Book Club / the Appearance of Risk with No Real Risks Taken

The Authority
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…

 Let’s start with a little bit of context. 
 
At the last S.M.A.S.H. we did on the first panel on Meaning one of the guests Kelly Kanayama (who writes for Mindless OnesWomen Write About Comics and More Than Four Colours) held up this picture:
 

 

It’s from The Authority. Written by Warren Ellis, Art by Bryan Hitch. 
 
The character depicted is some guy called Kaizen Gamorra who (as far as I can tell) is cross between Fu Manchu and the Mandarin from Iron Man. And well – the question that I’d like to dig into with my teeth and tear big chunks out of is – is this racist? 
 
I mean: for anyone who was at S.M.A.S.H. (and oh yeah – you can listen here if you weren’t): then yeah – when Kelly held up the pic I think I said something like: well – if it’s racist then that’s not just one person’s point of view you know? You know – it’s racist for everyone. And i guess if I was being smart then I’d just leave it at that. But you know: I like to complicate things so. 
 
Totally realise that this is kinda lame; but I saw a tweet the other day that said something about how the message has been spread that racism is bad but what hasn’t been so talked about is what exactly racism is. And yeah – I’ll admit that I’m up front that it’s something I’d like to know more myself. I mean: I have a head full of questions and a damaging lack of answers. I mean: yeah – Kaizen Gamorra is based upon a racist stereotype: but does that mean that all instances of Fu Manchuish are automatically racist? I mean: doing a little Authority reread beforehand I’ll admit that I was a little (a lot) disappointed (in the past I would have said that I thought Warren Ellis is kinda cool – but reading it now I was – urg. This is kinda boring). I mean: every character is a boring archetype. Midnighter is Batman. Apollo is Superman. And that seems to be all there is to them (altho is Midnighter having somesort of renaissance lately or something? His name seems to be popping up a lot lately…)
 
In fact – the thing that struck me the most about reading it now is scarily neo-liberal it is (am I using that word right?). I mean: the first few stories are basically just: well – we really don’t want to have to do this – but if no one else is going to slap down the bad guys then I guess it’ll have to be use (actual lines of dialogue: “I used to be a pacifist, after a fashion.” “What happened?” “Expediency. Sometimes, it’s just not a good enough world that you can work for it without hurting people badly.”). I mean yeah yeah – I know it’s all wish fulfillment and fantasy etc but man: that line of thinking is as dodgy as fuck. It’s like looking into Tony Blair’s head. Which erm – yuk. 
 
And yeah: living in a world where the adverts on the sides of buses say “London Has Fallen” (which pic of Big Ben blowing up) plus: with every trailer for every film being City Going Bang and Exploding Fun Fun: I mean – I dunno – I kinda get the feeling that we should be getting some better quality fantasies or something? (I reread Planetary this week and yeah – I know how everyone hates the ending: but I’ve gotta admit apart from the deus ex big-hole-in-the-ground I was kinda touched that it all about – how can we save people rather than just you know – blow up them up or whatever. 
 
(But then (darn I say this? will I be killed? or trolled to death) I think I prefer the Mark Millar run). 
 
 

 

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…

“I know it’s all wish fulfillment and fantasy etc but man: that line of thinking is as dodgy as fuck. It’s like looking into Tony Blair’s head.” – this is kind of the point. The Authority are the bad guys. Clue is in the name. Unelected, all powerful, going against democratic wished, they are corrupt and corrupting, amoral, hedonist, they subvert the expectation of the superhero but in a subtle, gradual way. They are the bad guys and there is nothing we can do about it. 
 
 

 

Jeez Joel, you like to poke the bear huh?

 
Just quickly – Kaizen Gomorrah is absolutely  problematic figure, and a good example of someone presenting a racist stereotype whilst thinking they were in fact riffing on a beloved pulp trope. Warren Ellis is probably not a racist, but that is not to say he isn’t capable of racism. A lot of people have this failing, and the smart ones will try and acknowledge and address it. There is no debate about that image in my mind, especially within the wider context of the story (let’s not forget that Kaizen’s troops are all idnetical clones – another troubling image when you think of Western propaganda). Is Ellis commenting on anything with this? No, not really, they’re just a mass of baddies to have their faces punched off and their spines ripped out by our tough edgy new 21st century heroes. If a white dude wants to say that it’s not racist to someone non-white then…well, welcome to the fucking internet. Cue depressingly predictable, and increasingly desperate defences being mounted because someone doesn’t want anyone spoiling their Special Things with anything as radical as, say, a different perspective, or a non-white, non-male, non-bearded perspective…
 
