Are you attached to your smart phone? Imagine then if you were your smart phone, like DC's Vic Stone, a.k.a. Cyborg.
Shaft writer David Walker is trying to get into that frame of mind when Cyborg's first-ever solo ongoing series debuts July 22. Partnering with artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, Walker is delving into arguably the most high-tech hero in comic books to talk about some big issues - including the role of technology in society, diversity, and well, how Vic Stone goes to the bathroom.
Walker talked with Newsarama about the origin of this Cyborg series and his thought on Vic Stone's role in the DCU, especially now that it'll be the new(ish) post-"New 52" DC Universe.
Newsarama: David, what is the high concept for Cyborg?
David Walker: What is the high concept with it …the high concept for me is how do we connect or disconnect from our humanity, and on the surface its man vs. machine. Is Vic more man or more machine? But on a more realistic level its how does this machine either disconnect him from his humanity or how does he reconnect with it? I think that’s something we all have to deal with in this day and age, where we text message and we follow what’s going on with our friends through, you know, Facebook or Twitter without actually talking to them-all the things that disconnect us-so its really about this guy whose 15% human and 85% machine, trying to be more human.
Nrama: Cyborg sits right on that tech/humanity divide, literally. Any chance you'll hit upon modern humanity's attachment to technology?
Walker: Oh yeah, and its not just the technology that disconnects us from our humanity, its our political ideologies, our religious ideologies that anything that says, “I’m better than you because fill in the blank, or your less than me because,” and that’s the disconnect we see played out all the time with politics, played out in terms of race, in terms of gender, in terms of income. And that’s something I want to get into, is how do we…because you’re not dehumanizing another person without giving up some aspect of your own humanity.
Nrama: Are we going to see any new characters in Cyborg? Any old characters?
Walker: Yeah, there’s still going to be some old faces, we’re still sort of hashing out the details of the post conversions like whose going to be available, but one of the things that editorial has been telling me is that this book is about Cyborg which I translate to: This book is going to be about Vic Stone. And so yeah, its like okay, we can have a guest appearance by a character here and there but I don’t want the book to be dependent on those guest appearances and right now Vic doesn’t have a really strong supporting cast, he’s got his dad and Doctor Marrow and the Metal Men but I want to bring some people that are, you know, the equivalent to his, whether its Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane…Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane are the easiest two fallbacks but the two are those people who really represent who he is as a person.
Nrama: The addition of a Cyborg series adds more diversity to DC's comics line. Do you Do you think the comic industry needs more diverse characters?
Walker: In the whole world of pop culture, period. I’m not basically only calling out DC, 'cause they’re not the only ones; they’ve made huge steps just in the last few days. But yeah, we definitely need to see…there’s a lot that needs to be seen. When I was a kid growing up, there was only a handful of black characters in comics and that was a long time ago, that was like 40 years ago, and I don’t think there’s necessarily that more now than there was then, and so that we have to have this conversation 40 years later is sort of disheartening to me because I think that you know pop culture represents sort of an escape, and it’s a place that we can get away from the horrors of the day to day world but we want to at least see characters that look like us, and when you’re part of a group that isn’t included, you’re always very aware of it. Not everyone is aware of it cause they’re not part of that group; you know to be a kid watching The Wizard of Oz the first time thinking, “Okay so everybody except the witch is a white person in the Wizard of Oz, and the monkeys, so its kind of…that’s necessarily helping, not for individuals or our society so I’m all for anything that brings more diversity to the bigger picture, and therefor activate the dreams of especially young people that gives them permission to go on to the fantasy world and them create too.
Nrama: Is there going to be situations, plots or characters that are definitely going to touch upon the diversity issue?
Walker: Oh yeah, there’s a whole bunch of that, cause my family would kill me if there wasn’t. My godson, who's ten years old, he’s one of the first people I heard from when this was announced, and is so like that’s what’s doing a lot of the stuff for us, are these kids, not just the kids of my friends but everywhere. I see when I go to conventions and yeah, I want to make sure that people are able to look at their forms of entertainment and see something that reminds them of themselves, and, you know, say, “Oh, I do belong in this world!”
Nrama: From all of the books that are being released in June-and there are so many of them-is there one in particular that you’re excited for?
Walker: I’m excited about a lot of them. I mean, I saw the press release and I flipped out. I’m going to get into trouble for saying this, but I’m not the world’s biggest Superman fan but with Gene Leun Yang writing Superman, I’m all over it. You’ve got to be kidding me; like I read that twice and was like, “This isn’t the guy who did Boxers & Saints, is it? This isn’t the guy who did American Born Chinese?" And it is, oh my god, so that’s one I’m really excited about.
I mean, I’ve been really loving Batgirl… that’s not a new one that’s launching. I think the two ones that I’m most excited about other than mine obviously, is Bizarro and Prez cause those are the two that I’m like, “Really!” Like how come someone offered you that; I want Prez and Bizarro too! So, I’m really excited about both of those actually. Everything is really fascinating to me, and I like that some of them are… not all of the creators are the first creators that you would think of for a particular book.
So there’s some really interesting pairings that aren’t necessarily the most obvious which makes this-what were talking about this diversity push-have a lot more meaning to me because I think that if they announced Gene Leun Yang on a book other than Superman, I cant think of one, that seem, “Oh! That makes sense in the most typical sort of way!," but for me it was, Cyborg is a character that I love so it wasn’t that big of a deal cause I wanted to try to write Cyborg and there were like two or three others but they weren’t on the table, but they weren’t like, “Do you want to do a Hawkman comic?", cause if they said Hawkman I would say, “Oh yeah, I’m all over it with his mace, just crushing things,” but that wasn’t one of the options.
Nrama: So DC approached you with Cyborg?
Walker: Yes, there were two or three other characters and I was like, Cyborg was one that I was like “Yeah, I don’t know if they’re going to like my pitch” cause I have like a lot of weird questions, or questions I asked when I was a kid were things literally like “How does he go to the bathroom?”, you know, and I asked that and they were like “Well, maybe that’s something you can explore” and I was like “Really?! You’re going to let me do an issue about how the digestive system of Vic Stone works?” You know, not to say that I would do a whole issue on that, but there are some interesting things to explore and I was just like throwing some ideas and they were like “Oh yeah, this is sort of what we’re talking about,” and I was like okay. So I was talking about the sort of dysfunctional relationship between the father and son which is really intriguing to me and they were like yeah , this….whether it was all cosmic, like Lex Luthor trying to steal his tech, or whoever, Brainiac trying to hack in to him… that’s not what appeals to me as much as the human side of the story.
Nrama: You mentioned amongst the stuff you’re looking forward to, Bizarro and Prez, which are atypical stories in what DC's done recently. Do you think you have a really good "out of left field" pitch in you for DC, and what would it be?
Walker: Oh I got one, and I can’t talk about it, but I do have one. I think one of the takes that I’m exploring is exactly where does the technology that makes Vic Stone Cyborg comes from? He’s made of a bunch of things that people don’t fully comprehend and that’s one of the things I want to explore, and again sort of the ramifications that sort of happens when we start messing around with technology that’s a little bit ahead of us and that’s where we are right now: We’ve been there ever since we dropped the first atomic bomb. Artificial intelligence will kill us, but I also think that organic ignorance might kill us too, but I don’t know which ones worse, so yeah there’s going to be some left-field stuff, so I cant wait for everyone to see it.