Outsiders Are Making a Comeback

Over the weekend, I managed to link up a pretty good run of Outsiders that I hadn’t yet started on. Outsiders Vol2. #3 has been out of stock from most places where I could have bought it at a reasonable price, and I’ve been reticent to pay ebay prices (especially S&H) for a single issue, when I knew that if Midtown had it in stock, it would’ve only cost maybe a dollar [and I’d just fill in some other gaps to make the S&H worth it]. But, the guy at one of the local flea markets finally got his booth organized [and kind of sorted!—almost unheard of for flea market comic booths], and while ain’t nobody is paying his prices for some random-ass Rai & the Future Force issues, I was ready to pay $3.25 for the issue of Outsiders I’d been looking for since this spring.

But this is a post about Bryan Edward Hill’s upcoming Batman & the Outsiders Volume 3.

Back in the summer of last year, Scott Snyder teased a return of the original Outsiders lineup in The Forge [the prelude to the Metal event]. It was just a tease—a holo-dossier image of the team with the quip “Batman has a black ops team?” And then we got nothing, until the No Justice epilogue of Metal when Batman tells Black Lightning he could use someone working from the Outside.

outsiders metal

It’s pretty clear that whatever’s going to happen with the team, it’s not going to jibe with how the team was originally teased [all 5 original members, a team that had been together for some time in the background, just without their exploits featured in any current Rebirth titles or the Geoff Johns version that is appearing in Doomsday Clock], but right now, I’m okay with that.

Bryan Edward Hill was given the reins of Detective Comics for an unfortunately brief 5-issue run which will lead into his book: Batman & The Outsiders Vol. 3. All of my fears and trepidation about the quality of an upcoming Outsiders book have melted away in the wake of this series.

One of the complaints I’ve seen about recent Detective is not just that it’s a Bat Family book, but that the Bat Family has gotten rather crowded. It’s strange that the lone-wolf Dark Knight seems up to his elbows in teenagers who “dilute” the Batman brand. At least in the Detective books, Wayne Manor is overrun by unruly teenagers. Hill runs with this idea, with a villain intent on targeting Batman’s weakness: the young Bat Family members who he’s relied on.

Batman realizes that the kids need to be reined in. To this end, Bats brings in Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning. Why? Because Pierce was a high school teacher [now principal, IIR] with years of experience working with troubled teens who have issues with authority. Oh, and Katana’s back!

So what have we got here?

-A new Batman & the Outsiders team with fan-favorites Black Lightning and Katana at the core with some of the new Bat Family kids having a chance to shine without it having to be in Bat’s books.

Batman-The-Outsiders-1

-New Bat-villains with ties to Markovia; Karma, the main villain of this 5 issue arc was a terrorist that Batman severely injured in Markovia—which definitely feels like a callback to 80s Mike Barr callous asshole Batman—who would be worthy of recurring in other Bat stories, if writers could figure out how to make him more than a one trick pony. Other new main villain will be explored more in the opening story of the new BatO, which will likely see the team back in Markovia to investigate.

-80s fans who were constantly writing in saying that Black Lighting or Katana should be leading the team are finally getting their wish. Geoforce was a good dude but a poor team leader. It always made sense that Katana, who was already “mom” for the team or Black Lightning, who had both practical street smarts and leadership experience as a teacher, should be leading the team. When Batman was around, cases could be made that either of them were his “second”. But with Batman gone and only Markovian financial backing to keep the team going, the job fell to Brion Markov—and it went about as well as you’d expect: the team went from one screw-up to the next until Batman showed up and took over again.

-No Looker. I am more than okay with this.

