The 10 Greatest Cyborgs in Comics
From Robotman to Deathlok, comics have a long history with characters who are half-human/half-machine. Here are our 10 favorites!
With Deathlok appearing on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and RoboCop making his big screen return, it’s time to look at some of the greatest cyborgs in comic book history. These are the half man, half machines that have kicked ass from the Golden Age to the Modern Age, and who exist in that place between the complex emotions of humanity and the cold logic of machinery. There have been many memorable cyborgs over the years from Marvel’s Coldblood, to Image’s Cy-Gor and Overtkill, but these are the cyborgs that have forged in steel their place in comic history. Half human, half machine...all awesome.
Robert Crane: Created by Jerry Siegel and Leo Novak
First Appearance: Star Spangled Comics #7 (1942)
Cliff Steele: Created by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, and Bruno Premiani
First appearance: My Greatest Adventure #80 (1963)
Two great cyborg adventurers have held the misleading name of Robotman in the history of DC Comics. Robotman was actually the first cyborg superhero. Robert Crane was fatally shot and had his brain placed in a super strong robot body. The cybernetic Robotman lived on, using a rubber mask and flesh-like body suit to disguise himself as Paul Dennis. The new hero used his cyborg might to smash crime during DC’s Golden Age. Robotman’s earliest adventures were played for laughs as Robotman was a whimsical looking character with a permanent smile forged onto his metal face. He palled around with a cyborg canine named Robotdog, who is probably the last character who will ever get a New 52 revival.
In the ‘80s, DC made Robotman became a vital member of the World War II era superhero team, the All-Star Squadron, taking the role of the team’s powerhouse throughout the book’s awesome run. More famously, Cliff Steele of the Doom Patrol inherited the mantle of Robotman during DC’s Silver Age. Steele appeared to be a modernized gold version of the Robert Crane character, and the Robotman of the Doom Patrol was played up as a more tragic figure in the similar vein as Marvel’s Thing. Steele longed to be human, to feel and be felt once again while Crane was mostly played for laughs during the Golden Age. Differences aside, the concept of Robotman began the legacy of cyborg heroes in comics.
And by the way, Robotdog.
9. The Reavers
First appearance: Uncanny X-Men #229 (1988)
Created by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri
A group of cyborgs dedicated to the eradication of mutantkind, the Reavers were one of the deadliest adversaries the X-Men ever faced. Led by Donald Pierce, a loathsome bigot who hated mutants, the non-white races, and, ironically, mechanical life forms, the Reavers brought the X-Men all the fight Marvel’s legendary mutants could handle and more. Other than Pierce, the Reavers’ ranks included: Lady Deathstrike, a lethal cyborg killing machine, her murderous nature enhanced by long cybernetic fingers that can cut through anything; the handsome but deadly Pretty Boy; and Bonebreaker, a cold blooded killer whose lower body has been replaced by a freakin’ tank. The Reavers, particularly Pierce and Deathstrike, have a long history with the X-Men and any time the two teams would throw down, it was certainly violent and viscerally memorable. Many masterminds have manipulated the Reavers into doing their bidding, but these killer machines driven by cold human ambition have gone down in history as some of the X-Men most formidable foes.
I mean a freakin’ tank body!
First appearance: WildC.A.T.S. #21 (2001)
Created by Alan Moore and Travis Charest
Maxine Manchester was an abused teenager shot in the midst of a crime spree. Later, she was rebuilt using robotic parts by the mad scientist, Dr. Khaz, and became the cyborg criminal known as Ladytron. Ladytron teamed with another Khaz creation, a murderous cyborg named Stanley. Stanley and Khaz were the Bonnie and Clyde of rampaging cyborgs until Khaz reprogrammed Stanley to kill Maxine. Instead, Maxine killed her lover and then murdered Khaz. When the WildC.A.T.S. were rebuilding after the seeming death of most of the original team, the captured and reprogrammed Ladytron, turned her murderous intent and F the world attitude into a force that would protect those that once rejected her at every turn. Sadly, Maxine is mostly forgotten these days, although she did pop up in DC’s Team 7 recently. Ladytron is a cyborg who clearly needs dusting off because as Alan Moore proved, this lady machine has lots of story miles in her.
7. The Brain
First appearance: Doom Patrol # 86 (1964)
Created by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani
He was once a French mad scientist, now he’s a brain stuck inside some sort of pedestal looking thing with a skull on it! And he may have had a sexual dalliance with a talking French gorilla who wears a beret! What the Brian lacks in mobility he makes up for in sheer strangeness. The founder of the Brotherhood of Evil has been a thorn in the Doom Patrol’s side for decades. The Brain has an I.Q. that almost rivals Lex Luthor himself, and he is constantly accompanied by an angry French Gorilla with a machine gun. A cyborg doesn’t need a body when he has a gorilla in a beret by his side. The Brain is one of DC’s oddest entities and one of the deadliest cyborg geniuses in comics…and he might make sweet, sweet monkey love to a sociopathic French gorilla.
First appearance: Action Comics #252 (1959)
Created by Robert Bernstein and Al Plastino
Metallo has been a major Superman villain since the dawn of the Silver Age, a fearsome half machine fueled by the one element that can kill Superman: Kryptonite. The first Metallo, John Corben, first appeared as a journalist turned murderer who used Kryptonite to power his new metal body. He tried to romance Lois Lane and came close to taking out Superman before Corben was tricked into using a prop piece of Kryptonite to power his body and died. A gaudier version of Metallo appeared during the Bronze Age; Roger Corben was a green and orange cyborg that sought revenge against Superman for the death of his brother. This version of Metallo appeared throughout the 70s and up until the post Crisis revival period. Metallo was such an iconic Superman villain that he was John Byrne’s chosen villain for Superman in DC’s Superman #1 in 1986.
