Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Batman and the Outsiders: 80's Style

I understand that the first issue of the revived Batman And The Outsiders, written by one of my personal comics faves, Chuck Dixon, hit the shops last week. I haven't seen it yet, but reading about its debut online motivated me to dig out my copies of the title's original run from 1983 and give 'em a read.

Written by the criminally underrated Mike W. Barr and drawn by one of my favorite Batman artists ever – Jim Aparo – the original BATO was old school superheroics with appealing characters, ambitious storylines, offbeat villains, and a pre-psychotic Batman who still possessed a shred of humanity to counter the grim obsession. BATO was one of my favorite mainstream books of the era, and it maintained a surprisingly high level of story and art (Aparo was succeeded by the equally-magnificent Alan Davis) over the length of its several-year run.

The title was a team book with Batman assembling a group of novice heroes (Halo, Katana, Geo-Force) and a couple of underused veterans (Black Lightning and Metamorpho) to take on missions that the Justice League felt, essentially, were beneath them. It was a very fun book, written in a style no longer in vogue; a style that had charm, wit and a true sense of adventure rather than reading like a transcript of a talky TV show. (These issues have recently been collected in one of DC's Showcase Presents B&W omnibus volumes. I highly recommend it.)

I never warmed to later revivals of the Outsiders (sans Batman), not even the version developed and scripted by Barr. It just seemed to be a concept particularly well-suited to its particular era; pre-Dark Knight and Watchmen, when superhero comics were still all-ages entertainment, when comics didn't take themselves so ridiculously seriously, and even Batman was allowed to crack a smile once in a while.

I look forward to checking out the Dixon-scripted version, and seeing how it reads. I have a lot of confidence in Chuck and I know that he handles the Batman character particularly well.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't think I've ever heard of the Outsiders. I'm a fan of the pre-psychotic Batman, though. I definetely don't know much about the comic tradition.