The Authority was the perfect superhero comic for the turn of the century – a supposedly liberal fantasy that was actually just another paranoid right wing power trip. It’s also a 13 year old’s idea of a complex. grown up take on world politics. It was a lot of fun at the time – a refreshingly nihilistic dose of hyperviolence for the spandex set – but it is most definitely not something worth revisiting for complexities. An interesting sociological cultural item in the wider pop-cultural landscape for sure, but silly, pretty dubious and politically simplistic at the end of the day. 
 
 
 

 

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.”

I think some of the things it is criticised for being, are very deliberate indeed.
 

 

 

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.   

 
 
 

 

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?

 
The moral of the story = poking the bear is how you make all the interesting things happen. 😀 
 
 
 

 

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.

 
This becomes really apparent when one considers that Kaizen Gamorra is an unexamined (at least in the comic) perpetuation of a racist trope which ties in sociohistorical context into China’s rising economy and the remnants of post-Reagan/Thatcher-era anti-Japanese techno-orientalism. Bad guys or not, the Authority is still “better” than the Yellow Peril alternative, who threatens Western constructs of society with his clone army of assassins – who, in fulfillment of another racist trope, actually do all look the same.
 
For further context, some of the historical events preceding the establishment of the Fu Manchu stereotype:

The Chinese Exclusion Act, which was America’s first anti-immigration act targeting a specific nationality or race 

The Opium Wars, wherein Britain deliberately flooded China with addictive drugs
 
Moving away from the racism, saying that the Authority are bad guys doesn’t necessarily make it so; the comic has to give us more indication of that. There are many examples of protagonists who do horrible shit but are still “better” than the antagonists with whom they come into conflict, thus rendering them not-bad guys at least in a relative sense. Judge Dredd, for instance, commits awful acts in the name of the law but – unlike some of the villains he faces – doesn’t enjoy hurting others (such as serial-killer-turned-mayor PJ Maybe), doesn’t exploit his power for personal gain (practically every politician/rich person in or outside of Mega-City One), and so on.
 
That’s how the Authority come off to me. They might be bastards, as Ellis would probably put it, but the people they punch very hard in the face are even bigger bastards. So they still get to be superheroes, and everybody gets what they want; the appearance of risk with no real risks taken.
 
 
 

 

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). 

 
Talking? Well yeah – oh my god. Talking is fun. And it’s not really all that hard to mess up. We did the Barbican Comic Forum on Thursday and (because I’m obviously slightly obsessed by all this stuff) we all talked a bit about The Authority and Racism and etc and yeah – what was really noticeable (at least for me) was the freedom of it. I mean – me especially – I could just say whatever craziness came into my head and it was all fun (at least – it was fun for me? I dunno: maybe everyone else left muttering under their breath – man: that Joel sure is a massive arsehole huh? But well: I hope not). 
 
But yeah – with talking: the words come out of your mouth and just evaporate: and what’s important isn’t really so much the words but more the general feeling. I mean: just to go on record again: I think (I know) we live in a racist and sexist and homophobic and generally pretty darn awful society that is all about making the powerful more powerful and weak more weak. And yes as a straight white(ish) man: I get a lot of the benefits: because ever since I was born I’ve been bathing in my privilege in same way that Cleopatra bathed in milk: so god yeah – I’m soft and weak and have never been discriminated against because of what I look like: which you know – is something that everyone should experience (and hopefully one day a world like that will exist: you know – if the human race is smart enough: socialist utopia forever).
 
And yeah – Dan put it really well (damn you Dan): “If a white dude wants to say that it’s not racist to someone non-white then…well, welcome to the fucking internet.” and holy fucking god – I hope that’s not what I’m doing because the thought of me being that person fills me with fear: like taking a shit with my trousers on. And the angel on my shoulder says that I should just be vocal in my solidarity with everyone on the right side of history. You know – racism is bad. What more needs to be said? 
 
