If you’ve always thought Batman was mean for making Robin dress like a Christmas tree, well, he was even meaner when he set up the Outsiders.
So “outside” were the Outsiders that they were not even on Alfred’s Christmas dinner list, but instead was always first on Batman’s “heroes won’t do” list.
Unsurprisingly, Batman formed the Outsiders out of frustration, when Bruce had a fallout with the Justice League in 1983’s Brave & The Bold #200 (which actually happens more often than you think).
Anyway, it has been four decades since the Outsiders’ debut as part of a special insert in that same issue, and this week, we pay tribute to co-creators Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo’s group of heroes who were deemed “misfits”.
The original team formed by Batman comprises Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Geo-Force, Katana, Halo and Looker. The controversy behind their formation is due to Batman’s vested interest, as he wanted the JLA to stop a civil war in Markovia (a fictional East European country), and to rescue Lucius Fox (Wayne Enterprise’s head honcho).
However, the JLA declined to intervene, resulting in Batman leaving the League and heading out to Markovia on his own.
Coincidentally, Batman’s path crossed with his future Outsiders inductees – Geo-Force (son of Markovia’s late king), Metamorpho (who was searching for Markovia’s top scientist to help him with his powers), Katana (who was seeking revenge on her family’s death), and Halo (who was lost in the Markovian forest). This meeting led to these heroes joining forces under Batman’s leadership, an arrangement that lasted almost three years.
During the “Batman-years”, there were many growing pains for the team, mainly due to Batman’s strict leadership style. An interesting moment happened in Batman And The Outsiders #5, when the team collaborated with the Teen Titans, whom were led by the original Robin (Dick Grayson). That moment was symbolic, as it clearly highlighted the different leadership styles of the master and his apprentice.
Being “misfits” made the Outsiders more interesting. While Black Lighting and Metamorpho had low key solo outings, they did come with some historical baggage, which resulted in some origin story arcs.
On the other hand, Katana, Halo and Looker were new characters with a lot of development potential – which actually helped provide some much needed drama in between the good vs evil stories.
As for G-Force, his sibling ties to Terra (of the Teen Titans) always piqued my curiosity, particularly after her betrayal of the Titans and subsequent death.
Not so shocking news was Batman revealing his identity to the team, after a year with them. To Batman’s surprise, they all already knew (duh!).
While it was the war in Markovia that united the team, a recurrence of it caused Batman to leave it.
The protagonist of the war, Baron Bedlam had returned to life and tried to seize control of Markovia, but surprisingly, Batman decided to withhold this information from the team.
Obviously, this angered the team and it went on to save Markovia, after which the members were made unofficial agents of the country, which also provided them with full funding.
Minus Batman, a new title named The Outsiders was introduced, with the team operating out of Los Angeles. Apart from saving LA, the team’s hiccups revolved around being marooned on a deserted island for three weeks, and an inter-team romance between Geo-Force and Looker.
Inevitably, a reunion with Batman happened (see Outsiders #18) as they united to stop Eclipso. The reunion was a nice touch from a closure standpoint and Batman even gave the team access to his LA-based Batcave.
One refreshing thing about the Outsiders’ adventures is it has its own villains (and not recycled from the Batman’s Rogues).
The villains included the Masters of Disaster (i.e. New Wave, Shakedown, Windfall, Heatstroke, and Coldsnap), and Force of July (i.e. Major Victory, Lady Liberty, Mayflower, Silent Majority, and Sparkler), which gave a sense of freshness in the Outsider’s adventures.
Post-Batman, the team has had a number of different incarnations. In the early 2000s, Nightwing and Arsenal co-led the team, focusing on hunting super-criminals.
Subsequently, Batman returned for a second stint together with original members Katana and Metamorpho, who were joined by Catwoman and Thunder (Black Lightning’s daughter).
After Batman’s “death” in the Batman R.I.P. story arc, Alfred executed Batman’s instructions to reassemble the team.
In the past decade, there has been a few short-lived revivals of the Outsiders franchise, via the pages of Batman Incorporated and Green Arrow. Hopes were raised as part of the DC Rebirth event, with Batman re-forming the team, but sadly it fizzled out.
The latest revamp had Black Lightning leading the team, riding on the team’s appearance in his TV Series (Black Lightning Season 3). However, with plenty of other more ruthless and grittier super teams out there, the Outsiders will have to dig deeper than nostalgia to reinvent themselves.
A new Outsiders title was recently announced at this year’s San Diego Comic Con International. This time around, the team will be led by Batwoman and Luke Fox, and will be giving up their superhero careers to become “super-archaeologists” who look into the history of the DC universe.