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"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 capturing those who reside or were created there.


Early life

Tyson becoming a meta.

Tyson Sykes was born around 1920 to a man named Cassius Pierce and an unnamed woman with whom he had an affair. His father, being married to another woman, 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 harassment due to their skin color. One day, after a white official bullied him, he fought back, beating him to a pulp and getting arrested. Sykes was then given the choice to go to a court-martial or becoming a subject for a government experiment, he chose the latter option.[2]

Becoming a meta-human

Tyson burying an enemy.

After numerous experiments, Sykes was injected with a substance that had previously killed hundreds of men, however, in his case, it activated his dormant meta-gene and gave him superhuman physical attributes, slower aging, and the ability to control a person's mind with his vocal command. He became the world's first meta-human and was sent to Nazi Germany to fight against the Axis 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 dug a grave for literally every single one of the men he had killed on the battlefield, thus gaining the codename "Gravedigger".[3]

Joining Markovia

At some point during 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. to use against the nearby Soviet Union.[2] However, he became disillusioned with the U.S. government and decided to switch his alliance, joining Markovian insurgents and leading them on a coup d’état. They overthrew the U.S.-allied Markovian government and establishing a new government headed by a Prime Minister, with which Sykes lived like a king. However, he would grow to have a desire of creating a country populated only by meta-humans.[1]

When and Dr. Jace and Lynn are asked about the progress, Tyson appears and takes control. When Lynn decides not to support him, Tyson uses his metahuman abilities to propel her to do as such. Later, Tyson tries to make Lynn work faster, she says she needs his blood. During the invasion of the Black Lightning's team in Markovia, Lynn manages to break free and Tyson finds Khalil, they have a brief fight, which Tyson wins. Tyson later shoots Black Lightning, disagreeing him. When they are about to leave in a helicopter, Tyson shows up with the gun and tells them that if they come with him, everyone will be fine, and if they are not all going to die, then Lynn offers to go with him. However, Black Lightning appears and manages to defeat him.[4] He later receives another dose of the meta booster. Then with his new powers, Tyson kills Yuri Mosin for failing to stop Dr. Lynn. He then promises to take revenge.[2]

War against Freeland

"I stopped caring about what people think about me a long time ago. But I do still care about the truth."
—Tyson Sykes[src]

To achieve his dream, Sykes set his sights on the U.S. government experiments on Freeland citizens to turn them into meta-humans. Infuriated by what he saw as another racist abuse of power by the U.S. government, Sykes convinced the Markovians to infiltrate Freeland and bring it's meta-humans to Markovia so they could be Markovian weapons. In reality, Sykes just wanted them to join his new meta-human nation where they could live “freely” and “normally”. With the U.S.’s intelligence agency, the A.S.A., catching wind of the Markovian's goal, they set out to stop them while producing more meta-humans in Freeland to fight for their side.[1]

Later, Tyson makes a video journal regarding why he's doing what he's doing. He says in his journal that the US government probed him 80 years back making him "informally authoritatively" the first meta. He likewise says how he gets his codename, by digging graves for all of his adversaries. He says it felt like the proper activity, as whatever his arrangements for Freeland additionally feels directly for him. He later says that his arrangement isn't to make a military, but to free the metas.

Any individual who rejects his "opportunity" will kick the bucket. Tyson then arrives in Freeland with his army. He watches security film and learns the forces of everybody collaborating with Black Lightning. Later, Lightning assaults and takes out everybody aside from Gravedigger. Gravedigger attempts to talk and she shoots him with power; yet it does nothing but bad. They battle and he tosses Lightning into the border which makes Lightning be flung into the air. When Black Lightning gets her, her heart isn't beating. He needs to restart her heart and is fruitful. At that point, Gravedigger appears and Black Lightning charges him.[3]

So, Gravedigger and Black Lightning battle in the road. Gavedigger realizes that Lightning is Black Lightning's daughter and Black Lightning thusly reveals to Gravedigger they, as well, are connected. The Markovians later take Lightning. Lightning awakens in a control cell with Gravedigger attempting to get her to confide in him and influence her to his motivation, and she isn't having it.

Grace and Anissa ready to fight Gravedigger.

Tyson later are in the forest areas of Freeland, while they are preparing to invade The Pit. The resistance attempts to battle him, yet he uses his abilities to make them all "sleep" with the goal that he can continue. Thunder and Grace usher the metas into a sheltered room, but Gravedigger appears and mind-controls Grace into assaulting Thunder. After the lengthy struggle against Freeland and the A.S.A., Sykes seized control of the Markovian operation and ultimately ordered the Markovians to exterminate all of Freeland, but capture all meta-humans.

Later, the newly released Lightning and Brandon go up against Gravedigger and hit them with their joined forces, quickly holding him off. Odell starts the self-destruct of the Pit, giving the Pit ten minutes before it explodes. Lynn later appears while Gravedigger and Black Lightning battle and shoots him with the meta remedy. Sykes was left inside The Pit when it self-destructed, so he was presumed dead.

Tyson Sykes leaves Congress.

In reality, Sykes managed to survive and made his way to Gotham, where he witnessed his grand-nephew Jefferson Pierce and his family testify to a Congressional Commission about the conflict and the reprehensible history of the A.S.A., including their illegal meta-human experiments. Afterward, Sykes walked out and gazed into the distance with satisfaction because the racist cover-up which had fueled him with rage for decades had finally been exposed.[1]

One year later

A year later, Lynn Stewart has found a way to duplicate Gravedigger's powers and fights crime as part of an experiment.[5] Lynn modified the Meta booster so that it would only work on Humans.[6]

It was discovered that Tyson caused Promethium to spread throughout the underground of Freeland; Monovista International learned of this and established a company in the city to capitalize from this for its inventions.[7]


As a soldier, Tyson Sykes was mostly given simple jobs like burying deceased soldiers, while constantly suffering daily abuses from white soldiers. But after being bullied by a few white soldiers, Tyson was enraged and had the will to retaliate against them.

