P:R Redesign: Kevin Gemser’s Cyborg!

Note: Just because Cyborg is no longer a Teen Titan doesn’t mean he can’t show some teen sensibilities. Kevin Gemser has taken the Justice League’s resident tech whiz Cyborg and streamlined the outfit, and brought along some of his oft-forgotten football roots to the suit. The trendy Tron-style lines are employed here in a way that actually fits the character, especially with the lines along the bare skin in the arm and face. – Chris Arrant


Kevin’s thoughts:

I often think cyborg is very futuristic, yet slow to current comic tech/look. Here we have a character running around in clunky armor while others in the dc universe have nano technology, liquid metal armor, and micro sleek everything. Victor who’s supposed to be a technological wonder is still this heavy bound titan.

I envision my Cyborg to be kinda like the trendy, handsome star quarterback of a football team. The white armor can be taken off like football gear, it’s more of a protection/ tech add-on. He still is an amalgamation of man and machine and he recognizes this in his own face and limbs, but its sleek and played down. He still is a genius, and still has his own inner demons about his machinery.

33 comments to “P:R Redesign: Kevin Gemser’s Cyborg!”
  1. I think the only thing that doesn’t convince me is the weapon: it looks a little too bulky compared to rest of the design’s wonderfully minimalist and much sleeker approach. But aside from that, an excellent redesign :)

  2. When I was a kid, it meant a lot to me that George Perez drew Cyborg with kinky hair and obviously black features . Along with my congratulations for a wonderful redesign, I respectfully ask why, in changing Vic Stone from a heavy, slow behemoth to a sleeker, more advanced “quarterback type”, was it so necessary to de-emphasize his ethnic features?

    Kevin Gemser is in no way the only artist to do such a thing (the more popular Storm became in the 80’s and 90’s, she was drawn simply as a browner version of a white woman…ditto for the latest version of Monica Rambeau, and the list goes on and on). Black and brown people are so varied that some do have straight hair, but Vic Stone is established as a non-exotic (i.e., regular) American black man, born of two black parents who rocked mini Afros. However, this beautifully drawn imagemakes me think Vic Stone is of South American, Caribbean or maybe Middle Eastern descent. And that would be fine by me (comics need more diversity). But the question remains: Why does “improvement” so often equate “closer to European norms” in comics and media in general?

    I would love to see this same redesign without straight hair. There is NOTHING wrong with straight hair. ALL hair and all types of people are beautiful. But unless the back story is that the plasma that turned Vic into Cyborg also gave him a straightening perm, there is no good reason not to leave his hair kinky, as Perez drew him.

  3. I love this. I couldn’t agree more that the current incarnation of Cyborg has him looking terminally dated. Big clunky armor doesn’t look high-tech, it looks low-tech. This design is sleek and still manages to harness the sort of armored look.

    The only things I would change are the weird ninja shoe boot things and I would try to give the shoulder pads a little less of a point so that they look even more like football padding.

    I’d love to see a few panels showing his armor transitioning or showing him use some of the technology that he already has. All in all this design is superior to the current one and that’s what makes it so easy to love.

  4. I LOVE this. The circuitry pattern on the forearms was an especially smart detail. This redesign affords Victor a dose of humanity sorely lacking in his current design while still hinting at the power and potential underneath.

  5. Why is straightening his hair is any more unusual than carving lines into it?

    I don’t care for the design (although he has a bunch of killer stuff on his site), but I don’t think the intent is to mask the character’s ethnicity. I certainly don’t think he looks Middle-Eastern, and there are plenty of “regular” black people in the other regions you mention, so I’m not even sure how to address that.

    Isn’t it pretty limiting to (“regular”) black characters if they’re all required to have the same aesthetic in order to remain recognizable?

