Thursday, November 22, 2012

Inside the Outsiders

As promised in my last post Today I´m going to write about Jim Aparo´s issues of THE OUTSIDERS since I recently could add a few new issues to my collection. Well, new for me, at least.

I have already mentioned that I found a few new Baxter issues of The Outsiders at my regular comicshop, the Sammlerecke in Esslingen and I also ordered a few from one of my online comicshops, Andi´s Comic Express in Ahlen. And you´re probably wondering what an Baxter issue is.

In 1985 DC offered deluxe editions of their six bestselling titles : INFINITY INC, LEGION OF SUPER - HEROES, THE NEW TEEN TITANS, THE OMEGA MEN, THE OUTSIDERS and VIGILANTE. Not only were these series printed on high quality paper ( the so - called baxter paper ) which made the colors look better but instead of the usual 23 pages of comic they offered 28 pages. Most comics were printed on cheap, low quality paper although there were some limited series and reprint titles that also got the Baxter treatment. Beside the fact that the price of the Baxter issues were twice the regular price - 75 cents - they could only be found in comic stores.

To someone reading comics right now this may not sound like a big deal but back then it sure was since deluxe editions were not as common and the Baxter issues sure had some nifty bonus stuff. Another reason why the Baxter issues are so special is just becoming apparent now to all comic readers who happen to have such issues in their collection, especially in those that are not available as a reprint : the apparent absence of decay. Every collector of american comics is faced sooner or later with the problem that no matter how carefully he keeps his comics over the years they begin to detoriate until it is almost impossible to read them. Which can be doubly painful when it´s one of your favorite series.

In this case it was OUTSIDERS but I also have some Baxter issues of THE NEW TEEN TITANS or VIGILANTE in my collection. Not that those were the only ones since later on many books switched to the more expensive baxter paper and MARVEL also used it on some titles but in the case of the TITANS it helps to illustrate a point.

When the Baxter issues hit the comic market the book was " split into two " with the inexpensive version called TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS and the deluxe edition, which started with a new nuber 1 under the name THE NEW TEEN TITANS and later just THE NEW TITANS. The cheaper TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS continued for a while with new issues but later on started reprinting the Baxter issues until it was canceled in favor of the deluxe series.

Which is why in my TITANS collection there are issues of all three series and I´m not exactly sure in which order they are supposed to be. And which is ultimately one of the reasons why I was so relieved when I got the first two volumes of the spanish CLASSICOS DC hardcovers which reprint all the issues up to NEW TEEN TITANS 28. And why I was so sad when Planeta went under soon after. With 35 EUROS they are not really cheap but compared to 75 bucks - the price for the american omnibus editions - affordable. Although if I really want to add the hardcovers to my collection I will have no choice than to order at least volume 3 even if I´m not so sure if I really need it or can afford it. On Saturday the Comicbörse in Stuttgart takes place once again and I just know that if I order it now I will find it there cheaper. But who knows ? If I can´t find it there and decide to give myself one heck of a Christmas present this year I will probably order it from because they offer it at 57 EUROS which is almost 30 percent off price. Okay, delivery takes three weeks but I can get it with free shipping or pick it up at the store in Ludwigsburg.

Recently I have been quite a few times in the Thalia store in Ludwigsburg, not only because they have a pretty good comic section but at the moment you can get a lot of tv series for 10 bucks there which is my usual limit for a complete season. I got seasons 5 and 6 of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, 1 and 3 of BONES and season 1 and 2 of FRINGE.

