INSIDE-OUT: Tony Bedard on "Batman and the Outsiders"

Fear not Supes and Diana, the Dark Knight will still be answering roll call at Justice League meetings -- despite the fact he'll be leading his own team starting in October, in the pages of the re-launched "Batman and the Outsiders."

As series writer Tony Bedard told CBR News, Batman is set to pull double duty for the foreseeable future, sharing the spotlight with DC Comics' heavy hitters for some plum assignments and getting his hands dirty on some others. "He's staying on the Justice League and he's secretly running the Outsiders," explained Bedard, who is himself pulling multiple duties these days as the writer of "Countdown," "Birds of Prey" and "Supergirl."

"In fact, the Outsiders are designed specifically to carry out the missions that are too politically sensitive or morally ambiguous for the JLA to do," Bedard continued. "Imagine if the JLA was the U.S. Army and we pinpointed Bin Laden in Western Pakistan. We couldn't send in the Army because it would probably touch off a new war and topple the friendly Pakistani regime, but if we secretly had a team of 'outlaws' to send in, then we could get Bin Laden and still have plausible deniability."

The solicitation for "Batman and the Outsiders" #1 appears to reveal the roster for the latest incarnation of the team that made its debut in 1983's "Brave and the Bold" #200, but Bedard advises fans to hold on a minute and cool their bat-jets.

"It would seem that Batman has assembled Martian Manhunter, Katana, Metamorpho, Grace, Thunder, Aquaman and Catwoman, wouldn't it?" Bedard teased. "But it's not quite as simple as that, and you'll have to see how it plays out in 'Outsiders: Five of a Kind' and 'Outsiders' #50 to see what I mean."

"Outsiders: Five of a Kind" is a five-issue, weekly miniseries running throughout August that will feature a different team-up each week. The adventures in these books are expected to depict the method by which Batman will choose his new lineup, selecting a new member each week.

As for the existing "Outsiders" ongoing series, Judd Winick's run ended earlier this month at #49, and Bedard will be writing the final issue, #50.   

Bedard said in terms of both roster and title, this new Outsiders series is not simply a case of change for the sake of change. "I got to do some picking of the roster, but a lot of the existing characters already made sense for the team," explained Bedard. "If I had wanted a completely different lineup, I could've gotten it, but there's a rhyme and reason to this group. There are a lot of characters I love and they may make appearances in upcoming issues, but the team I have is the team I want."

There is no one Bedard wanted on his team more than its leader, the Dark Knight. "[Each hero] has their allure, but Batman is the greatest comic hero ever invented, and it's a thrill to handle him," Bedard confessed. "I have a longstanding affection for J'onn J'onzz from my days reading 'Justice League International' and editing 'JLA.' And I have always been an Aquaman fan. I like this new Aquaman. I know there's a sort of Hal Jordan/Kyle Rayner thing going on with young Artie, but despite all the Rayner-haters, Kyle turned out to be a terrific character and one of my faves from Grant [Morrison's] 'JLA' run. That's what I see in the long run for our sword-swinging sea king."

While it may be true that Bats has been running with Aquaman and J'onn J'Onzz since his original Justice League days in the 1960s, Bedard reminds readers that both characters have gone through some major changes since then, and past JLA history won't figure prominently in "Batman and the Outsiders."

"Batman's personal history with Martian Manhunter, Katana, Metamorpho and Catwoman will play out in very different ways as each member of the team develops their own view on what the Outsiders should really be accomplishing," explained Bedard.

While not a direct spin-off of "Countdown," Batman does assemble this version of the Outsiders due to the storyline surrounding the missing-in-action status of some of the world's most wanted criminal minds, as depicted in that weekly. "It's happening in the here and now as the world is more distrustful than ever of costumed adventurers and metahumans," Bedard said. "In fact, the team is gathered in response to recent disappearances of super-villains around the globe, and Batman's opposition to the forces behind these disappearances."

Bedard, who confessed he didn't follow the popular "Batman and the Outsiders" title in the 1980s - even despite the fact two of his all-time favorite artists, Alan Davis and Paul Pelletier, worked on it-- hopes to enjoy a long stay on 2007's "Batman and the Outsiders." "I hope it is successful enough that I'm still doing it five years from now," said Bedard. "But we'll take this one issue at a time."

One reason Bedard hopes to stick with the book long-term is the opportunity to work regularly with rising star artist Koi Turnbull and legendary inker Art Thibert. "Koi brings incredible energy to every page, so even a 'talking heads' scene is dynamic and visually interesting," said Bedard. "And Koi's characters are very expressive and endearing. He excels at the light and funny moments when you really fall in love with a character.

"Art Thibert is a legendary inker, one of the top ten I'd want to work with from throughout the history of comics," Bedard gushed. "His own drawing ability can elevate any penciller's game, and he also has the good judgment never to overpower someone's unique style. We're very lucky to be working with him."

A DC-exclusive writer, Bedard joked that one project he needs to work on is getting some more sleep, and highlighted a few other titles he has coming in the months ahead, including yet another response to the Bat-Signal. "I have an upcoming four-part 'Batman Confidential' story with Rags Morales and Mark Farmer that I'm already looking on as a personal creative high-point," Bedard said. "Rags is knocking it out of the park, and I can't wait for it to hit the stands.

"I'm also doing a run on 'Legion of Super-Heroes' with the astonishing Dennis Calero."

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