Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Outsider Art

If you've been paying attention, it's no secret I'm obsessed with forgotten, failed comics and characters. Predating both Batman's Outsiders and the current Nightwing-led team was 1976's 1st Issue Special #10, featuring "The Outsiders", the group fever-dream of Joe Simon, Jerry Grandenetti, and Creig Flessel. 1st Issue Special was often a window into madness anyway, featuring many a veteran creator's most bizarre cast-off ideas. Needless to say, I'm obsessed with it, and all it's hidden the Outsiders!

Now pay attention to how they start out, with a council of war, because they're gonna pull some tricky narrative shit later on, and I wouldn't want ya to miss it:

They're the ugly Doom Patrol! The strangest team you forgot you never knew! Lizard Johnny, the Amazin' Ronnie, Hairy Larry, Ol' Doc Scary, and Mighty Mary made up the Outsiders, serious contenders for "Comics' Freakiest Group." Directly inspired by the film Freaks, these poor bastards were all weirdies. Even the girl was a giant fish.

The Outsiders spring into action in their adorable l'il Fisher Price Travellin' Lab...with their own theme song, no less... just in time to save Billy from a freak-bashing. Appearances to the contrary, Billy does not possess fantastic mental abilities and an advanced intellect. He's just a standard-issue imbecile with a really big, really tough noggin.

Amazing Ronnie is my new hero. Look at that ugly bastard leaping around, freaking out the squares, bitch slapping Nixon and just...devouring life, y'know? It's inspiring. Followed by Hairy Larry, the wheeler dealer, cheerfully committing vehicular homicide! What jolly fun!

Mighty Mary, one of comics' rare female grotesques subverts sexist stereotypes by planting a "foxy babe" head on a hulking fish-monster body. Take that, male chauvinist pigs! Lizard Johnny shows up just in time to get wounded and stuffed into the back of the trailer. I wish I was a lizard.

Three brief origin stories follow, starting with Lizard Johnny fished out of the ocean and taken to a hospital, into the caring arms of compassionate health professionals:

Doctor Goodie saves the wretched critter, and steals off with him. The second story features Billy, chased from his basement room by burglars who have killed his kindly tailor father. The goons attack the lad, but his giant cranium is nigh invulnerable. He runs out into the street for help, but that doesn't work out too well.

The third story starts with young Doctor Goodie on a top secret space Venus...In 1970 (as stated in the caption). The mission went awry and he was rescued by aliens. Shoddy, unprofessional ones at that. In short, Doc got him some botched alien plastic surgery:

But check out his daytime scene, baby! He spends the day as the fabulously coiffed Doctor Goodie, Head Surgeon at Ronkite Medical Complex (note that the Fisher Price theme continues to the hospital and its environs) As Goodie, his mane of golden tresses and movie star looks make all the ladies swoon:

Doc goes underground and unmasks, revealing his true, butt-ugly face. His hair however, remains fabulous. Home at last, Doc Scary joins his true friends:

See how they ended it the same way they started it? That's that tricky narrative shit I mentioned earlier.

Poor Outsiders...1st Issue Special was very much dependent on reader feedback, and no one ever wrote asking to see them again. The little family of genetic mistakes that nobody wanted was never seen again, but with the way weird old characters have been popping up lately in DC Comics, I wouldn't rule out the Outsiders forever.


Anonymous said...

I'm so amazed... I have this comic and used to love reading it because the characters were so weird. I never realized that it was just a one-shot. Thanks for the info!

Pere Ubu said...


That hospital? It's the Health Sciences Center at the NY State Universtity at Stonybrook.

No, really.