Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Bryan Hitch
Using Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s The Authority as an excuse: we go all in on such fun, flammable topics as representation and racism. Is Kaizen Gamorra racist? How can we tell who the bad guys are? And (most importantly) if Grant Morrison was a band – what band would he be?
Ha. Ok. Here goes nothing…
Midnighter is Batman. And Apollo is Superman. But they are a couple. And that makes for a different superhero dynamic, and one DC Comics were angry about when they realised and it made the front page of the Times…
Twitter / Mindless Ones
Jeez Joel, you like to poke the bear huh?
Years before Warren Ellis would (and name) the comic The Authority, he wrote an introduction to the collection of Hellblazer: Fear And Loathing, saying of Constantine,
“What’s John protecting these things from? Authority, With the capital A. These are stories about what authority does to people, about the poison in its foundations. You can substiute Authority for Government, for the Establishment, even for God, and it all means the same thing, someone exerting control they did not earn and do not deserve, grinding lives into shit because they feel like it.”
For me the real question would be, “Is The Authority doing anything interesting with these concepts or are you having to do all the work for it?”
It’s a good kick/punch/splode comic, certainly. I bought it eagerly at the time and raved about Bryan Hitch’s artwork in terms I would no longer want to own, “cinematic” being neither a value I share without qualification or an accurate description of what I see going on in these pages. There are many things I still admire about this run on the title, not least of all its perfect pacing, but the same clean, distraction-free texture that initially made it so appealing has lost its charm for me over the past decade and a half.
Is it a great satire or a useful subversion of heroic tropes though? At S.M.A.S.H. the argument was advanced that the team battle poisonous concepts that are killing us all (racism/god/uh… horns or blue bloods or something), but this would be more coherent if Kaizen Gamorra was an avatar of racism rather than a racist avatar. With regards to the idea that The Authority are the villains of the piece, if we go in to the comic with a sense of trust in Warren Ellis as a writer, and a knowledge that he holds anti-authoritarian views such as those expressed in the above quotation, we may find ourselves receptive to the idea that something novel is being done with these seemingly straight-forward adventure stories and that our positional trust in the “heroes” is being manipulated.
I don’t think that this trust will reward the reader with a particularly enlightening experience of the book (beyond a Jesus-esque sense of “ahhh”), or that Ellis and Hitch either interrogate these ideas or use them against the reader in an effective way, but I am willing to be convinced otherwise if someone fancies giving it a pop.
In the meantime I will mostly be flicking through the book and enjoying its many scenes of mass destruction and personal devastation and not feeling as bad about it as I think I probably should, peace loving art wank that I am.
Twitter / Mindless Ones
Yep – I think a lot of whatever satiric, or subversive intent was there in The Authority is consistently undercut by repeated attempts to make us think that the Authority were supercool. Millar’s ham-fisted (but enjoyable) take was window dressing for one of his typically violently misanthropic carnage-fests, with everyone competing with each other to be the biggest bastard. Rather typically Millar attempted to inject some ‘real world’ perspective before retreating to a barbed attack on corporate superhero properties…which was actually a veiled pitch to his future employers.
Dan – have you not seen The Revenant yet?
Dan and David: pretty much this. Ellis (and later Millar) put the gloss of “but they’re actually the BAD guys” on it to, I don’t know, preserve liberal street cred? Maintain the image of being so over superheroes? – especially when many of Ellis’ protagonists are super-somethings: eg Spider Jerusalem, sweary defender of truth and the Greatest Journalist Ever – while getting to play with all of the toys in the superhero sandbox.
Ok. So. Let’s poke some bears.
First up: I really hate writing. I don’t think I’m all that good at it (not as good as I would like to be anyway) and I can never say all the things that I want to say – it’s like trying to eat a meal through a straw (or maybe that should be the other way round? Trying to puke through a straw? But that’s not nice is it? Sorry to put that image in your head).
Barbican Comic Forum
So this is just a boring version of The Boys? Or am I missing something?
Goddamnit. I was really amped about the idea of this. Ellis and his fucked up alt-world, implicitly terrible, Justice League. Bryan Hitch realising it. And the NUUUUFIIIIDYTOOOOO Midnighter run is really cool. So I basically spent the last Barbican LGNN session ogling the copy on the desk.
It’s not very good.
It’s just kind of….an excuse for bad-ass hero speech dialogue and splash pages. It’s like they set out to make a thinking mans Liefield wet dream. Which you’d think would be a lesser Deadpool script. It’s just got flashes of brilliant dialogue and then the rest is….well I read it 2 days ago and I don’t remember the rest.
