Mike W Barr is the co-creator of the DC comic book series The Outsiders with Jim Aparo, for which they created a number of new characters, now staples of the DC Universe. I asked Mike W Barr how he became aware of Young Justice: Outsiders is the new, much delayed third series of Young Justice, that will introduce the Outsiders characters and integrate them into the team. What his thoughts were regarding what he had seen and given that showrunner Greg Weisman talks about adapting elements of the comic by Barr and Jim Aparo into the series. And what involvement he had had with the series.
Mike W Barr replied at length. We include his response in full.
In April of 2017, I began to see promos for the cartoon series Young Justice: Outsiders. I expressed to DC Comics my concerns that this would dilute the trademark on the name Outsiders, as referring to the team the late and much-missed artist Jim Aparo and I created in 1983, as happened when DC published a crossover event called “The Outsiders War” months earlier. I received replies from Dan DiDio, Bob Harras and Mike Carlin, saying the title referred to the fact that the new series would use concepts and characters from Batman and the Outsiders, so I sat back and waited to be apprised of the project’s progress.
Good thing I wasn’t holding my breath. When I next heard of the series in May of 2018 it was from no one at DC — I have never heard a further word from DC about the project — but when it was announced, as a fully-blown project to debut on DC’s “streaming” service. Scripts, concepts, characters and voices had all been selected with no counsel asked from Your Obedient Servant. (The husband is always the last to know.) I wasn’t even sent one of the YJ:O tote bags given to attendees of SDCC 2018. (I finally bought one off eBay.)
So you know literally as much as I do about Young Justice: Outsiders, maybe more. Having seen the two clips released and a few pieces of promo art I’m extremely ambivalent about the treatment received by the characters Jim Aparo and I created. (Batman, Black Lightning and Metamorpho were created by other teams, though I retain immense affection for them.)
I was familiar with Young Justice. Some episodes had a version of Adam Strange, one of my favorite characters, and I liked the animation style. But whether the Barr/Aparo characters can fit into this format and retain any integrity remains to be seen.
The most familiar of the Barr/Aparo Outsiders characters is Katana. I have no idea if she is still an adult in this version, or if her sword is her classic Soultaker, which leeches the spirits of its victims. I like the ponytail, which is a new look for her and a good design element, almost a cape. Whether any of her origin and/or personality make it to the screen is currently unknown.
The guy in green in the promo art is Geo-Force. Could that costume be any duller? They seem to have kept his backstory of being the prince of the European nation of Markovia (most often referenced in Arrow), and his name, Brion Markov, though the assumed European pronunciation of his first name as “Bree-on” irritates me. I’m not sure which powers they’ve given him. Though he is half-brother to Tara “Terra” Markov and they each have earth-based powers, his powers were, in his origin, totally different from hers, though they may have been changed since. Hers are the same as her predecessor with virtually the same name, Mera, wife of Aquaman, but Terra controls earth instead of water. (As Benny Goodman said when asked his opinion of the film “The Benny Goodman Story:” “They got my brother’s name right.”)
They also seem to have used the character of Markovian scientist Dr. Helga Jace (pronounced “Jah-say”), though if they have they’ve youthened her and hotted her up considerably. What would have been original in a super-hero cartoon is an old person.
The ‘Net went a little nuts for a short time speculating on the identity of the third character. This is Halo, who, in her transition from comics to cartoon has been transformed from a cute blonde white girl to a cute Middle Eastern girl. I fully support Middle Eastern characters, but I object to the concept of race-bending simply to hammer diversity into the cast. (Imagine the uproar if Channing Tatum were cast as Black Lightning.) Given Halo’s origin, there is a way that she could be Middle Eastern, should the producers choose to use it. (Years back Alan Davis produced a Justice League“Elseworlds,” “The Nail 2,” in which Halo was black.) I would have been glad to advise on this. Many producers of TV, cartoons and comics feel more characters of overlooked ethnicities are needed. I agree, which is one reason why Jim and I created Katana, DC’s first-and-still-only Asian super-heroine. Others who feel the same should do what Jim and I did: create them, rather than change existing characters for the sake of change. But in these days, when an Islamophobic Idiot is sullying the White House, I do like the concept of a Muslim super-heroine and the fact that I am connected to her. Ambivalence abounds. As the King of Siam once said, “’Tis a puzzlement.”
The storyline also seems to take from Batman and the Outsiders #1 and 2, if not other issues. Whether I will receive any payment and credit for the story is anyone’s guess, as is whether or not Barr and Aparo will receive any credit as creators of the Outsiders characters.
So this might be great, or it might suck. Greg Weisman is a swell writer who wrote the best epi of Beware the Batman! (and gave Jim and me a shout-out in TV Guide) and who might be able to pull this off, though I would have appreciated being asked to write an episode.
Perhaps you’ll tell me what the show’s like. I’d like to see it, but I have no intention of paying to see a cartoon that wouldn’t exist if some of my co-creations hadn’t fueled it, and God knows nothing else on the “DC Universe” service is of any interest to me. (That Titans series should be dropped on the Taliban. Making Robin say “F— Batman” is the kind of thing bad writers do to make the characters sound “mature,” as in a lame crime novel written by a trust fund baby. And the Titans characters all look like they’re auditioning for a remake of Cop Rock.)
But let’s keep that glass half-full. The Aparo estate and I will receive licensing money for YJ:O, which is more than Bill Finger ever got from co-creating Batman. That may have to be enough.
Young Justice: Outsiders is set to air in early 2019 on DC’s new digital platform, DC Universe, for a total amount of 26 episodes. Currently, it will not be viewable outside the USA so someone else will have to tell Mike W Barr what it is like.