” Sable explained. “She asked me to pitch ‘Titans’ and ‘Supergirl’ stories to Eddie. I pitched a number of ‘Titans’ stories, one of which became a two-issue arc, which was supposed to have been the first meeting of the younger Teen Titans and Flash’s Rogues. It also resolved a dangling plot thread from ‘Identity Crisis’ and tied it into something that we saw in Geoff Johns’ ‘Titans’ Tomorrow’ arc. Artist Sean Murphy illustrated the hell out of it and I still hold out hope it will see the light of day.

“Another of those pitches evolved into ‘DC Special: Cyborg’ with the help of Eddie and assistant editor Adam Schlagman.”

Sable, who says he would hate to sound like he was campaigning for someone else’s job, obviously has an affinity for youth-oriented characters and would love to more work for DC and rival publishing powerhouse, Marvel. “I’m doing what I’d consider a dream project for DC right now — that should be announced at WonderCon this weekend — that deals with older characters in a more noir-ish world,” teased Sable. “I’m still dying to play in Marvel’s sandbox, as well. And I’m going to be doing creator-owned work for Image as long as they’ll have me.”

Sable also confirmed he is penning a “Cthulhu Tales” story for BOOM! Studios, as well as contributing to “Comic Book Tattoo,” an anthology of comic book adaptations of Tori Amos songs. He is also developing an original animated series for Cartoon Network.

Next week is also a big one for Sable as he has not one but two books coming out on Wednesday, February 27. “I hope everyone will check them out,” said Sable. “One is the fourth and final issue of my Image miniseries ‘Fearless,’ co-written by David Roth with art by PJ Holden. It’s about a vigilante who’s addicted to an anti-fear drug that he needs not only to fight crime, but to function as a human being.

“I also have my graphic novel ‘Hazed,’ a dark comedy about sororities and eating disorders illustrated by Robbi Rodrigues (‘Maintenance’). It’s a politically incorrect ‘Heathers’ or ‘Mean Girls’ set in college, and I’m as proud of it as anything I’ve ever done.”

Mark Sable on DC Special: Cyborg
by Chris Arrant
courtesy of – 03-06-2008

Created in the dawning days of the 1980s by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Cyborg has become a standout member of the Teen Titans both in comics and in animation. But rarely has he had the stage all to himself, but that’s about to change.

The six issue miniseries DC Special: Cyborg debuts on May 21st, and promises to get underneath the skin (and metal) to find out what makes Cyborg tick. Written by Mark Sable with artwork by Ken Lashley and Jonathan Glapion, the mini promises to look into secrets from Vic Stone’s past that effect him to this day. Dubbed “the greatest Teen Titan of them all” in DC advertisements, what better time than now to find out more?

Newsarama: Mark, thanks for talking to us. Cyborg’s been the core to the Teen Titans since he joined back in 1980, and this is his first step into the limelight. What’s going on with this miniseries?

Mark Sable: Without giving away too much, it deals with following question: In a world where people, particularly soldiers, are maimed every day, how come they don’t have access to Cyborg’s technology? If I’m asking that question as a writer, you can bet some of the brighter minds in the DCU are asking it as well, and at least one of them is acting on it. As a result, Vic is going to be faced with the following choice – does he have the right to take away his life-saving cybernetics from others if they are pursuing goals he doesn’t approve of? This all sounds very vague, but this series makes that decision very, very personal for Vic.

NRAMA: The solicitations for the first issue present some dark clouds from Vic’s past. Is this going back to the accident with his parents?

MS: It’s going back even further than that. Some things seemed coincidental in Vic’s life from before he became Cyborg to more recent continuity are going to be revealed as something larger than Vic has known.

That said, it’s not a major retcon – I tried to treat Wolfman and Perez’s truly brilliant origin and the work of others that followed them as reverently as possible.

NRAMA: Cyborg can’t be the only familiar face we’ll see in the series; who else can we look forward to seeing?

MS: From his private life, S.T.A.R. Dr. Sarah Charles and her fiancée, Vic’s friend Sarah Simms, who teaches physically disabled children, and a character once thought dead who he has some unresolved issues with. From the DCU, a villain who’s tangled with the Top Guns of the DCU, and the squad of metas he’s assembled to take Vic down. There’s a team, called “The Phantom Limbs”, and whether they’re good, bad or something in between is for Vic and the readers to decide.

And there’s Titans. Lots and lots of Titans.

NRAMA: For those who haven’t kept up with who Vic Stone is, can you tell us about him?

MS: He’s a human being who was fascinating even before he became a superhero, one of the most three dimensional African-American characters in comics. He was a lonely, sheltered kid, torn between his upper middle class family (think The Cosbys with a mad scientist for a dad)and the comaraderie of his gangbanging friends (think The Wire).

Vic was not only an Olympic level athlete, he was, as he’s said himself, a “human computer”, born with a genius IQ. He was and is someone always very much aware of how others perceive him, and constantly trying to escape a stereotypical label, whether it’s a home-schooled nerd, a jock who hasn’t lived up to his potential, or any number of assumptions people make because of race.