There is one moment though that kills and it’s the best Batman speech Batman never said:
“I know what special abilities you have. I can see the enhancements. I can detect the increased electrical activity in your brain. I know what moves you’re preparing to make. I’ve fought our fight already, in my head, in a million different ways. I can hit you without you even seeing me. I’m what soldiers dream of growing into. I’m what children see when they first imagine what death is like. I’m the Midnighter. Put the child down”
Also, Hitch? Goddamn you burned me on this one dude. You burnt me good.
I mean, where is that master of cross hatching and super-realism and detail that make everything he touches bustle with Kirby’s energy whilst feeling like it’s happening down the road? Sure the splash pages are cool but overall, it’s an exhausting 90s hangover and I am dissapoint. You hear me Hitch, this is an internet stranger that didn’t even buy your book AND I HAVE COMPLAINTS. HEAR MEEEEEEE—-.
Though I’d probably level alot of the blame on the globby inking approach that goes for that classic thick, Ditko/Kirby kind of approach but snuffs out Hitchs brilliant, delicate but concrete sense of detailed shading and with it, takes out a lot of the joy of looking at his work.
So overall – meh. It’s a really meh thing. It feels like the embodiment of the millenial revisionism that came to superheroes, still laden with that perverse lesson the comics industry invented in the aftermath of Watchmen and TDKR: “OH PEOPLE LIKE THIS BECAUSE THEY SWEAR AND ARE ANGRIER. OKAI I GOT IT. BOB, HEY BOB. ARE THERE ANY FEMALE CHARACTERS LEFT? ONE? GREAAAAT. I WAS JUST IN THE KITCHEN APPLIANCES SHOP AND I’VE GOT A GREAT GODDAMNED IDEA. WE’RE GOING TO BE MILLIONAIRES BOB. MILLIONAIRES.”
Hang on. I will attempt discussion on the two big ideas floating around this discussion: Racism and The Authority as bad guys.
The imagery is just….oh god. There’s that page, with the lady henchman, when he carves a circle in her face with his “super yellow death nails” before giving a Joker flimsy level of motivation. Like….what. Seriously. At the least, it’s hilariously/horrifyingly boneheaded.
But I’m not sure I’d call it racist.
I mean when I look at volume 1 cumulatively (somehow I’m not inclined for seconds) I’m not convinced that it’s racist. Unhelpful. Yes, but racist? No.
One of the things that changed it for me was the so called Albion arc. Before that I was on a plane confused at why the guy who made Transmetropolitan was acting like he’d just been at a lager session with Nick Griffins racist uncle. When I read it though, Ellis’ aim began to make sense to me.
The story is pretty interested in wielding the existing iconography we attribute to groups, acceptable or not, and applying them to invading superterror armies and chucking them against a boiled down (and nu-millenium repurposed) representation of our basic image of a superhero team. Think of it as the ultimate Kitchen Sink brawl sessions mix tape. I mean they fight god ffs.
So with Fu-man-choo-gesundheit-your-welcome, we have an unbearable mishmash of ridiculously stereotypical iconography loaded into a North Korea with super cyber weapons isle.
Then in the next arc – we have this
This British/Sicilian colonial mish mash empire is depicted as the slave force of some undone alien empire looking to breed its way back to the top and it’s littered with generic Empire-esque language and Hail Britania imagery.
It’s not as condescending an image to cast, especially since the “boss” is some castrated alien seal or whatever the hell it is, but it does demonstrate a consistent approach. One less interested in portraying continents as the sum value of racist schlock 40s producers line of sight and more as something equivalent with how the The Authority themselves are played up as revisionist mash ups of the visual language that hangs so heavy on superheroics. It’s broad strokes visuals fighting other broad strokes visuals. Though unfortunately, some get a rawer deal.
After that, to me and any lingering memories of a drunk asking why I’m in “his country” (if this ever happens, ask them for a deed, it’s fucking hilarious), charging any work as “racist” is a seriously loaded gun. And by loaded, I mean seven nuclear bombs loaded into the barrel of a Dick Cheney hunting invitation.
Racism and problematic/stereotypical/diet-coke-racism-accusations have a significant barrier line in my mind. A work, like The Authority can be massively problematic without being racist. It can incidentally perpetuate iconography that was supposed to have gone out with Chancellor Lawson, Cholera and Top hats. But to be racist, it needs to be hateful. It needs to be intentionally, directly hateful. And I don’t just mean Beer hall putsch levels of hate, I just mean – out there willing and aiming to cast an entire group of people or whatever as lesser than someone else (which to me, has to include at least a dribble of hate, I mean, you can’t just say Yellow people are less good than Green people without just a smidge of hate driving the thought train).