Since then, Metallo has been a constant source of trouble for Superman whether in comics, on television, or in animation. Metallo’s fearsome appearance and brilliant mind enhance his threatening presence. Superman has many deadly foes, but only one has the Man of Steel’s only weakness embedded in his chest cavity. As the legend of Superman continues in comics and film, this classic villainous cyborg will always be there as a clear and present danger to comic’s original super-hero.
5. Iron Man
First appearance: Tales of Suspense #39 (1963)
Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby
Originally, Tony Stark’s life giving chest plate was something he wore to keep deadly shrapnel from embedding itself into his heart, but when Iron Man underwent the Extremis process, the Golden Avenger became a true cyborg. Extremis embedded nano machines into Tony Stark’s blood, essentially turning the legendary Avenger into comics’ most popular cyborg. Iron Man used Extremis to become a super-hero for the machine age, a man who was truly the pinnacle of technological advancement. Extremis made Stark one of the most potent and advanced cyborgs on this list. Stark’s cyborg status went all the way down to the molecular level, as every cell in his body was part machine. There are many cyborgs from yesteryear on this list but thanks to Extremis, Stark became a hi-tech cyborg of tomorrow.
First appearance: Astonishing Tales #25 (1974)
Created by Doug Moench and Rich Buckler
The cyborg of the hour now that J. August Richards has taken up the Deathlok mantle on Agents of SHIELD, Deathlok has had many incarnations over the decades. The original Deathlok first appeared during the Bronze Age in the pages of Astonishing Tales, in a tale that became one of Marvel’s first alternate future stories. Deathlok was a killing machine made from the ruined body of soldier Luther Manning. Revived in a post-apocalyptic future, Manning fought evil corporations in the dystopian future before being sent to the present Marvel Universe and encountering Spider-Man, Captain America, and the Thing.
Manning was the first in a long line of characters to use the name Deathlok, the most memorable being Michael Collins, a brilliant pacifist scientist who was tricked by Roxxon Oil to create weapons of mass destruction, including the Deathlok technology. When Collins confronted Roxxon, they put his mind in the body of the living WMB, Deathlok, creating the most ironic cyborg in fiction. Created by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, the story of Deathlok was a modern day tale of a man living as the one thing he hates the most: a weapon. The major trope involved in the Deathlok character has always been a running monologue with his built in computer, an element that seems to have been adopted into Agents of SHIELD. Deathlok was on the verge of huge success in the 70s and 90s, but was derailed each time for a myriad number of reasons. Perhaps Deathlok is ready for a television fueled revival.
First appearance: (as Nathan Summers) Uncanny X-Men #201 (1986)
Created by Chris Claremont and Rick Leonardi
As Cable: New Mutants #87 (1990)
Created by Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld
Once a symbol of the extremely excessive ‘90s, thanks to writers like Joe Casey, James Robinson, Fabian Nicieza, Duane Swierczynski, and very recently, Dennis Hopeless, Cable has become one of the most fully realized X-characters of the modern era. Not bad for a character that was once a thinly veiled Terminator rip-off. Cable’s mechanical eye and mechanical arm make him one of the cooler looking cyborgs on the list, but combined with his mutant telekinesis and ability to ride the time stream, he is also one of the most powerful. With the X-Men film franchise about to go all timey wimey in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past and the all but certainty of an X-Force film this mutant cyborg will soon be making his big screen debut. Whether Cable becomes a movie star or can be found only in the pages of Marvel Comics, he is still one of the medium’s most popular and most powerful cybernetic beings.
First appearance: We3 #1 (2004)
Created by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant
Inarguably, the most tragic cyborgs of them all. Bandit the dog, Tinker the cat, and Pirate the bunny were simple animals used in an experiment and transformed into cyborg killing machines complete with cutting edge smart weapons that combined with their enhanced animal senses to create the most complete killing machines the world has ever seen. They may look cute at first glance, but the animals of We3 are figures of innocent simplicity turned into sophisticated murder weapons. Tinker in particular, is a frightening killer, a lone hunter that is as deadly as she is cute. These innocent creatures merged with modern weaponry combined to form a contrasting story that is part Homeward Bound and part Terminator. The animals of We3 show the consequences of cybernetic enhancements on flesh and blood creatures and how technology can shatter innocence. The hapless confused look on the animals’ face as they cut a path of destruction against those that hunt them stays with a reader. The most unlikely machines of all are also some of the best and most thought provoking cyborgs to grace the pages of a graphic novel. Try to read this series and not cry, we dare you.
First appearance: DC Comics Presents #26 (1980)
Created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
Victor Stone suffered a tragic accident that left him a husk of a man. When his brilliant father rebuilt him as a cyborg, Vic could have wallowed in tragedy and become the monster he feared he now appeared to be, but in the cold metal frame of his robot body, beat the heart of a hero and Cyborg became one of the greatest heroes in DC’s pantheon. A long time and beloved member of the Teen Titans, Cyborg was driven to prove he was human by protecting those weaker than him. He feared he had become an inhuman, cold monster, but his loyalty to his team and his friendship with fellow Titan Gar Logan said otherwise. Now, Vic serves as an equal to Superman and Batman as a founding member of the modern Justice League and proves that whether Cyborg is mostly man or mostly machine, he is all hero.