What we’re probably not getting:

-We’re in the Rebirth continuity and Dr. Jace was never reintroduced Post-Crisis. There has never been a Dr. Jace in the current continuity. This is a good thing for Dr. Jace fans. I thought she was a cool character, and I hate that she got thrown under the bus for the Millennium event [all DC writers were instructed that they had to throw one character from their book under the bus to be a Manhunter sleeper agent; in the case of the Outsiders, it was decided that the woman who had given the team leader his powers and acted as the chief science advisor and almost defacto leader would suddenly betray the Outsiders for no reason, get Metamorpho killed, and be buried without honors as a traitor. It was terrible]. There is a chance we could have Dr. Jace back and all of that “she was a Manhunter sleeper all along” could be wiped out. I don’t think this is a real possibility, but I can cross my fingers.

Outsiders_Vol_1_27

-I’ve never liked the modern look for Katana. It’s ugly and dumb, and the association of the Rising Sun iconography with her because of her ethnicity is double so with a character whose ethnicity was not her defining characteristic. Sure, the orange and gold costume was garish [though I prefer it to even the crimson/maroon and gold she had in later stories], but it had a charm that’s thoroughly lacking in her black & white get-up she’s had for the last several years. IIRC, one of the rules of Suicide Squad was “no costumes”, so maybe that’s part of the justification for the look, but I’ve always though it was drab and made worse by the one spot of color being that lampshade hung on her race. The new look is a more streamlined, though slightly more colorful version of her look from New 52. She’s drawn “sexy”, which, while not a problem in and of itself, feels out of place for Katana, as she was an inversion of the “dragon lady” trope. The unflattering nature of the original costume vs. what was typical of female comic characters underscored this.

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Anyway…

Hill can tell an exciting story and has shown that he can add some reflective depth to the characters; one of the things that always kept me sticking with the Outsiders was the potential that these characters had to show some real depth—we got flashes of it with Barr writing, but I think that under Hill’s writing, we’ll finally see some of them really living up to that potential.

I’m completely stoked for this, and at this point, I don’t care that the origins of the team may contradict how Snyder set them up. The wheels fell off Snyder and at this point, I’m done with him. Hill, on the other hand, I’m open to and see loads of potential, and I am looking forward to his run—I can hardly wait until the new book launches.

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Labor Day Comic Haul

Man, the early 90s was a hectic time in the DC Universe! Superman was dead and several other competing Supermen were filling in, Batman was out of commission because Bane had taken over Gotham City, AND an alien invasion of spinal-fluid drinking monsters took place smack dab in the middle of it! I have also learned that I love creepy robot Superman. He is like if Batman was robot but had Superman’s personality… it’s cute how he’s sad that everyone is creeped out by how horrifying he is.

I had a chance to pick up some new old comics over the weekend, as the Vintage Stock in the town I was visiting was having a BOGO sale on their backstock.

I REALLY wish more stores that sold comics bothered to, if not fully alphabetize, sort them by first letter in the title so that you didn’t have to go through each and every box. What often ends up happening is that you find a couple issues you might be interested in, only to decide that you don’t want just the one or two and would only be interested if there were a few more, and then, twenty minutes and two or three long-boxes later, find enough issues that it would’ve been worth grabbing those others, but now they’re hidden away two or three boxes back and not worth sifting through to get. There MAY have been a complete set of Robin Vol 1. scattered across 20 boxes, but when the first issue you find is #2 of 5, you tend to pass over it.

On the other hand, going through ALL of the boxes gives you a chance to see some weird stuff you might not have been looking for and end up picking up. Still, good lord was there a lot of Rai, W.I.L.D. Cats, and I swear, there must be more polybagged copies of Blood Syndicate #1 out there in discount bins than any other comic in the world.

With the hot, hot savings, I snagged as many various Outsiders issues as I could find, so that if and when Outsiders 2.3 shows up again at Midtown, I’ll have a good solid run. I also picked up several issues of the Bloodlines event, because why not?

For some reason, I’d avoided it, because I think someone I knew had said it was really bad, but I’ve been loving it.