  6. @ Jim Gitman: I meant to be very clear that my issue is not that a brown character has straight hair, as many actual brown people do. By surely you do not miss the point that a much higher premium is placed on white-ish features. C’mon, you honestly don’t think there isn’t some unconscious message in giving Vic Stone that hairstyle? Not necessarily a malicious intent, but an insensitive, if not insulting outcome nonetheless.

    My call to reflection is about one of the enduring African American superheroes (a very short list) established as a man of color, kinky hair and ethnic features (by George Perez) being simultaneously “improved” and (thereby) whitewashed. If you don’t get that…if you don’t see how that is part of a larger and more insidious pattern (ref: Napoleon and the Sphinx), then you are either intellectually honest or blissfully unaware. The latter does not make the issue any less real.

    For comic lovers of color and others who enjoy diversity in comics, things like this are a real conundrum. It is too rare a joy when an artist embraces the ethnic traits of a super hero without falling into tropes (I’m personally not a fan of brothers being drawn only as big and bald…its been done…way.too. much).

    Maybe there’s not a lot of latitude when drawing faces in sequential art, but when possible artists can draw lips, eyes and certainly hair that help distinguish things. But more often than not, artists are reflecting an “ideal” in their mind, and more often than not, the standards for “attractiveness” is based on just one standard. You might not notice it, Jim, but it makes a difference when ethnic comic characters are drawn to look as varied a noble as people really are, not just brown versions of Barbie and Ken.

  7. Iono about masking his identity at all. The hair on top might be a little trendier than some would care for, but it certainly feels modern and now to me. Especially in regards to a character brassy enough to wanna dress up in outfits and go punching bad guys, there is an audacity to a person like that that would be reflected in their fashion sense I think.

    The fact many artists just recycle previous designs, or are out of touch with current trends, has always bothered me in regards to certain characters. Rogue, for example, in recent years went from someone who used to be way into fashion and modern looks, into a boring lady in the same spandex outfit. The Wasp is similar. Heck, I have a hard time believing any of the rich & well to do characters of any superhero universe would be cool wearing the same dumb outfit year after year, without at least minor changes representing some current trends. I understand the corporate rationale for it, but that still doesn’t make it sit well with me.

    This Vic looks like after he comes off the football field, he might go kick it at the skate park with Odd Future or something, I kinda likes it.

  8. Also 100% agree towards the artist’s comment on his tech being out of date feeling compared to what the character is supposed to represent in terms of that. Not that I think that problem was completely solved here, the outfit here feels more armor than extensions of his body, which was stated as such, but I feel the gun hand is a bit of a miss.

    Like to see the 2.0 version of this design for sure though.

  9. This is simply fantastic. Love the simplicity, and smoothness of this redesign. It’s not messy, and over complicated. It expresses what Cyborg is all about. Bravo to Kevin.

  10. I love the idea behind this and it looks great too.

    My only complaint is the hair. And not because it’s not “ethnic”. It still looks pretty “ethnic”. I don’t know if I’ve seen a black dude with this style exactly, but I have seen black dudes doing their hair in a way which could be this if they wanted to. It’s all about the product. The question of whether a black person SHOULD do that to their hair is something else entirely than if there are those who DO do it. I believe Chris Rock did a documentary on the subject of Black women’s hair called Good Hair a few years back, but I must admit that I’ve never gotten around to seeing it. I should probably look into it. But point is: black people can do a lot of stuff with their hair, and I think it’s a little strange to ignore reality to demand that Victor Stone rocks an afro.

    Anyway, I’d rather see him in very short hair. That wavy ‘do up there is way too hipster-y for my tastes, and I just can’t see Cyborg taking his one place to express fashion and aiming for “hipster”. Also, it seems to me that most of the “brothers” are wearing their hair very short these days. Not afros, cornrows, dreads, wavy poofs, whatever. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a person actually walking around with a fro. Real black men and women generally don’t seem to care if their hair doesn’t loudly proclaim their ethnicity.

    ps is there an idea behind the eyebrow having a “cut” through it? It doesn’t look bad and it does give the art some character, but I feel like it might raise questions. Didn’t gang members used to shave notches in their eyebrows like that?