Like at the last Barbican Comic Forum: Loz made a comment about how there are lots of people out there who got very hot and bothered and irate about some black kid from Peckham being the lead in a Star Wars film: and altho I understand that in as far as I wish it had been some black kid from Brixton (Peckham sucks!): I mean – I just cannot find the energy to get hot and bothered and irate in return you know? I mean: everywhere I look on my facebooks and twitters I can see all of my friends getting so pissed off at all the ugliness and posting things up loudly and passionately denouncing the opinions of small-minded and petty people. And yeah – I guess maybe it’s a failing on my part that I don’t care? I mean: if someone wants to eat dogshit and then try and defend that as a healthy eating choice – I mean: I’d rather back away and talk to someone else you know? Like: if someone out there thinks it’s bad that John Boyega is in Star Wars because of the colour of his skin: I mean – I just can’t even get started on a come-back to it. It’s just so below contempt you know? In the same way that dogshit isn’t even a food – it’s just not even an opinion. Plus: well – it’s classic attention seeking behavior right? So – maybe the best response is not to give them attention? 
 
(But then: voice in my head says – well: Joel – that’s just your privilege speaking. And literally all the other groups in the world don’t have things that easy. You’ve never been subject to abuse and ugliness and death threats and all that violent nastiness: to which I can only say – yes. That’s true. And maybe I’m getting everything wrong here: but then I guess that’s part of the reason why you know – these are my thoughts and feelings: in return – please tell me yours and together we’ll grow).
 
(Oops – almost quoted a Manic Street Preachers album there = URG)

 

you'll die


But let’s get on to Kaizen Gomorrah. Or try at least. (If I can get any of my thoughts in order). 
 
Again – Barbican Comic Forum: I can’t remember who said it (was it Loz or Christine?): but they said they had read or heard something that if you gender-swapped any of the male characters in The Avengers film then every version would be (to use everyone’s favourite word) – problematic (one of my favourite bits of S.M.A.S.H. was Kieron Gillen’s comment that “In 20 years time, almost everything all of us are about to say will be problematic. Especially, I suspect, the word “problematic.””) But yeah Female Hulk is somekind of comment on PMT (why are women always getting so angry huh guys?), Female Captain America is how women are out of touch, Female Iron Man is how women are sluts, Female Hawkeye just wants to get back to her family. I mean: you get the point right? Just another sign of how messed up and desperately unequal we are: men can be anything and etc (It goes without saying how that’s obviously a bad thing right? I mean: I kinda feel at every point I need to go: this sexism is bad, this racism is bad: but I dunno – seems kinda (totally) obvious). 
 
The point I guess I’m trying to strive for is that – all humans should play all humans (there was this John Oliver thing that is all about how Hollywood gives all of it’s “ethnic” characters to all the white people: but while the continued cultural dominance of straight white men is bad thing: I get uneasy at the idea that only people from area x should play people from area x. I mean: isn’t acting all about pretending and imagination and etc? I mean: it would feel culturally healthy if we were more in favour of mixing things up. Not just getting Idris Elba to play Bond – but get him to play Trump. Or Thatcher. Or Whoever. You know: my overly simplistic white privilege idea to fix racism: let’s just ignore race altogether and just pretend we’re all just people? (crowd starts booing). 
 
And Kaizen Gomorrah. Well yeah. I mean: everything all the smart people have said already is true. He is a racist character. And all of his minions are racist too. But is it the same kinda thing as gender swapped Avengers? I mean: if Kaizen Gomorrah was a white character and all of his identical minions were white people: then it’s no longer problematic right? That is not to excuse it or ignore the racial connotations (for one thing: an old white guy probably wouldn’t have such long fingernails: I mean – dude: get a pair of nail clippers or something right?): but more just to kinda say how messed up stuff is (and yeah – stuff is messed up and that’s bad). 
 
But I dunno. Maybe this is me taking a shit with my trousers on. You tell me. 
 
 
 

 

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.

1.) Racism:

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.

Oh god.

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

 
Horses

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:

keep things the way they are

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)

 I mean overall, I have to agree with David to a pretty big extent – regardless of the ideas driving the story here, the story isn’t particularly good or interesting. And as a satire, it often isn’t interested in being one, with Fu-Man-this-joke-is-getting-boring-I-know-up-shut, it’s really more interested in just playing him off as a stock supervillain, as a generic object that forces the characters to suit up, fight together and win.
 
 Additional:
 
Have not seen The Revenant, have no intention of, after being hyped for Birdman I’m of the opinion that Innaritu is basically “I’M GOING TO DO AN IMMENSELY IMPRACTICAL SHOOT IN THE NAME OF VISUAL AWESOMENESS AND THEN STUFF IT WITH A FEW REALLY BOG STANDARD DRAMATIC IDEAS THAT YOU HAVE TO LIKE BECAUSE IM BEING BRILLIANT”.
 
