Justice League is a deeply flawed movie, but the best thing that can be said about it is that it ultimately puts the DC cinematic universe on the right path. The world is saved, the League is united, and it looks like we’re in for a much brighter, happier tone going forward. As part of setting up the new status quo, Cyborg does something in a quick scene near the end of the movie that I can’t stop thinking about and cannot understand.
Everyone’s pretty happy at the end of Justice League, even Cyborg, who has come to terms with being part-machine and seems to enjoy being a hero with his new superfriends. While tinkering with his father, Silas Stone, Cyborg changes the appearance of his robot body. Whereas he just sported what looked like a glowing red gash in the middle of his chest, this extremely quick scene shows that he’s reshaped it into a much more heroic-looking “C for Cyborg” logo.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen that logo in the DCEU, and that’s what has me all messed up.
Remember that scene in Batman v Superman when Wonder Woman goes through Lex Luthor’s secret computer files and we’re introduced to three superheroes via low-quality found-footage, PowerPoint style? Cyborg’s clip shows lab footage of Silas using the Motherbox to save his son’s life, turning him into Cyborg in the process. In order to view the footage, Wonder Woman needs to click on the folder containing all the info on Cyborg Luthor managed to acquire. That folder has the same “C” logo on it.
So, where the heck did that logo come from, and why is Cyborg adopting it as his own emblem? There are two possibilities, and both are confusing.
Maybe Luthor created logos for all the would-be heroes when he was collecting info on them. Kinda weird — didn’t know Lex’s passion was graphic design — but, whatever. If that’s the case, though, that seems to imply that Cyborg learned of the logo’s existence and decided, “Yeah, I want to identify myself with an icon created and given to me by Lex Luthor, one of the worst criminals in the world.”
The other option is that the Cyborg “C” was a pre-existing icon somehow related to the Motherbox’s bio-mechanical creation, and Luthor just used it as a fitting symbol, rather than creating it. But if that’s what happened, why wouldn’t Cyborg wear the “C” when we first met him? For that matter, why is it a “C” at all? Cyborg doesn’t even really go by “Cyborg” in the movie, the same way Barry Allen isn’t called “The Flash.”
I’m nitpicking, of course. The real reason Cyborg adopts the “C” logo (and why the logo exists in the first place), is because he’s a DC superhero, and he needs to have a logo. That’s fine! The formulaic nature and basic structure of superheroes is part of what makes the genre fun. It’s just the specific way that Cyborg gets his logo is a great example of one of Justice League’s biggest problems.
The movie is all about finally getting the pieces of the DC universe in place, and that includes bits of canon and iconography. What sticks out, though, is how the movie keeps going out of its way to try and explain how things got to be the way they were without committing to the bit. Having Cyborg adopt the logo at the end of the movie rather than sporting it from the start is in some ways a nice evolution of his character, but Justice League doesn’t do enough work in actually showing the nuts and bolts of that evolution in a way that makes sense and feels fulfilling.
Here’s a counter-example: The Flash. Justice League doesn’t explain a damn thing about The Flash. It barely talks about his origin story (which is fine, because everyone knows it by now), and it certainly doesn’t explain where Barry Allen, who is young and basically unemployed when we first meet him in the DCEU, got his fancy super suit. Justice League doesn’t show how he got his logo either. The Flash just shows up, and we accept him.
With Cyborg, Justice League calls attention to how incomplete its characters are, and then slaps a storytelling Band-Aid on and calls it character development. We could’ve just started here.
It’s not just Cyborg. The whole team is like this. Aquaman and Cyborg don’t want to play along until they do. Superman’s bad until he isn’t. The team is embroiled in infighting until they’re suddenly BFFs. Justice League is full of changes, but lacks followable drama. Why spend hours bringing the team together if you’re glossing over the part where they actually come together?
Anyway, yeah, Cyborg’s logo really bugged me.
Justice League is now in theaters.