As the Dawn of DC continues on, one of the original Titans has focused on being a Hometown Hero, and dealing with matters at home can always be tough when you’re one of the most technologically advanced beings on the planet! Terrence Sage sat down with the writer of Cyborg, Morgan Hampton, to discuss the new series, including the recently released issue #2, and what he wanted to bring to Cyborg’s solo outing.
Terrence: What’s your favorite sandwich?
Morgan Hampton: My favorite sandwich? That’s a good question and not what I was expecting. I’m someone who likes a Panini. I like to eat warm food. I don’t always like to eat cold food, so I’m definitely going to go with Panini and I’m going to go with something pesto, like chicken pesto with some little cherry tomatoes or something cut up in there and any type of cheddar cheese, but definitely a Panini.
Terrence: To start off, what was your journey through the Milestone Initiative to even get to this point to write Cyborg?
Morgan: Yeah, it’s still something that I think about almost every day because it was a wild opportunity that I’m still like, I don’t know how I got it. I was self-publishing for about five years, which can be pretty harrowing and daunting because all the money is coming out of your pocket, trying to get a bunch of stories out there that can kind of show your different skill sets and all that type of stuff.
I did that for a minute, and then I started Grad School out here in LA. and around the same time as when they announced the Milestone Initiative, I was like, I’m really busy, but I need to apply for that because comics is what I want to do. So I did, and then ultimately ended up getting it with twenty-three other incredible creators. They put us through this rigorous process of just kind of learning how to write from a more commercial standpoint. A lot of us came in with experience, but some of us didn’t have any experience. Kind of learning with people with different levels of experience was really interesting as well and then they paired us up with twelve different teams and we all did short stories that came out in New Talent Showcase: The Milestone Initiative last week.
For me personally, from there over the summer, I just tried to reach out to editors to see if there were any opportunities after the initiative ended. Marquise was one of the ones that answered, Marquise Draper, who’s my editor on Cyborg, gave me the opportunity to write the DC Power story that I wrote for Cyborg. When I did that, nothing was on the table for anything else at that point, I was like, okay, I’m just going to do this short and see what happens after that. But I guess he liked what I did on that. And then when they were talking internally for the Cyborg series, I guess he brought my name up and then reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to do it maybe a month after they announced the series. And I, of course, said, yeah, because that’s an opportunity of a lifetime. So that’s the condensed version of how I got to that point.
Terrence: Now, with Tom Taylor writing Cyborg with the Titans, how important was it for you to pivot away from what he’s doing there and making Cyborg his own leading man, getting back to his roots with what David Walker did when he wrote Cyborg?
Morgan: Yeah, I think a lot of it is I follow you on Twitter, so I know you’re a big DC fan. All these characters, not all of them, but a lot of these characters they’re in multiple books, right? You’ve got Batman in like 17 books and it’s just like, how do you have the time of day to do all these different things as a character? Or even like Nightwing, right? Nightwing’s got his solo running. He’s in Titans now.
So I kind of just pulled from that and tried to lean less on exactly what the plot of the two books are and just kind of look at Vic as a person and what needs to be fleshed out. What I can do with that, while still respecting what’s going on in the other books, but not necessarily having to hold his hand too much, if that makes sense. Most of the time, most of these books don’t do that. So I didn’t feel too much pressure to try to do that. Cyborg’s got this built-in ability to be anywhere, wherever he wants to be, with his boom tube. So that’s already built-in, that he can be in all these different places at once. But, yeah, it was important to me that this was going to be a human story for Vic.
Terrence: Now going into it being a human story, in the first issue, you delve into the relationship between Silas and Vic. In a lot of Cyborg media, we just get that strained relationship and that’s it. Now in Cyborg, Silas seemingly comes back as a robot and has a way to focus, to have to expand on the relationship, how was that for you?
