Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas with Batman and the Outsiders

Just when I was ready to start on my post about the " Craziest Christmas Comic Covers " I came across some pages from Jim Aparo´s excellent Outsiders books BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS and THE OUTSIDERS which included three Christmas issues I wanted to include in my last post. Oy.

I thought about just adding this to the old post but then I decided against it because I want to do shorter posts. Which might not be possible since it´s one of my all time favorite series by Jim Aparo we are talking about.

Longtime readers are probably already sick and tired of hearing me go on how great this series was and what a shame it is that still nothing of this is collected in a nice hardcover or omnibus like the NEW TEEN TITANS BY GEORGE PEREZ. Okay, maybe the binding on these books is suboptimal but at least the printing is all right and the pages look just gorgeous in the bigger format. Speaking about those omnibus books I may be one of the few whose favorite issue of vol 2 is BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS 5 which was included because it was a crossover with NEW TEEN TITANS 37.

You want to know how much I love this issue ? I love it so much that I have multiple issues of the original version, I got the german version in BATMAN SONDERHEFT 35 and I´m probably going to buy it again when I buy the SHOWCASE PRESENTS : BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS trade which for some strange reason still is not part of my Jim Aparo comic collection.

Now I could go on a whole rant about this issue but since this post is about the Christmas issues from the series I´ll just let Mathew Peterson from MAJOR SPOILERS back me up with his Retro Review of the issue.

Now the first Christmas issue is BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS 8 in which the Phantom Stranger teams up with Batman and the Outsiders to battle an old enemy. Sadly I haven´t read the issue or don´t remember reading it and maybe it was not translated to german because it involves evil demonic superbabies. I´m not kidding. If you don´t believe me just read the entry on THE PHANTOM STRANGER homepage. In any case it´s nice to see Jim Aparo draw one of his signature heroes again although this would not be the last time he drew him. That was in the Neil Gaiman penned prestige comic GREEN LANTERN : THE LEGEND OF THE GREEN FLAME which was supposed to be the version of Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow ? which lay in storage at DC for decades because of some minor continuity inconsistencies. I know, it´s ridiculous when you look at it now because DC has turned into one giant continuity inconsistency.

The second Christmas story from that series is issue 19 ( where Geo - Force goes up against Superman and wipes the floor with him ) because The Battler was so kind to put the entire issue online at SAVAGE TALES.

So thanks for the scans which have made this part of the post possible. Now in the issue ..... say what ? Did I just say that Geo - Force wipes the floor with Superman ? Okay, maybe he doesn´t win in the end but .... okay, I think we should start at the beginning of our little Christmas tale.

At this time the Outsiders already knew THE Batman´s secret identity and yes, this story takes place when it was THE Batman not just simply the Batman. I guess DC was trying to make him more mysterious. I love this. Anyway, Halo starts telling Bruce Wayne why Geo - Force is probably going to do something he´s going to regret and we get a nice scene of Halo and Brion preparing for Christmas when Brion whips out a present for Halo.

Now to set the next page up you must know that Halo and Brion both had feelings for each other but they were still struggling with that and had also not talked about this. Oh, and Brion´s sister Tara had died in The Judas Contract although the Teen Titans didn´t tell Brion the whole truth about that ( which was rather unusual at that time ). He thinks she died a hero´s death. Anyway, Mike W. Barr shows once again that he can write compelling characters which was one of the great pulls of the series.

So Halo tries calling Katana who is not answering the call.Katana had become like a surrogate mother to Halo but at this point Halo has found her real parents and Katana thinks it´s better to keep her distance and let Halo celebrate Christmas with her parents so she can get re- aquainted with them ( when Halo joins the team she suffers from amnesia ).

And I have to agree with Black Lightning, that´s bull. That´s the same kind of bs like when the X - Men thought the other x - teams were better off thinking them dead. The relationship between Tatsu and Gabrielle is a really powerful connection and it´s one of the main reasons why this book is so well written as Mike W Barr excels at the funny scenes that occur 

with the same seemingly effortless ease as the more serious moments.

