Zero Hour Strikes! L.E.G.I.O.N. and Outsiders

Unlucky episode 13! Bass and Siskoid have drawn the short straw this month and have to plunge head first into two pretty opaque series, with L.E.G.I.O.N.'94 #69-70 and Outsiders #11. Will they make it out okay? They always do, don't they.

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Relevant images and further credits at: Zero Hour Strikes ep.13 Supplemental

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23 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! L.E.G.I.O.N. and Outsiders

  1. I could say Siskoid is a bit too harsh on the Outsiders (at least the original title), but I hate Marvin and Damian Wayne, so I get it.

    This does look pretty bad, in a “why does this exist?” kind of way. Barr has definitely done some great work, and I really like Paul Pelletier later on in his career. Everyone has to start…and end somewhere. I don’t think Barr did much mainstream comic work after this, at least on a monthly title.

    L.E.G.I.O.N. is just a blindspot for me. I’m following along with the reviews over at the Legion of Super-Bloggers, and it looks like a well-done series, but perhaps just not my bag of tea.

    Either way, fun discussion as always. It’s nice to hear Siskoid get so passionate about something…even in the negative!


  2. I finally read this run of Outsiders last year when we covered it on FCTC because of the Eradicator connection. I was looking forward to seeing the character progress and grow and I have no idea why I thought this was going to happen. Because it didn’t. At all.

    I realize that the Eradicator was the red headed step child of the Reign of the Supermen. He was the one with the oldest connection to the Post Crisis Man of Steel, but despite this he jjust didn’t pop after the dust settled. Superboy and Steel got ongoings. The Cyborg appeared from time to time as a bad guy, but Eradicator just bounced around and then was rendered pretty much irrelevant after Birthright.

    He didn’t do much in the Outsiders. I have no memory of what happened in his 1996 mini-series. He served as someone for Loose Cannon to hit in his mini-series (yeah, Loose Cannon got a mini-series and no, I don’t know how that happened but I’m assuming someone at DC owed Jeph Loeb a favor) and he was part of The Trial of Superman, but in all of those appearances, except for maybe the mini-series, not one writer tried to do something interesting with him.

    It’s disappointing. To me. And probably no one else.

    I’m assuming he was in the Outsiders by editorial mandate.

      1. Eradicator was the Outsiders of Reign of the Supermen, so his usage in perpetuity reflects this.

        Mood Ring Hulk being one of the most utilized New Bloods is a clear indication of why Bloodlines is now a punchline.

  3. Oh, man. What a ride this was.

    What’s with DC turning Tinya/Enya (please, enough with the makeout music sting) the Donna Troy and Hawkman of the 31st century? Didn’t they complicate things enough by retconning the inspirational Superboy into a pocket universe character? But how Shakespearean to go out with a wedding!

    As for Outsiders. Siskoid and Bass took a real bullet here. There has never been a solid in-continuity reason for these guys to exist or band together. I just never have been able to understand the love so many of your show’s listeners have for this title/team. And I love Aparo and sometimes quite like Mike Barr. This particular era of the Outsiders is awful.

      1. Siskoid, when i was in college, if you heard Enya or Gregorian chants coming from someone’s dorm room, that meant someone was trying to get some. It’s science fact.

        1. Remember when there was a trend for Gregorian chants with a modern beat? I am seriously so stupid that for awhile I was impressed by how they mixed genuine recordings of ancient monks with modern people.

  4. Also, I understand your reasoning for not wanting to interview Dan Jurgens, but as someone that has interviewed Dan a number of times and has talked to him about Zero Hour in one of those interviews, he’s a treasure trove of memories on his past work.

    Again, not saying you should, but Dan is super gracious and has a lot to say about his work.

  5. It’s funny that the timing of this episode worked out so that in the same week we’re talking Keith Giffen and Simon Bisley on Spawnometer. Biz was claiming to have added the chain to Lobo’s paraphernalia, which I haven’t vetted, but it is almost as weird to think of ‘Bo without it as to picture him in the Omega Men PB&J unitard. Given how closely associated he is with Wolverine, it’s worth noting that neither character hit immediately. Logan was introduced in ’74, and John Byrne has said Claremont considered dropping him from the X-Men in ’78 until Byrne told him something like “you’re not getting rid of the only Canadian in the book!” Which reminds me, if anyone puts the lie to the polite Canadian stereotype, but anyway– it seems like the turning point for the character wasn’t until 1980’s “Wolverine: Alone!” and the “Now it’s my turn” moment. Six years is a long time to wait for a measure of stardom, and Lobo similarly debuted in 1983 but took seven years of evolution to become a sleeper hit.