Tolerable for Birdman which was a nutty black comedy, but for something like Revenant (EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE AND I’M DYING AND THIS IS IMPORTANT DON’T YOU DARE BLINK)…yeah fuck off. Go watch Spotlight for something serious – it’s brilliant and it’s an incredible consideration as to how the insular nature of a community can perpetuate the worst behavior in once venerated institutions. Or The Big Short – which is depressing and hilarious. Actually, in an Oscar season where we have one great movie that educates about the financial crash and another about the sex abuse in the Vatican – why the fuck are we even talking about The Revenant?
 
Did you read this far? No apologies. *cackles at the sun*
 
#Endnonsense
 
 
 

 

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.

(I think?).

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).

 
don't piss us off

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.

 
What question are we trying to answer? It feels like the discussion so far has been picking away at these two:
– “Is The Authority ‘racist'” ? (and hence how do we define racism, etc.)
– “Is it ‘ok’ to read the Authority, given it’s exceedingly dodgy portrayals of asian stereotypes etc. ?” (and what does ‘ok’ mean? Who’s authority are we appealing to here? Sorry about the lame pun!)
 
I don’t think those are particularly useful questions to be asking, to be honest. Not that there isn’t an answer to them – but, once we’ve got an answer, what can we do with it?
 
First off, racism isn’t a binary thing – Dan White made a good distinction between whether Warren Ellis “was racist” or “was capable of racism” – a distinction between intent and uninformed ignorance, maybe? We are all capable of the latter. The creative team behind the recent “Strange Fruit” comics (from Boom Studios, IIRC) probably thought they had good intentions, but from what I’ve heard, very little clue about the real history or issues of racism in the Deep South, and very little ability to reflect on their mistakes and address them for the second issue after the internet told them they’d not really hit the mark, to put it mildly. That’s a different kind of racism from, say, the Islamophobia in Frank Miller’s “Holy Terror”, which makes little distinction between race, creed or nationality, and goes very intentionally on the offensive.
 
I’m not trying to line these up on a good/bad spectrum, btw – they’re all ugly.
 
(As a further aside, I don’t think this distinction’s the same as Joel & Mazin’s Racism Theory One & Two? I don’t think I’ve really grasped what you’re saying there…)
 
So yes, from the descriptions I’ve seen, “The Authority” definitely has racist elements. Does that give us anything useful? Does it suggest any further questions? Like, why were they there? What was the author trying to do?
 
Writers and artists of comics can end up creating simplistic racist stereotypes because they’re a bit unhinged that way (Miller), possibly-well-intentioned but clueless (the Strange Fruit crew) or for whatever crap reasons Warren Ellis came up with Kaizen Gomorrah, which I honestly can’t fathom – I’ve read bits of Planetary, and Freakangels, he strikes me as intelligent on the whole. 
 
Also worth mentioning laziness here – which typically manifests in depicting characters as white male by default, uncritically adopting tired old tropes like women-in-the-fridge or black-guy-pimp-drug-dealer because one can’t be bothered to be original. Doesn’t sound like that’s a big factor here, Ellis is deliberately mixing up several Asian tropes, and later a British/Sicilian jingoism, so he’s consciously playing with some of the stereotypes he introduces.
 
Miller’s a foaming-at-the-mouth “crazy uncle” figure these days, and it’s much more comforting for a liberal like me to stick the label “racism” on people like him than to really examine my own unconsidered ignorance and/or laziness. Them-and-us thinking is a property of them, not us – there’s a certain irony there, I think 🙂

punch someone in the brains

If we look at recent developments in politics, it feels like there’s been a creeping resurgence in background-level racism and general intolerance of late, from UKIP to Katie Hopkins’ remarks about “human cockroaches”, police brutality against PoC, to just about everything about Donald Trump. The background level of unconsidered ignorance appears to be shifting, to the point that people are comfortable saying racist/sexist/offensive things in public that they weren’t saying maybe 15 or 20 years ago. I’m genuinely worried about the future, and how far we can slide without noticing it. Dave Sim (another great 1980’s crazy uncle of comics!) wrote a short comic called “Judenhass”, now available free online I think, that actually highlights this process very lucidly and simply – damn uncomfortable reading, but good.
 
