Who Are The Authority? - Comic Years
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Who Are The Authority? The Group That James Gunn Will Bring To The Movies

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BY February 13, 2023

The Authority was created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch and published by Wildstorm. It featured the adventures of a group of rather peculiar anti-heroes whose powers attracted much attention.

Before The Authority, Ellis created Stormwatch, an earlier series that was a resounding failure. Despite the loss, the series went on, in the words of its creator, because they “liked to read it in the office” and gave the thread to the creation of The Authority.

The Authority Publication history

The Authority’s publication history is varied.

Volume 1 – Directed by Ellis/ Hitch

The Authority Vol 1 Image via DC Comics

To do the job by all means necessary, Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch created this volume in 1999. The Authority: Vol. 1 circulation lasted 12 issues, divided into three narrative arcs: The Circle, Shiftships and Outer Darks

For this, its creators devised a group of anti-heroes with superpowers. The first on the scene was Jenny Sparks, a British national whose power consisted of generating and converting electricity. Then followed Jack Hawksmoor, who could communicate with cities through his psychic abilities, from which he received strength.

Then there was Swift, a Tibetan national with wings and razor-sharp claws. With them was Apollo, a Superman-like bioengineered person. Midnighter, a bioengineer “Batman” accompanied them. Midnigther could prevent his opponent’s movements while in combat.

The Engineer and The Doctor were also part of the group. The first was a scientist who replaced his blood with nine pints of nanotechnology to create solid objects. The second, a Dutch drug addict, was a shaman who could combine the powers of hundreds of shamans.

The Elllis/Hitch story ends on December 31, 1999, with the death of Jennys Sparks, who he believed was the spirit of the 20th century. Thus, in what was the public consciousness, ending that century to give birth to the next, the 21st century.

Volume 1 – Millar/Quitely Edition

Vol 1 Millar Quitely Image via DC Comics

Another edition of The Authority from writer Mark Millar and artist Frank Quitely replaced Ellis and Hitch’s. Later Tom Peyer and Dustin Nguyen join the team, working on four issues, drawing the last three remaining issues of Millar and Quitelys’ run.

The leadership passed from the hands of Jenny Sparks to Jack Hawksmoor at the end of the 20th century. The beginnings were complex. They had to face multiple enemies, such as an army of superhumans and a mad scientist who sought to affect the 21st century, in the hands of Jenny Quantum, a doctor who previously manipulated the Earth. The story tells of Midnighter and Apollo adopting Jenny Quantum after their marriage. They show the Doctor and his overcoming drug addiction.

After the 9/11 attacks, DC Comics censored any panels and covers in the Millar/Quitely issues with military arcs and violence. That resulted in the banning of several scenes, like when Apollo and Midnighter kiss and the redesign of Captain America. It also required substantial redrawing and rewriting of some volumes so as not to show such violent and sexually scandalous scenes. 

Thus, this group was emblematic in showing the unilateral interventionism of the coalition the United States led against Iraq at the time. All in the name of giving justice to the events of September 11.

Volume 2 & The Authority: Revolution

In the aftermath of September 11, The Authority issues restarted, looking for “Mature Readers.” This time, Brian Azzarello and Glenn Fabry created 15 issues written by Robbie Morrison and with Dwayne Turner’s art.

In October 2004, the series restarted again under The Authority: Revolution. The miniseries had 12 issues, which Ed Brubaker wrote, and Richard Friend and Dustin Nguyen drew. This time, the series revolved around the problems the group faced as rulers of the United States.

Volume 3 – Morrison/ Ha

Volume 3 started in 2006 with Grant Morrison writing and Gene Ha doing the art. They planned a bimonthly issue starting in October of that year.

The first volume was published in December 2006, telling a story about a man named Ken. Ken, a family man, comes across a submarine in the ocean’s deep waters. Upon finding it, he notices that almost all the crew are missing. The story culminates when Ken and his group find the Authority’s aircraft carrier.

A second issue comes out five months later, dealing with the Authority’s reaction to a crash landing. When Ken meets the Authority, he disapproves of their working methods. The other issues didn’t do so well.

The Authority: The Lost Year

The Lost Year Image via DC Studios

In 2008, Wildstorm publishers announced a writer change, replacing Grant Morrison with Keith Giffen. This publisher finished the remaining issues of volume 3 under The Authority: The Lost Year.

The series ran for 12 issues, including two by Morrison. These series were possible thanks to several artists’ collaboration with JM DeMatteis as co-writer.

Christos Gage and Darick Robertson led a new story arc for The Authority in July 2007. Due to previous scheduling problems with Morrison, this became a miniseries consisting of only six issues, titled The Authority (vol 3.). This time, the story focused on a completely renewed Stormwatch Prime, investigating a secret bunker that belonged to Henry Bendix with the Authority.

Volume 4 – Abnett/ Lanning/ Coleby Era

The book was relaunched following the Word’s End event in May 2008. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took the editorial role alongside artist Simon Coleby, who wrote the first 17 issues of the series. 

Abnett and Lanning’s contract with Marvel Comics included a clause for completing existing projects, several belonging to The Authority.

