"Changes? Oh, you mean Obama? And Martin Luther King? Well, seems to me that Obama was bought and paid for by rich liberals and multinational corporations and Martin Luther King, well, he was a coward who lacked the courage to fight for his own freedom."
—Tyson Sykes to Lightning[src]

Tyson Sykes (born c. 1920),[1] also known as Gravedigger, is the world's first documented meta-human, a former American soldier turned leader of the Markovian military who is aiming to create a country populated only by metas by invading Freeland and capture those who reside or were created there.


Early life

Tyson Sykes was born around 1920 to a man named Cassius Pierce and an unnamed woman with whom he had an affair. His father was married and never recognized him as his son. However, Tyson once met his half-brother from his father's side, Ben Pierce, when they were young. They met again right before they both enlisted for World War II.[1]

During the war, Sykes was among the many African-American soldiers in the U.S. Army who suffered seizures due to their skin color. One day, after a white official bullied him, he fought back beating him to a pulp, thus getting arrested. Sykes was then given the choice to go to a court-martial or becoming a subject for the government's experiment, he choose the latter one.[2]

Becoming a meta-human

After numerous experiments, Sykes was injected with a substance that have previously killed hundreds of men, however in his case it active his meta-gene instead giving him superhuman phisical attributes, slower aging and the ability to control a person's mind with his vocal command. He became the world first meta-human and was sent to Nazi Germany to fight for the Axes forces, there he killed dozens of soldiers by himself.[2]

As their first super soldier, Sykes fought many other wars for the US killing thousands and thousands of men, however he dig a grave for literally everyone of the men he has killed on the battlefield, thus gaining the codename "Gravedigger".[3]

Joining Markovia

At some point prior of the Cold War Gravedigger was stationed in Markovia to oversee Dr. Helga Jace's project of recreating the serum that gave him his powers in order to create an army of meta-humans for the U.S.,[2] but eventually he became disillusioned by the government and decided to swift his alliance joining the Markovian military until he became their leader, maturing the desire of creating a country populated only by metas.[1]

War against Freeland

In the war against Freeland, Sykes ordered the Markovians to exterminate all of Freeland and capture all metas. Many Freeland citizens were killed.

Powers and abilities


"The U.S. government experimented on me almost eighty years ago, granting me abilities beyond that of a normal person. I am, officially, unofficially, the first meta."
—Tyson Sykes[src]
  • Meta-human physiology: Sykes was given his abilities as part of an early attempt in the US military to create an army of super-soldiers. Sykes was the only test subject to survive, his trials unlocking a dormant "meta-gene" that manifested itself in superhuman abilities. Tyson is extremely powerful; making him one of the most powerful beings in the entire multiverse.[4][2]
    • Command inducement: Sykes's chief ability is that he is able to mentally dominate the actions of others. This also grants him immunity from anyone else with this ability.[4]
    • Superhuman strength: Sykes is far stronger than any normal human, able to overpower them with ease, even without using his commanding power.[4]
    • Superhuman durability: Sykes is extremely resistent to damage, able to survive Black Lightning's electric blasts, even while the latter used an extreme current due to his anger. Sykes was even able to withstand a combined attack from Jennifer and Brandon.[1]
    • Accelerated healing factor: Sykes can heal in considerably accelerated rates, being able to recover from extreme electrocution induced by Black Lightning's powers within minutes.
    • Enhanced longevity: One of Sykes' original abilities was to slow his aging process at a significant rate. He has been in his physical prime for over seventy years. [2] This ability was so rare, it took billions of dollars in research (as well as several decades) in order to create a serum with similar effects, with the only other example of it working is Tobias Whale.
    • Superhuman speed: Sykes raced across an entire hallway within a fraction of a second and was able to outmaneuver Painkiller, an engineered assassin. His top speed is unknown.[4]

Former powers

  • Meta-booster abilities: After taking a serum designed by Lynn Stewart, Sykes is able to take on the powers of other metahumans. While the serum has only shown to work for short periods of time, because the serum is based on the one that triggered his meta-gene to begin with, he could retain the new abilities indefinitely.[2] However, he lost all of these powers when Lynn Stewart injected him with the anti-booster serum.
    • Telekinesis: Sykes is capable of controlling the gravitational pull of objects, allowing him to levitate them in the air and move them as he wishes. He displayed this power for the first time by killing Yuri Mosin for insubordination. [3]
    • Flight: Sykes was able to propel himself into the air and fly.[1]
    • Superhuman sonic scream: Sykes is able to emit a sonic scream that is capable of knocking even powerful metas like Black lightning to the ground.[1]
    • Radiogenesis: Sykes is able to generate multiple forms of radiation.[1]
    • Heat vision: Sykes was able to emit a red beam of heat from his eyes in order to counter Jennifer and Brandon's attacks while fighting him.[1]
    • Magnetic field generation: Sykes was able to create a magnetic field to block Jennifer's attack.[1]


  • Peak of human physical condition: As a soldier, Gravedigger is in top physical condition.[4] His metahuman abilities allow him to retain his prime age even through he is over a century old (as he is a meta-human for about 80 years now, having been a soldier during World War II).
  • Master hand-to-hand combatant/Martial artist: Gravedigger is a highly skilled hand-to-hand combatant and martial artist.[4] He was able to outmaneuver and defeat several soldiers at once during his time as an American meta-assassin. [2] He later manages to defeat Painkiller, who is programmed with hundreds of different fighting styles.



  • Image inducer device: Gravedigger used a special device to change his entire appearance into that of another individual.


Black Lightning

Season 3


Behind the scenes

  • In the comics, Tyson Sykes is the second African-American fictional character known to use the codename Gravedigger. He is a Checkmate operative whose field designation is Rook Alpha. Tyson gains special telepathic abilities by injecting himself with a solution called Apocritic made from Starro's DNA.


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