THE OUTSIDERSMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1983
Creators: Mike W. Barr (writer) and Jim Aparo (artist)
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Superhero characterization was pretty shallow at DC Comics back in the early 1960s. So shallow, that when they launched The Justice League of America in 1960, it was just naturally assumed that since they were all on the same side in the grand battle of good vs. evil, they could all be pals. By 1977, when the JLA's origin was revisited, characterization was a little more fine-tuned — to the point where, when it was proposed they all get together and form a team, Batman, acting the way readers
had come to expect of him, was reluctant, admitting he wasn't much of a joiner, before agreeing anyway. In the following decade, he actually did quit. But then, he turned right around and got involved with another group, this one consisting largely of loners like himself. They even called themselves Outsiders.
At the time, Batman was DC's most gregarious character — which may seem odd for a non-joiner, but it made perfect sense commercially to put him in every issue of The Brave & the Bold (which started out starring The Viking Prince, The Golden Gladiator and other historical swashbucklers. but had long since moved on to the superhero world), teamed with a different character each month. But that title seems to have grown tired in the two decades it had been doing superhero team-ups, so it was dropped from the schedule with its 200th issue (July, 1983), and replaced with Batman & the Outsiders.
Another thing going on at DC at the time was a promotional technique of introducing new titles as free inserts in established ones. Examples include Arak, Son of Thunder, which premiered in Warlord #48; and Dial H for Hero, first seen in Legion of Super Heroes #272. Appropriately, Batman & the Outsiders was previewed in The Brave & the Bold #200 before going on sale the following month.
The Outsiders came to be when Batman, accompanied by Black Lightning, went to the East European country of Markovia, which had been invented just for this comic book, to free a friend who had fallen victim to its political turmoil. There he ran into several other superheroes, one of them a familiar but series-less DC character, Metamorpho, and teamed up with them to effect a favorable outcome for all their problems. Afterward, as in most superhero group origins, they decided to stay teamed up in case future menaces might happen to need defeating. Even Batman. the non-joiner, opted in, because he saw in them a bunch of neophyte heroes he could train to his specifications. The series was created by writer Mike W. Barr (Camelot 3000, The Maze Agency) and artist Jim Aparo (Aquaman, Stern Wheeler).
The hitherto-unseen members were Katana (adept in the Eastern martial arts, named for the type of sword she used), Halo (a dead woman whose body had been taken over by an immortal energy being) and most prominently, a "natural leader" type, Geo-Force. The latter was a local aristocrat, Markovia's Prince Brion, who had more-or-less bought his super powers, by his government funding the work of Dr. Helga Jace, which is how he got them. Helga also hung around the team, in background, as a sort of scientist in residence. Added later was Looker, a woman with psionic powers.
It's probably worth noting that Metamorpho and Black Lightning were two of only three characters to decline an offer of membership in the JLA during the classic period. The other, Adam Strange, turned them down because his heroics were done on another planet. Metamorpho and Black Lightning did so just because they didn't want to be members — emphasizing their status as "outsiders".
Along with New Teen Titans, Batman & the Outsiders was part of an experimental program whereby DC issued two separate editions of popular titles. It would be published in an upscale format, with better printing and more expensive paper. A year later, each issue would be reprinted in a regular, less expensive edition. This lasted only a couple of years. About the time it reverted to a regular comic book, printed only once (1986), DC's management made a decision that while no comic book was strong enough to support two printings, a year apart, this one was at least strong enough to survive without Batman's name on the cover, selling it. He went back to Gotham City, while The Outsiders continued without him, headquartered in an offshore complex near Los Angeles, supported by the Markovian government.
In one title or another, The Outsiders continued to appear regularly until 1988, after which they turned up here and there in the DC Universe for a few years more, fighting Eclipso and participating in company-wide crossovers and whatnot. They had their own series again in the mid-1990s. Another revival of the title, in 2003, is mostly unrelated. The original DC Outsiders, created by Joe Simon (Prez), had only one issue, in 1976, and isn't related at all.