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Hello reader! Our topic today is Joe Simon’s Outsiders, a subject chosen by “Demon Contest” winner “Medusa13.” The Outsiders is one of the strangest comic books ever produced, and that’s saying something! .Where did Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America and dozens of other superheroes, get the inspiration for this oddball super-team?

It all begins in 1923, with Ted Robbins’ article in Munsey Magazine titled "Spurs." The article, about sideshow freaks, caught the attention of director Tod Browning. Browning had just directed the smash hit movie “Dracula,” with Bela Lugosi, and MGM wanted him to direct a horror film to .compete with Universal’s Frankenstein and company. In 1932, Browning decided to turn “Spurs” into a movie, which was titled “Freaks” (see poster pictured right).

In the magazine story, a dwarf marries a gold-digging European trapeze artist and terrorizes her into a state of slavery -- but in Browning's film, the roles are reversed: A beautiful trapeze artist marries a midget so she can poison him and steal his fortune.

What lead Browning to risk directing such a bizarre story as his follow-up to the popular Dracula? At age 16, Browning himself had run away and joined the circus. It was here he met the pinheads, dwarves, Siamese twins, bearded ladies and men without arms or legs that .would come to populate “Freaks.” At a young age, Browning came to appreciate these very different people as unique and special individuals, and developed an affinity for them.

Browning searched worldwide to collect his oddball cast of freakish characters. Trivia note: The "pinheads" in the film were the inspiration for Bill Griffith's satirical "Zippy the Pinhead" character (pictured left).

Shown below is a rare publicity still for "Freaks" (1932), showing director Tod Browning (center) on the set surrounded by many of the actual circus freaks he cast in his movie. Two "pinheads" are seen to the left of Browning.
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Although "Freaks" was a commercial disaster, all but ending Browni ng’s career, over the years it gained new popularity as a cult classic. And, given that the text page in "First Issue Special" #10 is a behind-the-scenes look at “Freaks,” it is all but certain that the film was the key inspiration for Joe Simon’s Outsiders
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The cover of the Outsider’s first appearance, in DC’s "1st Issue Special" #10, January 1976 (pictured left), was drawn by Ernie Chan. It seems that Chan drew the cover without ever having seen the comic’s insides, and without even having access to a description of the characters. The five silhouettes on the cover don’t look anything like the characters featured in the story inside, and the blonde doctor pictured looks nothing like the book's red-haired lead character.

So just what DO the actual characters look like? Well, here they are -- Billy, Lizard Johnny, Amazing Ronnie, Hairy Larry, Dr. Scary and Mighty Mary -- as introduced on the book’s splash page, and singing their very own "Outsiders" theme song!
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This comic -- the only one the group would ever have -- was written by Joe Simon, with pencils by Jerry Grandenetti and inks by Creig Flessel. The Outsider’s mission is to rescue a fellow freak named Billy, who is a malformed dwarf with a gigantic, rock-hard cranium! Billy has been raised in secrecy by his adopted father, but a crazed mob breaks into their house, kills Billy's adopted father, and then attacks poor Billy! One man picks up a piece of wood...
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Don't worry -- the Outsiders manage to save poor little "Billy with the big head thicker than a steel door" before he is harmed, and make him one a member of their "family." Just as Professor X runs the X-Men and Niles Caulder leads the Doom Patrol, the Outsiders have a father-figure/ leader too! He is world-renowned surgeon Dr. Goode. it seems that like Jigsaw, another Joe Simon creation, the good Dr. Goode was the victim of an unfortunate space accident...
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Dr. Goode is rescued by aliens, who also "restore" his body. This origin of this character is reminiscent of an old Twilight Zone episode that first aired on November 11, 1960. Titled “Eye of the Beholder,” it’s the one where a bandaged woman worries what her appearance will be like once her bandages are removed. It’s obvious the Dr. Goode character's back story was inspired by this Twilight Zone episode -- several scenes from it are duplicated almost exactly in Jerry Grandetti’s panel layouts! For example...
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The woman wakes up to discover, to her great relief, that she’s beautiful -- for a normal human woman, that is. But then she realizes that she lives in a world where everyone else is hideous freak, and therefore SHE is the one who is considered a "freak"! Once again, the Outsiders story adds a twist to this plot, as Dr. Goode wakes up to discover he is not normal, but hideously similar to the deformed doctor in “Eye of the Beholder.”
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But the good doctor overcomes his horror. By day, he wears a plastic mask and continues his career as Dr. Goode -- but by night, he removes the mask and operates under his superhero name, Dr. Scary! As Dr. Scary, he gathers his Outsiders together. Another team member is Lizard Johnny, who Dr. Goode rescued from a "merciful" death, as shown below:
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You go Doc! Save all God's creatures, no matter WHAT they look like! And then there's a fabulous, ferocious four-armed fighter known as...
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Let's not forget Mighty Mary, the sexy bombshell with the long blonde hair, sweet lips, pretty face... and the body of a gigantic orange fish.
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Finally, there's Hairy Larry, the "wheeler-dealer." You think YOU have problems? Hairy Larry was apparently born connected to a fully-functioning golf cart -- complete with headlights and gear shift! He may have been inspired by some of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's "monsters who drive cool hot rods" creations.
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And there they are reader... Dr. Scary, Billy Bighead, Lizard Johnny, Amazing Ronnie, Mighty Mary and Hairy Larry -- the Outsiders! Time for a group shot.
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I'm getting all misty-eyed! The story "ends" with a repeat of the very first panel! The first time we read it, the Outsiders were being summoned to rescue Billy. When we read it now, at the close of the story, we may assume that Billy is off-panel, and that the team is off to do what they do: Rescue yet another "freak" from an uncaring society, treat him with respect, and give him a family to call his own. Isn't that what being a hero is all about? And in this spirit, I ask you to return to the top of this page for the continuation of this particular issue of Dial B for Blog! (Hope you liked it, Medusa 13!)
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Robby reviews "Infinite Crisis" #2!

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