clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cyborg is at his best in Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans


Cyborg Cartoon Network

When I was 11 years old, I used to rush from the doors my elementary school to my grandparents’ house around the corner so I could jump on the couch and get comfortable for my favorite three-hour programming block.

From 3 to 6 p.m. each week day, YTV (Youth Television) would air six episodes of television programming known as “The Zone.” We didn’t have Cartoon Network in Canada, but thanks to the magic of licensing, we got most of the series that American kids were watching, too.

Including one very important series: Teen Titans.

Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans ran from July 2003 to September 2006, ending a five-season run with the made-for-TV movie called Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. The series followed five members of the Teen Titans team — Robin, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and Cyborg — as they went on adventures and lived together in their Teen Tower, located in Jump City. The show was designed to provide a funnier, lighthearted look at the ragtag group of teenage crime fighters, with each hero easy to fall in love with.

For me, the character that I fell in love with after just a few episodes was Cyborg. The semi-robotic goofball with kick-ass dance moves and a never flailing sense of bravado was one of the funniest characters on the show. He was cooler than Robin, smarter than Beast Boy, more positive than Raven and easier to relate to than Starfire. Out of all the heroes Teen Titans introduced us to, Cyborg was the only character I found myself rooting for.

I couldn’t place my finger on what it was that resonated Cyborg to me until the third season. Each season of Teen Titans focused on one of the characters. Although the hero wasn’t the sole focus of the season, many of the episodes dealt with a character’s issue. For Cyborg, that was maturing. He wanted to take on more responsibility as he got older, but didn’t want to lose his friends. He was determined to be a leader, but was scared he could be ostracized if he spoke out. Cyborg dealt with needing to be more than he was, while not losing his identity in the process.

By the time this season came around, I was 13. I was in that tricky spot of wanting to be treated like an adult even though I was still a child. All of the issues Cyborg was dealing with, I was going through, too. Unlike Cyborg, I was scared of confronting the personal growth I wanted because the possibility of change was too petrifying to deal with.

Instead, I would spend my afternoons at my grandmother’s house eating cookies, enchanted by Cyborg’s story on screen. I came to terms with my own teenage problems via Cyborg, and I didn’t realize how important that was until Teen Titans went away. Cyborg was one of the first characters I encountered that was dealing with low-key anxiety, something that would impact me later in life, too. His bravado and “boo-yah!” mentality kept him going, and while I didn’t have that, watching Cyborg always made me feel better. I never appreciated how well developed of a character Cyborg was until recently, when I was thinking about the character and his introduction to the mainstream world in the upcoming Justice League.

I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t comment on whether or not Zack Snyder gets why Cyborg is such an important character to so many kids. I’m both excited and nervous to find out. I fell in love with the world of DC superheroes because of Teen Titans, and Cyborg has always been one of my favorite characters because of that. I know the Cyborg we get in Justice League isn’t going to be the happy-go-lucky, “boo-yah!”-yelling teenager we got in Teen Titans. I’m okay with that. Different iterations of Cyborg should exist.

But for me, getting Cyborg right is more important than Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Flash and Aquaman. I just want Cyborg to get his due.

Justice League will be released on Nov. 17.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon