There is a lot to be said about the X-Men when they were rebooted in the mid-1970’s. A lot has been said about the diverse make up of the new team. Characters like Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Colossus made way for superhero teams to be more diverse. However, the 1964 manga CYBORG 009 beat the X-men to the punch by at least 10 years.
What is CYBORG 009? According to WIKIPEDIA: “Nine people from around the world are kidnapped by the evil Black Ghost organization, led by its tyrannical leader Skull, to undergo experiments that would allow him to use them as human weapons to promote the production of cyborg warfare. While he succeeds in converting the group of nine into cyborgs with superhuman powers, his most reputable scientist, Dr. Isaac Gilmore, helps the cyborgs escape to rebel against Skull and his organization. The nine cyborgs (from which the name of the series is derived) band together in order to stop Black Ghost from achieving its goal of starting the next world war by supplying rich buyers with countless weapons of mass destruction. After the destruction of Black Ghost, the nine cyborgs go on to fight a variety of threats such as mad scientists, supernatural beings, and ancient civilizations.”
I first discovered the manga while overseas in Taiwan in 1976. What I discovered was the various characters that made up the team. The original Japanese manga was created by SHOTARO ISHINOMORI. What I liked about the series that everyone was from various backgrounds and ethnicity.
The team is made up of the following:
Joe Shimamura is the the main character/leader
- Joe is originally from Japan, although he is actually half-Japanese in his original incarnation and some others. A delinquent youth, he escaped from a juvenile detention facility before being captured by Black Ghost.
Although Joe received several body enhancements during the process of being turned into a cyborg, his most prominent ability is his acceleration mode, enabling him to move at a speed so fast that everything else looks like a statue to him; this mode is triggered by a switch embedded in his teeth. However, he cannot touch any normal creatures such as humans in this state; the high speeds would kill or otherwise cause serious injury to the creature through air friction.
Other principal abilities include: durable skin and skeleton, superhuman physical strength, self-contained oxygen supply, night vision, and computer assisted brain enhancements.
During each of the series, he acts as the field leader of 00 Cyborgs. He appears as a playable character in Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation.
- Ivan is a baby originally from Russia, born with a severe illness in the 2001 anime continuity.
His father Gamo Whisky performed numerous brain enhancement processes on Ivan that allowed his mental capacity to far exceed that of a normal human adult, against the wishes of Ivan’s mother Erika (whom he kills in the manga and 1979 adaptations).
Ivan later fell into the custody of Black Ghost, who dubbed him the first member of the organization’s 00-Cyborg program. Ivan’s enhanced brain gives him several psychic powers, such as telepathy, telekinesis, and extra-sensory perception. However, he inopportunely falls asleep, sometimes for two consecutive weeks, due to the strain of his powers on his infant body.
In the 2001 continuity, he was one of the 00 Cyborgs who were frozen until more advanced technology and procedures were developed.
While still a pacifier sucking infant, he is talented in scientific analysis and can telepathically converse at an adult level; he may be the most powerful member of his group. His role is to provide the 00 Cyborgs communications, speculation, and last-ditch psychokinetic defense.
Jet Link, with his elongated nose and wild, windblown hair, comes from The Upper West Side of New York in the United States and in the manga, was the leader of the Jets gang in New York’s West Side (his character is introduced in a scene that parodies the opening scenes of the movie West Side Story). He was intercepted by Black Ghost members when he stabbed the Puerto-Rican “Shark” leader to death, who offered him a ride and took him away from the scene to be made into a cyborg later.
Jet has jets built into his feet allowing him to fly at speeds of up to Mach 5. Jet is also equipped with an early form of acceleration module, later refined in 009.
In the 2001 anime continuity, due to dysfunctions in his original construction, he was cryogenically frozen for decades before his final form was perfected; although physically about 18, that incarnation is actually over 50 years old (and was intended to be 001 at first). He has a brash, street-wise confidence that often conflicts with his peers but nonetheless remains a good-hearted member of the team. He is the group’s source of air support and rescue.
Françoise was originally a schoolgirl from Paris, France. Her brother Jean, a member of the French Air Force, returned to Paris on a one-week leave, and Françoise was to meet him at the train station. However, she was kidnapped by Black Ghost despite numerous attempts by her brother to save her along the way.
In all anime adaptations, she is an aspiring ballerina in her backstory. In the 2001 anime continuity, Black Ghost offers a fake professional dancing career so they can kidnap her. She is the only female member of the team.
003 rarely fights though she will when needed and is often seen either directing the battle under Gilmore’s guidance or protecting 001. Her cyborg modifications were in her sight and hearing. She possesses telescopic and x-ray vision along with enhanced hearing, enabling her to perceive activity hundreds of miles away. As well, she is an excellent pilot, tactician and a machine whiz.
In the 2001 anime continuity, she was one of the 00 Cyborgs who were frozen until more advanced technology and procedures were developed; she’s chronologically in her 50s, being 19 when captured. Her role is reconnaissance, morale and nursing 001.
Albert was originally from Germany. He and his fiancée Hilda attempted to escape to West Berlin in the guise of circus members. However, because Albert forgot to retrieve his forged identification from a guard and the guard caught on to him driving off without his pass, he panicked and sped off. The border guards opened fire on the truck, injuring Albert and killing Hilda in the process. Black Ghost agents arrived on the scene and lied that they would take Albert to a hospital.
One of the first 4 00 Cyborgs, Albert’s right fingertips contain small machine guns, his left hand has razor-sharp edges, his lower legs and, on occasion his elbows, are cylinders containing missiles launched from his knees. 004 often has a gruff exterior which belies his friendly personality and disgust with war; aside from his mechanical parts, he possesses blank circular eyes (which are an artistic flourish to illustrate his nihilism, rather than a mechanical enhancement, as he is seen with these eyes before his remodeling).
