The Outsiders (not to be confused with the novel of the same name) are a DC Comics superhero team that has starred in its own comic book series several times. The group is best known as "Batman's own superhero team" since he formed it, though he's not always a regular member.
The first series, Batman and the Outsiders, was launched after the cancellation of The Brave and the Bold, Batman's own Team-Up Series, in the early 1980s. Writer Mike W. Barr and artist Jim Aparo, both of whom had extensive experience with Batman, created the team and launched the series on the last issue of TB&TB, #200 (July, 1983).
In that story, Batman is angry at the Justice League for refusing to help him rescue his friend, Lucius Fox, from being caught in the middle of a military coup in the European nation of Markovia (because they didn't want to start an international incident). He quits the team and goes alone, ending up running into various other heroes while there, including:
- Black Lightning, a black superhero with electrical powers.
- Metamorpho, an adventurer transformed into a chemical shapeshifting creature by an Ancient Artifact.
- Geo-Force, the rightful prince of Markovia (and brother of Terra from Teen Titans) who gained the ability to manipulate the energies of the Earth (unlike his sister, who manipulates the earth itself) from an experiment.
- Katana, a female samurai wielding a cursed sword (it steals souls) on a mission of revenge against the man who killed her family. Batman saved her life so she feels indebted to him.
- Halo, an amnesiac, childlike girl with one superpower for each color of the rainbow (Batman basically brings her along out of pity.)
After rescuing his friend (and incidentally ending the coup) Batman invited the heroes to stay together as a team, which they did, as The Outsiders, based off Bruce Wayne's penthouse.
Later in the series, Looker, a beautiful telepath/telekinetic, and Atomic Knight, a man in Powered Armor, joined the team. (Atomic Knight was also a pre-existing character).
Eventually, the group left Batman (ironically, after he refused to help with a crisis in Markovia, busy with his own priorities) and the series changed its name to simply The Outsiders. (Batman later rejoined the League.)
The team disbanded when the series was canceled, but not before Halo recovered her memories and Katana got her revenge. Under the original name they lasted for 32 issues (August, 1983-April, 1986), before changing title to Adventures of the Outsiders, under which they got another 14 issues (May, 1986-June, 1987). As simply Outsiders, they had 28 more issues (November, 1985-February, 1988).
A short lived relaunch had Geo-Force looking for heroes to defend Markovia against a vampire lord. These included Superman's Anti-Hero Substitute the Eradicator, and the magic-user Faust, son of Felix Faust. Over the course of their first story Looker became a vampire, which is now seen as her status quo. They were also joined by Technocrat, another Powered Armor guy. There was also Wylde, a bear-like beastman. This version lasted for 25 issues (November, 1993-November, 1995).
In August 2003, a new version of The Outsiders was launched, now led first by Nightwing (Batman's former protege Robin) and then by Arsenal (Speedy, Green Arrow's ex-partner) and Jade (Green Lantern Alan Scott's daughter, former GL for a while and ex-Infinity, Inc.). This version wasn't as popular as the first, and has something of a reputation for being composed of "heroes currently not being used by the League or the Titans" sort of like Marvel's The Defenders. Despite this, it went on to be the longest-running Outsiders title to date, making it to 50 issues up to November 2007 before being relaunched.
This version got two new directions in rapid succession, when Batman first recreated them as an "undercover" team that would be seen as borderline villains (a reflection on how successful the previous version had been), and then promptly disappeared, leaving Alfred Pennyworth to reassemble the original lineup, plus The Creeper and Owlman (not the Mirror Universe version, but a minor Gotham City detective wearing the same costume).
This version of the team then broke in half in the wake of Blackest Night, when Geo-Force started treating them as Markovian special forces. Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Owlman and the Creeper split off, leaving Geo-Force, Katana, and Halo. When Markovia signed a non-aggression pact with New Krypton, they were joined by a new version of the Eradicator, while Black Lightning's team were joined by the bruiser Freight Train. The Markovian team is later bolstered by Looker and the Olympian.