I love the concept of an “event” that is mostly stand-alone stories. I can read any of the Annual issues that make up the event and get a full story. Sure, it doesn’t resolve the alien invasion, but each offers a pretty good action-packed adventure and the origin story of a new super hero. The one thing that makes me kind of sad is that I haven’t heard of ANY of the new heroes created from the event, which probably means they all flopped. One of the few other full cross-title events I have to compare it to is Millennium, which to me showed that there have been attempts at diversity for diversity sake coming at the expense of titles that actually featured diverse characters for decades. So far, Bloodlines has been better in every imaginable way. Now I need to see if there are any more comics featuring the Psyba-Rats, because I love them.

 

Short Reviews – Finished, by L. Sprague De Camp

Finished, by L. Sprague De Camp, appeared in the November 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

L. Sprague de Camp offers up something of a planetary romance with Finished, where I can’t quite tell if he just bungled his premise or was poorly spoofing Sword & Planet and Campbell ran it because he thought it would make the folks over at Planet Stories look like rubes.

Finished

Why do I feel like the genre is being mocked?

The truth may be somewhere in between. Finished is a mess of weird names and affectations, such that entire paragraphs barely register as coherent ideas expressed in English. De Camp is a smart guy who enjoys being smart, but he’s also a fairly decent writer who has done some really good humorous SFF that, while funny, didn’t quite dip into twee. So despite being a mess, there’s a damn good story at its core that makes me wonder why he didn’t work to tell it just a little bit better.

A planet in contact with the Galactic FederationTM is being kept at arm’s-length by the advanced space-faring culture; they’re just too primitive and barbaric to be granted access to the technical and philosophical knowledge of Earth (Ertsu). The planet has a perpetual regency: the “one king” of the planet is a revered and sacred mummy relic, and the princes of the planet rule in his name. The mummy is fraudulently taken off the planet, and the Prince demands the right to pursue it to earth to recover their world’s most sacred treasure.

Turns out, the theft was a sham. The prince allowed, nay facilitated, the theft of the mummy which could be stuffed with literature and technical manuals so that they might be smuggled back to his world.

There’s a large naval battle as one of the representatives of the galactic federation pursues the rogue prince, who fakes his death, faked a mummy (lost in the battle), and ultimately returns to his people with the promise of a new golden age.

Again, not a bad story, but it suffered greatly in the telling, and I would’ve much rather it be told by a Brackett or a Kline. It’s not something I can easily explain—not within the limitations of time I have for this column—so I can only suggest that you read it for yourself.

This is the last day of the Cirsova Issue 9 & 10 Kickstarter! Be sure to back today if you haven’t already!

Final Days of the Cirsova Vol. 1 Kickstarter

As of right now, we only need to raise another ~$600 in subscriptions. A big chunk of that could be covered by anyone who backs for the original line-art for Cirsova #8 by Benjamin A. Rodriguez.

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Abe Strongjohn’s original manuscript for Magelords of Ruach, Misha Burnett’s handmade Book of Lost Doors boxed set, and the signed Adventure of the Incognita Countess by Cynthia Ward have already sold out, so this is our last big-ticket item at the moment.

Also, a few authors have offered to donate ebooks that will be included in addition to previous issues of Cirsova and subscriptions at the $20+ tiers. So far, we have confirmed Friend of the Magazine J.D. Cowan’s Grey Cat Blues. Others TBA.

Cirsova’s Script for Batman #50

There are a lot of important things I probably should’ve been doing today, but in a fit of mania I wrote a 22 page script for a Batman Wedding. I hope you all enjoy this more than you did Batman #50.

Page 1:

Church sanctuary, wedding day. Members of the Bat Family and Justice League are seated in the pews in costume; Batman and Catwoman stand at the altar.

Narration: At long last, the day is finally here! The Wedding of Batman and Catwoman!

 

Page 2:

Panel One: Bat & Cat looking at each other in front of priest. Green discordant notes from the side

Priest: Do you promise to—what’s the organist doing?

Panel two: The organist is Joker.