If this wasn’t enough, as result of an accident (or was it?) – he had Molybdenum steel grafted to his body and was given cybernetic limbs by his father. This isn’t the Six Million dollar man we’re talking about, his limbs are interchangeable weapons, the capabilities of which we’ve yet to fully see in 20 plus years. He was the first Transformer, if you will. But what many might view as a gift, he viewed (and to some extent still views) as a curse.

Despite all this trauma, Vic chose to deal with becoming a “monster” by becoming a hero, which I think says all there is to know about his strength character.

Vic is an incredible mix of untapped power and pathos, someone who can more than hold their own with Superman in battle, and has as rich an inner life as Batman. Doing research for this project, I was shocked that he hadn’t been give his own an ongoing, let alone a mini.

NRAMA: This is your first work for DC, so how did it come to be and what’s it like?

MS: When Grounded, my creator owned book from Image with artist Paul came out, Jeanine Schaeffer asked me to come in and pitch Teen Titans and Supergirl stories to Eddie Berganza. Of the Titans pitches, one became a two issue Titans arc, drawn by Sean Murphy, about the Titans first meeting with the Flash’s gallery Rogues. Unfortunately, with Bart Allen’s death, that’s been shelved. Another of those pitches became DC Special: Cyborg.

Jeanine, Eddie and Assistant Editor Adam Schlagman helped me shape that pitch into what I think is a kick ass Cyborg solo series. Editors often get a bad rap for giving frustrating notes, but the feedback I got from that crew not only made this series better, but made me a better writer.

NRAMA: You’re working with artists Ken Lashley and Jonathan Glapion. Can you tell us what you think about what you’ve seen of their work so far?

MS: I’m absolutely floored by it. This is my first time working with an artist who wasn’t inking his own work, so I was glad to see Jonathan more than did justice to Ken’s pencils. And Ken really knocked this out of the park. He deals just as well with the tender emotional scenes as he does with massive battles where I’m sure I made him draw way more characters and rubble than he would have liked. Another thing Ken deserves credit for is rendering distinct but real African-American and other minority characters, something rare in mainstream comics.

Mark Sable: Get Ready For Cyborg
courtesy of – Sunday, March 16, 2008
A word from the author from his own blog!

Who is Cyborg?

He’s the most popular superhero never to have his own series. Until now.

Why should you care?

Because starting May 21st, D.C. Comics is publishing the first ever solo series starring The Greatest Teen Titan of Them All, and I’m writing it.

But seriously, dude, who is Cyborg. I’ve never read a comic book before.

Where do I start? Before the horrific accident (or was it?) that transformed Victor Stone into Cyborg, he was an Olympic class athlete and a genius with an IQ above 160, torn. An African-American torn between his gang-member friends and the (then) emerging black middle class that his family represented. He was rife with conflict even before he had Molybdenum steel grafted to what was left of his maimed, scarred body.

Once he became Cyborg, both power and pathos were added to the mix. With an indestructible body and limbs capable of transforming into an assortment of weapons, he’s physically more than a match for most of the Justice League, let alone their villains. And because he’s half-machine, he still carries around the whole Ben Grimm/Thing angst about whether he’s a man or monster.

The analogy I like to use is that if the Teen Titans are DC’s X-Men (their group of young, edgy characters), he’s their Wolverine.

Follow my logic here. The New Teen Titans were created at about the same time as The All New, All Different X-Men. While others might have been content to keep the Titans a book of sidekicks like Robin and Kid Flash, creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez decided to create new characters. African Americans like Cyborg, women like Raven and…well, orange aliens with big breasts like Starfire.

Okay, I get it, he was a revolutionary character. But the revolution was never televised. What makes you think he’s interesting NOW?

When you read a superhero comic, we’re always being asked to suspend out disbelief. But for me, I’ve always had a nagging question. In a world with not just super-heroes but super science…why can’t everyone have a goddamn flying car?

A lot of creators have sought to answer that question. In Grant Morrison’s Fantastic Four run, he said posited that each of Reed Richard’s devices was a work of art that couldn’t be mimicked. In Warren Ellis’ Planetary, he answered that question by creating an evil FF analogue who purposefully kept their secrets to themselves so they alone could have the power. In GROUNDED, I just made the argument that superhero parents were selfish and self-absorbed.

The idea for my Cyborg run came by asking a more pointed question. In a world where Vic stone can lose his limbs and have them replaced by cybernetic weaponry, why don’t ordinary humans, particularly soldiers in this time of war, have access to Vic’s technology?

If I asked these questions, then certainly they must have occurred to greatest fictional minds in the DC universe…and possibly the more devious ones. Without giving too much away, Cyborg series is about what happens when someone uses Vic’s technology in a way that anathema to who he is and what he stands for.

Wow, that sounds deep. No, really. But I want to see him punch things.

Don’t worry, he punches lots of things. Fan favorite supervillains. “The Phantom Limbs”…an all new characters I’ve created who share Cyborg’s technology and may or may not be on Vic’s side. And not one, but TWO groups of teen Titans.

Oh yeah, and he also punches himself. Chew on that one for a while.

Okay, okay, you had me at African-American Cyborg. Where and how do I get this book?

You can pre-order it now at your local comics shop (comic shop locator link?) from March PREVIEWS. It’s called DC Special: Cyborg, and the order code (I think) is MAR08 135.


End of transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author