    A lot of people dismiss Lobo, but he really is a special character. Again, as with Wolverine, the essential nature of the character is immediately established, as well as the differences between the two. They’re both violent berserkers, but Wolverine is grounded in a kid-friendly super-hero universe with largely bloodless action. Wolverine implies darker themes than the average of his day, but at his heart, he’s the Hulk for runts and the less innocently socially maladjusted. Lobo from jump was in a direct market, mature readers book with what was considered an offensive amount of gore in its day. He commits brutal murder against innocent, inoffensive parties. Lobo and Bedlam are established as effective and remorseless assassins, but they’re also goofy looking and they’re in a book where the heroes graphically eviscerate one another. It’s hard to be hardcore when you’re killing a parody of Fred Hembeck but Tigorr is decapitating Demonia and exposing Primus’ entrails. Arguably, Lobo becomes Tigorr, as he’s depicted as hairier and more feral over time. In the last Lobo story from Omega Men, Giffen returned to depict Lobo in leather executing Bedlam in what feels like a horror story. That edge of Lobo essentially being a “funny” torture porn/gore hound slasher antihero is already in place in 1986. But he’s still throwing a punk jacket on top of a clown suit, and he doesn’t get the full biker makeover until ’88. His spate of JLI appearances are a clear lead-in to Elle-Eee-Gee-Eye-Oh-In, and presumably his being the Wolverine of that book gave him traction going into the solo mini-series. Just as likely though, Alan Grant or DC overall recognized the untapped U.S. potential of rising U.K, fan favorite artist Simon Bisley, and were just looking for a convenient vehicle to exploit his burgeoning popularity.

    I know that I’ve talked a lot about Lobo, but let’s be honest, without him L.E.G.I.O.N. wouldn’t have outlived The Omega Men. The core Legion book wouldn’t have relaunched in such a dramatic, polarizing, deconstructionist fashion if it was selling Titans numbers– not that Titans was selling Titans numbers anymore, either. Among my favorite DC Comics characters is Vril Dox, despite my being morally and philosophically opposed to his hyper-manipulative capitalist authoritarianism. The entire premise of L.E.G.I.O.N. is “an amoral Brainiac 5 managing a bunch of low-rent proto-Legionnaires in the 20th Century serving as fascistic interstellar rent-a-cops.” The Alan Grant scripts and young Barry Kitson art were serviceable, and coupled with the Mike DeCarlo inks, the whole project felt like a panacea (or bait & switch) for Levitz Legion fans. For me, the main draw was “how is Dox going to blindside his begrudging associates this month, and what sort of messed-up weirdness is going to be served?” Stealth’s raping and murdering of Dox leading to an all-Giffen silent issue of body horror xeno-childbirth being a perfect example of anti-commercial L.E.G.I.O.N.-brand WTF. You maybe need a “biting Wolverine parody that goes over the heads of the stupids but we’ll take their money anyway” to smuggle that sort of oddity into the marketplace, but let’s be honest, the trade-off wasn’t worth it.

    I’m on record as being an Alan Grant hater. I’m an unwilling reader of his work, but a Keith Giffen plot can help me over the hump. Therefore, I can’t speak to a perfect record of reading Giffen L.E.G.I.O.N. issues, and I sure as hell cherry-pick on solo Grant. I have a very vague awareness and sporadic reading of the book after the first dozen issues. Contemporaneous to release, my brother was into Lobo and bought #31, a War of the Gods tie-in with a shitty Captain Marvel fight. I bought as back issues #5 & 34 for the Lobo covers, but passed on continuing. I also got L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 Annual as a back issue for the Eclipso tie-in and Mike McKone art, as well as L.E.G.I.O.N. ’93 Annual new for most of the same reasons and my commitment to Bloodlines. Otherwise, my reading of L.E.G.I.O.N. was years removed, and not particularly enthusiastic outside my enjoyment of Vril Dox and Lobo’s shenanigans (very much in that order.)

    As a determined DC fan looking backwards in the late ’90s, I read most of L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89, almost none of L.E.G.I.O.N. ’90, a selection of L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91, a paltry sum of L.E.G.I.O.N.’91, slightly more of L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92, much of L.E.G.I.O.N.’93 (thank Waid), and most/all of L.E.G.I.O.N. ’94. Tom Peyer is a very underrated, and my retrospective reading experience was massively improved by his contributions in that final year, in spite of mostly terrible art and nothing characters.

    I think Stealth is fine, with a huge asterisk. Phase was okay but mostly just there, and I read her as middle-aged because of the short hair. Strata was there. Garryn Bek sucked. Telepath was useful at times. Lady Quark’s brusqueness amused me, and she’s one of DC’s most powerful heroines. I stan Captain Comet, though with little amplification from this book. From there it’s mostly people with too many apostrophes in their name and Garv, A.K.A. pink male Strata.