  11. Erech O!: Iono about masking his identity at all. The hair on top might be a little trendier than some would care for, but it certainly feels modern and now to me. Especially in regards to a character brassy enough to wanna dress up in outfits and go punching bad guys, there is an audacity to a person like that that would be reflected in their fashion sense I think.The fact many artists just recycle previous designs, or are out of touch with current trends, has always bothered me in regards to certain characters. Rogue, for example, in recent years went from someone who used to be way into fashion and modern looks, into a boring lady in the same spandex outfit. The Wasp is similar. Heck, I have a hard time believing any of the rich & well to do characters of any superhero universe would be cool wearing the same dumb outfit year after year, without at least minor changes representing some current trends. I understand the corporate rationale for it, but that still doesn’t make it sit well with me.This Vic looks like after he comes off the football field, he might go kick it at the skate park with Odd Future or something, I kinda likes it.

    I think the problem is that to make him look “modern” they anglicized him. You can make a character look hip and trendy and modern without whitewashing their natural features like their hair texture and their facial structure.

    I don’t think the artist’s intent, it’s just a culturally ingrained thing that people should be more aware of.

  12. I actually like the effort you put into the redesign. Not in love with the hair, but this inspires me to make my own design of Vic where he has some replacement body parts, but with more a modular armor set. I have always thought Cyborg didn’t look as high tech as he SHOULD be, reminds me of a busted up Robocop. My vision would be something more akin to what Ironman represents in the Marvel U, he would be basically a cybernetically enhanced human , but use different levels of armor and gadgets for different scenarios kinda like Tony does. ….Sleek Stealth armor for missions with Batman, Heavy armor for missions with Superman, deep seas armor for mission with Aquaman, …oh boy!!!. …..Time to get sketching.

  13. I like the overall concept, but I’m not really digging on the cloth-looking suit. I like the overall sleekness of his profile, but I think I’d like to see where more of his tech is integrated into that silhouette and only comes out when needed.

  14. @Buck

    I would prefer a more natural hairstyle for the character, I just think it’s dangerous to dictate what a character must act or look like in order to be black “enough.” I’d be more inclined to object to it as an unwelcome change to a well-established character. I think there might be some of that sentiment in your reaction, as well, as you’ve noted an attachment to Cyborg dating back to your youth.

    Just out of curiosity, do you object to white characters having their races altered? I’m thinking of Nick Fury and Heimdall here, but I’m sure there have been others that suddenly mentioned they were of Hispanic or Native American descent.

    And for what it’s worth, I majored in sociology at an HBCU, so I can’t rely on ignorance to explain my views!

  15. thestray:
    I think the problem is that to make him look “modern” they anglicized him. You can make a character look hip and trendy and modern without whitewashing their natural features like their hair texture and their facial structure.I don’t think the artist’s intent, it’s just a culturally ingrained thing that people should be more aware of.

    Totally agree with people needing to be more aware of those points, esp in comics and visual media. I do totally disagree that he has been anglicized though. If you took the fluffy top off and gave him a fade, I think it would go a long way towards changing how that character is being critiqued on that point here. I don’t think his features scream white, as in if you colored this guy peach skinned he would still have some features that are strongly what comics consider black, or at least ethnic. He’s maybe not South Bronx version of Vic we’re used to, but he’s certainly not Clark Kent with brown skin either.

    Much beyond that side of the debate, I think we’re all talking more about artists across the board expanding their skillset to grab nuance of cultural differences, without going into stereotyped or outright racist depictions. That can be pretty hard to develop, esp when the idolized versions of male/females (strong chin, defined cheek bones, big chest, toned ass, long legs, 0% body fat etc etc) in spandex books often makes everyone of every culture look pretty generic. But that also feels a bit too much like picking apart the artistic style of the artists here, which I’m not 100% personally comfortable with, aside from discussing the design elements in the costume etc. (as in, every different artist who happened to draw this version of Cyborg would do so with their own style and nuance, because that’s how comics work – without trying to sound patronizing btw)

    Either way, it’s clearly not a perfect design, but I really love the artist’s statement about the piece for sure.

