Episode Title: Enter the Outsiders!
Original Airdate: January 9, 2009
Batman has been in the pages of DC comics from the earliest days of the golden age to the present, and had a key role in every phase including the flood of new characters in the early 80’s created to capture the Superfriends crowd. This episode finds an intriguing way to combine one of the golden oldies with a group of teens from the far out 80’s phase, and seems perfectly in place in the first decade of our current millennium.
Our teaser opens with Black Manta in an armored machine that is not unlike the steam punk spider at the end of Will Smith’s “Wild, Wild West”. Manta has stolen an armored car, and Batman is being assisted in the pursuit by rarely used hero B’wanna Beast. B’wanna has the unusual ability to fuse two separate animals into a new, perhaps more useful, chimera. Initially Beast gives chase on the back of a spider-horse before ultimately capturing Manta with the aid of a pelican-whale.
The story proper begins with Batman in a boxing ring sparring with his old trainer, Wildcat, who currently seems to be close to sixty years old. Batman suggests that Wildcat should retire due to his recent heart problems, but the Cat believes his chest pain was merely a side effect of his signature hot sauce smoothies. Batman receives an alert to some ruckus at the mall and Wildcat insists on joining him to stop the offenders. They arrive to find the source of the problem to be three super powered teens known as the Outsiders (Katana, Black Lightening and Metamorpho). In the ensuing battle, Wildcat gets in a pinch and the Outsiders escape when Bats goes to help him. The Dark Knight and Wildcat regroup and pursue the Outsiders with Batman in his sleek Batmobile while Wildcat is mounted on his vintage Harley. The chase leads our duo beneath Gotham into an abandoned subway station, where another confrontation with the Outsiders ends much like the first, with Bats rescuing Wildcat as the teens escape. This leads to Batman berating Wildcat for getting in his way, with the elder hero reminding the Bat who has been in this business longer. The pair descend even deeper into the bowels of the city, now in the sewer alongside a stream of toxic waste where Wildcat stumbles over a tripwire leading to the capture of our heroes. The two masked men are taken to the Outsiders lair where it is discovered that they are merely acting as minions of the oversized and disfigured villain Slug (known as Sleez in the comics). Batman is dropped into a pit with giant man eating turtles while Wildcat is freed to go mano y mano with Slug. Batman escapes from the turtle pit, while the Cat uses his knowledge of the sweet science to toss Slug into the toxic waste. Wildcat then proceeds to have a heartfelt conversation with the troubled youths about how he too was once an outsider before discovering the boxing ring and turning his life around. Just as the sexagenarian’s message is beginning to resonate with the teens, Slug emerges from the toxic waste mutated into a Lovecraftian squid monster, triggering a bout of angina in the old man. The Outsiders join forces with Batman to easily defeat Slug, then use their combined abilities to resuscitate Wildcat. The epilogue takes us to Wildcat’s gym where we see him in the ring teaching Black Lightening how to box, while Metamorpho is enjoying an abundance of hot sauce smoothies as Katana seems less than enthusiastic.
R. Lee Ermey (Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket ) seems to be perfectly cast as the voice of Wildcat, his is a voice that shows his age while simultaneously conveying confidence and demanding respect. After all, the central them of this episode was the value of mentorship and using characters that were introduced into the comics over forty years apart does require a similar disparity in the age of the cast. This theme of mentorship and value of wisdom is particularly interesting to me as I have crossed over my fortieth year and often find myself discussing superheroes and comic books with, and for the benefit of, “College Kids”. The Outsiders are significant in this series because they had a long run in Batman and the Outsiders (later simply as The Outsiders) in the DC comics of the 80’s. We only get to meet three of them in this episode, but I know we will meet a few more of them in the future. I am a little puzzled by the decision to change the name of Sleez to Slug for the episode, but I suppose the similarity to the word sleaze was considered inappropriate for children by the show’s producers (I was exposed to the word at a very young age and still managed to become a perfectly normal adult who writes about cartoons and podcasts about comics). Overall I think this episode was a nice rebound to form after the lukewarm quality of the one that preceded it.
Featured Characters: B’Wana Beast (Haney & Sekowsky, 1967), Black Manta (Haney & Cardy 1967), Wildcat (Finger & Hasen, 1942), Outsiders (Barr & Aparo, 1983), and Slug (John Byrne, 1987 as Sleez)
To learn more about the Outsiders listen to Heroes & Villains ep. 85