Right now I´m finishing up on season 2 of FRINGE and next will be season 1 and 2 of THE MENTALIST. On season 2 of FRINGE one of the available languages is spanish which is always a plus, at least for me. Since I started re - watching FRINGE in the original language it sounds a bit weird in any other language now but I still pick the spanish option for the intro. " Anteriormente en Fringe " just has that certain ring to it and I did the same with SMALLVILLE because just before the end of the intro they say " Esmallville " in such a grand fashion. At first the english voices on Fringe sounded a bit weird but once you get used to it it´s okay. Although Charlie Francis and Agent Broiles sound very different than their german voices. Another difference is that in the first episode Agent Broiles called Olivia " liason " which was changed into " Agent Zuckerguss ( Agent Sugarcoat ) " probably because they couldn´t think of a good translation. And speaking about the first episode : you absolutely have to watch the beginning in the original language because they speak german in it. At first I thought I had picked the wrong language until some of the passengers spoke in english.

For comicfans FRINGE is definitely worth checking out ( if there are still people out there who are not familiar with the show ) because not only does Mark Valley from HUMAN TARGET appear on the show it also translates the idea of CRISIS ON PARALLEL EARTHS to the tv screen.

But let´s get back to the Outsiders before I have to finish up. The series started as BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS and when the Baxter editions came the book was literally split into 2. TALES OF THE OUTSIDERS was the cheap version and continued the numbering with the ongoing storyline by writer Mike W. Barr and new artist Alan Davis. In THE OUTSIDERS, which was the deluxe edition, the story had made a jump ahead of one year and the creative team was also Mike W. Barr but with Jim Aparo on art. For the readers of this book that started with a new number 1 many things had changed, most notably the absence of Batman who founded the team which was now lead by Geo Force and had a brandnew member in the hot but enigmatic aptly named Looker.

Back then DC really took some risks splitting up one of its bestselling books and giving the regular edition to a newcomer like Alan Davis while the fans of Jim Aparo had to either pay the double price and make a one year jump in the story or wait a full year until the reprinted version.

Of course from Today´s collectors point of view that doesn´t matter that much and it´s worth it to be on the lookout for the Baxter issues but keeping in mind how much the comic market suffered from the price increase of 1 dollar imagine how the reaction would have been if comic prices had gone from 2.99 to 5.99. Also since getting more than 23 pages a month from the regular artist was a problem ( nowadays getting more than 20 pages from an artist for more than two months in a row is a problem on most books ) there were some extras added which could be short extra stories, pin ups, trading cards or even a 3 part fold out in the first issue. Which is the only issue with more than 23 comic pages of the main story, namely 31 pages by Jim Aparo. That´s so totally Airwolf ! As for the artists on the back up stories and pin ups, it literally reads like a Who´s Who of great comic artists with such illustrous names as Brian Bolland, Curt Swan, Jerry Ordway or Steve Ditko among them.

Now what really made me want to go back and look for those issues was that I had started to rewatch the first season of BATMAN - THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD and the second appearance of the Outsiders on the show made me wish that there were some new issues of the Outsiders by Jim Aparo.

They were one of my favorite teams in the 80s and even if the incarnations of the comic that followed Jim Aparo were not as good there were some enjoyable reads in there. And a lot of the first issues were translated to german which is where I initially encountered the Outsiders - or like they were called in Germany Das Batman - Team.

So although there is one SHOWCASE PRESENTS full with Jim Aparo´s BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS I had already read them in the german version scattered through all the usual publications of that time like Batman Sonderheft, Batman Taschenbuch, Batman Extra and so on.

Some of them are still in surprisingly good conditon, especially the Batman Sonderhefte, so I didn´t want to run out and buy it immediatelly. Especially if it´s only in black and white. There is no other collection available from that period so I thought that was it. But then I happened to remember - or stumble upon them while ordering my comic collection - the handful of Jim Aparo OUTSIDERS issues I once bought at a comic convention somewhere. There were some huge gaps between the issues I had and none of the issues were ever translated to german so I was sure I didn´t know them. Well, there is an old saying that the oldest story is new for someone who doesn´t know it and that´s also true for comics. Since putting the missing issues on my Comic Convention and Comic Fairs Search List I had pretty much forgotten about it but now my hunting instincts were awake. Especially since there was the possibility of not only finding the regular edition but those deluxe editions that look so awesome.