Here, it’s problematic, it’s a misguided experiment in trying to mash up the US/UK/EU perception of the “oriental look” (like some kind of crummy shitty Mulan) in the same way it has splashes pages with 200 harrier jets racing against the apocalypse over the Manhattan skyline. But since at no point does the book offer a counter perspective (there’s like a panel of the fu-man-ass-hats civilian pop portrayed as generic human beings with hats and suits and dresses and whatever) it winds up perpetuating the old stereotypes and crummy iconography we’ve been trying to extinguish for so long. (Though it is fair to argue that the whole thing is so obviously ridiculous that you really shouldn’t be taking it seriously at all).
What I really agree on is the complete failure to play with the character, to explore the racism driving the very existence of that kind of iconography – to play with the idea of a Fu Manchu bad guy – there’s no attempt and all we get is a really simplistic joke take on the NATO perspective of Asia after the middle east. And it’s just winds up being crummy – instead of easily turning into something hilariously brilliant. (Though to be fair – he doesn’t really bother exploring the Hail Brittania imagery in much depth either). Basically, he’s the crummy stereotype Chitauri to Ellis and Hitch’s 18 and over Avengers. I get to an extent the first arc has to be about setting up the heroes relationships but still, if you’re going to go down that cavern, take a damned torch Ellis. Eesh.
So that’s where I am, it’s stupid, it’s misguided, it’s a cheap failed attempt at satire but I refuse to call it racist. It’s not hateful, there’s no direct commentary on China or Japan’s geopolitical stances and if it really was aiming for racism, there were waaay worse ways to go. (it is basically North Korea in souped up, 90s Xtreme Disneys Mulan visuals)
(But Amir what about stupid people who read the book and see it as a persuasive grounds upon which to be a racist piece of shit?
a.) How many stupid people read Ellis? Seriously, we’d see way more tin foil Spider Jerusalem glasses on Ebay.
b.) Considering it’s the Internet, racists have 12 billion facets and even more paranoid economists to tell them that the big bad east is gonna take em down. Of which Fox News occupies 11 billion.
c.) Most racists already were racist, came to the conclusion through their news sources, peers and family – they already made up their mind before reading the book and treat this as confirmation bias (honestly how many people actually read this book and decided that a bad guy with tusks clearly offers illuminating discussions on the operational difficulties of Schengen?
d.) Fuck off – the reason free expression is so essential to a society is that it enables us to challenge each other with new ideas, it’s what legendary Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called the “marketplace of ideas” and if we start trying to excise things that go down a wrong path with good intentions or could be reinterpreted badly, we’re going to end up in the kind of world a Conservative harried BBC commissioner would want).
As a thought on the idea of white privilege in discussions of race?
Well, I’m really in favour of giving that idea the minimal amount of weight possible, though I do get that it has to figure in a little bit. Being racially prejudiced against is an experience that ideally few people are going to have to deal with but the emotional response of anger and shock and maybe a bit of humiliation are probably ones that we’ve all probably had to choke down at one point along the road. Race is an essential facet of our discussion, not just here but everywhere and I’m not a fan of saying “Hey white boy, get the fuck out of here and let the brownies handle this.” The only way to really get past this is to have a discussion that isn’t couched in terms of “I’m a minority, I’m in charge of this discussion” but really one where respect is given and charges of racism are replaced by a willingness to educate and engage. A post race society only happens when everyone gets to come in and build the road ahead.
Put it this way; what blew me away about 12 Years a Slave, beyond all the usual things you’d applaud in a film, was that at its heart, it was about saying: the tragedy is that this is what people did to people. Not black on white but people against people.
It transcended racial politics to show, at its core, how fucking horrible we could be to each other through the most mundane ways we justify and negotiate with the obvious horrors we’re constantly shown. How every person would have been casually complicit in the institution of slavery. Even Solomon himself took a “meh” approach at a dozen turns, the kind of thing we all do, regularly, when we read the latest headlines.
There are good odds I just offended everyone and set a couple of keyboards on fire but what the hey, it’s where I’m at with these things. At least I’m not pandering.