Morgan: That was an important part for me coming into this. I think a lot of people take issue with Cyborg always having this ongoing problem with his father, me included. Not that he can’t have issues with his dad, but I feel like a lot of times it’s just the same problem. It’s regurgitated over and over and over again. My goal with this book is to have some type of closure by the end of it. Not to think that necessarily things would be 100 % resolved, but Vic will have understood something more about his father. So hopefully, moving forward, it’s not going to be the same conversation that we always have. But yeah, putting him in that synthesized form, yeah, it’s going to provide Silas with a lot of perspectives that he didn’t necessarily have before. Because obviously as a father, who’s this brilliant scientist, he has all the means in the world to save his son’s life. But what I really wanted to focus on with this story is the power of choice. And he did take that choice away from Victor.
I went back and read the Tales of the Teen Titans from 82 or whatever Marv Wolfman and George Perez did. And one of Vic’s first things that he said when he woke up from the accident was like, after he woke up, Cyborg was like, why didn’t you let me die? And I thought that was really powerful. And it’s just like, yeah, of course, as a parent, you’re going to do everything you possibly can to save your child if they’re in any type of danger. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is going to be okay after that. So that’s all the things that I want to work through with this series.
Terrence: So with Cyborg returning home to Detroit and you making Detroit Cyborg’s playground of sorts like any other city with Superman Metropolis, Green Arrow, with Star City, what does the series being based in Detroit and giving him a supporting cast, what does that do for you to help you go through the book and expand Cyborg’s world?
Morgan: Yeah, I think it’s exactly that. It helps expand his world. It helped expand his character because most of what we have of Cyborg is in relation to the Titans and the Justice League, which is all fun, too, but he’s always on the same level as some of those other heavy-hitting powerhouses in DC. We don’t get to see too much of a more grounded take on what it looks like, what everyday life looks like, and what the type of people he comes from look like. And I think putting it in Detroit gives me a unique opportunity to explore an actual real city that does exist because a lot of these characters are in Gotham and Metropolis, which are made up of cities that are proxies for other cities, but they’re not real cities that we can visit. But Detroit is a real place. And I thought that was really interesting for me to tackle and what it looks like for Vik being this hometown hero who for all intents and purposes, left home, which a lot of hometown heroes do. And now he’s back and he’s got this complicated relationship with the city because there’s people that obviously are going to ride or die for him because he’s always going to be from Detroit.
But then there are going to be some people who take issue with the fact that he left or doesn’t put on for the city like they think that he should. Then obviously, there’s this other stuff going on in the background with the company Solace effectively gentrifying the city, which is a problem that we have in our society today and in Detroit specifically today. So all those types of things I wanted to use as a backdrop to expand on his character and see what his values are and see how he responds to a lot of these things that are happening.
Terrence: Now, with expanding Cyborg, what was the thought process on giving him the cool new fit that he got? Because I definitely appreciated the jacket because it made you think he was just walking around in armor for most of his history.
Morgan: Absolutely. I actually did not have too much input into what he was going to wear. My main thing with Marques was just like, can we put him in clothes? That was really how I did it. And then he did his magic behind the scenes. And I got an email one day because we have a three-hour time difference. He’s in Georgia and I’m in LA. So I woke up one morning to the email with the concept art with the clothes and I’m like, oh, this is perfect. One, I need this jacket. I need those sweats, I need those shoes. I love the new color scheme. I thought that was a really bold choice. I was 100% here for it the whole time. But yeah, we just wanted to put it in clothes. That was really all I had.
Terrence: Now with issue two out, we’re seeing a little more into what this new version of Silas is or isn’t as far as him being in the robot and the extent of what he remembers and Cyborg’s relationship with him. We’re getting a lot more inner dialog with how Cyborg is feeling about it. How important was it for you to make sure he’s processing and working through all of these conflicting emotions and giving him more three-dimensional just beyond the super heroics of it all?
Morgan: Yeah. I think going in from the jump, that was my main thing with this is I wanted to have some type of internal dialog from Vik to express what he’s feeling. And I tried to do that. I set up issue one with him going to therapy and even actually back in DC Power. I’m just like a fan of comics, I think narration is a very powerful tool. But personally, as a writer, I like my narration to be pointed. So I want the reader to know why we’re in the character’s mind.