  16. Erech O!: Iono about masking his identity at all. The hair on top might be a little trendier than some would care for, but it certainly feels modern and now to me. Especially in regards to a character brassy enough to wanna dress up in outfits and go punching bad guys, there is an audacity to a person like that that would be reflected in their fashion sense I think.

    Except Victor Stone isn’t Cyborg by choice, and he doesn’t “dress up” to be a superhero. It isn’t something he does for fun; the armor is literally the only thing keeping him alive. The designs make it look like he’s just a guy wearing a costume or a suit with some circuitry in it. Aside from the eyepiece (barely) nothing about it gives a real impression that the majority of his body has actually been replaced by machine parts.

    While I like these designs in and of themselves, to me they seem out of step with established personality and character of Victor Stone as we’ve known him over the years.

  17. I love that he can take his armor OFF. No other design has really covered the idea that Victor Stone might want to have a non-action suit. He can go out and not be Cyborg of the Teen Titans for a while. He can put clothes over some of those cybernetics. It humanizes him in a way that’s really important to the audience and to Victor himself

  18. Afrobean: I love the idea behind this and it looks great too.My only complaint is the hair. And not because it’s not “ethnic”. It still looks pretty “ethnic”. I don’t know if I’ve seen a black dude with this style exactly, but I have seen black dudes doing their hair in a way which could be this if they wanted to. It’s all about the product. The question of whether a black person SHOULD do that to their hair is something else entirely than if there are those who DO do it. I believe Chris Rock did a documentary on the subject of Black women’s hair called Good Hair a few years back, but I must admit that I’ve never gotten around to seeing it. I should probably look into it. But point is: black people can do a lot of stuff with their hair, and I think it’s a little strange to ignore reality to demand that Victor Stone rocks an afro.
    Anyway, I’d rather see him in very short hair. That wavy ‘do up there is way too hipster-y for my tastes, and I just can’t see Cyborg taking his one place to express fashion and aiming for “hipster”. Also, it seems to me that most of the “brothers” are wearing their hair very short these days. Not afros, cornrows, dreads, wavy poofs, whatever. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a person actually walking around with a fro. Real black men and women generally don’t seem to care if their hair doesn’t loudly proclaim their ethnicity.
    ps is there an idea behind the eyebrow having a “cut” through it? It doesn’t look bad and it does give the art some character, but I feel like it might raise questions. Didn’t gang members used to shave notches in their eyebrows like that?

    I agree with Bean pretty hard here. The hair does seem out of place, but not because it’s “anglicized”. That’s friggin’ stupid. For one, do none of you see how wavy, and kinky it is? For two, look at media icons, of any race, this kind of hair is pretty common no matter how you trace your lineage (also, you can do damn near anything with any hair with enough work). It only looks out of place to me, because he is a football player, and so I would think that a more low maintenance hairstyle would be more fitting of his character.

    Though, who knows, maybe he’s one of those football dudes who hangs out with the hipsters and nerds at lunch, or in study hall, or whatever. Cyborg seems like a nice guy, so why not?

  19. thestray: I think the problem is that to make him look “modern” they anglicized him. You can make a character look hip and trendy and modern without whitewashing their natural features like their hair texture and their facial structure.

    This is kind of offensive. There is nothing more “whitewashed” about this than all of the Black men and women who put relaxers in their hair. And his facial structure isn’t “black enough” for you? He looks like a typical Black teenager to me. What kind of features are you looking for? Even larger lips? Sure, his hair doesn’t have the typical NATURAL texture of most Black people, but that’s a fashion choice not only for the character but also a common choice for Black people in the Western world. Should Cyborg have a more natural afro instead?