2.) The Authority as bad guys:
The idea of The Authority as bad guys was a really interesting one to have jostling around hemispheres while I read the comic. It wasn’t a heavy handed, THESE-ARE-ACTUALLY-BAD-GUYS kind of thing, but a more interesting, present as heroes, have them actually be decent people at heart and slowly show their role and actions to be an unjustifiable one. From the “saved more than we killed” end of the first act to “we have to kill god” of the third, it’s the most interesting element of the story and it’s a nice way to slowly build a commentary on the authority that superheroes claim for themselves (though it is way less interesting/enjoyable than Justice League Unlimited).
I’ve gotta say, not on board with the idea that Ellis built the idea of the protagonists as antagonists as some sort of retroactive social issue band aid.
If you’ve read Transmetropolitan (If not, please join me for a drunken ramble as to why you should cease existing) you might remember this chat:
The whole “we saved more than we killed” justification they use after beating the bad guy isn’t the first time Ellis explored this kind of idea. He did it years earlier as his sci-fi Richard Nixon stand in (Spider called this guy “The Beast” and Hunter S Thompson oft referred to Nixon as “Whorebeast” which I then use at work to decribe everyone who doesn’t call me a team player).
So it’s not really neo-liberal to me, they’re protagonists much in the way Butcher was the hero of The Boys, we’re on their side but the crux of the story is the audience being asked – do you actually want to be? It’s a pretty fantastic and well needed way of exploring and pondering the kind of moral greys that most super heroes tend to go “LALALALA DOESN’T HAPPEN NONONONONO BIBLE BIBLE BIBLE”
The Authority, themselves representative of superhero iconography go up against Asia and Colonial Europe and GOD and that’s just volume fucking 1. It’s about a group of super powered, “decent” people, who want to help and don’t notice the insane level of authority they’re taking for themselves. It’s about a world where they have to because the only legitimate sources of authority are stuck in a UN broom cupboard impotent to face off against Alien threat #1 billion and squiggedy fuck.
(Admittedly I write this with no idea about what happens next)
Damn Amir. That’s good stuff. (“So this is just a boring version of The Boys?” = 10/10) I mean: it feels like you stole some of the stuff that I was planning to say out of my head.
But I forgive you.
Although (damn you Amir) you did reach a point that I didn’t quite manage to get to with your whole “A work, like The Authority can be massively problematic without being racist.” bit. Because well yeah – I think I agree with all of what you wrote (unless of course someone else back with a better rebuttal in which case – well yeah: then I’ll have to throw you under a bus and deny that I ever even wrote this: sorry dude).
Because well yeah – the thing is: as a self-styled liberal trying to bring about peace and galactic harmony amongst all peoples and races (my own personal motto = be a whole child form a circle): I mean – it seems like fighting the opposite of the good fight to say that the thing that all the good smart people are calling racist isn’t racist. Because erm yeah – isn’t that what the bad guys do? Deny that stuff is racist? I mean: at one point I had this whole thing in my head of trying to categorise different levels of racism: so the full throttle race-hate BNP dogshit stuff would be level 1 or whatever (question: what is the most racist comic out there? I was going to go with Tintin in the Congo which has several full blown moments of “Wow! That is all the way racism. But even that as parts (if memory serves) where it treats some of the characters with humanity: so maybe it’s not so – haha – black and white? I dunno).
And yeah – the Authority is a few levels further down from that. But then it’s almost like the problem isn’t so much with the comic – but more just the general background racist radiation that just exists in all points of our society and in our stories and in everyone’s stupid heads (myself included). Like: in a perfect socialist utopia – I kinda doubt that Kaizen Gomorrah would even register as anything. Oh. Right. Just some evil guy or whatever. But well: because we’re not there yet (but maybe one day right guys?) the racist radiation seeps in and gives it power. You know – because it’s hard (not to mention exhausting) to point out every single bit of racist ideology that taints everything we do and see and hear and read: but then – hey – when it comes to a single point – as in the case of Kaizen Gomorrah: well then yeah – it makes sense to be like: oh look – there you go. That’s the racism.
And there’s also the thing of stereotypes.
I mean – I think stereotypes can get a bad rap a lot of the time. Not every character needs to be a 3-dimensional Leopold Bloom you know? Different stories need different things. And it takes time and words (arguably) to make a character complex and well – comics (generally) don’t have as much space to play with you know? Thus why mostly they tend to rely on stereotypes (films too: you know – just to overgeneralise wildly – if you wanna come up with some counter-examples then I’m sure that’ll mean that you’re very clever).
The thing is tho: your whole story can’t just be stereotypes: you need to do something interesting somewhere and yeah – The Authority I mean – well: at least from the vantage point of 2015 just isn’t doing anything interesting.