(The Authority predates a lot of these recent events, but it’s post-9/11, so this creeping resurgence in intolerance was already underway back then.) The problem, to my mind, lies more with the unconsidered ignorance of the many than the spoutings of a few crazy uncles and aunts. As part of “the many”, what do I want to do about that situation?
 
So, let me try to rephrase those questions from earlier, in a more constructive/helpful way: 
– as a reader, what does consumption of material containing racist stereotypes like Kaizen Gomorrah do to my overall feelings of tolerance? sharpen it? dull it? absolutely nothing? Nobody’s going to tell me off or praise me for reading it, I’m an adult in charge of my own life, do I choose to give this stuff space in my life? Why? Why not?
 
And also, I’d have to ask:

– as a writer/artist, what impact would creating that kind of character/storyline have upon my audience? And upon myself? Do I understand the implications? Do I know what I’m talking about? Do I have the basic gumption to respond if the internet picks me up on it?
 
Nobody else can answer these questions for you, only pose them. And how you respond might just matter one day, to somebody somewhere, given how interconnected we all are.
 
My own answers to the questions I’ve posed, FWIW, are:
 
– coming across racist / sexist stereotypes in fiction is a big turn-off for me, it reduces the chances of me finishing the book/comic/movie, or recommending it to others. Likewise stuff that tries to sit on the fence between offensiveness and satire.
 
– sometimes I’ll miss something first time that’s obviously offensive in hindsight. I won’t beat myself up about this as making me a “bad person”. If I’ve offended someone in sharing it with them, for example, and understand why, then I’ll apologise, without insisting that they revalidate me as a “good person”. (Liberal thinking can devolve into a “am I a good person?” score-keeping exercise, at which point it’s useless. There’s a great line by Solzenhitsyn about the boundary between good and evil passing through the middle of every human heart. Accepting your humanity and getting on with more useful questions is highly recommended IMO.)
 
– as a writer/artist (albeit a “wannabe” with an audience numbering hundreds at most), I do try to consider the socio-political context in which my work will be received, although it’s not my primary motivation for creating. Fingers crossed that I mostly know what I’m talking about, and have the gumption to respond appropriately when it turns out I don’t ! (My first collection of stories is a reworking of world myths from parts of the world I have no direct connection to. Does this make me a “bad person”? Answers on a postcard, please.)
 
 

 


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.

 
 
Thanks for the clarification, Rich, and nice comparison to Starship Troopers 🙂  Seems even more bizarre for him to include a character like that pre-9/11, but then, I was already at a loss as to why he did it.
 
 
 

 

Sorry. Sidebar. 

Is Mark Millar the Kanye West of the comics world? 
 
I mean – apart from everything else: we’re all pretty much in agreement that The Authority Mark 1 Warren Ellis/Bryan Hitch version is kinda boring right? (Yes it is – very much boring).
 
Like I know that the done thing in the comics world is for each of us to boo Mark Millar until all of our throats are sore and then release the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you: but holy wow you guys – the one thing that you can’t say about his stuff is that it’s boring. 
 
*SPOILER ALERT* for anyone that hasn’t read his Authority run yet. 
 
Very sadly for me I didn’t get the collection with has The Authority versus the Bizarro Avengers or whatever (altho I do have fond memories of the spongy Frank Quietly artwork: particularly the giant guy): so I started off with Chris Weston smashing a train through the pope and then ended up a Midnighter replacement who has a major complex about the idea of anyone thinking that he’s gay. I think that I read the whole thing in a permanent state of shaking my head and repeating “I mean – what the fuck? What the fuck?” And there’s a part of me that thinks that it’s everything that comics should be. 
 
Because yeah – just to be clear: I kinda mean the Kanye West as a compliment: seeing how Kanye has managed to take trolling the world to a God-like level of artistic beauty (in my eyes at least) and reading Millar’s stuff – it feels like he’s always trying to get a rise out of me. Doing or saying the most reprehensible thing he can think of just to get a reaction – and well: I mean – I totally get that this doesn’t speak that well to me or my tastes: but there is a small part of my brain (dressed in a Sex Pistols T-shirt) that kinda feels like that’s the whole point of art or whatever you know? Reaction. Reaction. 
 
And yeah – that panel where the evil doctor says “Poofs first.” I’ve so sorry – but I’ve kinda admit that was kinda cool (Like back to the bad guys stuff: isn’t that the whole point of a bad guy? To say things that make us hate them? Or is it bad because he says “poofs” and that’s the sort of thing that not even bad guys should say? I mean – well yeah – I’m conflicted). 
 
