Yesterday we learned that one of the films in James Gunn and Peter Safran’s upcoming DC Studios slate is The Authority. A lesser-known team of superhuman characters who originally appeared under WildStorm before the publisher became an imprint of DC Comics.
First created in 1999 by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, the team has been home to a number of fan-favourite characters such as Midnighter, Grifter and Jenny Sparks. But who might Gunn and Safran be planning to use in their film? And just who are The Authority?
Creating The Authority
WildStorm Production was founded back in 1992 by Jim Lee, now Chief Creative Officer at DC and Brandon Choi. At the time it was one of many independent studios which made up what we now know as Image Comics.
Named after two of Lee’s hit series, WildC.A.T.S. and Stormwatch, the company quickly expanded to include a roster of big-name artists. Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Valentino were all instrumental in the early days of WildStorm’s success.
In 1999, Warren Ellis had been with WildStorm for some time working on the ongoing Stormwatch series. With struggling sales, it was decided to bring that book to an end. Ellis cites the WildStorm team’s love for his work as the reason for the creation of The Authority:
“One of the reasons I turned their Stormwatch into The Authority is that I found out that, despite the fact that no-one was buying Stormwatch, they kept it going because they liked reading it in the [Wildstorm] office and wanted to keep me employed. And I felt so bloody awful about that, and at the same time had been so struck by Bryan Hitch’s Stormwatch issues, that the train of thought that led to The Authority began.”
Ellis teamed with artist Bryan Hitch for the first chapter of The Authority, creating three story arcs across twelve issues. The team’s original line-up consisted of Jenny Sparks, a British woman who could generate and turn into electricity; Jack Hawksmoor, who was psychically bonded to cities in order to communicate with them and receive powers from them; Swift, a Tibetan woman who possessed wings and sharp talons; Apollo, a bio-engineered Superman copy; Midnighter, a bio-engineered Batman pastiche who possessed the ability to foresee his opponents’ moves in combat; The Engineer, a scientist who had replaced her blood with nine pints of nanotechnology and could create solid objects with it; and The Doctor, a Dutch drug addict and shaman who possessed the combined powers of the hundreds of shamans who came before him.
Lineup Changes & Relaunches
After twelve issues, Ellis and Hitch were replaced by the team of writer Mark Millar and artist Frank Quitely. Team new creative team arrived as leader Jenny Sparks was killed off. She would be replaced as the leader of The Authority by Hawksmoor as the team faced off against multiple foes such as a mad scientist and his army of superhumans who wanted to influence the 21st Century through Jenny Sparks’ successor Jenny Quantum, and a duplicate team of superheroes modeled on the Authority that was created and backed by the world leaders. It was also during this run that Jenny Quantum was adopted by Apollo and Midnighter after they were married and the Doctor worked through his heroin addiction after faltering in battle.
Tom Peyer and Dustin Nguyen stepped in during Millar’s tenure to craft a four-issue fill in arc. Whilst the final three issues of Millar’s time would be drawn by artist Arthur Adams.
In the wake of 9/11, The Authority was relaunched by writer Robbie Morrison and artist Dwayne Turner. This run arrived after a planned, mature readers-only, version of the book by Brian Azzarello and Glenn Fabry was shelved.
The series was reset again in October 2004 as The Authority: Revolution, a twelve issue mini-series by writer Ed Brubaker with art by Dustin Nguyen and Richard Friend. Revolution would focus on the troubles the Authority faced as the rulers of America.
The third volume of The Authority would launch in 2006 under the watch of writer Grant Morrison and artist Gene Ha. Envisioned as a bi-monthly series, the first issue would hit comic book stores in December 2006. It would be five months before a second issue would see the light of day.
In September 2007, Ha was quoted by Newsarama as saying that he did not believe his run with Morrison would continue. “…I don’t think The Authority #3 by Grant Morrison and Gene Ha is ever coming out. Grant is busy redesigning the DC Universe and I’ve moved onto new projects. Most importantly, it seems that editor Scott Dunbier has been forced out of Wildstorm. There is no #3 script, there may never be a #3 script.”
Morrison would go on to call his time with The Authority as a “disaster”.
The Lost Year, Volume 4, Future Appearances
In 2008, writer Keith Giffen would pick up where Morrison left off. The pair would be credited a co-writers on the remainder of The Authority volume 3 with J. M. DeMatteis also picking up a credit on several of the twelve published issues. The series would become known as The Authority: The Lost Year and would be replaced in May 2008 with volume 4.
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning would relaunch the series in the wake of WildStorm’s Worlds End event, teaming with artist Simon Coleby. The pair would go on to write seventeen issues of The Authority. From issue #18, writers Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman and artist Al Barrionuevo would pick the story for a further four issues. Tom Taylor would then take over the reigns, seeing this final volume of The Authority through to its conclusion with issue #29.
In 2021 the team was resurrected, once again written by Grant Morrison, for the four-issue limited series Superman and The Authority. The series featured artwork by Mikel Janin and would follow the Man of Steel as he turned to Manchester Black to form a new version of the team.
Together they proceeded to recruit Steel, Apollo and Midnighter to rescue June Moone from a personal hell created when her fears were made real by the power of the Enchantress. Apollo was also sent to recruit Lightray who, unknowingly to him, had been kidnapped by Eclipso. OMAC and Kelex would also form part of this new team.
Now affiliated with Superman, The Authority would follow him to Warworld for an arc in the pages of Superman: Action Comics, first appearing in issue #1035. They would subsequently appear in issues #1037 and #1038. During this time, Lightray was killed, Apollo was mortally wounded and the entire team except Midnighter was captured by Mongul.
Big Screen Debut
During their presentation to the press, DC Studios co-chairs James Gunn and Peter Safran referred to The Authority as a “big movie” and a “passion project” in their plan for the DCU.
Gunn declared that he “really loves” WildStorm and that he and Safran are “bringing a lot of these characters into the DCU,” which could mean we see heroes from multiple versions of the team brought to life on the big screen.
The artwork which has been shared as part of the release includes a very classic lineup of Jenny Sparks, Apollo, his husband Midnighter, Jack Hawksmoor, Swift and The Engineer. Could this be the team that the pair are planning to bring to the big screen? Only time will tell…
You can pick up collected editions of The Authority in comic book stores and on digital platforms where all good comics are sold.