The "undercover" team was launched under the name Batman and the Outsiders, running for 14 issues from December 2007 to February 2009. Following Batman's disappearance, it changed title to The Outsiders, running for another 25 issues from April 2009 to June 2011, coming to an end with Flashpoint.
In 2018, DC announced a new Batman and the Outsiders series, featuring Batman, Black Lightning, Katana, Orphan (Cassandra Cain) and the Signal (Bat-ally Duke Thomas).
In 2023, a new version of the title debuted, as The Outsiders, featuring Batwoman, Luke Fox (formerly Batwing) and Drummer (a new version of the character) operating as field agents for Lucius Fox. As the presence of Drummer suggests, this version draws inspiration from Planetary more than previous versions of the title.
Appearances in adaptations:
- A teenage version of The Outsiders (initially featuring only Black Lightning, Metamorpho and Katana) appeared in a few episodes of the cartoon version of The Brave and the Bold. A later episode added Geo-Force and Halo to the roster and showed Black Lightning and Katana in their traditional costumes.
- The Outsiders are also formed in the final episode of Beware the Batman, consisting of Batman, Katana, Alfred, Oracle, Metamorpho, and Man-Bat.
- Katana appears in Suicide Squad (2016).
- A take on The Outsiders appear in Season 3 of Young Justice (2010), which introduces the Markovian power struggle and adds Geo-Force, Halo, and Forager to the show's ever-expanding cast under the tutelage of Black Lightning. The actual team called the Outsiders bears closer resemblance to the Teen Titans, being created and lead by Beast Boy and comprised of Wonder Girl (Cassandra Sandsmark), Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes), Kid Flash II (Bart Allen), Static, and Geo-Force, with El Dorado and Cyborg both joining later on in the season. The end of the season sees Geo-Force leaving and being replaced with Forager, Superboy (Conner Kent) and Terra. The start of Season 4, Phantoms, revealed not only that Robin (Tim Drake), Stargirl, Livewire, Windfall and Looker had joined the Outsiders in-between seasons but also that Cyborg had left in-between seasons to join the Justice League.
- Aborted Arc: The 2007 series had both its introductory arc (the giant gun built in secret by hypnotized astronauts) and its follow-up (the alien creature that escaped from its drug-dealing handlers) abruptly interrupted to have the book tie into Batman RIP.
- Ammunition Backpack: In Issue #6, "Death Warmed Over!"◊. The team battles the Cryonic Man, a villain with a backpack full of liquid nitrogen attached to wrist-mounted sprayers that he uses to freeze the Outsiders solid. They got better.
- Anti-Hero Team: Batman created them to be superhero black-ops team to take on missions the Justice League wouldn't normally do out in the open.
- Apocalypse Hitler: Subverted. A clone of Hitler is decanted, shown films of the "accomplishments" of his predecessor, and then shoots himself out of horror.
- Artistic License – Geography: Issue #1 calls Markovia "Eastern European", only to provide a map placing it in southern Belgium, next to Luxembourg, which is four hundred miles from even the most generous definition of Eastern Europenote . Later maps would place it between Switzerland and Italy (still not Eastern!) or between Austria and Hungary (better, but only just).
- The Atoner: Indigo joined the team ostensibly to atone for her actions during the Graduation Day. She was actually a new version of Brainiac.
- Atomic Superpower: The first issue of the original series featured the Nuclear Family, a supervillain team of androids with powers all based around radiation. They were created by a scientist named Dr Eric Shanner who wanted to bring attention to the dangers of radiation after his family was killed by careless mistakes he made in his nuclear science experiments.
- Attack Hello: Cassandra (Batgirl) Cain tosses Thunder through plate glass as a greeting to the group. (This is not followed up in the next issue, which has Cass peacefully co-existing with Thunder and no mention of how they met.)
- Back for the Dead: During Judd Winick's run on The Outsiders, the old Shazam! foe Sabbac (who hadn't been seen in years) showed up just long enough for a Russian gangster to kill him and steal his powers.
