When Cyborg relaunches this week as part of DC's "Rebirth," the title character's fears and hopes will get a renewed focus according to writer John Semper, as well as a deliberate look at the challenges of being a black man living in Detroit.
Working with artists Paul Pelletier and Will Conrad, Semper is starting over Vic's story from "almost scratch," introducing the characters in the one-shot Cyborg: Rebirth #1 this week, then starting a new story about the superhero with Cyborg #1 on September 21.
The latest in a stream of new #1 issues being launched in DC's "Rebirth" event since June, Cyborg is going to "blow everybody away," according to Semper, as it's packed with surprises from the start.
Newsarama talked with Semer to find out more about his plans for the character's supporting cast, what role Detroit plays in the book, and what comes next for Cyborg beginning with Cyborg: Rebirth #1.
Newsarama: John, where in Vic's life do we pick up his story as you start the "Rebirth" rendition of Cyborg?
John Semper: To a certain extent, I'm starting from scratch, although I am continuing a number of things from the previous run for the readers who have been very attached to this character - the loyal people who have been following him all along. So there are some things that are carrying over.
But the spirit of the book is starting from scratch.
He's a young man who's obviously been the victim of a tragic accident, which simultaneously has turned him into an amazing superhero.
My job with this title is to help all of you know better who he is and what's going on in his head, and who the people are that are around him and how he relates to them. And I don't think that's been done as deeply as I want to do it in this run.
It's a great place for a new reader to jump in. I'm starting from almost scratch, and I'm going to delve into his origin.
But it's also a great story for people who have been following this character, because in delving into his origin, I'm going to give you a little bit better look at the motivations behind why people did what and why people are the way that they are. And why relationships are the way that they are, like his relationship with his father. How did that get started? Why is it the way that it is?
And so there's something for everyone.
This is going to be, I think, the most significant run in the story of Vic Stone, simply because, in defining his personality a little bit better, I'm also going to be building out his world. So there will be new characters, there will be new villains, there will be new loves in his life.
I think everything I do in this run, for as long as I'm on it, is going to resonate all the way down the line throughout the history of this character.
So if you really want to get in on something special, this is the run to pay attention to.
Nrama: You mentioned the people around him, and his relationship with his father. But who are the people around him going to be?
Semper: Vic has been primarily based at S.T.A.R. Labs in Detroit. His father, obviously, is a huge factor in his life. Tom Morrow, his father's associate, is a huge factor there in the lab. Sarah is very important in his life. She's also working there in the lab.
But that's kind of been it up until now. There have been a few other peripheral characters, and I may or may not be using them. But it's kind of a paltry assortment of people that surrounded this character.
And part of the problem is that in his own comic book, Vic has kind of been living at home, really. If you define S.T.A.R. Labs as home and his father is his father, he's been living with his dad for at least the last 12 issues or more.
What I want to do is start treating him like a grown-up adult. He's going to get out from under the wing of his father. He's going to get a little more out into the world. He's going to start meeting new people. He's going to start having new relationships.
I want to define better the relationship that he has with Sarah. I want to define better the relationship he has with his father. I feel like they've been somewhat two-dimensional ghosts up until now. And I think there's really a need to start really digging into who all these people are and what motivates them.
I always like to ask myself when I start this process, "What is this character afraid of?" We're defined in a lot of ways by our loves and our fears and our hatreds. We need to know these things about these characters. What are the obstacles they face just as people. Defining the obstacles they face as superheroes is pretty simple, but defining the obstacles they face as people is a bit more complicated.
So this is going to be a really deep look at who this character is, and then what I think is going to happen is you're going to end up liking him more, because you're going to be able to relate to him more.
The proper use of mythology is, mythology is all about helping us understand better how to navigate through life by connecting up emotionally with the characters, the heroes in mythology. And that's really what's going to happen here.
I'm going to create a bond between the reader and this particular hero. We will grow to love him and we'll start to get very invested in his storyline.
Nrama: You mentioned Detroit earlier. Does the setting play an important role?
Semper: Yes, Detroit is going to end up having a starring role in the comic book. Vic is a black guy living in Detroit, and we're going to really explore that. We're not going to shy away from it. It's going to be real as far as that's concerned.
Nrama: It's often highlighted that Cyborg has instant access to technology and digital information. I suppose we all have that power because we all have a supercomputer in our hand. But among all these ideas you have about revealing his thoughts and desires, is there something unique about Vic because of his connectedness to information and technology?
Semper: Yeah, there's a futurist by the name of Ray Kurzweil, and has a theory called the Singularity. And the Singularity is the moment when man is so completely merged with machine that the two are indistinguishable from one another.
And this is something, because we do have a computer in our pocket, or some of us have it in our eyeglasses, or some of us are wearing virtual reality head-mounted displays and we're immersed in virtual worlds, this is actually very timely right now. This is something that we're dealing with right at the moment.
Cyborg is just one step ahead of us. He is the man who has merge with a machine, and the two have become so intertwined that they don't know where one begins and the other one ends. And that's definitely an issue that I'm going to explore. But it can only be best explored through the human side, because that's the side that we as humans are interested in.
So the technology is a huge part of this, but the only reason I don't make a big deal out of talking about it is, A) It's obvious, and B) It's not the thing that's been given the least amount of attention. The technology part has been given attention already, but the personality side of Vic is the side I think needs a little more investigating.
Vic is the Singularity, right in front of us. And exploring that is going to be a lot of fun.
Nrama: How has it been for you as a writer to work with Paul on the art?
Semper: It has been fan-effing-tastic. It's really been amazing. I'm working with Paul Pelletier and I'm working with Will Conrad. Both of them are brilliant, just brilliant.
My scripts are very specific. I break everything down very specifically. But you never know what you're going to get.
I've had a long history working with artists. I've been in the animation business for over 30 years, so I've worked with some of the greatest artists on the planet, and I'm now continuing to work with some of the greatest artists on the planet. This has really been just a wonderful experience, a revelation. I write words on paper and then Paul and Will turn them into 70 millimeter, high-definition, stereophonic sound movies that you're holding in your hand. It's been a great experience.
I couldn't have asked for a better team, quite frankly. I think that DC has put an A-List team on this book because they really believe in it, and that's how important the Cyborg character is to them.
Paul did a wonderful job with the first issue. I was absolutely blown away. And I'm just now getting Will's first issue coming in, and it's just stunning. It's stunning. It's really a treat.
I'm getting artwork in now on what will be the first main issue, because you know, Cyborg: Rebirth is its own #1, but then there's Cyborg #1 after that. And I'm getting the color in right now for issue #1, which I like in some ways even more than the Rebirth issue because things really get rolling with issue #1. And man, these guys are incredible.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell people about the first couple issues of Cyborg? Any promises or warnings?
Semper: Sure. Here's one: This comic book is going to surprise a lot of people; nobody is prepared for what's going to be happening in this comic book.
Nrama: You said it really gets rolling with issue #1. Is that where the surprises start?
Semper: Especially starting with issue #1. Nobody is even remotely aware of what's coming down the pike.
If they know me, they know me through cartoons, and there's a whole side of me, as an author, that no one's expecting. So I'm just giving you the warning right now. This is just going to blow everybody away.