    PS to those above commenting on how Cyborg HAS to wear armor to live: Iron Man used to be the same. Or similar, I should say. But because of the level of scifi tech available in the Marvel Universe, it would seem a little absurd to keep Tony in a huge chest plate. He’s had nanotech armor last time I checked and the movies replaced the chest plate with a small cylindrical implant. It’s kind of unreasonable to demand that Cyborg not get reasonable prosthetics. Even in the real world, prosthetics are available which look quite close to the real thing. Why couldn’t his body be heavily cyber-ized but still look mostly human? Why must his limbs appear so artificial? I like the idea that maybe his eye is the only cyber part that would have to show directly on the surface. Prosthetic limbs are a lot easier than facial prosthetics, not to mention functional eyes.

  20. I like that the armor is less bulky, but I do think there was some unnecessary changes to Vic’s appearance. His skin looks a lot lighter, his nose looks a lot more pointed and thin (like a typical white person’s nose), and overall he looks like a white-washed photoshoot of Beyonce. Not cool.

  21. Concerning the foot-wear, I don’t understand why it’s so hoof looking in appearance.
    I do however like the hand cannon due to the pincer parts sort of echoing the shoulder pads, and I’m a fan of echoing designs.
    I can live with the hair….LIVE with it.
    Other than those points, pretty solid redesign, and I like how the eye-piece seems kinda Mass Effect-y.

  22. Afrobean,

    The comparison to Iron Man isn’t an appropriate one. Iron Man is wearing an external, removable suit of armor over his actual body. Cyborg’s armor IS his actual body. Big difference. And unlike, say, Steve Austin, Vic didn’t just loose a limb or two; his cyber parts aren’t just “prosthetic,” they’re a mobile life support system taking the place of most of his internal organs, a system designed to keep whatever is left of his organics alive as well as provide him with a multipurpose weapons array and other functions.

    I do agree that Jim Lee’s redesign was too bulky and clunky (an issue that was somewhat addressed when Ivan Reis took over the book and streamlined them a bit), but a design that makes it impossible to tell that Cyborg is actually, well . . . a cyborg kind of misses the point of the character.

  23. @kalorama

    That’s not entirely true. Keep in mind when he was first created he had a lot more in common with Steve Austin :

    http://images2.fanpop.com/image/photos/14400000/Cyborg-dc-comics-14485866-406-360.jpg

    As you can see it was primarily his appendages that were completely cybernetic not his entire body. Later on he became increasingly bulky and the level of his mechanization grew. Honestly this is one character I think Smallville got right in making him bionic rather than a big metal man.

    As to the design it’s nice. Not crazy about the hair but he still doesn’t look “whitewashed” as some say. I appreciate the artist actually trying to give a black character a more unique look rather than generic. John Stewart for example has looked generic for the past 20 years and looks plain generic. This version of Cyborg at least has a distinct look. I agree that the hair looks more “stylish”, which is fine if Vic is characterized as a stylish guy. Just do a quick google search for “black men with straight hair” and you’ll find plenty in the celebrity arena. Snoop Dog…need I say more.

  24. I’m with the folks looking for a sleeker Vic. Cybernetics advance, and in a world of nigh magical science, the idea that he had to LOOK like a cyborg is plain weird. As for the hair, I would not mind seeing him run through a bunch of hair styles. He’s 18 and a cyborg, let him experiment

  25. I think between Masamune Shirow’s work and Gunnm you can have a nice multitude of reasons why he would or not mimic a human body, including skin tone, facial features and hair.
    I think this design is good but i would have pushed the streamlining further making the shoulder pads, gun and boots less clunky. I like the more elongated overall look.

  26. He’s got the whole Bruno Marz thing going on. I like it, but It doesn’t favor either the tech whiz or the football jock, visually speaking. It’s a little too fashion, IMO.

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