Judd Winnick on the new Outsiders Series

28 April 2003

Graduation Day is only a third of the story. The May-shipping miniseris gives birth to two new series, both with old names, Teen Titans (by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone) and Outsiders (by Judd Winick and Tom Raney). According to Winick, the name, and one cast member is the only thing Outsiders has in common with its predecessor.

Going way back, the first incarnation of an "Outsiders" group was when Batman formed a team of relatively new heroes back in 1983 after The Brave and the Bold had run its course. The title was the home to Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Halo, Katana, Geo-Force, and later Looker. After thirty-three issues, Batman left, and the series continued as The Adventures of the Outsiders for fourteen more issues before being cancelled.

The Outsiders spun out of Zero Hour in 1994, and lasted for a year, before getting the axe.

Got it? Good. Now forget all of that - it doesn't matter a bit as far as the new series goes.

The new series (just Outsiders, by the way - no "The") picks up the pieces from Graduation Day and while it looks to be the older, former Teen Titans and later Titans in a new book, it's not really like that, according to Winick. But don't listen to us - Winick can explain it better.

Newsarama: From the outset, and given that Graduation Day is the event which gets them here, is Outsiders in a sense "Titans Sr." and everyone once again falls in around Dick Grayson?

Judd Winick: Not at all - actually Nightwing is the very last one on board, which I kind of like. The Titans ended basically on Dick Grayson's say-so, and going back to Perez and Wolfman and earlier, the heart of the book has always been Dick, even when he hasn't been in it, here and there. So, for a team to go on in some fashion, it does have to go back to Dick, but he wasn't willing to do it this time. So - Arsenal picks it up.

Basically, Roy forms a loose semblance of a team in Dick's absence, and then poses it to him to join up, which Dick doesn't want to do. That leads to the first adventure, which makes a point, and better clarifies why Dick thinks there should be a team, and also how the Outsiders are taking an entirely different approach to being superheroes.

NRAMA: How so?

JW: They're not going to be firemen - their job is not going to be to sit around, monitor the situation, and wait for things to happen. To use a hackneyed expression, they're going to be a little more proactive.

NRAMA: Yeah - but over the last two years, every team was going to be more proactive according to its creative team. How's this going to be any different?

JW: You have to remember that Dick was trained by the world's greatest detective. He's going to be using those skills a lot in putting leads together, and hunting. That's the jumping off point at least, and I'm hoping that it leads elsewhere.

In all truth, I was kind of given marching orders when given this book in that DC wanted something that felt more eclectic and youthful. The JLA are the gods of the earth - they're huge - they're the gigantic characters. The marching orders took that into account, and didn't want to duplicate that. I was told, in essence, to "bring the X-Men to DC." We really haven't seen that or had something that feels like that in a while at DC.

 

NRAMA: So you're going to be endeavoring to set up a whole new dynamic in Outsiders? Something with a Claremont and Byrne flavor?

JW: Right. With Storm and Wolverine, you don't think of them on the same level as you do with the JLA, really. Despite the success, there's still a sense of them being on the fringe - they're behind society, and not necessarily in the spotlight. They're never in the papers - it's never been about the publicity with the X-Men. That's what I want to get the feel of with the Outsiders.

I also want to get into a feel of having one adventure leading right into another. Byrne and Claremont did an amazing job with that - they could do a two or three issue story arc, but when the story is done, the team was, logically, somewhere else, starting a new story. They may start in Canada, but by the time the story is done, they're in the Savage Land, ready to get the ball rolling again. And then they're split up again, and the storylines move from there. There was all this amazing storytelling, but it wasn't something that you could hang your hat on - it was always moving.

If I do my job correctly, Outsiders should look and feel different than what we've seen at DCU in a while. That's what I was told to do, and that's what I'm shooting for.

NRAMA: When you were given your marching orders for what kind of book DC wanted, were you also able to go through DC's Who's Who and pick and choose your team members? You seem to have some?interesting choices in there.

JW: I was allowed to pull whoever I wanted that fit, really, but I wanted more new characters. I wanted some old, but definitely wanted some new. There should be enough older characters that longtime readers will be drawn in, but the whole basis of the book lends itself to the idea that there should be new people as well. So some are, some aren't.

We've got Nightwing, Arsenal, Jade, and Metamorpho, who's a nod back to the old days, and is either the most loved or hated characters in the DC Universe, depending on your point of view. He's an incredibly overlooked character that I really wanted a crack at. We're having a lot of fun with him.

And then, we've also got a nod to the older days by bringing in Black Lightning's daughter, Thunder, which is also going to be very interesting. Black Lighting will also play a part in the story here and there as well [Black Lightning, like Metamorpho was an original member of The Outsiders team back when it was Batman and]. So it's a mix. We've also got Grace, who is a super-strong bouncer that was working at a metahuman club.

Creating characters is probably one of the best things I do, so I'm hoping that people will find some of the new faces likeable enough to come back for more.

NRAMA: So, in essence, you're going to be playing with some of the old guard and dipping into history while aiming to keep things accessible with the new characters?

JW: Yeah - and bringing back some older, maybe forgotten characters and update them so they'll essentially be fresh to everyone. The fourth issue, for example, starts with four of what I think are the lamest villains at DC that the team is fighting it out with. It's almost the point of the issue for the team - "why are we fighting these lame villains?"

Both Geoff [Johns] and I are really big fans of third, fourth, and fifth tier, completely forgotten, ridiculous characters that no one likes. Metamorpho doesn't necessarily fall into that category, but he falls into the category of being one of the more ridiculous characters of the DCU. So we sort of reinterpreted him and reinvented him a little, and tried to give him some respect. But if there's a lame character we're pulling in, we'll do right by them..