- Bad Samaritan: Oddly enough, the Outsiders villain NAMED the Bad Samaritan isn't an example of this trope, being outwardly villainous to the heroes from the beginning.
- Baseball Episode: The Outsiders #6 (1986) has a back-up story titled "The Outsiders at the Bat"; a comical adaptation of Casey at the Bat featuring the Outsiders playing baseball against Kobra and his henchmen.
- Bathroom Break-Out: One issue of the 2007 series opens with Metamorpho captured in France for hijacking an ESA shuttle and ramming it into the International Space Station. He asks to go to the bathroom, and the prosecutor and two police officers escort him inside the bathroom (giving him enough privacy to do his business, of course)... But Metamorpho being Metamorpho, he finds a creative way to escape.
- Batman Gambit: It's revealed by issue 40 that the reason why Deathstroke had been masquerading as Batman and feeding intel to the Outsiders was because the villains they were taking down had plans that were in conflict with the Secret Society. THEN it turns out this was actually a plan by Dr. Sivana who had joined the Society specifically in return to set up his own plan.
- Beneath the Earth: From the original 80s series, Abyssia, whose leaders are locked in a civil war and have superpowers. Turns out Emily Briggs is related to them (her grandfather was a previous king of Abyssia and had advocated peace with the surface world, only for him to vanish mysteriously), and unlocks her metahuman abilities in a ceremony, becoming Looker.
- Big Bad: The overarching villain of the 2003 series turns out to be Dr. Sivana, who's been orchestrating most of the series events from behind the scenes.
- Big Brother Is Watching: The plan of the man who organized the patriotic superteam, The Force of July.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Indigo was a strange variation. She started off as a seemingly-homicidal robot, then got "reformed" into a cute Robot Girl, before finally being revealed as the latest incarnation of Brainiac.
- Blade Below the Shoulder: The Outsiders once fought a villain named Nunchuku, who instead of hands, had, well... what do you expect? He was arguably one of the less silly opponents The Outsiders faced.
- The Blank: Halo had a nightmare where she was like this; it reflected her anxiety over not knowing who she really was.
- Bollywood Nerd: Salah, who is probably Pakistani but fulfills this role as the tech expert and robotics engineer.
- Bunker Woman: The issue that introduces Owlman has him rescuing a little girl from a basement.
- Butch Lesbian/Lipstick Lesbian: This very accurately describes Thunder and Grace's relationship, with Grace being the butch and Thunder, the lipstick.
- Captain Geographic: A team of America-themed super villains: The Force Of July. They considered themselves heroes, but were too extremist (and manipulated by a rich superpatriot type.)
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Batman and the Outsiders.
- Clone Army: The "One Year Later" arc featured the team going on a mission to an African country in the middle of a civil war, where Monsieur Mallah and the Brain had gone into business selling clones of superheroes to the various belligerents.
- Clone Degeneration: The clone of Jay Garrick (the original Flash) created by The Brain, has to wear a suit that excretes a powerful anti-bacterial solution to keep his body from eating itself.
- Clones Are People, Too: Metamorpho's clone Shift tries to live his own life as a member of the Outsiders, with the original Metamorpho's blessing. But when his android girlfriend gets corrupted by pre-existing evil programming, betrays the team, and dies, Shift says he can't bear to live any more and begs Metamorpho to reabsorb him, which he reluctantly does.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: One issue had Starfire and Jade walking into Shift (a kind of clone of Metamorpho) and Indigo (a robot from the future) having very strange sex in the Pequod. Indigo sensed them coming, but didn't want to spoil the mood.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Chang Tzu tortured Captain Boomerang to force him to move at superspeed and let him get a reading (leaving him unable to stand) and started to vivisect the Black Queen (without, needless to say, anesthesia.)