Joker: I can’t believe you didn’t invite me to the wedding!

Panel three: Batman holds up Joker by the collar.

Batman: How DARE you!

Joker: Easy, Bats, you don’t want this wedding to blow up in everyone’s face.

 

Page 3

Panel 1: An explosion

Panel 2: Everyone in the sanctuary is coughing; there is mist everywhere.

Panel 3: Joker’s head is on the ground, looking up; it’s animatronic, because it had been a Joker doll.

Joker’s head: It would be a shame to spoil such a happy day.

Panel 4: Batman holding what’s left of the Joker automaton in one hand, covering his face with the other.

Batman: Joker gas! Quick, get everyone out of the church! Cat?

Panel 5: Batman looks back to the altar. Catwoman has passed out.

Batman: Cat!

Panel 6: Batman falls down.

 

Page 4

Panel 1: Batman, Catwoman, Robin (doesn’t matter which one), and Batgirl are pinned to a large block of ice.

Batman: Where… Where are we? Cobblepot!

Panel 2: Penguin, Joker and some Joker thugs look on at the captive Bat Family. It is clear that they’re in Iceberg Lounge. One of the Joker thugs has a freeze cannon.

Joker: I rented the place out for a reception! What do you think?

Penguin: If anyone asks, I’ll just say Joker forced me to do it. No one would believe otherwise!

Joker: It’s true!

 

Page 5:

Panel 1: Joker menaces the Bat Family

Joker: Don’t you think I wanted to be a part of this? I could’ve killed you, but I got you a gift!

Robin: You’re sick, Joker.

Panel 2: Joker turns, hand to his mouth, calling.

Joker: Ladies, bring in the wedding cake!

Panel 3: Penguin’s henchgirls, Jay, Raven, and Lark wheel out a large cake with a riddler “?” on top.

Joker: Doesn’t that look good enough to eat?

Panel 4: Mad Hatter pops out of the wedding cake holding a bridal veil.

Joker: I’ll bet you were expecting Harley Quinn! Jervis, come on out, and show ‘em what they’ve won!

 

Page 6:

Panel 1: Joker gestures to Catwoman, Mad Hatter approaches holding the veil out towards her.

Joker: We’ll have Catwoman back to a life of crime in no time! Get that on her and set her loose!

Panel 2: With the veil placed over Catwoman’s head, she looks on with a vacant stare

Joker (off panel): Now go and rob the nearest bank. Get yourself something nice for the honeymoon.

Catwoman: ~meow…

Panel 3: Joker thug shooting Catwoman with the freeze cannon.

Joker: Hit the reverse on that thing Freeze loaned us… and don’t hit Batman, we don’t want him getting out!

 

Page 7:

Panel 1: Catwoman scrambles away.

Joker: And off she goes!

Panel 2:

Batgirl: What are we going to do, Batman?

Batman: Don’t worry, I was expecting something like this. Hold your breath…

Panel 3: Everyone in the iceberg lounge looking around as gas seeps in.

Joker: Hey, what is this? Gas is MY shtick! No, don’t… pass… out… zzzzz….

 

Page 8:

Panel 1: Batman smiling

Batman: It pays to have someone working from the OUTSIDE.

Panel 2: The gas solidifies into Metamorpho

Metamorpho: Heya, Bats! Looks like these guys are down for the count with my sleeping gas!

Panel 3: Metamorpho is melting the ice with his powers

Robin: Thanks, Rex!

Batman: We’ve got to catch up with Catwoman. She’s headed to the 1st Bank of Gotham.

Panel 4: Freed, Batman is rubbing his wrists.

Batman: Can you and the rest of the Outsiders handle these clowns yourselves?

Metamorpho: For four volumes!

Panel 5: Batman has slung Joker over his shoulder.

Batman: I’ve had enough jokes for one day!

 

Page 9:

First Bank of Gotham, a towering edifice. Catwoman is climbing up the side in broad daylight!