I mean – in some senses that’s kinda cool. Apollo / Midnighter (aka – as Rich pointed out – Superman / Batman) being in a relationship? YAWN. I mean: maybe at the time it was more wow. But reading it now I couldn’t really care less. Which you know: after I stopped to think about it is kinda cool and is the point we’re all trying to reach right? Where your sexuality, gender you were born, country your parents got born in etc and so on is regarded as a boring question (but maybe that’s just me? I dunno – I don’t want to be disrespectful: but yeah – it’s like identifying who you are by your trainers or something? I mean: it’s such a small part of who you are – no?).
But yeah: stereotypes: I mean – The Authority is all just paper thin stereotypes all mingling around Apollo and Midnight being the best examples (sorry guys) being that (here at least) they are very little more than: Superman guy and Batman guy (like Amir pointed out with that “I’m what soldiers etc” speech) and Kaizen Gomorrah is just well yeah – the Fu Manchu guy: which I think goes someway to the point (the point being that The Authority is kinda boring).
Because yeah: I mean (at least for me) the question I like to ask when something is derided as being some particular thing is – well: ok – what would have to change to make it not be that thing? So for the case in point: what would make Kaizen Gomorrah not be racist or problematic or whatever? I mean: is it just the fact that he’s an Asian bad guy? Or is it his clothes? His long nails? Or something else? You know: is there a scene we could imagine that if we inserted it in somewhere would make all the problematic stuff dissipate away?
I know that no one has said this – but still: I don’t feel that the solution to all the knotty and thorny problems of representation and racism is that we should take away all the bad stereotypes and lock them away. I mean – I realise that this might be taking things up a level in terms of sleeping bears that I shouldn’t poke: but for all the problems I had with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (mainly that I only got about like 10% of the references which kinda makes it tough going) the “Galley-Wag” wasn’t one of them (but yeah: maybe that’s my white privilege speaking again? But hey: seeing how we’re doing “Racism and Comics” bit it seems a shame not to mention him…
Because yes – fuck it. I believe that the solution to all our woes as a species (or whatever) lies with more imagination and more complexity: and the embrace of that. Because actually (and this is the point I’ve been trying to get around to for a while now): the worst thing about The Authority isn’t the fact that it’s racist or problematic or whatever. Nah man. The worst thing about it is (again as Amir pointed out) is – oh my god: it’s sooooooo boring. Which – damn: is one of the worst things you can say about a piece of art or entertainment – right? You know: it doesn’t really feel like it does anything and – urg – it’s a chore to read. But hey: here’s the interesting bit – it’s boring BECAUSE it’s racist. Because it takes all of the stereotypes and then fails to do anything with them. You know. What if Superman and Batman had a fight against Fu Manchu? Erm. I don’t know. But it sounds kinda boring. Oh. Wait. Let me read it. Oh wait. Yeah – IT’S KINDA BORING.
And for me at least (yeah yeah white privilege white privilege white privilege): isn’t that the best reason for stories and comics about the expanse of human experience as opposed to the limited perspective of a select few (straight white guys who discover they’re the chosen ones – I’m looking at you)?
Altho – even then: maybe it’s not that simple.
See: at the last Barbican Comic Forum we did – talking about all this kinda stuff: a lot of the people there were all – oh man: Joel. You’ve gotta read Ms. Marvel. It’s like the future of comics. And diversity and all that. It’s really good.
And well yeah – having finished reading Vol 1 today I understand why I never bothered to read it before. Because – urg – while I agree with the sentiment and everything behind it: I mean – it’s still the same old story of misfit kid gets powers and then has to learn with how to deal with them. And you know: while I totally agree that’s a Good Thing to have in the world and to give to kids who are only just starting to read comics. As a jaded and world weary comic book adult – I mean: it’s an arc that has already been played out so so much that I can’t really get that much of a thrill out of it anymore. I mean: it’s not enough (for me) just to tick all the boxes of representation – if I’m going to enjoy it: I need a cool story or somekind of hook you know? Because yeah – the fact that Kamala Khan is a girl and a Muslim. I mean: it’s like Apollo and Midnighter being gay. It’s not enough.
You know – everyone says how relatable she is. I think I would have preferred it if it was the opposite.
Because well yeah – the solution is more comics like Top Ten – which for me at least is “Diversity: The Comic” as it should be done. But maybe I’ll get to that next time…
You know – if you’re all very unlucky.