    Ultimately, this gets me back to Lobo. So, so, soooooo many characters in the early ’90s were introduced as Wolverine/Lobo’91’92’93’94. They weren’t far off at introduction. Wolverine ’74 and Lobo ’83, ad nauseum. Substantially, Die-Cut is no different conceptionally, but it comes down to pioneering, evolution. and associated talent. Wolverine is an archetypal grizzled, stabby anti-hero, and Lobo is his most effective, amusing, and accepted parody. Lobo at his best is that rare comic book laugh-out-loud satire with some at-the-time brilliant artistry who also worked for some played straight as mack spank icon. Without talent and cultural context, no amount of sharp edges and kewl affectations could compete.

    By the way, while checking to see what I said about L.E.G.I.O.N. on the First Strike! comments in 2018, I referenced not being willing to see WW1984 with my buddy Mr. Fixit. I fuckin’ weep over the unlikelihood of my seeing that movie in a theater in 2020 with one of my best friends. I’d be driven to drink if I wasn’t already blind drunk typing this at 4:50 a.m.

    1. I read LEGION for the same reason you did – Vrill Dox screwing his team – and then because it was a fairly insular book where anything could happen to pretty much anyone (Lobo actually being an exception). I did not like the inclusion of characters from elsewhere like Captain Comet and Lady Quark, which hurt the book’s insularity and never felt like they belonged there. I kept reading to the end of REBELS, and when they brought back REBELS in the 2000s, I read that too! Vril Dox is actually on my Top 10 if not Top 5 list of DC heroes.

  6. “a macho mack spank icon.” And I think the quality of aberrant horror and Andrew Dice Clay retrograde offensiveness sets Lobo apart from the pack. He is the ultimate canonical troll of the DC Comics ideal.

  7. DC Sampler #1 was probably my introduction to Batman and the Outsiders. It was a Joker micro-story drawn by Jim Aparo with a mysterious dark night noir aesthetic that only featured the super-team visibly in the background of a Batman two-page spread. Under those specific terms, I found the team very intriguing. I don’t believe the book ever turned up on the newsstand, unlike the title that it replaced. I didn’t buy The Brave and the Bold religiously, but it was the only Batman title I supported to any degree, and one of the few DC ones, too. I do vividly recall seeing The Outsiders Annual #1 at one of the mall bookstores in 1986, because I was bowled over by the Kevin Nowlan art, especially the skull & serpent painted cover. This property looked insanely cool, but the $2.50 price point was prohibitively expensive. It wasn’t until 1988 and my buddy’s grocery sack o’ comics that I finally got to really dig into an issue. I don’t remember which one it was. Yeah.

    The following year, I tried at least one or two issues fished out of a quarter bin. Again, you’re asking me which? My pool of suspects include The Outsiders Special with Infinity Inc., the deluxe series finale #28 with the Millennium tie-in, BATO #5 with the New Teen Titans, and #12 with a Katana spotlight. Wasn’t there one where Batman fought Kobra? I always had a thing for Kobra. Anyway, one of those, maybe, I guess.

    As discussed for, like, 4+ hours across at least a couple of podcasts featuring me, DC Sampler #1 was very formative. This was my gateway to an inaccessible DC Universe filled with promising concepts rendered in gloriously enticing spreads. I got to peek through a mailbox into another dimension in 1983 and had to wait most of the decade to even start to get my fingers through the slot to grab a hold of any of these titles. That sweet, hopeful boy that I was, soon to be crushed by many hard truths, like the DC Sampler being a tablet of lies! All-Star Squadron was A.S.S. Arion was dull as dishwater. The Omega Men was Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 4th World Saga. The Flash was a trial. Arak, Snore of Thunder. DC’s biggest problem wasn’t getting their books into readers’ hands, it was their getting these books into their hands. The DC Comics I could get from this period I didn’t want, but I still thought I wanted these, until I got them.

    I agree with Bass that The Outsiders were sort of an ’80s Defenders, but I’d argue perhaps just as much a Reagan-era Champions. Both books were a hodge-podge of preexisting leftover solo acts thrown together without a particularly good rhyme or reason. Batman grabbed literally the two guys who had ever outright refused JLA membership, because two street level non-powered vigilantes go so well with a living cartoon who can manufacture any element within the human body. Yeah, why not have Ghost Rider on any heroic team, but especially one with Black Widow and Hercules? But where the Champions were just a generic suckfest, Defenders reveled in its “non-team” status and the inherent weirdness of its core and extended membership. I personally have little interest in ’70s JLA and Avengers stories, because those were Camelot concepts deeply out of sync with the times. I find the absurdist, SCTV spirit of Defenders comics much preferable. In the ’70s, you could embrace the dada and have a Keebler Elf with a revolver shooting people in the head as a multi-issue subplot and it’d go great with some ‘shrooms. Outsiders had a similar philosophy, but in the Just Say No ’80s, and boy did it show. Nobody ever confused Mike Barr with Steve Englehart or Jim Starlin, so instead of Timothy Leary he gives us J.R. “Bob” Dobbs. The elevator pitch of a Boomercentric pop culture remix faux cult sounds like fun with its Duke of Oil and Nuclear Family, but then you realize that there’s nothing below the “wacky” surface but a lazy and largely ignorant take on leftish anti-corporate libertarianism. Outsiders is with-it suburban dad pulling out his boombox to homebrew rap with you kids about Claremontian team dynamics. “Top that!”