- Consummate Liar: Two versions of this shows up. When trying to figure out which of the members is a traitor, Arsenal hooks them up to lie detectors. Nightwing points out that he's more than capable of beating a lie detector (to which Arsenal replies, "Not this one.") and alien member Starfire is completely immune. Arsenal uses his massive connections to procure an alien torture device that he modifies to work as a lie detector. Two other members of the team aren't even questioned because one is a robot and the other doesn't have a bloodstream. The robot turns out to be a Manchurian Agent whose "Indigo" personality was a mask; her true self is actually Brainiac version 5.0 from the future.
- Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: The team under Nightwing's leadership accepted sponsorship from a multimedia company called Optitron. The team has some doubts about the potential issues that could arise, but the funding is too good to pass up. Turns out they had good reason to be suspicious about the offer: they discover that Optitron is actually a shell company owned by Wayne Industries. Dick is pretty pissed that Bruce went behind his back like this.
- Corrupted Character Copy: Sparkler, part of the Force of July, is essentially Cannonball from New Mutants as a My Country, Right or Wrong patriot who mindlessly obeys the orders of his evil superior.
- Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Dick Grayson alias Nightwing called him out on this in one issue after discovering that Bruce has been secretly funding the team through a subsidiary of Wayne Industries.
- Depraved Bisexual: The brutal dictator of the African country the team infiltrates is revealed to be one of these when he forces Thunder (who's undercover as one of his military advisors) to sleep with him. Originally, she believed he was only into men, but one of the other advisors says that the dictator just has "specific" tastes that don't correspond to gender. She never sleeps with him, instead Shift masquerades as her and douses him with a hallucinogen.
- Death Seeker: The Brain is revealed to be one of these, having been driven nigh-suicidal by his existance as a disembodied brain. Worse, he cant really off himself anyway, and Mallah refuses to do it because he cant face life without his master.
- Dirty Business: In theory anyway. The Outsiders were made to handle situations too dirty for the League to handle. However, it doesn't quite work when their founder is one of the greatest moral paragons in comics. The worst act out of all the Outsiders teams was one brutal interrogation.
- Dishing Out Dirt: Brion Markov (aka Geo-Force). He is able to manipulate the Earth itself by vibrating and transforming it's crust (the ground). He can use this power to create earthquakes, tap into lava flows, and levitate or create shapes out of solid rock.
- The Ditz: Halo. Justified in that she had a childlike innocence about life.
- Domino Mask: Katana in her current costume. In older incarnations, she wore fuller head coverings.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: In Issue #13, Katana (who actually Is Just Better, by the way) is tracking a poisoned and delusional Batman. She stops to save a civilian's life and thus, loses Bats. So she expresses her regret to substitute commander Black Lightning, prompting the following conversation:Black Lightning: Don't go committin' Hara-Kiri or anything over it, Katana! You've been through a lot lately!
Katana: Don't pity me because of the death of my husband, Lightning! I won't have that!
Black Lightning: Sorry! But any of us would have done the same thing!
- Doppelgänger Attack: The standard tactic of Silent Majority, a member of the Force of July.
- Do with Him as You Will: In an early issue, Geo-Force left Baron Bedlam to the mercy of the Markovian people after overthrowing his regime.
- Driven to Suicide: Shift effectively kills himself by remerging with Metamorpho after a botched prison break to rescue Black Lightning results in him accidentally killing 47 people at Iron Heights.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Shift indulges in this after being forced to kill Indigo. Despite claiming that alcohol doesn't affect his physiology, he manages to get pretty damn hammered.
- Energy Beings: Part of Halo's origin. She was actually such a being trapped in human form.
- Everybody Knew Already: In one story, Batman is knocked out and in danger of death; the rest of the team decides to contact Bruce Wayne (who they know as their rich patron). To prevent them from wasting time, Alfred lets them in on the truth. Later, when Batman reveals his identity to the team, they pretend to be surprised.
- Everyone Has Lots of Sex: A frequent complaint about the Winick-helmed incarnation of the series was that there was a lot of focus on the characters' sex lives.