Onlookers: Hey, is that the Catwoman?

Onlookers: What’s she doing?!

Onlookers: In her wedding dress, too!

 

Page 10:

Panel 1: The Riddler stands in front of TV camera crews in front of the bank.

Riddler: What’s black and white and robbing 1st Bank of Gotham on her wedding day? The Catwoman of course!

Panel 2: Batman grabs the Riddler; the cameras are still on them.

Batman: What’s your part in this Riddler?!

Riddler: The part I play is the part you say! Isn’t this your wedding day?

Panel 3: Batman has let Riddler go and walks past him.

Batman: I don’t have time for your nonsense. Batgirl, Robin, watch him!

Riddler aside to Batgirl: Even if it’s just an act, can’t you leave my face intact?

 

Page 11:

Panel 1: Catwoman breaks into the bank window.

Panel 2: Catwoman sneaks down halls of the bank.

Panel 3: Catwoman trying to open the Bank vault.

Panel 4: Catwoman still trying to open the Bank Vault, but looking surprised

Batman(from behind her): Stop! It’s over.

Panel 5: Batman lifting the veil off Catwoman; her eyes are clear again.

 

Page 12:

Panel 1: Batman and Catwoman standing in front of the vault.

Catwoman: What happened?

Batman: Mad Hatter put a mind control device in this wedding veil and told you to rob a bank.

Panel 2:

Batman: Joker must have hoped that if everyone thought you returned to a life of crime, it would be impossible for the Batman and the Catwoman to be married.

Panel 3: Catwoman looking downcast, turned away from Batman.

Catwoman: Maybe he’d be right…

Batman: Exactly…

 

Page 13:

Panel 1: An interrogation cell at GCP, Gordon stands next to Bullock and looks on at Joker, who’s in a straight jacket.

Gordon: There’s always more than meets-the-eye with Joker’s plans.

Panel 2: Joker grinning in the room.

Joker: It was all King Tut’s idea, I swear! He’s so funky!

Panel 3: Gordon looks frustrated.

Gordon: Do you think it’s even worth questioning him, or should we just toss him back into Arkham?

 

Page 14:

Panel 1: Gordon still standing there, but instead of Bullock, Clayface is standing next to him.

Gordon: You’re awfully quiet, Bullock…

Panel 2: Gordon looks in horror at Clayface.

Gordon: What are YOU doing here?!

Panel 3: Clayface moves in on Gordon.

Clayface: I got a bit part…

Panel 4: Clayface

Clayface: and I’m ready for my close-up!

 

Page 15:

Panel 1: A blast of a freeze ray from the freeze gun hits Clayface and knocks him away from Gordon.

Panel 2: Bullock holding the freeze gun.

Bullock: Some Asian lady with a sword said this was at the crime scene… good thing I hadn’t checked it into evidence, yet, huh?

Panel 3: Joker furious in the interrogation room

Joker: What? That’s it?! I was hoping for much more in the third act!

 

Page 16:

Panel 1: Batman is standing in front of the camera crews outside 1st Gotham Bank; Catwoman is looking down and is wearing cuffs beside him.

Batman: …and that’s why I’ve decided that the Batman and the Catwoman can NEVER get married.

Panel 2: Two-Face’s cell; Two-Face is watching the live broadcast on his TV.

Batman on the TV: Batman is a crime-fighter, and the Catwoman is a criminal.

Panel 3:

Two-Face: Why that no good double crosser…

 

Page 17:

Batman fires his grapnel with one hand, holding Catwoman in the other, and goes soaring off away from the press conference that’s formed around the outside of the bank.

Batman: It’s time she gets her just deserts.

 

Page 18:

A Gotham Courthouse.

Caption: Later that week…

 

Page 19:

Panel 1: Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle stand in front of the desk of a Justice of the peace wearing normal clothes.

Justice: Your paperwork is all in order, you’ve paid your license fee. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne.

