The Authority Rogues' Gallery
The Authority Rogues' Gallery(pop culture)
The Authority, created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch for WildStorm Comics in 1999, is a superhero team that grew out of the ashes of Stormwatch, another team book published by Wild- Storm in the 1990s. After Stormwatch was destroyed and many of its members killed, team member Jenny Sparks assembled the remaining heroes and recruited a few new members to form a group named the Authority. Unaffiliated with any particular nation, the Authority's primary mission is to protect Earth from large-scale threats. Ellis reimagined superhero team books that changed expectations of the genre. In the book's first three storylines, the Authority faces a global danger, an interdimensional danger, and a cosmic danger in the form of God himself. The first villain the Authority fights is actually a throwback to the first decade of superhero comics villains. Kaizen Gamorra, the tyrannical ruler of an island nation in Southeast Asia, recalls the stereotypical portrayals of Japanese characters in World War II–era comics. Sporting the familiar Cheshire grin and long pointed fingernails, Gamorra and his superpowered strike force pose an extensive threat to major cities across the globe. Even before September 11, 2001, Gamorra demonstrated the type of threat most likely to strike the global community in the twenty-first century: “Terror is the blood of life and its guiding principle. I have no politics to espouse through my terror, no ideals to force through. Terror is its own reward” (The Authority vol. 1 #1). Gamorra's “reward” is cut short when Authority member Midnighter runs the team's giant ship (called the Carrier) through his headquarters and crushes him. The next villain the Authority faces is from an interdimensional alien/human hybrid race led by a despotic, demonic alien named Regis, but the rogue from Ellis' third and final arc defines the full extent of The Authority's reach. In issues #9–#12 (2000), God—in the form of a gargantuan floating pyramid—returns to Earth, discovers that his home has been overrun by humans, and tries to transform the planet into what it was when he left it millions of years ago. The threat is averted when the Authority drives the Carrier into God's bloodstream and Jenny Sparks sacrifices herself by releasing all her energy into God's brain. When writer Mark Millar took over the book after Warren Ellis' departure, he adopted and actually enhanced The Authority's unique tone and subject matter. The first line of his issue is, “Why do super-people never go after the real bastards?” (vol. 1 #13, 2000). Millar answers this question by turning the Authority's attention to “real-world” political and corporate corruption. After the team begins imposing its heavy-handed moral authority on the nations of Earth, former government operative and science genius Jacob Krigstein unleashes a cold war–era secret unit of superhumans called “the Americans” on the Authority. The Americans are repelled, and Krigstein is eventually recruited to help the Authority in its mission of making a finer world. The Authority is a political book, and Mark Millar and subsequent writer Robbie Morrison use the book to address a slew of real-world issues such as oppression, third-world poverty, nuclear tension, and popular religion. In a storyline called “Godhead” (vol. 2 #6–#9, 2003–2004), a preacher named Rev. John Clay tries to turn the world's populace against the Authority by preaching the potential of humanity (not superhumanity). Clay eventually reveals his own corruption, but only after exposing the hypocrisy of morally questionable heroes deciding what's best for humanity. Ultimately, the significance of The Authority lies not in endless hero/villain fights and resolutions, but in the epic human issues the book raises. In one of the most memorable speeches of the series, new team leader Jack Hawksmoor tells the president of the United States, “We're not some comic book super-team who participate in pointless fights with pointless super-criminals every month to preserve the status quo. This has to be a world worth saving if my colleagues and I are going to be out there risking our lives on the front line” (vol. 1 #13). The Authority is a fully postmodern superhero book that reflects the subjectivity and ambiguity of the contemporary world. Embracing the authoritarian overtones of all superhero comics, The Authority changed the mission of superheroes. While the Authority consider themselves benevolent leaders on a crusade for freedom and justice, others see them as “commie dictators.” Sometimes the team seems more tyrannical and villainous than the rogues they fight. After the U.S. government triggers an interdimensional conflict, the Authority seizes control of the government in order to impose meaningful, lasting change (The Authority: Coup D' Etat, 2004). But as Jack Hawksmoor conceded just before the Authority recently disbanded, “Progress forced at the end of a gun may not be perceived as change for the better at all” (The Authority: Revolution #5, 2005). The team often learns as much from their failures as they do from their victories. The Authority's most recent villain bears this pattern out. Henry Bendix, a “cyberneticist” who actually created Stormwatch and eventually wanted the team to become a fascist corporate structure, supposedly died during the events that led to Stormwatch's collapse. After secretly organizing the dismantlement of the Authority during the Revolution series, Bendix emerges once again to destroy the team's disparate members and seize control of Earth. Writer Ed Brubaker thus uses Bendix, a significant threat with ties to the Authority's origins, to explore the team's fundamental components and reset it for the years and threats to come.