BONUS BOOK – Batman and the Outsiders (1983)

BONUS BOOK – Batman and the Outsiders (July, 1983)
Writer – Mike W. Barr
Art – Jim Aparo
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Len Wein

Today we’re going to take a look at the other Insert Preview I mistakenly believed I owned and had to run around town to find the other day.  This one though… kinda made me nervous.

I Googled the issue just to get a look at the cover, and saw it listed as the first appearance of Halo, Geo-Force, and now-DC Superhero Girls star, Katana.  I figured this one probably wouldn’t be coming cheap.  I decided to see what the “going rate” was online… and, hoo-boy, this one looked pretty spendy.  Here, take a look:

That’s definitely more money than I was interested in spending on this… even on the low-end of the above pricing-spectrum!  And, while I’d never push the “Buy it Now” button, in my experience, the online prices are (generally speaking) lower than what you might expect to pay in-store for “key” books.  What’s worse, I recognized the cover immediately as a book that I had actually seen in dollar bins throughout the years.

Right then, I figured that I’d have to end the first-half of the BONUS BOOKS feature… one book short.  Even if I could actually manage to track this bugger down, I was pretty sure it would be tagged way out of my price range.

And so, I hit up some of my normal haunts… some of the “healthier” cheap-o bins, a couple used book stores, a few used record stores… and, came up empty.  Couldn’t even find the Justice League of America issue we discussed yesterday.

Then, I remembered that one of our local shops has a pretty neat consignment program… where folks can sell their comics through the store, and they’re sometimes tagged below normal “asking” price.  Lo and behold, I pop in… and managed to find both of the missing books… for just a couple bucks a piece!  Like, less than what I’d pay for a new comic!  In really good condition, to boot!  That’s a Vartox-Week sized miracle, if you ask me!

Let’s get right to it!

We open at the Gotham City Hospital, where Commissioner Gordon is trying to get some information out of a suicidal terrorist called Miklos.  This dude ain’t interested one bit in talking… and was even willing to kill himself to avoid betraying his cause.  Gordon looks at his watch, realizes this is going to be one heckuva long evening… and wishes Batman were around.  Just then, a delivery van pulls up outside the hospital… except, the only thing they look to be trying to deliver is… bullets into the chest of the poor Security Guard on duty!  They’re the bad guys, ya see.  They rush into the hospital on a sorta-kinda “double suicide” mission.  They’re all planning to die tonight, though, not before doing Miklos the favor of killing him too.

Inside the hospital, a young Candy-Striper is bringing some cups of water to various patients.  She is approached by a man who appears to have an eye for her.  He asks her out to a Clash concert… which, she doesn’t seem to understand.  How can “Clash” be a concert, when it’s defined as “a conflict of some sort”?  Hmm…

Anyhoo, a terrorist with a flame-thrower strapped to his back bursts in the room… prompting our Candy-Striper to slink off to change her clothes.  Folks, this is the first appearance of: Halo!  She uses her powers to chase away the flame-thrower, while protecting the patients.

The flame-thrower fella rushes into the hallway, where he finds himself caught up in a Metamorpho-sized candle-snuffer!  For good measure, Rex fills the snuffer with Hydrogen… which doesn’t work out so good for the baddie.

Meanwhile, in the Recovery Ward, several terrorists (wielding both guns and… swords?) have corralled some patients.  One, appearing to be an old woman, removes her rubber mask… revealing herself to be: Katana… in her first appearance!

Using the distraction from his teammate, a nearby Jefferson Pierce takes the opportunity to change into his “work clothes”.  Black Lightning is in the house.

Katana is squared off having a sword-fight with one of the terrorists… who warns her that she has nothing to lose, as this is an actual suicide mission.  Katana replies that she doesn’t have a problem with that… in fact, she’ll save the suicidal-terrorist the trouble and kill her where she stands!  Turns out this was all it took to call the baddie’s bluff.

The heroes continue fighting the terrorists… and we shift over to, the man of the hour: Batman.  He’s doing some sorta-kinda detective work, in the form of counting how many sets of footprints entered the place.  He can account for five baddies his team has already caught… however, there is a sixth set of prints!  He deduces that the first five were just a diversion… and, it looks like he’s right.

Up in Miklos’ room, the sixth man bursts in… and this fella is completely strapped with ‘splosives.  The Outsiders follow him in… with Halo almost referring to Batman as “Mr. … something”.  Hmm… I didn’t know the Outsiders knew Batman’s secret identity?  Perhaps they changed their mind on this early on.  Anyhoo, the Bomber pushes the button, blowing the heck out of the hospital room.  On the ground outside, a trench-coated fellow looks on.

This fellow is: Geo-Force, making his first appearance!  Batman kept him outside, just in case he was needed for crowd-control or anything of the sort… and it’s a good thing, too!  He is able to use his Earth-born powers to take care of any and all falling debris.

Once that’s out of the way, he heads into the hole in the hospital… only to find his teammates alive and healthy.  Metamorpho was able to stretch himself out to deflect the blast, and protect his partners.  The only casualties were the terrorists.

Gordon is thankful… even though, by the looks of it, Miklos is dead too.  I thought the whole point of this thing was keeping him alive long enough to talk?  Oh well, I guess we take our victories wherever we can.  Anyhoo, Batman informs the Commish that he’s no longer with the Justice League… and that he’s running with a new crowd.  And thus, begins the legend of Batman and the Outsiders!

Not a bad little introduction to the Outsiders “franchise”.  I think we might assume that this story could be slid in right after the opening arc (first three issues) of the ongoing Batman and the Outsiders series… since, ya know, they’re already a team… and they all appear to know one another.  We’ve already discussed the first… and third issues of the ongoing.  Not sure how or why I skipped #2… but, whattayagonnado?

