Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Batman and the Outsiders v1 #25 (Sept 1985)
Created By: Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo
Plain Emily Briggs dreamed of being beautiful and glamorous, but she was stuck with an ordinary life as a dowdy bank teller. Oh, a and doting husband. That is, until she was kidnapped by the Abyssinians, a secret underground society who wanted to make her their new queen. They magically imbued her the full spectrum of psionic powers, extraordinary beauty, and a supposedly-sexy new outfit. It’s basically She’s All That, if Freddie Prinze Jr. was part of an underground cult and Rachel Leigh Cook could kill you with her brain. Actually, that would have made She’s All That a much better movie.
With a new, flamboyant personality to go with her new look, Emily quit her job to become a model, started calling herself Lia, and joined the Outsiders as Looker. Tensions between Lia and her husband grew worse as the team relocated from Gotham to LA, and the Briggses separated, leaving Lia sort-of free to have a brief affair with Geo-Force. (Seriously, Outsiders ladies, what is so great about Geo-Force?) After a return trip underground to save the Abyssinians from the Manhunters, Lia lost her powers and beauty and returned to her husband.
Lia’s powers returned when vampires threatened to take over Markovia, Geo-Force’s homeland, but that didn’t stop her from being turned herself. Less bothered by her transformation than by her husband serving her with divorce papers, Lia stayed with the Outsiders until they disbanded. She then briefly hosted a The View-like talk show with Vicki Vale and Linda Park.
Returning to crimefighting, Lia focused on killing vampires, Angel-style. Naturally, the vampires hired a vampire hunter (well, technically a vampire vampire hunter hunter) to take her out, but she bested him and returned to Markovia to help Geo-Force repel an invading army. Also I assume at some point this happened.
Lia has reemerged in the DCnU with a streamlined backstory as a model-turned-vampire who protects other young models from predators both supernatural and otherwise. She’s still fabulous, though, which is the most important thing.
So What’s So Great About Her?
Let’s get this out of the way first: that costume is an X-rated front wedgie waiting to happen. Let’s all accept that only a man would design that kind of treacherous nonsense, chalk it up to the 80s, and never think about it again, okay?
Honestly, in a lot of ways Lia is a character who could only be designed by a man, full-stop. Her issues with her appearance – as if beauty is entirely a case of checking a Yes/No box, as if beauty in and of itself could be a person’s raison d’être, as if a person that tormented by her own perceived hideousness wouldn’t, like, buy a lipstick or something – are all pretty silly and male gaze-y. (It’s not helped by the fact that most comic book artists only draw one female face, so “plain” Emily and “beautiful” Lia are basically just a hairdo and a lot of mopey facial expressions apart.)
And yet once you get past the sort of patronizing goofiness of her basic shtick, Lia’s a pretty engaging character. I tend to find vain characters really entertaining (see also: Gold, Booster; Kane, Bette), and I like that Lia’s vanity is entirely in earnest. It’s not some kind of defense mechanism – she really is a self-involved jerk. She’s sort of a self-involved jerk even before the Abyssinians get involved!
She’s also pretty gleefully ruthless and manipulative, which is fun. There are several instances where the Outsiders are captured by a male villain who Lia cozies up to in order to better mastermind an escape. Forthright Katana and sweet Halo could never do that, but it’s all part of Lia’s MO. I’m not saying women should always use their wiles to defeat men, but Lia clearly knows what her strengths are, and I think her willingness to play that game is fascinating. She’s also pretty okay with becoming a vampire and sucking the blood of the living to survive; she just eats bad guys. I guess that’s cool?
At the same time, though, she truly loves her team. I love her older sister dynamic with Halo and her affection for Metamorpho and Black Lightning and, um, that bear guy in the 90s. (There was a bear on the team. Don’t ask.) And she shows genuine pathos over her husband, who she still loves, but who can’t accept her as the person she chooses to be.
Lia’s not a character without faults – some deliberate and some thanks to clumsy writing. But she’s an interesting character and, as far as I’m concerned, a pretty enjoyable one too.
Batman and the Outsiders v1 #25-32
Adventures of the Outsiders #1-45
The Outsiders v1 #1-28
Millennium #1, 3, 5
Detective Comics v1 #604-607
Batman and the Outsiders v2 #9-10
The Outsiders v4 #29, 34-40
Batman, Incorporated v1 #6
Batman, Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes
Batman, Incorporated v2 #1