Speaking about Black Lightning he was one character that this series dusted off again and deservedly so. I don´t want to go into the whole topic how underrepresented afro - american superheroes were at that time ( though I love the fact that in one comic book he said that his reason for calling himself BLACK Lightning was just so people made no mistake and knew he was a brother ) - and still are - but he was one cool cat. If always pictured him as kind of a Sidney Poitier type and I have to disagree with Michael Carlyle on THE CRAPBOX OF SON OF CTHULHU in his review of THE OUTSIDERS 1. I loved his Saturday Night Fever disco look with the puffed sleeves, the open chest and the fly wing collar.  

But back to our story in progress. Brion gets a call from a friend who overdosed on sleeping pills and he and Halo rush off to save her.

They arrive in time to save her and before she´s taken to the hospital Brion learns that she did it because one of her teachers blackmailed her into having sex with him. So Brian goes to kill the guy and the Batman enlists the aid of one of the few heroes who can stop him. You know, this is pretty heavy stuff for what some people still consider kids stuff and I remember the days when Batman and Superman were actual friends and he could just contact him when Batman needed Superman´s help fondly. 

Superman arrives much to Halo´s delight who is the wide eyed, naiive teenager of the group who´s still impressed when she teams up with somebody like Superman. Now this was written in March 1985 so when somebody tells that the whole approach to superheroes in the new MS MARVEL series is so innovative and refreshing and totally new - sorry, you have not be reading comics long enough. Mike W Barr did it much better here and it was not a new concept back then. So just because you add religion and social media doesn´t mean you´re breaking new ground here.

Meanwhile Geo Force is confronting the slimeball teacher at a skiing lodge and is all ready to bash his head in when Superman intervenes. But Geo Force is too ticked off to listen to reason so he let´s Superman have it. 

Which turns out to be not such a great idea after all. Oooouuuuwwch !

While Geo Force and Superman tussle we have a quick interlude with Rex Mason and Sapphire doing some last minute Christmas shopping that shows what a forgiving character he can be. Even though Sapphire´s father tried to kill him he doesn´t want her to build walls between her father because he´s the only family she has. And it´s Christmas, right ?

We cut back to the fight which goes much better for Geo Force since he realized that Superman owes a great part of his powers to Earth´s lower gravity. And guess who controls gravity ? It´s on ! And Superman and Geo Force are debating the pros and cons of vigilantism while duking it out.

Yup back then heroes were really good at multitasking and you didn´t have all this bloody realism. Anyway, it dawns on Superman that he is going to loose this fight if he doesn´t find a way to stop Geo Force so he causes an avalanche, the old cheater. Geo Force totally had his number.

Superman and Geo Force return to the skiing lodge where the teacher tries to weasel out of the rapist accusations but THE Batman arrives and he has been busy finding other victims who are willing to testify. While some may find this resolution cheesy and a bit naiive I find it interesting that probably nobody realizes that THE Batman just used Superman as a diversion so he can do his detective thing and be the great hero in the end. That´s kind of in character for a guy who dresses up a little orphan boy in bright colors as a bullet trap for gangsters. Superman was just used as Geo Force´s punching ball although he doesn´t seem to mind.

With all the strings tied up neatly we get the Happy End that befits every good Christmas story with Brion paying his friend in the hospital a visit.

Did I say all the strings are tied up neatly ? That´s not entirely true as we get one more page that foreshadows the events of the next issue where we will find out more about Halo´s past. And not all of it will be pleasant.

I know there are people out there who thought it was a brilliant idea when Peter David revealed in his SUPERGIRL series that the Linda Danvers Supergirl had merged with had not been a nice person or when Logan finally regained his memories only to find out he had been pretty much a giant a$$hole for most of his life but again - it´s been done before, guys.