- Everything's Better with Samurai: Batman's original outsiders team had fairly standard-issue superheroes... and Katana, a steely-eyed female samurai.
- Evil Luddite: An interesting version. Dr. Sivana's grand plan, specifically named after Ned Ludd, turns out to be to destroy all technology on Earth with a device that will also wipe the memories of every intelligent being on the planet, leaving them all blank slates for him to mold and rebuild in his own image, and let him shape a new technological foundation.
- Fan Disservice: When Sabbac gains control over the Seven Deadly Sins in the 2003 series, he promptly unleashes Lust on the Fearsome Four, leading to the reader getting an eyeful of Shimmer and Psimon getting it on, and Mammoth and Jinx hooking up, along with the entire prison and staff of Alcatraz.
- Fate Worse than Death: Rather than taking the African dictator to the World Court or something, the Outsiders end up dumping him on a small, barren island hundreds of miles from anything. There's just enough resources to barely survive, but basically no shelter.
- Fire/Ice Duo: The Masters of Disaster included members called Heatstroke and Coldsnap. They were lovers whose powers prevented them from even touching. Their motivation for being supervillains was to earn enough money to find a cure for their powers so they could be together.
- Freeze Ray: Used by Cryonic Man.
- Giant Squid: In her first appearance, the Marine Marauder uses a giant octopus to attack an ocean liner and drag Looker down to her undersea lair.
- Lady of War: Katana is quietly composed and graceful as she fights enemies with her katana.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The opening panel of the final issue of the 2003-2007 run depicts Grace (restrained by Rex and J'onn) angrily declaring to the reader that they've "killed the Outsiders!" ...only, as we switch perspective, it is revealed that she was actually yelling at Batman.
- in 2018 series some of the speeches Lady Shiva gives to convince her daughter to abandon Batman's and Outsider's cause and seek her own destiny sound like she's reading common complaints about the way Cassandra Cain has been written in Batman and Robin Eternal and Detective Comics (Rebirth) prior to joining the Outsiders. She brings up how the codename Orphan is nonsensical and borderline insulting, the fact Cassandra is not allowed to wear Bat symbol feels like a mockery and how it often feels she's being held back out of fear she'd overshadow more "classic" Batfamily members, all things her fans were vocal about. She even says Batman will always see Cass as Un Favorite in favor of Barbara Gordon, which feels like an outright Take That! at DC editorial, well known for holding that very sentiment.
- Lighter and Softer: The original series was this, compared to other Batman comic books of the time.
- Master Swordsman: Katana, though not her only skill set, you best believe she's good with a blade.
- Material Mimicry: Shift was originally an accidental clone of Metamorpho, but eventually he underwent Divergent Character Evolution, gaining the ability to absorb and mimic almost any substance he touched.
- Mind-Control Device: Princess Tamira used an obedience potion on Emily Briggs before the Princess's brother, Mardo, turned her into Looker.
- Modesty Bedsheet: In Issue #28, Starfire and Nightwing are laying post-coital in bed, and the bedsheet covering seems to be strategically placed as to cover their naughty bits but still showing as much bare skin as the artist could get away with.
- The Mole: Indigo, aka Brainiac 8 in the Nightwing incarnation.
- Morally Superior Copy: Nazis created a mature clone of Hitler that they had being watched by a simple-minded Jewish girl. They then showed him movies of his predecessor's accomplishments, intending for him to kill the girl once his memories returned. The clone, whom the girl had saved from choking on his food at one point, shot himself out of horror once he understood his origins. Turns out clones aren't really the same person the original was.
- The Psycho Rangers: Batman villain Maxie Zeus organized his own team with counterparts to the original Outsiders.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Both teams, to some degree.
- Rainbow Motif: Halo's super powers each had their own color: heat blasts (red), force blasts (orange), bright light (yellow), a stasis beam (green), mirages (blue), a tractor beam (indigo), and violet (all of the other colors at the same time).