In the 2001 anime continuity, he was the last of the 00 Cyborgs who were frozen until more advanced technology and procedures were made and is chronologically the oldest of the group, being already 30 years old when captured. Upon first waking up as a cyborg, Albert was stricken with despair and developed suicidal tendencies, worsened by the side effects of his modifications which caused him additional physical pain and strain. This ultimately forced Black Ghost to halt the cyborg program for decades, and put the existing cyborgs in suspended animation until technology developed far enough to make future cyborg soldiers more stable.
He appears as a playable character in Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation. 004’s job is usually first-line attack/artillery.
Referred to as “G-Junior” in the 2001 anime (owing to stereotype concerns).
He was originally from an undisclosed part of the southwest United States, and a Native American who was unable to find work because of widespread racism. In the manga, he was approached to be a Native American chief in a sideshow, but he simply punched the sideshow owner in the face, refusing to further the stereotypes about his culture. He was then approached by the Black Ghost organization, who claimed they could find him a better job.
In the 2001 anime continuity, he was working at a construction job when approached by the Black Ghost organization and wound up becoming the first of the “Second Generation” Cyborgs.
At around 8 feet tall, he is the strongest as well as the biggest of the 00 Cyborgs; he also has heavily armored skin. However, he is also a silent man with a deep reverence for nature and life, and it’s speculated that he may have a sort of sixth sense that allows him to sense changes in the nature and possibly other people’s thoughts.
He appears as a playable character in Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation. G-Junior’s physical strength was estimated in the anime series as “as strong as 50 men”; based on observation and history of battle he may as powerful as one thousand. His intense strength and durability make him expert in ground infantry and line defense, usually employing boulders as thrown missiles; his instinctive comprehension of nature makes him a superb tracker.
Simply referred to as “Chang”, he was originally from the Guangdong region of China. He was an impoverished Chinese farmer who once owned a pig farm; after the Great Leap Forward, he suffered crop drought and almost all of his pigs ran away, causing him to be starving and suffering under heavy taxes. Hopeless, Chang decided to end his misery by hanging himself. However, he was “saved” by a bullet from Black Ghost which cut the noose. Chang fainted and was later delivered to the Black Ghost laboratory.
In the 2001 anime continuity, he was a restaurant owner that accidentally burnt down his establishment when performing a fire-breathing trick, and fainted after learning he was in bankruptcy. Black Ghost agents then carted him off.
Chang’s power allows him to breathe huge flames which he uses to create tunnels in the earth and attack enemies with underground explosions. He’s a jovial fellow who is well-versed in the ways of cooking; his refined cuisine and happy personality always manage to bring his teammates back to good spirits. His proclivity is frontal advancing, anti-personnel, and anti-ballistics; 006’s jolly nature and epicurean cooking skills make him expert at morale.
Great Britain, whose real name is unknown, was originally from the United Kingdom. He was once a famous and talented stage actor with a broad knowledge of famous shows, but lapsed into alcoholism when he could not find work and was abducted by the Black Ghost organization.
007 has the incredible ability to reshape his cellular structure at will, allowing him to take form of any object, creature, or person he wishes. With his superb acting skills, he can also blend in with the enemy to use sneaky maneuvers and attacks. Great Britain is a very lighthearted and amiable gentleman to boot. His unusual talent make him ideal at espionage and infiltration; additionally his ability take on gigantic proportions or restructure into a dangerous animal proves useful in field combat.
During the 1960s anime works, in an attempt by the producers to appeal to a younger audience, he is depicted as a child rather than an adult. Though Ishinomori had disapproved of this, he later temporarily mirrored it in the manga version by having Gilmore alter 007’s body to make the child form his standard form in “The Man in the High Castle”. However, this did not last, and 007 was back to his adult self in further stories.
Pyunma was originally from an undisclosed part of Africa, ultimately revealed to be Kenya by the end of the manga’s serialization.
In the manga continuity, Pyunma was to have been made a slave along with the people of his tribe, but he escaped from his chains and ran off. Cornered by the slave drivers, all seemed lost until the slave drivers were shot dead by Black Ghost agents from out of nowhere. Holding Pyunma at gunpoint, they led him to their plane so he could be taken to the cybernetics laboratory.
In the 2001 continuity, Pyunma was a guerrilla fighter who fought against the tyrant ruling his land along with his friends Kabore and Mamado, but was caught in the crossfire during a nocturnal fight, when Black Ghost people kidnapped him.
Being the only member of the team with real combat training, he has mechanical lungs that allow him to survive indefinitely underwater at any depth. Pyunma’s soldier background make him an outstanding field tactician, possibly the most capable of the group. His mainstay abilities are anti-submarine/sea ordnance and ocean recon.
In the manga and the original 1960s and 1970s anime incarnations, Pyunma’s facial design was done in blackface (complicating the matter is the fact that Pyunma was still drawn in the design while other black people were drawn realistically in the later manga and the 1979 series). Despite this exaggeration, the character’s personality was always presented as intensely no-nonsense and battle-hardened. In the 1980 movie Legend of the Super Galaxy, Pyunma was redrawn in a more naturalistic style. Redesigns of the character have been used in more recent media as well, though some merchandise still uses the original manga design when referencing the early period.
If you’ve never checked out the series before you need to do so. It is an exciting adventure series where an international and ethnically diverse cast comes together to protect the world from evil. It is historic because it was the first.