As the second decade of the 21st century comes to its end, we can look back at it as being an age of super-heroines. That scene in Avengers: Endgame where all of the prominent women of the MCU joined forces to fight the Black Order remains one of the movie’s many highlights. Next year sees the return of Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman 1984, whilst Black Widow finally gets her own movie. But, I feel in this time of empowerment and inspirational figures, one super-heroine has been forgotten. Cybersix was an Argentine-Italian comic book, published in 1991, and was adapted into a brilliant but short-lived animated series. With the cartoon turning twenty years old this year, we’re going on a retrospective through this forgotten sci-fi epic.
Cybersix began as a comic book, published in the Italian magazine Skorpio, created by Argentine writers and artists Carlos Meglia and Carlos Trillo. The comic was successful enough to be adapted to television twice, a tacky-looking live action show, and a much better animated series which premiered in 1999. Both were cancelled due to either low ratings or arguing studios. Though we’ll be primarily reviewing the animated series, the comic is worth mentioning, being a lot more adult and risqué in its content and visuals. Such violence, sexual, and exploitative material obviously wouldn’t work for a cartoon.
Visually stunning and carrying a decent, engaging story, this Japanese-Canadian animated series was sadly forgotten due to its one-season run. Our heroine is Cybersix (Cathy Weseluck), an artificially created “Cyber”, the last of her kind, who escaped extermination by her shadowy creator, Dr. Von Reichter (Terry Klassen). As you might guess by the name, he is a mad scientist Nazi with dreams of global domination. Considering his army of disobedient Cybers to be a failed project, Von Reichter wiped them out, but Cybersix fled.
Years on, Cybersix lives in the Argentine port city of Meridiana, defending it at night from the monsters and minions Von Reichter sends to destroy her. Von Reichter deploys his hilariously bratty son José (Alex Doduk) to take over Meridiana and defeat Cybersix, relying on large, hulking henchmen called Fixed Ideas. When José’s minions are defeated, they leave behind Sustenance, a vial of glowing green liquid which Cybersix needs to live. Cybersix is physically superhuman, and dresses like a mix of Batman, Spawn, and Carmen Sandiego.
To hide her identity, Cybersix’s alter ego is quite the original one – a young man named Adrian Seidelman, working at a rundown school as an English teacher. Cybersix is at first emotionally distant, questioning her own humanity, but she opens up overtime to other characters, desiring a normal, human life. Her time as Adrian allows her to experience that more-or-less, striking up a friendship with fellow teacher and love interest, Lucas Amato (Michael Dobson). Lucas is a good-natured, laidback, but intelligent man, who is a science teacher. Cybersix and Lucas have quite the fiery, flirtatious relationship, while they are good friends when the former is disguised as Adrian. While Lucas remains oblivious to Adrian and Cybersix being the same person, there is a hint of a love triangle going on.
The second episode introduces us to Data-7, a genetically-altered panther that carries the brain of Cybersix’s brother Cyber-29. Thought dead after falling off a cliff, Data-7 was turned into a weapon by Von Reichter, but both siblings reunite after recognising each other. He becomes Cybersix’s sidekick of sorts, a mute foil for her to bounce off. Cybersix gains a secondary sidekick, the street urchin Julian (Andrew Francis), who is at first a down-on-his luck pickpocket, but changes his ways after meeting Cybersix. Rounding out the cast is Lucas and Adrian’s student Lori Anderson (Janyse Jaud), a bright but troubled teen who develops a crush on Adrian.
The cartoon does leave out a lot of the context of the characters and lore, beyond vague hints. As mentioned, Von Reichter is a Nazi scientist and SS officer, who fled to South America following the fall of the Third Reich. This actually happened historically, with many Nazi officers fleeing to South America to avoid punishment, often docking in Argentina. Cybersix doesn’t have to collect vials of Sustenance, but instead has to literally suck it out of other lab experiments like a vampire. I suppose this could be seen as a type of cannibalism on Cybersix’s part. José is actually a clone of Von Reichter’s younger self when he was a Hitler Youth. That would explain the uniform and goose stepping. Adrian’s existence was not fabricated by Cybersix, but is actually the identity of a young man who died in a car crash, having a striking resemblance to Cybersix.
While Cybersix does use a standard monster-of-the-week plot for each episode, the show stands up with its story, characters, and animation. Cybersix herself makes for a compelling heroine, not necessarily a standard superhero, but a surviving creature made for evil means, but who chose to do good. Though doubtful of her humanity, Cybersix finds it through making bonds with others, and has Adrian to fulfill her personal desires. While most characters with similar backgrounds just wish to run away from their pasts, Cybersix must do the opposite. She requires Sustenance to stay alive, which would explain why she lets José go, rather than kill him.
Just about all of the protagonists are downtrodden in some way – Cybersix yearns for a new life but must rely on her past to survive; Lucas has to work in a mundane job in a school for troubled youths; Julian is a homeless kid who struggles to do right by others; and Lori is a struggling teenager in a town where it is easy to get into trouble. Meanwhile, the villains get to live deliciously, ruling from mansions and ominous castles, whilst being remnants of a horrific, decadent part of history.
Sadly, Cybersix became a part of comic book and television history. The animated series was canned after one season, allegedly due to a falling about between the various studios producing it. Still, like other forgotten heroes, I believe Cybersix deserves both recognition and resurrection. And in this age where nostalgia is both a good and bad way to draw in audiences, perhaps we’ll see Cybersix make her return some day.