 

Panel 2:

Bruce Wayne: It may be awhile before Batman and the Catwoman can be seen together in public.

Selina: I’m hoping that we’ll be in private for a bit. Meow!

 

Page 20:

Panel 1: Bruce and Selina leaving the courthouse.

Selina: This was all brilliant, really…

Bruce: With Batman and Catwoman ‘officially broken up’, there’s no suspicion about the wedding of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.

Panel 2: Continuing down the steps

Selina: And that’s fine. It’s the man I’m marrying, not the costume.

Bruce: …Of course!

Panel 2 circle inset: Nightwing smiling and waving.

Nightwing: Thank God for that, right?

Panel 3: Selina looks lovingly at Bruce

Selina: You may now kiss the bride!

 

Page 21:

Panel 1: Bruce and Selina embrace and kiss.

Panel 2: The couple ride off in a car together

Selina (from inside the car): Our friends are all waiting for us at the little chapel we booked just outside of town.

 

Page 22:

Panel 1: Arkham Asylum

Joker narrating: What? That’s it?

Panel 2: Joker in his cell

Joker: No big twist ending? Batman and Catwoman aren’t getting married!? Everyone saw that coming!

Panel 3: All of the Bat Family + Catwoman waving.

All: Thanks for reading!

Batman: See you after the Honeymoon!

If you want me to have more time to devote to writing weird stuff like this, please don’t pledge to our Kickstarter for Volume 2! ;D

Disclaimer: DC owns Batman, all the characters, trademarks, etc., yadda yadda yadda.

Short Reviews – What Dead Men Tell, by Theodore Sturgeon

Castalia House’s back end is down right now, so I’m going ahead and posting this week’s Short Review here; we’ll get it mirrored up there once Markku gets us situated. What Dead Men Tell, by Theodore Sturgeon, appeared in the November 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

What Dead Men TellFor poisoning the well against the pulps, crusty old Ted the Sturgeon really needed to blow me away. And once we got past the first couple of pages of autistic rambling, Teddy only managed to tell a moderately interesting story.

Hulon, a film projectionist, recently wrote a piece for an obscure literary magazine outlining his eudaemonic philosophy: the future is uncertain and the now is so finitely small as to be inconsequential, so true security can only exist in the ossified events of the past—one’s past actions and accomplishments were all that one could truly hold onto, therefore happiness and security is derived primarily from what you are able to put into your past.

Well, this bit of thinkery draws the attention of a mysterious group who has transcended the laws of life and death! They appear to him as ghosts—movie stars who he’s certain are dead, but there they are in his theatre, plain as day! After approaching the third of these supposedly-dead movie stars, Hulon is informed that they are willing to test him to join their ranks. He will be placed in a chamber where he will meet death.

Hulon finds himself in a seemingly endless corridor, all alone except for strange balls of liquid that supply nutrient nourishment and dead bodies of old men that he happens upon at regular intervals.

I’ll go ahead and spoil the riddle, because that’s really all there is to the story: the endless corridor is some kind of umbilic torus, the body is the same body over and over again (it appears different because of different lighting [it cycles through the spectrum with each circuit Hulon completes] and because it gets banged up when illusion-creating gravity centered on Hulon changes and it drops to the floor/wall), and the ‘death he will meet’ is old age.

How did the gravity in the torus work to make it appear that the corridor was perfectly straight? Hulon admits he can’t answer that when he gives his answer to the riddle, and Ted doesn’t answer it either (‘oh, you’ll learn that and more in good time’ the cabal members tell Hulon).

What Dead Men Tell is a riddle-story; an atmospheric riddle-story with a worthwhile riddle (at least it wasn’t one of Asimov’s Black Widowers yarns), but I needed more. What were the stakes? The weirdo film projectionist is granted immortality and is assigned a girlfriend to instruct him in the ways of the new cabal he has been welcomed into.

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