I still haven´t completed the run but I have most of the issues up to 20. I did skip some issues that were done by fill in artists and I´m not sure if I will seek them out somewhere down the line. But it was just absolutely exhilarating bordering on getting a nerdgasm to read so many " new " OUTSIDER issues by Jim Aparo, and although some of the stories may seem a bit simplistic from Todays point of view there are some hot topics in there like the nuclear holocaust, racism or adultery. Which caused some controversies as you can see in the letter pages of the day.

Man, I just love to read the letter pages and the editorial commentary in those old comics. They are like a little window into the past which is even more interesting if you happened to live in those times like me. Like I said, some of the things in those issues were unintentionally funny on second reading like Gorbachev as a villain but the stories hold up pretty good, in particular where the characters are concerned.

Far from being the usual stereotypes they all have personalities that make the reading experience highly enjoyable. From Katana who is afraid to lose her role as surrogate mother to Looker, to Geo Force who takes over as leader and must face the truth that he´s not so good at it, to Black Lightning who wants to stay just a member but who shows more potential as a leader than he would prefer the cast is really fleshed out and provides some of the most interesting scenes. Not only during the action ( like Metamorpho doing a Steve Martin improv while fighting the bad guys ) but also in the quiet parts. So my final word on the topic without spoilering any more than I already did is seek out those issues for a good read. Like I often said, if you are peed off at the current state of DC there are always some old issues you can dig up. And even if you can´t get them in dollar bins I can say the 2.50 I paid for my new issues are totally worth it and I got a comic with less ads, more comic pages, nifty extras, interesting comic pages and better writing and art than most of DC´s current titles.

So this was my post on THE OUTSIDERS that got a bit sidetracked here and there but that´s what most readers like about this blog. I hope I could shed some light about the whole deal with the Baxter issues and if you want a few more tips of Baxter comics that are worth seeking out just read Baxter Building your collection by Comic Book Galaxy which also helped me during making this post.

Before closing for real I just have to mention that Today is the 54th birthday of movie cult siren Jamie Lee Curtis.

At the beginning of her career Jamie was known for her impressive set of lungs as one of the best known Scream Queens and her appearances in various horror movies like Prom Night or Halloween. Later on she was known for her impressive set of lungs....but in a different context. To be precisely her 34C - 22 - 34 measurements. When she finally did lose her " Scream Queen " title, it was in exchange for the name " The Body " ( which is also Elle MacPherson's nickname ) thanks to her revealing roles in 1985's Perfect and Trading Places.

When she went topless she cemented herself a fan base that would last for years. Not only because she decided to disrobe, but because she had a fantastic body, that she was often referred to as "Freeze Frame" ( a nod to all the VCR users' use of the pause button on certain Jamie Lee Curtis scenes ). What is really remarkable about Jamie is that she did her best striptease very late in her career in the Schwarzenegger flick TRUE LIES.

In fact it's so popular that it's almost impossible to find pictures of her that are not stills from that scene.

She even won a poll for best striptease in 2007. Being a horror fan and a fan of movies like Halloween, The Fog or Prom Night as well as a fan of Jamie's more sexy performances I couldn't let this opportunity pass to whish her many happy returns. Be sure to check out my MOVIE CULT SIREN JAMIE LEE CURTIS post that I did last year at length and where you can find more pictures and stuff.

Since I already mentioned it, Todays first video is the appearance of the different Outsiders on THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. Ah, good times.

And  speaking about good times and the Outsiders, one of my favorite issues of BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS is issue number 5 which was a cross over with THE NEW TEEN TITANS 37. I have to admit that I have multiple copies of the issue - in the original form and various translations - and my favorite part in the NEW TEEN TITANS omnibus 3 is this issue.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

Odin rebuilt the entire world as a war machine......and he´s pointing it at Midgard.

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