So I set up in issue one that all the narration we’re reading is actually Cyborg’s journaling for therapy. So going back to what you said about processing, I think that’s a good word because that’s exactly what he’s doing, especially just as someone who got robotic parts. You think about him processing in all these different ways, but he’s processing as a human, all the emotional things that are happening to him. And I think having what’s happening to Silas be a part of the plot as well and not just something that Victor has to work through emotionally. It’s forcing Victor to work through things where he might have otherwise tried to push them to the side, which is what he’s done up until this point.
But now because it’s directly tied into what Solace is doing and potentially stuff that’s dangerous for the city, he has to be involved and he has to confront his father. And he’s not having a good time doing that because he’s not really ready to do that. And he thought maybe, unfortunately, this might be a mean thing to say, but he thought maybe with the death of his father, he really could just put stuff to the side and not worry about it anymore. Now it’s thrust up against him and he’s like, I have to do all these things and I got to worry about this dude talking in my ear now.
Terrence: With Cyborg being home and dealing with his father, on the flip side, there’s the rogues gallery. So can we safely assume that this new gentrified Corporation is going to be the overarching rogue’s gallery, but outside of Yagizmo and Mammoth? More B-listers?
Morgan: Yeah. I won’t say exactly how that manifests, but yeah, the stuff surrounding Solace is going to be the main conflict of this series, for sure. And the goal also is to sprinkle in some of those other familiar faces that are goofy and aren’t really going to pose too much of a threat for Cyborg. But at the end of this series, for sure, I hope to establish a new villain for Cyborg that we haven’t seen before because he doesn’t really have a rogues gallery outside of the Titans. All these other villains that I’m sprinkling in are people that he’s come up against in the Titans, but he doesn’t have anyone personally for him. Maybe I’m blanking on his name, his friend who also became a Cyborg.
Terrence: I believe she was in the last series. I want to say.
Morgan: Yeah. Her and then there’s his… Why am I blanking on this guy’s name? He was his friend when he was growing up who was always up to no good. Cyborg was hanging out with him, but then he was getting in trouble. So he had to be like, I’m an athlete, I can’t hang out with you anymore. At some point, he became a Cyborg too. I don’t know exactly in this new era of DC if that continuity still exists, but I think he’s still a character that exists just outright. But yeah, in general, Cyborg doesn’t really have too many villains that are his own. So I wanted to do that as well because with his power set, with what he represents, he’s a character that deserves to have a bunch of people that want to beat him up just like Superman and Batman. So hopefully by the end of this, that will set that down the path a bit.
Terrence: Now, I know you probably can’t speak too much about this, but for later in the series, can we hope to see any major guest stars popping up in your series?
Morgan: Yeah, I can’t really say anything. You can expect familiar faces. I’ll say that. I won’t say who or how, but you can expect familiar faces. They won’t just be for no reason. It’ll be important to the plot. At the same time, what I also want to say, too, because it’s important for me, whatever familiar faces that you do see and however they help out, this is still Vick’s story, and the big, important decisions are still going to come from him.
Terrence: Okay. As I wrap up, as far as leaving your mark, what do you want to leave your audience with when all is said and done with your time on the series?
Morgan: I just want to leave the audience and the fans with the notion that I am trying to bring Victor into the 21st century, and I’m trying to elevate his status, so to speak, a little bit as well. I know this is a lot more grounded story than we may have seen with Cyborg, but I think in order for Cyborg to really move forward as a character, there’s a lot he has to go through emotionally for that to feel earned. For all the big, cool, bombastic stuff that we want to see with Cyborg, I think he has to go through a lot of this stuff for that stuff to feel like it’s genuine if that makes sense. I’m putting him through the wringer a lot through this so he can come out on the other side completely elevated if that makes sense.
Cyborg is available now from your local comic book store and digital storefronts.