In Grant Morrison and Mikel Janín’s Superman and the Authority, the Man of Steel taps Manchester Black to help him recruit a new Authority when it becomes clear he needs a team that’s willing to bend rules and work on the sly. It’s a decision that makes a lot of sense if you’re familiar with the Authority, but if you’re not…well, you’re likely scratching your head and wondering what’s going on. After all, the Authority hasn’t appeared in any of DC’s movies or TV shows and it’s barely appeared within the DC Universe. There are A LOT of rabid DC fans—including several here at DCComics.com—that know next to nothing about the Authority. So, if that’s you, we’ve put together a little primer on the team to help. Here’s everything you need to know about the Authority!
What is the Authority?
To put it simply, the Authority is a team of cynical, brutally pragmatic superheroes. The group first appeared in 1999’s The Authority, a title by writer Warren Ellis and artist Bryan Hitch. Some of the team members and concepts originated during Ellis’s run on Stormwatch.
Wait...What was Stormwatch?
Stormwatch was a team book created by Jim Lee (maybe you’ve heard of him?) published for the WildStorm imprint. The title followed a superhero black-ops group funded by the United Nations. Consider it a prequel to the Authority.
How Did the Authority Form?
After the United Nations shut down Stormwatch, Jenny Sparks (more on her in a moment) gathered some of the group’s former members along with a few new faces to form a new team. Jenny realized that disbanding Stormwatch left the world vulnerable to attack and she wanted to stay one step ahead. However, unlike Stormwatch, this new team wouldn’t have to worry about the United Nations or any political implications as they dealt with enemy threats. In other words, they answer to their own authority.
Who are the Members?
Like most superhero teams, the Authority has a rotating roster of powerhouses. Here’s a brief rundown on their original lineup.
Jenny Sparks – A woman who can manipulate electricity. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also considered “the Spirit of the 20th Century.” Born in 1900, Jenny stopped aging when she turned 19 and secretly influenced most of the century’s biggest turning points.
Apollo – A solar battery with super strength, invulnerability and flight. Sound familiar? Apollo is one of the first openly gay superheroes to appear in a mainstream comic. He’s married to Midnighter, one of his Authority teammates.
The Engineer – A woman who infused herself with Nanomachines, causing her body to transform into liquid metal. Now she can interface with any machine—from toasters to mainframes. She can also shapeshift and use her liquid metal body to create any object she imagines.
The Doctor – The latest in a long line of Earth sorcerers, the Doctor is one of the greatest magic users on the planet. He’s also a recovering junkie trying to put his life back together. (No relation to the guy on TV who hangs out in the phone booth.)
Swift – A woman with the ability to manifest wings and claws. When she’s airborne, Swift’s speed is greater than most of Earth’s speedsters. Imagine looking up at the sky and seeing a winged woman with claws diving down after you.
Midnighter – A former soldier with enhanced abilities and probably the most widely known member of the Authority thanks to his self-titled series and appearances in books like Nightwing. Midnighter can see how a battle will play out before it begins, making him the Authority’s master tactician. Think of him like a more psychotic version of Batman. Midnighter is married to his Authority teammate Apollo.
Jack Hawksmoor – A man who was given strange abilities after aliens abducted and experimented on him. Jack has superstrength and psychic abilities which allow him to form a symbiotic connection to whatever city he comes in contact with. He’s also the group’s resident jerk, which is saying a lot since we’re talking about the Authority here.
What Makes Them Different From Other Superhero Teams?
Oh boy, that’s a loaded question. You know that sense of morality that teams like the Justice League and the Teen Titans have? The Authority takes a rougher approach with their crimefighting and their worldview isn’t what you would call optimistic.
For example, in 2005’s Captain Atom: Armageddon, Captain Atom finds himself stranded in the WildStorm Universe and is horrified when he sees how sadistic the Authority are. They aren’t concerned about property damage or frightening the citizens they’re protecting. They revel in their violence.
If you need a more graphic example, in The Authority: Revolution #12, Midnighter kills a villain named Henry Bendix by ripping out his spine. Can you imagine the Justice Society doing something like that?
Where Are Their Headquarters?
Traditionally, the Authority operate out of a ship called the Carrier, and it’s probably the coolest base you’ve ever seen in any comic book. It’s a giant sentient spaceship that can move through different dimensions and doesn’t answer to the normal rules of space and time. The Carrier can talk if it wants to, but prefers to remain silent. It did speak up once to insult Kev Hawkins, one of the Authority’s adversaries. When was the last time Titans Tower dissed someone?
Are They Based in the DC Universe?
They weren’t originally, but there have been some epic crossovers, like DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar. That’s one of the fun things about the Multiverse, you never know where your favorite characters will end up. When the Authority was first introduced, they were part of the WildStorm imprint and their stories were not in the same continuity as the mainstream Justice League heroes. After the events of Flashpoint, however, the Authority and their WildStorm contemporaries were migrated into the DC Universe, which led to some fun team-ups. A new Stormwatch was published, where members like Apollo and Midnighter were joined by classic DC heroes like Martian Manhunter.
But don’t forget, we’re dealing with the Multiverse! In 2017, Authority co-creator Warren Ellis relaunched many of the characters in a new continuity with an all new series called The Wild Storm.
So, are they based in the DC Universe? Yes and no, it depends on which version we’re looking at.
What Are They Up to Now?
You picked an exciting time to meet the Authority because things are about to get explosive. This month, Grant Morrison and Mikel Janín will be launching a four-issue limited series where Superman assembles a new version of the Authority. How will Superman’s idealism contrast with the Authority’s cynical nature? I have no idea, but I can’t wait to see how this plays out. The new version of the team will include Manchester Black, which can almost be considered an Easter egg, since Black and his team, the Elite, were originally meant to be an homage to the Authority.
Where Can I Learn More About the Authority?
If this primer has you hungry for more of the Authority, then head on over to DC UNIVERSE INFINITE for some fun binge reading. We’d recommend starting with 1999’s The Authority to get to know the characters and their world. If you want to see how they play in the mainstream DC Universe, check out 2011’s Stormwatch. And of course, make sure you check out Superman and the Authority #1, which went on sale today!