In addition to reading horror novels like Stage Fright (and many more to come) and falling down the It’s All Connected 2020 rabbit hole, I’m also doing my best to read through some of the spookier comics I have access to. I feel very lucky to have my entire comic collection all in one place, but also some nice shelves my dad and I built in thee garage so I can actually get to them! With that in mind and in the spirit of not going out because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, I’ve gone through my existing comics, my trade shelf and even my To Read boxes and pulled out a huge pile of comics I want to read! Let’s see how that goes!
One of the first books I thought of was actually the Brian Augustyn-Humberto Ramos Cliffhanger launch book Crimson, but I actually reviewed that series here on UM…11 years ago?! However, that reminded me of their other book from that particular imprint: Out There! So, to the shelves I went and luckily, I had the entire series (though for some reason I inaccurately thought it never finished).
Before getting into the actual comic, I want to talk about Cliffhanger a bit. I’ve said before that I got into comics because of the Death of Superman. While listening to Rob Liefeld’s Robservations podcast, he made an interesting comment about how DC made all these crazy moves because of Image’s incredible popularity. So, while I missed out on the initial Image boom, I was still influenced by them if you follow that logic.
It wasn’t until Cliffhanger launched that I had an upstart company with hot creators leading the way that I really got behind. It was super fun and while I never got into Battle Chasers, I did follow Crimson all the way through and tried Danger Girl, but my comic budget could not sustain all these new books! Eventually they joined up with Wildstorm which itself went under the DC umbrella (though I’m not sure of the exact timeline). These were the first non-DC and Marvel books I bought on a regular basis!
Having enjoyed Crimson, I jumped right on board when Out There launched from the same creative team in 2001. That also happened to be my last year of high school and my first of college. I had my comics pulled from my hometown shop — JC’s Comic Stop in Toledo, Ohio — and would dive in when I came home to visit, so a lot of titles from this era are a blur in my mind, but I remembered the basics of Out There: it’s about a group of high school kids who have to deal with the fact that their parents have made a literal deal with a devil and his monstrous little creatures. It’s kind of like Stranger Things meets Runaways by the team that brought you Impulse (minus Mark Waid).
More specifically, El Dorodo City, California high school students Jess (the outcast), Mark (the young genius), Zach (the quarterback) and Casey (one of the popular girls) start to understand how messed up their town is when they witness their principal killing a guy outside a school dance. Things get freakier when they see a purple demon pop out of the principal’s chest! But that’s nothing compared to the realization that the higher ups in town — including Zack’s folks — had made a deal with a being called Draedalus where they gained prosperity while they sought an artifact that would allow him access to the multiverse. What no one planned on, though was the fact that these four kids would have incredible powers that allowed them to stop Draedalus’ takeover!
BUT, that also shunted the entire town to…somewhere else, leaving the kids, Reverend Becky and mute former soldier Abel to have a few weird adventures before returning to their specific task of saving El Dorodo City and their parents. I won’t get into the hows and whys of it all, but it’s a satisfying ending, though it’s hard to tell if Augustyn and Ramos had more planned for this series that didn’t happen, especially when thinking about all of the universe building done in the middle arc that doesn’t necessarily push the story forward, but still feels important.
Even though I wish we could have gotten a bit more out of our lead characters (they stick pretty solidly to their stereotypes throughout the series) I still had a great time with Out There. Like I said above, it’s a big huge world that just keeps opening up with all sorts of potential. In addition to Draedalus — who we learn has tried his shenanigans in other places — we also have his minions, various monsters, other demons, ghosts and other dimensions at play. All of that is very cool in theory and it practice, but it’s far better when seen by way of Ramos’ fantastic style which is perfectly suited for this kind of book. He can crush those challenges as well as the emotional moments laid down by Augustyn. Plus, it fits nicely in one of my favorite subgenres: kids dealing with craziness (see: everything from Goonies and Monster Squad to Paper Girls and beyond).
What a great way to start my Halloween comic reading! Better yet, you can get in on the action too if you want. Every issue is available on my preferred online store My Comic Shop and I’m sure you could score a set on eBay. If you’re more of a trade fan, you can actually get the series in three volumes from BOOM! Studios who reprinting the whole shebang a few years back in both physical and digital versions. Heck they’re even part of ComiXology Unlimited if you have that. I just read that there’s a brand new epilogue by Augustyn and Ramos in the third volume that I want to check out!