Yeah ok, the headline is a little clickbaity but I have a legitimate point to make about this one. One of the things that Black Panther's release has absolutely done is shifted the conversation about comic book movies towards characters of color and representation in films from here on out. As that movie continues to soar straight toward a billion dollars with a majority black cast, the question inevitably becomes "who's next?"
Everyone seems to have an opinion on this and while a lot of people want to see John Stewart take over the Green Lantern Corps movie by himself, a number of DC Extended Universe fans on Twitter, myself included are calling for a Cyborg solo movie, one that was at one point seemingly part of the DCEU slate and targeted for a 2020 release date. There's also been talk in the past of him sharing the spotlight with Barry Allen in the solo Flash movie. Obviously with the developments after Justice League this is all up in the air but a lot of us that enjoyed Ray Fisher's performance in that movie are ready and willing to see him shine again in a solo effort, so naturally we support him being the "next" black superhero to grace the big screen on his own.
Yet somehow this response to the idea keeps coming up on Twitter:
I've found that a decent number of the people that claim no one cares about Cyborg are Marvel fans, specifically fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is hilariously ironic considering the answer to the question "Why would anyone care about a Cyborg movie?" lies directly within the heart of the MCU itself.
That's right, the MCU is literally proof that a Cyborg solo movie can work. A lot of DCEU fans already know what I'm about to say but here's the breakdown in blog form.
Start with this: Who cared about Iron Man at the start of 2008? Who cared about Hulk? Or Thor? Or even Captain America? Marvel Comics fans did of course but not the general audience. They turned out in droves for three Spider-Man movies made by Sony and also gleefully watched Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in the X-Men franchise for just short of a decade by then, but no one in the general audience gave a flying toss about Tony Stark and his smartassery in 2008. Then Marvel Studios takes a shot in the dark with Iron Man and it works. In fact it's one of the better comic book movie origin stories out there in my opinion and the general audience surely enjoyed it, to the tune of $585.5 million worldwide.
That success allowed the MCU to continue with its Phase 1 plan with The Incredible Hulk later that year, Iron Man 2 in 2010 and then Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, all before the first grand team up in 2012 with The Avengers. At the time, Marvel Studios was in completely uncharted waters. No one had attempted a shared cinematic universe like this before and they were using characters that literally Marvel Comics couldn't sell the rights to when they went bankrupt years ago. All the general audience knew or cared about from Marvel before 2008 was Spider-Man, The X-Men and The Fantastic Four.
What this meant was that not only was the MCU gambling on its "lesser" characters for success at the theater, it was also riding on ZERO expectations for any of them. There were no past versions of Tony Stark or Steve Rogers that anyone cared about for fans to compare and contrast with and the only previous version of Bruce Banner anyone cared about was either on TV back in the late 70's or in an Ang Lee directed film from 2003 that a lot of people would still like to forget. So not only did no one care about ANY of the Avengers at the time, they didn't even have a prior reason to care about them in the first place. Marvel Studios took full advantage of this and did their best to tell solid stories with those solo movies, which is why Phase 1 is still in my opinion the strongest phase in the entire franchise. They were all shot on film up to The Avengers, they all had pretty solid stories to tell and they weren't overloaded with humor or grand spectacle. In fact, most of the Phase 1 MCU movies are pretty grounded compared to the rest of the franchise since then.
Once Marvel achieved their billion-dollar success with The Avengers they had the audience hooked. Now they could start doing whatever they wanted, including giving movies to even more obscure characters in Marvel Comics like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Black Panther. As of now one of those movies has a sequel (that I still hate), another one is getting a sequel this summer, a third one teased a sequel in its end credit scene and the fourth one is all but guaranteed a sequel because of its resounding success at the box office this year.
Wrap your head around that one for a second. We live in a time where we have had TWO Guardians of the Galaxy movies and we are about to have TWO Ant-Man films. How crazy would people have said you were being if you had even suggested that in 2008? Now it's completely normal.
So what does this have to do with Cyborg? Well he falls under the same category, right? A character that the general audience allegedly doesn't care about and also has no prior version expectations for. We've seen what those prior expectations have done to Batman and Superman especially, splitting the DC fanbase into people who consider Christopher Reeve and Christian Bale/Michael Keaton/Adam West to be the definitive versions of the character that should never ever be infringed upon, and others like me who have great respect and admiration for Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck's performances, but just like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America respectively, there's only ever been one Cyborg on the big screen. If you craft him a strong solo story that grabs the attention of the general audience then it can be just as successful as any of those movies were for the same reasons. You have the freedom to do what you want without general audience backlash over your decisions and you can set the tone for his cinematic future, which could be red hot if you find the right director (and stay out of his or her way) and writers for it.
But wait! What about Justice League? Didn't that movie poison the general audience perception of Cyborg? Why would they go see his solo movie? Well that's where the story and marketing come into play. Because of the diversity and representation perspective, Cyborg has a change to be another cultural phenomenon akin to Black Panther. It may not be on the exact same level since Black Panther struck first, but a grounded story about a disabled young black man finding his way in the world while honing his incredible and empowering abilities to save it is certainly one that would attract an audience outside of just comic book fans. It would be seen as another milestone for diversity that people had to go out and support and if you make it good, they'll see it multiple times. Add to that the DCEU fans like myself that enjoyed Ray Fisher's performance in Justice League and wanted to see more of it, and you have a recipe for a solo movie that can be every bit a success as the Phase 1 MCU movies were. Maybe even more so since the financial landscape of comic book movies has changed greatly in the last decade.
There are a lot of "ifs" in this scenario for Cyborg, the most important one being "if WB still wants to make it," but assuming that they do then a Cyborg solo movie faces challenges that are no different than the ones the MCU faced in its infancy and the next time a Marvel fanboy wants to tell you that no one cares or knows about Cyborg, you might want to remind them that no one cared about Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers or Thor in 2008 either.