Bernardin/ Freeman/ Barrionuevo Era

Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, and artist Al Barrionuevo created a four-issue book that included four subsequent issues of The Authority, from #18 to #21, and the epilogue in issue 17.

Taylor/ Barrionuevo Era

Tom Taylor, who had previously excelled as a writer on Star Wars, including the Star Wars: Invasion series, created another era. Taylor took over writing issue 22 of The Authority alongside artist Mike S. Miller, concluding the series with issue 29.

The Authority’s Members

The Authority: the Anti-Justice League Image via DC Studios

The Authority’s founding members were:

  • Jenny Sparks: The original leader and founder, considered “The Spirit of the 20th Century”.
  • Apollo: Considered “The Sun God”.
  • Midnighter: Known as Lucas Trent or the “Bringer of the Night’s War”.
  • The Doctor: AKA Jeroen Thornedike, or “The Shaman”.
  • Angela Spica: Or the Second Engineer, also called “The Marker”.
  • Jack Hawksmoor: Leader of The Authority from 2000 to 2005, then 2008 to 2010, known as “The God of Cities”.
  • Swift: Known as “The Winged Huntress”, aka Shen Li-Min.

Jenny Quantum replaced Jenny Spark at the end of the Outer Dark story arc. Considered “The Spirit of the 21st Century”, she served as leader from 2005 to 2008.

New Members

At the end of the Revolution maxiseries, The Authority gains two additional members:

  • Rose Tattoo: Formerly called “The Killer Spirit”, and now “The Spirit of Life”.
  • The Doctor: Named “The Shaman”, aka Habib ben Hassan, and Thornedike’s successor.

When issue 18 of volume four arrived, the group The Authority underwent significant changes. They retained Swift, Jack Hawksmoor and Engineer. The new members were:

  • Death Blow: Known as Michael Cray, a former member of Team 7.
  • Synergy: Known as Christine Trelane, Synergy could temporarily activate or remove Seedlings’ powers.
  • Flint: Victoria Ngengi, a former member of Stormwatch.
  • Freefall: Known as Roxanne Spaulding, a former member of Gen 13.
  • The High: Known as John Cumberland, was one of America’s first heroes in the 1930s and 40s. He was considered an urban legend former member of The Changers.
  • Grifter: Known as Cole Cash, he was a former member of the Wildcats and Team 7.
  • Rainmaker: Sarah Rainmaker was a former member of Gen 13.

The Authority operates in the carrier, home to its base of operations. The carrier is a vast, interdimensional, intelligent “ship of change” everywhere on Earth. It can move on any imaginable plane of existence.

The Authority was nominated for “Outstanding Comic Book” at the 14th and 15th GLAAD Media Awards.

Collected Editions

The Authority Image via DC Comics

The Authority as a complete run in its volume 1 had four trade paperbacks of 192 pages each, as:

  • Relentless: collected from 1 to 8.
  • Under New Administration: collected from 9 to 16.
  • Earth Inferno and Other Stories: collected from 17 to 20.
  • Transfer of Power: collected from 22 to 29.

The Authority #21 was collected in The Monarchy: Bullets Over Babylon Trade, the starting point for The Monarchy series.

The first series was collected in Absolute Editions, in an oversized hardcover version, with their respective extras, such as:

  • The Absolute Authority, vol 1, 2002, counted 320 pages from numbers 1 to 12.
  • The Absolute Authority, vol. 2, 304 pages from issues 13 to 20, 22 and 27 to 29.
  • The Absolute Authority, vol 1, in its new 2017 edition, consisted of 384 pages compiling several issues.
  • The Absolute Authority, vol 2, in its new 2018 edition, consisted of 504 pages collecting issues 13 to 29.

Omnibus Volume

In 2019 an Omnibus volume with 984 pages collected the first series. That was the complete run of The Authority in its volume 2, found:

  • Harsh Realities, with 160 pages in 2004.
  • Fractured Worlds, with 208 pages in 2005.
  • Coup d’Etat, with 112 pages in 2004.

The Revolution series had two books. The first was a 2005 edition, compiling issues 1 to 6, with 144 pages. The second was the 2006 edition, which holds issues 7 to 12 and has 144 pages. There was a third book, The Authority: Revolution, from 2019, with 328 pages and issues 1 to 12.

The Authority volume 3 was collected in:

  • The Lost Year, volume 1, with 168 pages.
  • The Lost year, volume 2, with 128 pages.

The Authority, volume 4, was collected in two books, World’s End from 2009 with 136 pages, collecting issues 1 to 7. And Rule Britannia, from 2010, has 192 pages, containing volumes 8 to 17.

The Authority in Other Media

Following an announcement by DC Studios, we know they expect to develop a film centred on The Authority in 2023. DC Studios’ new management, James Gunn and Peter Safran, shared the news as part of their 10-year plan.

With the fertile ground The Authority left, Gunn and Safran’s initial plans may expand on a broader perspective. This group could be considered a new version of the Justice League, comprised of mercenaries who don’t answer to the nation.

Featured Image via DC Comics



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