Looking In At The Outsiders


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My first experience with a Batman and the Outsiders book was in my early days as a comic book collector. I was always on the lookout for new books to try and often searched the racks for a title that I thought might interest me. One trip to the local newsstand contained a cover that reached out and grabbed me.

It featured an angry Batman yelling at the shocked Justice League: “I’ve had enough of your two-bit Justice League! From now on these are my new partners!”  The partners involved were a motley crew of five heroes. I could only recognize Black Lightning at the time; the other four were unknown to me. Metamorpho had been around for quite some time. I just never saw him before. But Halo, Katana and Geo-Force were completely new characters.

My 11-year old mind was intrigued. What could cause Batman to be so angry as to tell off his friends—friends who, by the way, could rip him from limb to limb without breaking a sweat—and strike out with a new team? My curiosity was piqued and the comic was brought up to the counter. 

Ever since then, I have had a soft spot in my heart for the Outsiders, whether they were with Batman or not. The main concept behind the team was that they would be a team that would go where other teams couldn’t. They had no strings, no government sanctions, no loyalty to any country.

The first series was popular enough that DC gave it a second, concurrent, direct market series like it did with The New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes. Both series ended by 1988. The Outsiders returned for a 24-issue run in 1993 written by creator Mike W. Barr and featuring most of the same characters from the previous series.

The next Outsiders series appeared in 2003 and bore only the slightest resemblance to teams past. The only connections were that the team was led by Nightwing, who was once Batman’s partner, team member Thunder was the daughter of Black Lightning and Shift was a pseudo-clone of Metamorpho (actually he was a piece of Metamorpho that had broken off and gained life on his own.) They were joined by former Titan Arsenal, former Infinity Inc. member Jade, and two new characters—the duplicitous robot Indigo and superhuman bouncer Grace. Later in the series, they were joined by original Outsiders Katana and Metamorpho and the new Captain Boomerang.

Earlier this year, DC decided it was time for another revamp. Batman was brought back in and the title was due to restart with a new number one. However, the series was set to start last month.   What caused the delay? It was a complete upheaval of the creative cast.

The team for the book was originally Tony Bedard and Koi Turnbull. However, in October, DC announced that they would be replaced by Chuck Dixon and Julian Lopez  and that the series would be delayed a month to accommodate the new creators.

Rumors abound about why the change took place. In an interview with Newsarama, Dixon said:

“Well, anyone in any kind of creative endeavor can tell you that, no matter how hard you work at something, it all somehow gets away from you. It’s happened to me enough times. That seems to be the case here. No one in this business has greater respect for Tony [Bedard] than I do. The guy is dedicated, conscientious and has never written anything less than world-class comics entertainment. But whatever it was that the folks at DC wanted from this book, it just wasn’t coming together. I take this on faith as I wasn’t shown any of their material.”

This raised more questions than it answered. Was the grind of working on Countdown too much for him to add The Outsiders to his plate? Did DC want more action in the series?

Or perhaps Bedard did not react well to editorial mandates placed on the series. The original cover for the first issue featured a team composed of Batman, Catwoman, Martian Manhunter, Metamorpho, Katana, Thunder, Grace and the new Aquaman. On the new cover, Aquaman is conspicuously missing. Even more, an alternate cover was created that shows Green Arrow, Geo Force and the Cassandra Cain Batgirl on the team. Did DC change its mind on which characters it wanted on the Outsiders at the last minute and Bedard was not able to handle the changes? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Also out this week:

Captain Marvel #1:

1982’s Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel was one of the greatest stories in the history of Marvel. In it, Mar-Vell was felled not by a villain, not by an alien race, but rather by a very human ailment—cancer. It was poignant, heart-breaking and tragic.

Bringing Captain Marvel back from the dead is one of the worse ideas in history.That is why Marvel brought him back from just before he died. The Mar-Vell in this series is brought foward through time from a point before cancer claimed him. He is aware of his mortality and knows he must return to face his inevitable death. This is an interesting way to bring back the character while keeping the legacy of that graphic novel intact.

Brian Reed (W), Lee Weeks (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Salvation Run #1:

Back in the days of colonialism, England was notorious for sending its undesirables overseas. Australia became partially a penal colony and America the destination for political radicals and those with different religions from that of the crown. I guess England thought that if these rabble rousers were out of sight, they would be out of mind.

DC is using this page of history as an inspiration for this series. The undesirables of the DC Universe are being shipped off to a foreign planet where supposedly they can do Earth no more harm. Of course, these bad guys don’t like each other any more than they like the heroes. This space prison soon becomes a battle for supremacy—and survival.

Bill Willingham (W), Sean Chen (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Seven-Issue Miniseries.

House of M: Avengers #1:

Sometimes, I think Marvel just puts out books so I can buy them. I mean, if they put “Avengers” in the title of every book they published, then I would have to buy every book they published. If they made those books tales from alternate realities, even better. If they made Luke Cage the star of them, I might buy two copies of each. And have Christos Gage and Mike Perkins as the creative team? That would be pure bliss.

Lucky for me, Marvel is doing all of that only for this one miniseries. It returns us to the pages of House of M and details how Luke Cage put together his band of non-mutant Avengers from that series.

Christos Gage (W), Mike Perkins (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Dragon Cross #1, Tempest #1, & Totem #1:

A young man trying to deny his destiny in a world ruled by dragons. A New York City D.A. who is secretly a vampire. A teenager is given great mystic powers and the awesome responsibility to use them correctly. These three sentences describe the heroes of the new comic publisher, Big City Comics. The company hits store shelves tomorrow in a big way with three new series featuring these characters.

The launch of the company was not without controversy. Lying in the Gutters reported the story of a letterer who attempted to hold the files for Totem #1 hostage. And there was some acrimony with Image over Mario Gully’s Ant (which will be published by Big City starting in December). But after that entire struggle, it is good to see this company’s dream of self-publishing is about to come true.

Various (W), Various (A), Big City Comics, $3.25. Ongoing Series’.  

World of Warcraft #1:

One of the most famous computer games of all time would have to be the Warcraft series. Starting as a real-time strategy game and morphing into the world’s largest massively multiplayer online role-playing game, the series has become a global phenomenon and changed the way computer games will be played for all time.

Being that the world of MMORPG’s and comics share similar audiences, it was only a matter of time before the World of Warcraft crossed over into graphic novels. Wildstorm is the company fortunate enough to claim the rights to the property and the book follows closely on the heels of the WoW action figures created by DC Direct. I bet the company is hoping WoW fans peel themselves away from their computer screens long enough to make this series a success.

Walter Simonson (W), Ludo Lullabi (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

The Circle #1:

It’s a good month to be Brian Reed’s wallet. He the author of this week’s Captain Marvel series, the New Avengers: Illuminati series just ended last week, and his monthly gig on Ms. Marvel is going strong. To top it all off, he is also the creator of this tale of international intrigue from Image. If he gets a kickback for each issue sold, then he should be rolling in the dough tomorrow.

The Circle is a deadly mercenary group involved in a secret war against a rogue CIA assassin over a stolen nuclear missile train. A stringer for MI6 has stumbled onto the battle, and his influence could decide the ultimate winner. However, with the world hanging in the balance, if he makes one mistake, it could mean Armageddon.     

Brian Reed (W), Ian Hosfeld (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.


William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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