Who's the Outsider?

Who's This? The big guy with the impeccable dress sense on page 19 of Who's Who vol. XVII.
The facts: As we know, the original Who's Who had a thing against even the most iconic of supporting cast members. This should have been Alfred Pennyworth's page, but instead, it's all about his short-lived and rarely-seen supervillainous identity. It's not even a way to backdoor Alfred into the book, because the text doesn't really address Alfred's story except to say that's who he was before (and after) he turned into the Outsider. From the text, you'd think he turned into the Outsider A LOT, but he really didn't. Back in Detective Comics #328, Alfred was apparently killed by falling rock.
But he wasn't really dead, and between that June 1964 issue and October 1966's #356, a shadowy villain worked behind the scenes to threaten the Dynamic Duo. This was an amnesiac Alfred who, as finally revealed in #356, had been revived by a scientist who turned him into... well, THAT. By the end of his first full frontal appearance, he'd been turned back into Alfred, who never knew he'd become anyone else. He turned back into the Outsider exactly three times since then (so far as I know) - in 'Tec #364 (1967), in Batman Family #13 (1977) where he interacted with Man-Bat, and DC Comics Presents #83 (1985), guest-starring Superman and the Outsiders (get it? GET IT???). I guess that's "several times".
How you could have heard of him: Everyone's heard of Alfred, obviously. As for "The Outsider", he was resurrected as a concept during Flashpoint (real name: Michael Desai), and has shown up in the New52 as the leader of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. There he IS Alfred, albeit the Alfred of Earth-3, Owlman's butler. He's had the decency to wear a suit in all modern appearances.
Example story: Batman Family #13 by Bob Rozakis, Don Newton, Marshall Rogers and Bob Wiacek
I wanted to know if this character was at all viable, so obviously, I had to take one of his return trips. Never seen the 'Tec follow-up, and while the drive to use the Outsider/Outsiders story was strong, that's still in the "future" of my Outsiders Critical Analysis articles so it'll get its turn (thought you could escape me, Mr. Barr? NEVER!). That leaves "The Man Who Melted Manhattan", which pits the Outsider against Robin, Batgirl and Man-Bat, characters that usually had their own solo features in the book. It begins with Dick and Babs losing control of their batcycles. Something, or someone, is driving them up the wall!
Didja notice? Alfred in the window? Well, he shows up in the background a couple times during the vehicular mayhem, which leads Robin to think the Outsider's back. Aldred got a bump on the head a couple of issues earlier and has been out of touch since. Fits. Elsewhere, Kirk Langstrom is dealing with his own problems after having been turned into a were-jaguar (+bat) in his previous appearance. He winds down by stopping the Sunset Gang, minions of, you guessed it, the Outsider. How does a bumpy albino with limitless power deal with a were-were-creature? Spectre-style!
Hit by the Moon(ish), the were-jaguar splits off from Kirk Langstrom and starts to fight him! Well, okay. What are the Outsider's powers anyway?
Answer: He's basically Bob Rozakis. As the writer, he can impose any reality he cares to. But something tells me Alfred is still in there, somewhere, forcing the Outsider to make mistakes. How else do you explain this?
Nah, I don't need to see a body. Man-Bat's probably dead and "probably" is good enough for me. And he does it again after visiting Dick and Barbara at Titans HQ, coming out of a video screen and making their utility belts start to choke them, he nevertheless sics the were-jaguar on them and... walks away.
But then, if he wasn't so stupid, he would be unstoppable. His next move is to turn the New York City skyline into candles, after all.
To his surprise, the three heroes show up alive to stop him. Simply put, Man-Bat killed his feline self and used the skin to pose as the monster. Outsider's so taken aback - or perhaps it takes too much power to keep the city ablaze - that he basically fights them hand to hand. Man-Bat pulls a "moon-beam" flashlight on him, something the Sunset Gang tried to use on him, figuring that it would split the secondary identity out of the Outsider just like the Moon shot had done to him. I don't think Langstrom's logic is too airtight, but hey, it works.
Without Alfred inside him, the Outsider is basically powerless and the Battling Butler knocks him off the bridge before passing out. He did just "kill" a part of himself. When he comes to, it's the same old story, he can't remember a thing.

So in the final analysis, I don't think Alfred as were-Outsider IS viable. He's so powerful (and for no justifiable reason) that he has to be a little dumb, or has to subconsciously hold back, or he'd easily destroy the Batman Family (his stated goal). The new model is a much cleaner concept, but please, leave our Alfie out it.

Who else? Ok, time to move on to volume XVIII, Phantom Girl to Pursuer. I count two or three interesting prospects in there, but don't be shy about suggesting who you'd like to see in an upcoming installment of Who's This?

5 comments:

Jeff R, said...

Who're the rest of these guys; for the non-Zod/Faora Phantom Zone villains.

Siskoid said...

If I did it well, it could be a daily series for 2-3 weeks!

So I might do it badly instead.

Unknown said...

I did always wonder what the blue goat dude's deal was.

I think Lois Lane is just about the only powerless superhero supporting cast member to get a profile as herself -- Jimmy was filed under E for Elastic Lad, Lana Lang was Insect Queen, and correct me if I'm wrong but I think Commissioner Gordon was Lord Mustachio. Lois probably only got a pass because she had TOO MANY alternate super-identities.

Siskoid said...

If only Commissioner Gordon had a silly secret identity, but he was snubbed entirely.

Him and Prez.

Jeff R. said...

Jimmy Olsen had plenty of super-identities, too. But he got his honorary legion membership as Elastic Lad rather than as the Amazing Turtle Boy, so that was the one that get gets filed under.

 

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