And em not wishing to stir the Millar versus Morrison pot but erm – you guys: 

every living creature
 
That’s from like 2002ish or something right? 
 
Because you know (like we’ve previously talked about): there’s this from Morrison’s All Star Superman a few years later (with the exact same frigging artist no less): 
 
all we've got


Cosmic coincidence? Or is it just me? 
 
Of course Millar being Millar the whole “empathizing with every living creature in existence” is kinda undercut by the fact that on the very next page The Authority BURN HIM ALIVE and kick his head off (not even exaggerating here): which well yeah – isn’t a very Superman thing to do. But hey: revenge is sweet or whatever right? (cue: electric guitar). 
 
Or – EVEN BETTER
 
 
 

 

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.

 
On Millar/Kanye – hell no! Kanye is an odd man but he doesn’t make a living off catering to people’s worst impulses. Plus Millar has never written anything good enough to be the comics equivalent of “Power”.
 
On “Poofs first” (sorry) – it’s an old Millar trick to have the bad guys say sexist/homophobic/___ist socially unacceptable stuff, because they’re bad guys, right, so they say things that are bad. Except that doesn’t really fly if you’re using shock value as a substitute for actual characterisation (eg the “evil dick” moment from Kick-Ass), which is something Millar does a LOT. Not that bad guys should never have socially unacceptable lines, but there should be a reason for them besides “badness”, especially when dealing with hate language against real-life marginalized groups. The other side of this is villains like Preacher’s Odin Quincannon, who drops a lot of n-bombs and is a Klansman but not just as throwaway traits; he’s motivated largely by his bigotry, which ties into his general lust for power – that is, he wants to rule Salvation because he genuinely believes that a lot of its people aren’t genetically worthy to be his equal.
 
Millar is less Kanye West and more Marilyn Manson, but present-day Marilyn Manson.  
 
 
 

 

Quickly off the top of my head: 

 Mark Millar = Kanye West / Marilyn Manson

Alan Moore = Radiohead

Grant Morrison = Coldplay
Warren Ellis = Animal Collective
Neil Gaiman = The Flaming Lips 
Marjane Satrapi = Pixies
Garth Ennis = Mclusky
Frank Miller = The Strokes
Jack Kirby = The Beatles
Alejandro Jodorowsky = Gogol Bordello
Alison Bechdel = PJ Harvey
Daniel Clowes = Belle and Sebastian
Chris Ware = Sufjan Stevens
Bryan Lee O’Malley = Nirvana
 
😀
 
 
 

 

Well I’m glad we got that resolved!  I think we should quickly now move away from this particular digression

 
 

 

Grant Morrison = COLDPLAY?!

 
How DARE you
 
Grant Morrison = Luke Haines, obvs
 
 
 

 

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.

(He’s awesome, a personal favourite and I refuse to budge from that position, overhyped by now, but still, yeeaaaaaah)
 

Couple of additions:

Will Eisner – Velvet Underground
Rob Liefeld – Metallica
 
Who gets the Foo Fighters mantle?
 
Millar/Kanye?
 
Well, my view on Kanye has always been. There’s some fun tunes in there but at the end of it, he’s only got one really good song and that song is a Daft Punk song. Though if you say he’s not a recording artist and more a mass commercial art performance – then yeah he can be really interesting.
 
On Millar – I like him. I mean there’s a massive quantity of crap and hate in there to be sure. Nemesis started as an insane Hollywood script (the first issue is fantastic pulp writing) that died when he had a plot point turn on “incest fertility womb bomb”, no i’m not joking, I found out after I’d paid for the damned thing. 
 
But he’s done some fun interesting stuff that I’ve had alot of kicks with over the years and the Jupiter stuff with Quitely is shaping up to be a really great epic. He’s pretty great when he’s not actively trying to satirise the worst of fandom with a shotgun aimed at his foot.
 
It’s just that stuff like Kick Ass and Wanted reek of a guy screaming that he’s not a nerd and he’s transcended kids stuff. I like reading them, fucker can plot and dialogue, but ideologically they can be very bloooorgh.
 
Man if this is the level of discussion on what racism is as a concept from a boring book that you forget as you read it…..the hell kind of discussion would Holy Terror invoke (TLDR: ideologically catastrophic and monstrous, but in pure narrative terms pretty fucking badass…even if it’s soo not worth it’s bloated price of admission).
 

