Thinking Outside The Box: Winick Talks 'Outsiders' Relaunch

With Judd Winick's recent exclusivity deal at DC Comics, the question on many people's minds has been simple: which superheroes will he be tackling next? The answer to this question came on Sunday when DC released news about their projects for 2003 and revealed that the acclaimed writer of "Pedro & Me," "Green Lantern," "Exiles" and (soon) "Green Arrow" will be re-launching the cult hit "Outsiders" in July 2003. While the old series featured a veritable cornucopia of second tier heroes who never left a great impact on the comic book industry, such as Katana or Geoforce, the new series will be led by the popular character Nightwing, once known as Robin, the boy wonder. The specifics of this series launch are being kept a secret but fans do know that it all spins out of the "Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day," a three-issue mini series that results in the death of a founding Titans member and deeply affects the titular teams.

"You have to read the comic for the details, but the two teams engage a common enemy and fight a battle royal--seriously it's three issues of fighting, screaming, explosions and lots of property damage-- when it ends there will be physical and emotional wounds to deal with," explains Winick of "Graduation Day." "It breaks up both teams and sets the stage to form the Teen Titans and Outsiders."

While the Teen Titans themselves are a unique entity in the modern day DCU, the only real team of mostly teenage superheroes, the Outsiders are yet another team of adult superheroes fighting evil and to some fans, it may make them redundant. Winick says that the series is anything but that and if fans give the book a chance, they'll see that the reason for the Outsiders' existence is far different from that of most superhero teams. "They are not like the JSA or JLA, they aren't, as one could say 'firemen putting out little fires.' They will be hunters. They will be seeking out the bad guys before they can find trouble.

"The hunter aspect I suppose differentiates from other team books. It will also be funny, even sexy at times. I think comics should better reflect our readership and our readership, despite their age, is more mature than fifteen years ago. Ross and Rachel can get drunk and screw in the 8 o'clock family hour on TV, but we can't have super heroes occasionally get entangled? It's not your father's super hero team...

"I know that DC is going to give 'Teen Titans' and 'Outsiders' a proper role out. First tier, second tier, its just semantics. It'll be great stories, great actions, great characters- from both books."

If you're wondering how Winick got attached to this project, it's simple- he fell in love with the concept right after he heard about it. "I was approached by Dan Didio and Eddie Berganza to script 'Outsiders' and the mini series leading up to it. Geoff Johns (who's scripting 'Teen Titans') and myself have been given our own little corner of the universe to play in," says Winick, who adds enthusiastically, "We're as happy as hell. Why do it? I get to launch a team, create characters and tell stories that interest me and excite me. I'll also be playing in a very cool sandbox."

While Winick may have won acclaim for his more mainstream work like "Pedro & Me" or off beat humor work like "Barry Ween," he doesn't see superhero comics as a lesser form of writing: he sees them as an equally viable genre for artistic expression. "I am fanboy," states the writer proudly. "I love super heroes. I learned how to read, write, draw and comprehend the idea of story telling from comics. I can sit here all day and talk about archetypes characters and such, but at the end of the day, I do it because it's a lot of fun"

The scribe also makes no secret of the fact that he's having fun with the character of Nightwing and says that Dick Grayson is just a natural lead for the series. "Dick Grayson leading the team makes sense. There's a symmetry to it with Batman leading the original [the original series was called 'Batman & The Outsiders' for a time], and an irony since Dick really doesn't want to become like Batman. Dick's a leader. He's good at this."

But "Titans" fans, keep your eyes peeled- "Arsenal will be taking a leading hand as well," reveals Winick.

"The team is lead by Nightwing," says Winick, as he begins to explain who else makes up the team. "We've also got Arsenal, Jade who I'm bringing over from 'Green Lantern,' Metamorpho, and three newbies. Grace, seven foot powerhouse who currently works security in a meta human club. Thunder, Cassandra Pierce, daughter of Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning, and a team member to be named after 'Graduation Day.'"

Winick says that he chose the characters for the simplest of reasons- putting them in the same room is going to result in some great stories. "I went with the one's I liked and created the ones that I thought would add to the mix. They're all very different, but have a commonality that makes them outsiders. All of that will be explored."

If you're a fan of any of the old "Outsiders" series, Winick says he will be keeping you in mind but he also promises not to dismiss any new fans by expecting them to know anything about past incarnations of the team. "This is pretty much a fresh start. As a reader, you will not turn a page and see a villain you've never heard of and are supposed to 'gasp' just at the recognition. I will be delving heavily into the past, but it's going to play both ways. If you're a nut for continuity and like a nod to the past, you'll be happy. If not, don't worry, this book will hit all the right chords."

Part of hitting the right chords might be implied in the solicitations for the new series that hint at the Outsiders taking on unique jobs, though Winick is loathe to specify exactly what those will be. "They'll all work at Macy's for about three issues. I'm kidding. They're a heavy bunch. They will not play well with others."

For the continuity buffs keeping score at home who wonder how this series might affect Nightwing's own book or Jade's appearances in "Green Lantern," Winick says not to worry. "We will always be careful of minding our P's and Q's," he assures fans.

The artist on "Outsiders" is another newly DC exclusive creator, Tom Raney, and from the way Winick's talking, the penciller may just be turning in the best work of his life on this series. "He's amazing. Amazing. Tom is going to be producing the best work of his career. Tom designed the new characters and redesigned the old ones, so he's right here on the front line with me. The pleasure of working with someone like Tom is the security in strength. He can catch an emotional moment and deliver a fight scene that kicks all kinds of ass. A lot like my ol' running buddy [now 'Teen Titans artist] Mike McKone. Tom's an ace. One of the reason I signed on was his involvement."

If you're not sold on "Outsiders" yet, Winick has one last thing to tell you about the series:

"It'll be the Best God damned team book you've seen in long time."

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