After being given the choices of court martial or human experimentation, Tyson chose to be an experiment. When he became a meta-human, he was sent to countless secret missions, during World War II. Though after completing those missions, Tyson was honorable to bury his deceased enemies, believing they deserved proper burials no matter what they did to encourage his wrath. When the war ended, Tyson refused to return to America, due to the fact that it didn’t want him/African Americans there in the first place, and decided to stay in Markovia.

As a terrorist, Tyson became a military general for the Markovians and wanted to liberate all the meta-humans in Freeland, to place them inside the borders of Markovia. Tyson was willing to fight/kill whoever stood in his way, whether or not they’re meta-humans, though he’d always try to reason with his opponents before he’d had to fight them. He doesn’t care what others think of him, believing that what he does is for all meta-humans. He also believes that the racism and experiments that’s been happening in America is never going to change, while also stating to Lightning that Obama and Martin Luther King don’t count as changes in America.

After surviving the Pit's self-destruction and leaving the Congress room, Tyson was satisfied with what his great nephew and his family did, and presumably decided to leave behind his goal of liberating meta-humans.

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. Also uniquely, only he and his descendants are naturally stable with their newfound meta-powers.[4]
    • 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. His healing powers are not perfect however, as during WWII, he received a permanent x-shaped scar on his forehead.
      • Longevity: Sykes' healing powers also significantly slows down (if not completely stops) his aging process. 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.
    • Vocal mind control: Sykes' chief ability is that he can control the minds of others with his voice.
      • Command inducement: He is able to mentally dominate the actions of others. Even while fully aware of their actions, the target is utterly compelled to follow Sykes' commands.
        • Psychic immunity: His chief ability also grants him immunity from anyone else with this ability.[4]
    • Eye transformation: Sykes' eyes glow silver whenever he uses his powers, though he is likely able to control when his eyes glow. This was first seen when his dormant meta-gene was unlocked and his superhuman abilities were manifested, during the experiments in World War II. When he was given extra powers via the meta booster, Gravedigger's eyes were seen glowing silver during the War for Freeland. It remains unknown if Sykes retained this ability after losing his extra powers from the anti-meta booster, though he already had this ability before he got extra powers.
    • Superhuman durability: Sykes is extremely resistant 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, as well as a massive explosion that almost completely annihilated a large compound.[1]
    • Superhuman speed: Sykes raced across an entire hallway within a fraction of a second and was able to outmanoeuvre Painkiller, an engineered assassin. His top speed is unknown.[4]
    • Superhuman strength: Sykes is far stronger than any normal human, able to easily break free from normal restrains.[4] He was strong enough to overpower Painkiller or take on several armies of soldiers, during World War II.

Former powers

  • Abilities via meta booster: After taking a serum designed by Lynn Stewart, Sykes is able to take on the powers of other metahumans. While the serum's effects normally last 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. With these powers, Tyson was extremely powerful; making him one of the most powerful beings in the entire multiverse.
    • Flight: Sykes was able to propel himself into the air and fly.[1]
    • Heat vision:Sykes was able to emit red beams 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]
    • Radiogenesis: Sykes is able to generate multiple forms of radiation.[1]
    • Superhuman sonic scream: Sykes is able to emit a sonic scream that is capable of knocking even powerful meta-humans like Black lightning to the ground.[1]
    • 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]


"Experience is the best teacher."
—Tyson Sykes
  • Master hand-to-hand combatant/Martial artist: Gravedigger is a highly skilled hand-to-hand combatant and martial artist.[4] With his extensive army training combined with over 80 years of experience, Skyes is an extremely adaptable and efficient fighter, able 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 with only minor difficulty.
    • Expert marksman: Gravedigger is a very skilled marksman.[4]
    • Skilled knife wielder: Gravedigger is experienced in using blades in combat, especially trench knives during World War II.[4]
  • 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 though 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).


  • Anti-meta booster: The serum Lynn made is able to negate if not take away all Sykes new meta powers he got from the meta-booster serum.[1]
  • Unnatural brain waves: As seen from Lynn using Green Light to augment her neurological processing and Khalil's cybernetics rewiring his brain activity altogether, Sykes ability to overshadow people's actions with such brain activity is rendered ineffective.

Former weaknesses


  • Image inducer device: Gravedigger used a special device to change his entire appearance into that of another individual.[1]


Black Lightning


  • Tyson Sykes is the first documented meta-human in Earth-Prime's history as he was created during World War II, meaning the Justice Society of America‘s existence was altered from how it was on Earth-1 or erased altogether.
  • According to Gambi, Gravedigger is considered to be meta-prime, as the world’s first meta-human in Earth-Prime.
  • As leader of the Markovian military, Gravedigger was considered to be a king, specifically the "King of Markovia".
  • Fans may agree that the Arrowverse/Black Lightning TV series makes Gravedigger the dc version of Captain America.
    • The similarities between Gravedigger and Captain America in marvel comics.
      • Both were the only soldiers who successfully took the serum, and the project was destroyed, except for them.
      • In both cases, the U.S. government spent years, and a fortune, trying to recreate the success, to no avail.
    • The difference between Gravedigger and Captain America.
      • Steve Rogers spent his life fighting for the U.S. government.
      • Captain America uses an indestructible shield for battle, while Gravedigger uses guns and knives for battle.
      • Tyson Sykes was ready to come and declare a one-man war on a mid-sized American city.

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.
  • Sykes served as the main antagonist of the "Book of Markovia arc" and the "Book of War arc" of Season 3 of Black Lightning.