NRAMA: Looking at the cover of first issue - Tom seems to have captured the feel of "why am I here with these kids?" with Metamorpho?

JW: Yeah - very much so.

NRAMA: Is that going to be his role with the team, though? The crusty older guy?

JW: Nope - to give the take on Metamorpho would be giving it away, but he's not going to be the crotchety old guy of the team.

NRAMA: What about the new girl, peeking out from behind Arsenal?

JW: Her name is Indigo, and we'll leave it at that.

NRAMA: As in Indigo from Graduation Day?

JW: There you go.

NRAMA: And now we'll leave it at that?

JW: Yeah - now we'll leave it there.

NRAMA: So tease - the first arc - how long is it?

JW: It runs for the first three issues, and I'm enormously confident that if people pick up the first three issues, which are done, and Tom's drawing them now - they'll stick around for the rest. I'm so proud of this - they're such a strong three issues

I was almost worried with the fourth issue, because I had a real feeling of "Where do I go form here?" The first arc is big - giant, it makes sense, and has the things I want - giant action, great characters, and humor. I got to play up a lot of humor and action along with some great big, "Holy shit!" page-turners. I'm playing with all the big toys. It's no longer a matter of turning the page, and you see it's some third or fourth string villain who's suddenly supposed to be a credible threat. So credible, that he has to have nine captions underneath the image explaining who he is, and you're still left with the feeling of "Who the hell is this now?" No - I'm playing with the big guys.

It comes together really well, I think.

NRAMA: So, does the team have it's mission and goals set as the story unfolds? Where do things pick up?

JW: That's the thing - their mission isn't laid out until the end of the first arc. By the end of the first three issues, they'll agree that this little adventure and battle has proven that there is a need for a team like the Outsiders, but the key members want to go about it in a different way than how they did it with the Titans, and in that regard, even different from how the JKA does it. After all, the JLA are the guardians of the planet, if not the universe. The Outsiders will be smaller in scale.

NRAMA: So tease the story?

JW: This adventure starts with Arsenal telling Dick that he and a few others are thinking about starting a team, and Dick basically telling Roy to go to hell - he's not interested in doing it anymore. Arsenal clarifies things a bit, and tells Dick that he's not asking him to form one, but rather, to join one - he's been putting things together for over a month.

From there, we flash back and see Arsenal gathering up these people that he thinks will make for a good team. Back in present day, an ocean liner is hijacked, but we don't know by who. By the end of the issue, as Dick is introduced to the people that will make up the team that Arsenal wants to start, the ocean liner docks, and an army of 1,000?oh, do I even need to say it?

NRAMA: It's your book, man?spill.

JW: Oh come on, it's me writing this?an army of 1,000?with guns?oh hell - it's an army of 1,000 gorillas. Gorilla Grodd and his army are invading New York City.

NRAMA: [laughter] Okay?

JW: Hey - I was laughing my ass off as I wrote it too - I love my job.

So that's where we're off to - and that's just the first issue. It ends with the Outsiders headed off to save New York from an army of gorillas.

The next issue picks up with the fact that the President of the United States - the DCU version, of course, so we're talking Lex Luthor - is in New York at the time, so they have to get him the hell out of Dodge while 1,000 giant, intelligent gorillas are roaming the city and strategically taking over large chunks of it.

The third issue?.ah, hell?I can't even talk about it.

NRAMA: And through it all is a story about a team forming, and realizing that there is a need for them, and they can do more good together than apart?

JW: Right. That's what was posed to me by Mark Waid when I was talking to him about the series, back before I had started writing it. Mark asked me what the need for the team is, and why they are doing it. I told him it was an excellent question, and I didn't know. He told me to think about it, I did, we talked about it some more.

What I want to do is make it a different team - not one that's on the sideline, waiting for a bell to go off, which is how most other teams work.

NRAMA: As the series progresses, are you going to stayt to a strict team, or will you be pulling other characters in?

JW: There might be people hopping in and out. I think Geoff has made great use of that in JSA, and that keeps things interesting. Once we have established the main team, and people have gotten to know the characters, we'll probably branch out from there. But, initially, I'm going to concentrate on these folks, because people don't know some of them. They don't know who Thunder is, and they don't know who Grace and Indigo are. Also - Metamorpho has to be reintroduced.

Part of the push on this book is that if you've never read Titans, Young Justice, or, especially, the old The Outsiders series - you'll be comfortable, because I'm going to be working to make any and everyone comfortable with the characters that are there. That said, there will be loads of guest stars - they're allowing me to play with all of the big toys.

NRAMA: All? No offense, but it was sounding like Outsiders was headed towards being a fringe book, a last outpost before limbo?

 

JW: Hey - I'll have my share of dusty limbo characters, but I'll be pulling in the big toys as well when needed. DC has decided to loosen up a little bit in regards to not driving themselves completely nuts over continuity, as far as a character is somewhere during one month, so they can't be anywhere else.

They've really recently come around to the point of view that, unless a character has had his head blown off in another comic that month, let's try not to hinder the stories. There's a new edict out there now that has really loosened the reins and allow writers to utilize the entire DCU. And I'm doing just that - aside from someone getting their head blown off, of course. I'm able to use them and utilize them to make the story work.

So, by issue #6, I can say that there will be some major guest stars for the climactic battle of the third arc, which is another massive, ka-boom, type battle, which will change parts of the DCU forever?or at least until next year. But before then, we've got great things planned for this series, and I'm very, very happy with it.

© 2003 Newsarama > Original article