The early ‘80s was a golden age for team books. Uncanny X-Men, The New Teen Titans, The Avengers, and Justice League of America were all putting out excellent stuff at the time. But that clearly wasn’t enough, so along came Batman and the Outsiders.
The series was built in the same mold as New Teen Titans, but with mostly adults. It took a few established characters (Batman, Black Lightning, and Metamorpho) and teamed them up with a few newcomers (Halo, Katana, and Geo-Force), and the stories drew inspiration from the characters’ diverse backgrounds while the reader had fun watching these distinct personalities interact. The main difference was that one character got top billing, and of course he did, because he’s Batman.
The team forms in the first two issues, and it comes together organically, with each character drawn to the conflict for his or her own reason. Batman has a nice little mini-arc, as he swiftly progresses from team member to loner to team leader.
Batman’s resignation from the Justice League is particularly well done. Bruce Wayne’s right-hand man, Lucius Fox, gets kidnapped in the war-torn country of Markovia while on business, so naturally Batman wants to gather his JLA teammates and stage a rescue. But the JLA’s hands are tied—the State Department fears the Markovian situation would escalate if troops or superheroes got involved, so Superman promised the JLA wouldn’t intervene. But Batman has a friend to save, so if the JLA’s rules get in the way, then it’s time to quit the JLA and go save his friend.
The scene illustrates how Batman’s morality is either more complex or more simplistic than the rest of the League’s, depending on your point of view…which in turn demonstrates how comics were beginning to tackle more mature themes at this point (while remaining appropriate for and still largely aimed at kids).
If you’ve enjoyed other ‘80s team books, this one’s well worth tracking down, too.
Writer: Mike W. Barr
Artist: Jim Aparo
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders vol. 1 (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 10 and up