- Rogues Gallery: Their most recurring foes tend to be teams, like the aforementioned Force of July and the Masters Of Disaster.
- In the 2003 series, they end up encountering the old Teen Titans villains the Fearsome Five (later Four) several times.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Geo-Force, since he is the rightful prince of Markovia and a superhero. The second Sabbac also becomes a recurring foe.
- Scenery Censor: A scene involving a nude Batgirl. Also, in 2003 series, this scene◊ involving Shift and Indigo.
- Secret Test of Character: After deciding that the team is distracting him from his mission to protect Gotham City, Batman declares the team dissolved. They instead decide to remain together without him, which was evidently just the outcome he'd been hoping for.
- Soul-Cutting Blade: Katana's sword. It's powerful enough to absorb SABBAC body and all.
- Statuesque Stunner: Grace. She stands at an imposing height of approximately seven feet tall.
- Superpower Lottery: Halo. She could project heat blasts (red aura), force blasts (orange), bright light (yellow), a stasis beam (green), mirages (blue), a tractor beam (indigo), fly (any color) or all at the same time (violet).
- Summon Bigger Fish: Katana releases Sabbac from her sword, in return for him destroying Sivana's lab
- This Is No Time for Knitting: Devils are boiling out of a gate, Thunder swears, and her father, Black Lightning, rebukes her. She wonders that he worries about her language then, and he says that fighting demons is exactly when you don't want to offend Heaven.
- Thou Shall Not Kill: Subverted with Katana, although most of the time it was in self-defense. Ironically Batman was OK with this, as editorial were not militant in Batman never allowing villains to be killed off.
- Similarly evoked during Crisis on Infinite Earths; when Geo-Force, Blue Beetle, and Doctor Polaris are sent back in time by the Monitor, to when Nazis occupied Markovia, Geo-Force tells Doctor Polaris that he can kill the Nazis attacking the three heroes and even joins in.
- Very Special Episode: The Outsiders once team up with John Walsh (yes, that John Walsh) to go after a child trafficker who has kidnapped Lian Harper.
- Wardens Are Evil: In #4, Warden Brewster of Gotham State Prison deliberately denies a prisoner (codenamed "Meltdown") needed medical treatments and then lies that the Prison Board was responsible. He does this to trick the dangerously radioactive felon into escaping so he can be killed to save the public. Turns out the warden has decided rehabilitation doesn't work, so he's been finding ways to "legally" off prisoners.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Nightwing was pissed to discover that his team, which was supposed to be free of Batman's influence, was being sponsored by a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises.
- In later issues, Geo-Force became increasingly warlike and distant, seemingly viewing the team as an adjunct to the Markovian military, until Black Lightning finally snapped.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The restoration of the original Halo after the original Outsiders series ended.
- With This Ring: When Sapphire Stagg is kidnapped from her wedding to Metamorpho, the rings are lost during the battle to rescue her. Metamorpho formed two gold rings from his own body to replace them.
- Will They or Won't They?: While starting off as mutual confidants, a large part of Brian Hill's run explores this growing dynamic between Black Lightning and Katana. By issue #12, Tatsu makes it clear that she's more than interested in a Relationship Upgrade with him, but Jeff simply wishes to leave things as they are for personal reasons.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: A particularly darker example given by Lady Shiva to her daughter Cassandra Cain and Duke Thomas. She firmly believes that Batman has no real plan for the young duo and that their status as his sidekicks squanders their potential to become more. She then goes on to encourage them to break away from Bruce's shadow so they can finally evolve as heroes.Lady Shiva: "Neither one of you needs him. You should have your own cities to protect. Your own names. And your own symbols..."
- You Are in Command Now: In the 2003 incarnation, seeing the team was going to nowhere because of Nightwing (who wasn't in the team enough to command it) and Arsenal (severely damaged and unable to replace Nightwing), Jade takes the leadership of the group. That, until she goes to fight in the Rann-Thanagar War and dies in the middle of the war.