Batman and the Outsiders was always a series that I’d kinda give “side-eye” to when I’d happen across issues of it in the wild.  I’ve mentioned a time or two before that when I’m digging for comics, I’ve come to expect something of a “Batman Tax” (in current year, we can add a “Harley Quinn Tax” and a “Joker Tax” into the mix).  What I mean by that, if it’s not blatantly obvious, is anytime I’d come across a comic that was tangentially Bat-Adjacent… you’d have to pay more for the privilege of owning the thing.

This has popped up again and again, even if it’s just Batman making a cover appearance on an issue of Action Comics or something!  You could flip through the bargain bins… and you’ll find every issue before and after the Bat-one… and they’ll be a quarter or fifty-cents, each.  That Bat-issue, however… that’s a “folding money” book.  And so, for the longest time, Batman and the Outsiders (outside of an issues here and there) was a series that fell just outside of my grasp.

I think, in my addled-mind, this lent to my both over-valuing it… and subconsciously under-valuing it, if that makes any sense?  I assumed it would be worth more than I wanted to spend… while at the same time, convincing myself it wasn’t worth the effort to track it down on the cheap.  That was, until… just like with All-Star Squadron… I came across an awesome run of the things for a quarter-a-pop at a local used-bookstore.  Heck, it might’ve been the same day… I know it was around the same time period!

Anyhoo, so I got the books… read the books… loved the books.  Not since the first time I read New Teen Titans did I fall so quickly for a DC title.  It was superheroey, soapy, they seemed to put out Christmas issues every single year… it was just a really good time.  A very special book, indeed.

This here introduction “prevue” works well in giving all of the characters enough time to “get their stuff in”.  New characters and old, everyone gets a chance to shine.  Though, for this piece, I want to pay special attention to those making their grand debut.

Halo, as written, is very interesting.  She appears to be completely lost… and, ya know, sorta inhuman.  She takes everything literally… and, at one point, even needs her memory jogged to recall what part of the body a “leg” is.  I’m not too sure about her knowing Batman’s secret identity… though, in fairness all she says is “Mr.”  I don’t know if she was going to follow that up with “Wayne”… or “Smith”.  We don’t know how the Bat introduced himself… so, maybe it’s best not to assume.

Katana is pretty awesome here.  She comes across as ruthless and willing to cross any line in order to meet her goals.  I really enjoyed her calling the terrorist’s bluff… which, I mean… just feels so human.  Here’s a follower of Miklos, supposedly prepared to meet her end, when… Katana offers to expedite the process.  This causes the terrorist to actually realize what’s going on… seeing her fate right before her eyes.  It really makes ya stop and think.

Geo-Force is kind of an also-ran here… but plays his part well.  He gets the opportunity to show his stuff, while protecting dozens of looky-loos outside the hospital.  It’s not like he’d have been able to truly “cut loose” with his powers in the hallways of the hospital… so, this was probably the best role for him here.

Overall… this was just a joy to (finally) read.  It’s kind of familiar… so, I might’ve read it in passing in the SHOWCASE Presents volume… but, whatever the case… this was a lot of fun.  The art, as you might expect, was also pretty fantastic.  I’m glad to have this in my collection… finally “completing” my run of Batman and the Outsiders!

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6 thoughts on “BONUS BOOK – Batman and the Outsiders (1983)

  • Chris U

    It is great to see Batman as just another superhero here and not The great unbeatable BATMAN as he has become today. This team (and book) were a great companion piece to the New Teen Titans of the time.

    • Very good point! It's always nice to get BatMAN instead of the brilliant, peerless, and flawless BatGOD he's been written as since the late-90's! His depiction as such was one of the parts of Morrison-era JLA that I found the most irritating and difficult to get past! These days it's even worse! Definitely one of those genies that I fear will never be put back in the bottle…

  • Grant Kitchen

    I think Batman revealed his identity to the Outsiders either in the first BATO Annual or one of the teen numbered issues. They definitely didn't know it as of issue 5 when they teamed up with the Titans. In fact, are you aware of the Metamorpho discrepancy controversy because of that? A decade or so earlier in Brave and the Bold #123 Metamorpho clearly knew Batman's identity but in BATO he apparently didn't. Try reading some of the letters pages from this era. There were A LOT of fans writing in asking for an explanation. Barr simply said that he chose to disregard B&B 123 as not being canon. I can accept that because while I got mad respect for Bob Haney the guy did play pretty fast and loose with continuity in that series. Honestly, I was more puzzled by the other discrepancy in that B&B issue: the fact that Metamorpho was bothered by second hand smoke but in one issue of BATO and also in two issues of the Deluxe series he was revealed to be a smoker himself. 🤔

    • I did not know that Metamorpho bit! That's very interesting. Bob Haney really didn't check with anybody before turning in stories… I guess B&B 123 is relegated to "Earth B"!

      I definitely do appreciate the fact that the letters pages attempted to call DC out on that though!

      Nowadays, all that would getcha is mocked online by the creative teams and editorial for caring!

    • Grant Kitchen

      Ironically DC ignored much of the continuity from near the end of the Deluxe Outsiders series like Looker losing her powers and not getting them back until the 90s series yet she still had them in the "Mud Pack" storyline (which you reviewed at one point). Also, late in the Deluxe series Metamorpho and Saphire adopt a little girl but later when Metamorpho joins the JLE there's no mention of her but he apparently fathered a son with Saphire.

    • That is pretty weird stuff! I can't help but picture Dan Jurgens taking note of all these post-Crisis continuity hiccups… while rubbing his hands together maniacally, haha!


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