The release of Dark Days: The Forge featured many (oh, so many!) shocking revelations about the past and the future of the DC Universe, but one of the biggest surprises was the reintroduction of The Outsiders into Batman’s history as a black-ops team working with Batman to uncover items of the mysterious metal which The Dark Knight has become obsessed with solving the mystery of.
There hasn’t been an Outsiders series for over five years, and the previous New 52 incarnation of the team was very, very different from the classic line-up, so it’s worth going back and looking at who the Outsiders are and what purpose they serve within the DC Universe.
The Outsiders as a concept were created by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo in Brave and the Bold #200 before spinning off into their own series, titled Batman and the Outsiders. They were originally assembled because Batman wanted to intervene in an international conflict in the fictional nation of Markovia but the Justice League’s hands were tied due to red tape concerning the foreign nation. Ignoring the order, Batman infiltrated the country alongside Black Lightning to free Lucius Fox from Baron Bedlam, who had made a play for control of the country. Along the way, the team picked up the heroes Katana, Geo-Force, Metamorpho and Halo, rounding out the original Outsiders roster.
Black Lightning and Metamorpho were two characters that existed previous to the formation of the team. The former was created by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden and was an Olympic decathlete turned school teacher who was born with latent metahuman powers that he used to protect his neighborhood from corruption and gangsters. Metamorpho was created by Bob Haney and Ramona Fradon and is aptly nicknamed The Element Man because he can turn his body into any of the elements on the periodic scale. Prior to his transformation, he was an explorer named Rex Mason working for his girlfriend Sapphire’s father, Simon Stagg and discovered The Orb of Ra while on an expedition which permanently changed him into Metamorpho.
Out of the new characters, the one who has demonstrated the most staying power is undoubtedly Katana, who has appeared in live-action twice in both Arrow and Suicide Squad, in animation on Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Beware The Batman, and briefly fronted her own ongoing series as part of The New 52. Katana is Tatsu Yamashiro, a woman whose family was taken from her when her jealous brother-in-law killed her husband with a mystical sword and set their home alight. She defeated and disarmed him, claiming the sword known as Soultaker as her own and learned that its name was very literal. Her husband’s soul was trapped within the sword itself and after training as a samurai she took up the name Katana and became a crimefighter in the United States.
Geo-Force was Prince Brion Markov of Markovia, whose father was killed by Baron Bedlam in his coup. He was granted elemental control over the Earth itself from Markovia’s top scientist as a way to stop the man who murdered his father and became the hero Geo-Force. Halo, on the other hand, is a lot more complicated. Originally, she was simply an amnesiac girl with light powers discovered by Batman in the Markovian woods, but the series later revealed that she was gestalt being made up of a sociopathic woman named Violet Harper and an ancient energy-being known as an Aurakle.
The original Outsiders was all about new adventures, new threats and new additions to the DC Universe. They fought enemies like the patriotic team The Force of July or The Masters of Disaster (with the latter’s member Windfall later joining the team) and recruited supporting character Emily Briggs after she was transformed from a mousy bank-teller into a bombshell superhero who went by the name of Looker. Batman eventually left the team and the series renamed itself to Adventures of the Outsiders, while a second ongoing simply titled The Outsiders was launched alongside it.
Later incarnations of the team, many of them written by Mike W. Barr himself, featured more new characters added to the team, such as Technocrat and Wylde, while traditionally villainous characters such as Faust and The Eradicator found a place on the team. The purview of The Outsiders was shaken up dramatically when Nightwing and Arsenal formed their own incarnation of the team with Jade, Metamorpho, Thunder (Black Lightning’s daughter) and two new characters: a rogue Amazon named Grace and an android named Indigo who was later revealed to be Brainiac 8.
Batman eventually took back control of the team bringing in close allies like Catwoman, Batgirl and the Martian Manhunter while retaining some members of the previous team including Grace and Thunder. The final incarnations were put together without Batman following his death in Final Crisis and featured Geo-Force becoming more unstable due to his rivalry with Deathstroke and introduced more new characters to the team, such as Freight Train and Olympian. This team was later folded into Batman Incorporated as a black ops team led by Red Robin, but the DC Universe rebooted into The New 52 before any of those stories could materialise.
In the wake of The New 52, the Batman Inc. incarnation of The Outsiders appeared once, but the second volume of that series has always held a nebulous place in continuity, not quite New 52 but with many of the visual cues of the reboot. A completely new Outsiders was introduced by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino in the pages of Green Arrow; this team being a group of elite martial artists who each represented their own clan such as The Sword, The Spear and The Arrow. The only real connection this has to the previous group of the same name is that Katana was the representative for The Sword clan, but aside from that it has nothing in common with the iconic eighties team.
The return of The Outsiders to Batman-specific continuity presents a number of interesting story opportunities going forward and given their stated purpose being tracking and collecting items made of the mystical metal, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them show up in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Metal itself. Whether they have a future beyond the event is another questione entirely, but the team is made up of characters like Metamorpho, Black Lightning and Katana that are fan-favorites. Depending on the creative team, a new Outsiders series could be a surprise hit of 2018.