All in all I found this issue highly enjoyable and I probably have to read it in the SHOWCASE edition as DC will not put out any hardcover editions from this anytime soon. Which I find a bit strange since you can read all the issues in electronic form and did they not have to polish them up to make them available this way ? I mean that´s one of the reasons why Marvel does so many omnibus editions. If you make the issues available in electronic form you have already done all the work necessary to do a hardcover edition, it´s already been recolored and ready for printing.

Be that as it may before I have to end this post I have to mention THE OUTSIDERS 5 which is Mike W Barr and Jim Aparo´s third Christmas issue involving the Outsiders. But not Batman who had at this point left the team. Sadly I couldn´t find much on the issue but it´s basically a retelling of Charles Dickens´ A Christmas Carol where the team dresses up as the ghosts of Christmas to get information from a mob bookkeeper whose name is Eben and who had a partner called Morley. It´s not very original but the fun part of it is to see Geo Force as Morley´s ghost come to haunt Eben, Halo as the ghost of Christmas past, Metamorpho as the ghost of Christmas present and Black Lightning as the ghost of Christmas to come.

So this is the end of this post but not the end of the Christmas themed posts as I have to at least do the post I initially wanted to do Today.

There will also be another big Jim Aparo post coming up in 2016 but in the meantime here are a few links beside the ones I put in the post.

COMIC BOOK RESOURCES has two entries on Jim Aparo ( well, they probably have dozens of them but these are the two I came across Today ) in Day 21 of their Year of the Artist series and as the greatest Batman artist after Neal Adams , WEDNESDAY`S HAUL has an Outsiders cover by Jim Aparo for AMAZING HEROES 78, Mathew Peterson at MAJOR SPOILERS ( again ) offers the extremely long Hero History of Black Lightning , the SECRET ORIGINS PODCAST has an episode on issue 10 that has some nice art by Jim Aparo and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez from the issue that had four different origins for the Phantom Stranger, BABBLINGS ABOUT DC COMICS has a whole slew of entries on Walter Simonson´s classic MANHUNTER series and last but not least Penelopecat at SINISTER URGE gives a raving review of LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT : ALAN DAVIS Volume One.  

Since this is still kind of a Christmas post here is the first of two videos I didn´t want to post during the holidays. But since I put the Ms Claus stripper contest in my last post I think it´s okay to post Sara X´s video.

The same goes for the 24 Days of Elves video ( which I found at Terry Hooper´s COMIC BITS ONLINE ) since there are probably some people who have already enough of all the sweet and sickening Christmas cheer.

Because Superman was in this post here is a nice video where the latest version. Henry Cavill, meets the gold standard : Christopher Reeve.

Again I managed to name drop Neil Gaiman so here´s another video with him. And no, I still haven´t had time to read the GRAVEYARD BOOK comic.

Originally I wanted to post the DISCWORLD - WYRD SISTERS video since I always associate Terry Pratchett´s movies with Christmas ever since watching the brilliant HOGFATHER. But since the embedding on that was disabled here is a Doctor Who anime since there´s also this connection of Doctor Who and Christmas. And no, I also haven´t seen the Doctor Who Christmas Special The Husband Of River Song yet but I will do that Today.

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

Justice, like lightning, should ever appear to some people hope, and to other men fear !


Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Wait til you watch The Husbands of River Song -then you'll know what real non-continuity is!!!!

SonOfCthulhu said...

If I concede on Black Lighting's costume a bit (okay, it's not much worse than Power Man's and I totally dig 70's-80's Power Man.) will you agree with me that as much as we BOTH love Aparo, Looker's costume is just plain goofy?

And speaking of Aparo, his style to me is as classic as Neal Adams when it comes to his Batman. His work on the Outsiders is VERY good. I have nothing but good things to say about his art style. Just the villains that were introduced in many of the stories were almost in a Doom Patrol vibe of weirdness.

I want to read the GeoForce v Superman tale now. Thanks for adding to my list of "gotta find it" when I do my bin diving.

SUBZERO said...

Looker´s costume always looked to me like they ran out of good designs and found an old sketch lying around and decided to go with that. So you will get no arguments from me about her costume´s goofyness.