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The Outsiders

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DC Comics spent the 1970s reinventing Batman, returning him to his 1939 roots as a brooding creature of the night and distancing him from the campy persona made famous by actor Adam West in the television series Batman (1966–1968). By the early 1980s, the Caped Crusader had become the Darknight Detective, his grim demeanor making Batman an outsider among his Justice League of America (JLA) teammates. When the JLA refuses to intervene in an international crisis involving the kidnapping of an associate of philanthropist Bruce Wayne (alter ego of Batman), Batman does the unthinkable: He quits the JLA! I've had enough of your two-bit Justice League! he snarls on the cover of Batman and the Outsiders #1 (1983), as he chooses sides with his new partners. These Outsiders, a merging of heroes old and new, infiltrate the politically unstable European nation of Markovia to liberate Wayne's friend in a covert mission orchestrated by tactician Batman, actions in direct defiance of the JLA and the U.S. State Department. And thus, these Outsiders are introduced as a fighting force willing to go beyond conventional means to exact justice. (Incidentally, DC had previously used the name Outsiders twice in the 1970s, for a group of bikers in Jack Kirby's Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen run and for a grotesque superteam appearing only once in First Issue Special.)


Joining Batman were old-timers Metamorpho the Element Man, gruesome in appearance but comical at heart, a chemical combatant who had oozed in and out of comics limbo since his premiere in 1964; and Black Lightning, a street-smart African-American hero (a DC rarity at the time) with electrical powers, who briefly headlined his own comic in 1977. Fleshing out the group were the indomitable Katana, a female samurai wielding a soul-absorbing sword; the spirited Halo, a teenage amnesiac who was one of a race of energy beings called the Aurakles; and the regal Geo-Force, the Earth-manipulating brother of Terra from The New Teen Titans. Under the guidance of writer Mike W. Barr and artist Jim Aparo, Batman and the Outsiders promptly became one of DC's best-selling series, as the team tackled myriad menaces with amusing names like Baron Bedlam, the Force of July, and the Bad Samaritan. Barr's energetic scripting was rife with character development and subplots, and Aparo's (and later Alan Davis') artwork helped elevate Batman and the Outsiders to fan-favorite status. In 1985, the book split into two separate titles—the newsstand-distributed softcover The Adventures of the Outsiders series and the direct-sales (sold exclusively to comics shops on a nonreturnable basis) hardcover The Outsiders, with Batman defecting and newcomer Looker joining the group. Two titles a month was too much of a good thing: By February 1988 both were no more.


The Outsiders, minus Batman but with a handful of new recruits, including Wildcat and the Atomic Knight, returned with little fanfare in 1994 for a two-year stint. In the summer of 2003, a new version of Outsiders premiered, a monthly comic written by Judd Winnick (an original cast member on MTV's The Real World). This band of twenty-somethings specializing in taking on threats no one else will (according to DC's promotions) is fronted by Batman's former protégé Nightwing, and features a familiar blend of heroes new and established: Arsenal (once Speedy of the Teen Titans), Metamorpho, Black Lightning's daughter Thunder, the Golden Age Green Lantern's daughter Jade, a futuristic android called Indigo, and a superwoman named Grace. With popular Nightwing at the helm, perhaps this incarnation of the Outsiders will enjoy the longevity denied its predecessors. —ME

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