    I often wax nostalgic about Kahn-Giordano-Levitz DC, forgetting it took them a full decade to get the Post-Crisis goodness going, followed by fits & starts, with the bottom already starting to fall out before being deferred for a few years by Morrison JLA. Only under the low standards of early ’80s DC could a book as uncool and poorly constructed as the Outsiders could have been allowed so many lives and wasted so much artistic talent to so many dumb scripts and lousy characters. Geo-Force is like if one of the brothers in Twins was Namor, but he’s the Danny DevIto character– just the unwanted byproduct– the worst elements of Namor with none of the good stuff. I broke Ryan Daly temporarily the last time I discussed the cultural tumor that is (comic book) Black Lightning at length. Katana is Kato + Samurai Chef ÷ Connie Chung. Halo… is? Looker definitely is not. When Metamorpho is your least objectionable and most charismatic member, you shouldn’t make it past mini-series, even with Alan Davis art.

    The worst thing… I’m not going to say the worst thing. There are so many worst things when it comes to the Outsiders that trying to work out a pecking order is inherently masochistic. Among the many bad and perhaps the most tragic things is that Mike W. Barr defines the Outsiders for over a decade and he’s clearly the root cause of their failure. Batman suddenly becoming Green Arrow and forming Antifa Incorporated is still a workable premise. It’s very Deadpool to steal a name from a movie released the very same year, but “The Outsiders” is a solid group identity. You’d need to swap out some members or draft some better costumes, but the membership is salvageable. I liked when they tried to use the name as a grown-up alternative class for the older Titans. Before my DC back issue binge, I tried Outsiders #1 α new because of the Travis Charest cover, and I was reasonably happy with the Paul Pelletier interiors. It’s just that the script left something to be desired, none of the new character were any better than the old ones, and there was continuity I was unfamiliar with in this debut that I didn’t care enough to get familiar with.

  8. I didn’t buy either at the time this came out- I think I was an anti-fan of both titles. I like the coverage of the stuff I know less about as it turns out. This is much more fun when I’m not reliving fan disappointment.

  9. I was a big LEGION fan, REBELS not so much, so it’s great to hear you cover the last hurrah of the original iteration. That business was Phase was such a headscratcher, talk about contrived… and as you say, that wasn’t even the end of it.

    I’ve not read any issues of this version of Outsiders, it just looked so very terrible. Your synopsis doesn’t make me want to dip in now – the nearest I have to a character I like in there is Gardner Grayle, and that’s mainly due to his links to the original Atomic Knights (mind, I still hate the ‘Everything you thought you knew was wrong!’ deal DC did with that – I want giant dalmations, dammit). Mind, I was fascinated by the car crash that was Slapper, sorry, Hooker, I mean Looker… ill-conceived, she just got worse and worse as a person and super-person.

  10. I jumped on board L.E.G.I.O.N. from the beginning post-Invasion and mostly enjoyed it all the way to the end. I wasn’t quite sure about the direction Tom Peyer took it, but it’s unpredictability was a plus. And Bass, if you like the Strata-Garv relationship (I sure do), then issue #66 is a must. Not to spoil too much, but picture them cosplaying as Batman and Catwoman. It’s fantastic!

    Nah, I’m not going to do a big defense of Outsiders here for a few reasons. 1) I ain’t good at writing. 2) My podcast is my forum for that. 3) I haven’t read a lot of this volume of Outsiders, and can’t say I’m sold on it. It was mostly laziness and moving a lot at the same time that kept my comic purchases inconsistent, and I seemed to miss issues here and there, like this one. It’s a first read for me.

    But just to be contrary, I will say my one lesson from Lone Wolf & Cub, it’s that a samurai CAN do anything! And I miss Katana’s puffy sleeves.

    Another great show, guys!

    1. To give Katana her due, she’s the best of the new characters and the only one that became a real ongoing concern, showing up in animation, live action, and even getting her own short-lived series, often divorced from the Outsiders core concept. I don’t think I can say that of anyone else created for the series (including the villains).

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