Ok. So just quickly – I was speaking to Mazin last night (hi Mazin!) and he said this thing that there are like 2 different theories of what racism is (if I get this right and it sounds clever then credit goes to Mazin – if I mess it up and it sounds dumb: then that’s on me).
Racism Theory One says that racism is about the belief that one race is inferior to another. You know people x are better than people y or whatever. I think that this is the mindset that me and Amir are coming from. It’s quite hopeful (I think) in it’s way – because hopefully it’s something that can be overcome and at some point we could all live in a socialist utopia world of racial harmony and lolz. ”
Racism Theory Two says that racism is certain form and shapes that are racist that exist out in the world. Fu Manchu / Kaizen Gomorrah is one of those “racist shapes” and it doesn’t matter what is said and what is done and that even if we get to socialist utopia world of racial harmony and lolz – Fu Manchu / Kaizen Gomorrah will still be racist. That there’s something intrinsic to the shape. Or – another example: a picture of a hook-nosed jewish person with bags of money or whatever (yes – I’m playing racist bingo throughout these emails seeing how many boxes of hate I can tick off): it doesn’t matter how nice and tolerant our society gets – that’ll always be racist too.
I don’t know if that helps at all. But i think it helped get things clearer in my mind. Although – yeah – I don’t believe that Racism Theory Two is right (because reasons).
I haven’t read “The Authority”, and don’t feel inclined to do so based on the discussion here, it sounds pretty awful !! The broader conversation about depiction of racial stereotypes etc. is interesting, though – and very relevant given a lot of high-profile discussion about representation of female, PoC, religions, cultures, etc. in comics and related media, so here’s my $0.02 on that.
The Authority is 1999, and originated in Stormwatch before that…. very pre 9/11 but in a similar way that the Starship Troopers movie was, that you think it has to be a reaction rather than a prediction.
On the Millar vs Morrison thing, it’s worth bearing in mind that Morrison was an uncredited collaborator/ideas man on a lot of Millar’s early work, so his general ethos may well have filtered into what Millar wrote later.
Quickly off the top of my head:
Alan Moore = Radiohead
Well I’m glad we got that resolved! I think we should quickly now move away from this particular digression
Grant Morrison = COLDPLAY?!
Barbican Comic Forum
I nearly got grumpy about the Morrison/Coldplay thing but then I remembered – I actually like a few Coldplay songs and they do make pretty nutty music videos on occasion, so meh, I’ll save the Morrison defense for another day.
Couple of additions:
Never see comic creators in terms of music. Rather in terms of comedians.
Oops. Ok. I didn’t mean to ruffle feather with my Morrison/Coldplay thing but yeah – maybe I can explains.
Glad I never did my Stan/Jack as Paul/John riff, with Alan Moore as Queen then….
As opposed to Radiohead who love to play Creep every chance they get? 🙂
Black Box Recorder, Baader-Meinhoff, something else I’m sure but I can’t be bothered to Wikipedia, writer of a couple of wonderfully spiky and bitchy memoirs about his career in music, currently a solo artist I believe.
The series as a whole was one of the first US comics to use the ideas from Watchmen and Miracleman of superheroes being in a world that’s more recognisably our own. Unfortunately the difference is that Moore’s comics are basically science fiction stories when the arrival of such beings changes our world whereas the Authority and stuff that it influenced (such as The Ultimates, that last Superman film and many truly dreadful ‘realistic’ Captain America comics) follows the superhero writing template on ‘no change, just the illusion of change’ to a point where, for me, it becomes implausible, even within its own terms. Compared to say Judge Dredd who lives in a fictional city which HAS changed over the years in ways that reflect our own changing society, it’s all very unambitious stuff and there’s far too much of the lazy ‘they’re bad, but the bad guys are much worse’ writing for my tastes.
To be fair though, if I’d read this as a teenager after growing up on a diet of Justice League comics (as many of its original readers did) I’d have thought it was utterly awesome!
You don’t see it so much here but when Mark Millar takes over in volume 3 you do see them actually going for change rather than the illusion of change, they overthrow a generic despot who tries the “if you kill me then someone just as bad as me will take my place so therefore don’t kill me” and they kill him with the equivalent of ‘we’ll just keep killing them until they chose someone better’. When the Authority are briefly overthrown their replacements are all corporate branded and focused grouped, and when they meet their counterparts from a parallel reality they are The Democracy rather than The Authority.
[…] writer, Ellis has spent a lot of time playing with Superhero revisionism. He birthed The Authority (Covered in a really fun LGNN discussion piece) with middling comments that are already on at least twenty streets as graffiti, like Batman and […]