 

Never see comic creators in terms of music. Rather in terms of comedians.

 
And Mark Millar is Ricky Gervais in so many ways…
 
 

 

Oops. Ok. I didn’t mean to ruffle feather with my Morrison/Coldplay thing but yeah – maybe I can explains.

 
Like: as is obviously obvious – I kinda came at things from a guitar rock kinda angle. Which pretty much made it a no-brainer that Alan Moore is Radiohead (the other option that makes sense to me would be The Beatles – but that’s more Jack Kirby right?). I mean – I guess Alan Moore as Jay Z kinda works maybe? But then not totally. (But then nothing works totally so…). 
 
And then – having Moore there as Radiohead I kinda searched my brain for a band that had the same kinda relationship that Morrison has to Moore… 
 
Like I get the feeling (righty or wrongly) that in the eternal battle between Moore and Morrison (what do you mean can’t I just choose both? No – of course not – don’t be so silly: YOU HAVE TO PICK A SIDE) that most people here on the LGNN lean for the bald magician over the hairy magician. While I’m a more a Moore disciple (I think because he got to my brain first – and I didn’t read The Invisibles until after it was all over – which I think makes all the difference). And yeah – you know – reading Phil Sandifer’s excellent ongoing The Last War in Albion thing has kinda cemented in my mind the idea that Morrison is the guy who (at least partly) wants to be like Moore (uh oh – how contentious is that a thing to say? I mean – fuck it – if I wrote comics I’d want to be like Alan Moore too. Hell – I don’t write comics and I still want to be like Alan Moore: I just can’t get the hairy growth going properly – sad face).
 
So yeah – when looking around for a band that had the same kinda thing going. Who maybe started off just nicking their moves from Radiohead before kinda becoming their own thing – I opted for Coldplay (altho thinking about it now – maybe I should have gone for Morrison/Muse?). 
 
But yeah – matching up comic creators to bands / musicians is an interesting game no? Because – oh my god – it’s all so nebulous: and it’s all about what aspect of each you’re picking out and deciding what is important. It’s basically like saying this rorschach blot matches that one. You know: “Well yeah – I listened to lots of The Rolling Stones when I was a kid and read Grant Morrison at the same time – so they’re both kinda connected in my head.” Like: even tho you’re trying to say something about the bands or the writer – really you’re saying how you see the world: giving away a small slice of the map of your head. 
 
But also yeah: I mean when I wrote it: I totally forgot that Coldplay is a diss right? I mean – who even listens to them? But well – in the interests of full disclosure: me. I listen to Coldplay. And there’s a lot of their music that I really like (Mylo Xyloto is a really cool album you guys!). So saying that Morrison is Coldplay wasn’t really supposed to be a slight. 
 
But then hey: it’s weird right how there’s the difference in appreciation or how people view them or whatever – right? Because yeah – ok: Coldplay make all this really popular music and are really mainstream and whatever right – while Grant Morrison um – does pretty much the exact same thing! I mean – ok yeah yeah The Invisibles and whatever. But erm also: his biggest books of the past few years have been Superman, Batman and Multiversity. I mean: he IS the comics mainstream and yet still – somehow: he has this aura of “oh yeah – but he’s a cool guy.” 
 
But hey: whatever – meaning and stuff right?
 
 

 

Glad I never did my Stan/Jack as Paul/John riff, with Alan Moore as Queen then….

 
 
I’d swap Moore and Morrison around for their representations actually, considering how many interviews Moore/Haines do about distancing themselves from what they are most well known/paid for.
 
 

 

 

As opposed to Radiohead who love to play Creep every chance they get? 🙂

(OK Computer = Watchmen. Discuss). 
 
And erm – who the hell is Luke Haines?? 
 
 
 

 

 

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.

Morrison= known for early works, gets experimental and weird (Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Invisibles, Filth) calms down into stadium rock (Superman, Batman, Final Crisis, Multiversity) starts doing solo projects that no-one gives a toss about (isn’t he editing Metal Hurlant now?)= Radiohead.
Moore= Walking his own path, doing his own projects, calling everyone idiots= Luke Haines. With shades of Little Richard for how he’s been screwed over by the industry.
 
 
I struggle to care much about The Authority despite some nice art.  The best Authority comics for my money was the start of a run by Ed Brubaker called Revolutions which started out well (as the Authority set about rebuilding the world as they think it ought to be) although petered out at the halfway point.  

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.

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