March 25, 2008

Question "Authority"

The Authority is one of the slickest, slam-bang and ... most radical comics in the history of the genre. I first wrote about this superhero group over two years ago in a post about comics and politics. The Authority is a progressive's masturbatory fantasy -- incredibly powerful super-beings decide to impose their will and values onto a population that they deem is just too stupid to do what's right. The Authority's rationale is that they've saved the world enough times, "but it has to be a world worth saving."

Much like the recent discussion carried on in the comments here, the various writers of The Authority don't even bother trying to mask their disdain for the United States and its leadership. The president? Merely a figurehead. In the Coup d'Etat, trade paperback (at left) the US government is duped into utilizing an engine which allows for inter-dimensional travel. The results prove disastrous, so the Authority makes a decision: Take over the US government. Team leader Jack Hawksmoor informs the American public via an APB address that "These scumbags you elected to serve you have decided to serve themselves at every turn, instead." The president (named Kent) acts like the biggest buffoon you've ever seen, squealing like a baby when the Authority assumes control. The Doctor, the Authority's resident shaman, explains it further:

The women and men who defend this nation are not our enemies. The worthless bastards who lied, schemed, and cheated their way into power are the ones we're after.

Ah, yes. In other words, according to both those quotes, the American people are total idiots. They've no clue what they're doing or who they choose to lead them. What a perfect illustration of "progressive" thinking. If the public doesn't do what "enlightened" progressives desire, extreme measures are in order!

The hilarious thing about Coup d'Etat is that one of its writers is Micah Wright, "padded his résume," so to speak. He falsely claimed he was an Army Ranger, only admitting to the lie when he got caught. Cretin. But hey -- he's attempting a "comeback."

Even before the Authority decided to assume control of the United States, the title's authors showed they didn't think much of the US and its people. Co-creator Warren Ellis wasn't nearly as guilty as his successor, Mark Millar. While Ellis focused mainly on "the big picture" -- extreme worldwide threats that needed dealing with (with minimal politics) -- Millar changed direction. Oh, the extreme worldwide threats were still there, but 'ol Mark couldn't resist the politicking.

Millar's first effort was with "Under New Management" (at right). Millar doesn't waste any time -- in the first few pages, we see Jack Hawksmoor lecturing Bill Clinton on not lecturing him or his team. The Authority's former leader, Jenny Sparks, has been "reborn," so to speak, and naturally the dastardly US government attempts to kidnap this very powerful newborn. And how does it do this? It sends a sadistic team of its own superheroes to capture her. This team is blatantly patterned after Marvel's original Avengers line-up, too. I wonder how Marvel felt about Millar using these analogues to wantonly murder anyone who got in their way? (This site argues that these Avengers copies, as well as other heroes in the story, represent a "corruption" of comics legend Jack Kirby's vision.) You can view the cover to The Authority #14 here. There's Tank-Man (Iron Man), Commander (Capt. America), The Hornet (The Wasp), Storm God (Thor) and Titan (Giant Man). Commander kills and rapes at will and utters vile racist epithets, Tank-Man uses his weaponry on infants, and Titan tosses an airliner full of people smack into the ground. Gotta love those "American values a la Millar," eh?

It gets even "better" with Millar's "Transfer of Power" trade. The entire Western power base (the so-called G-7 nations) has had it with the Authority's meddling in international affairs, so they dispatch a super-agent chock full of weapons enhancements after the team. This ... creature, dubbed "Seth," is a perverse sociopathic hillbilly. He easily defeats the Authority, and the Western powers already have a "substitute" Authority waiting in the wings -- one that will do what the "rich countries" desire, that is. As could be expected, this new "Authority" is comprised of folks just like Seth -- sadistic, cruel and without conscience. Millar laces his word balloons with dialogue that gives the reader nothing but the impression that the West is exactly like the "heroes" with which it has replaced the Authority. Again, the underlying message: You're all idiots. Of course, Millar spews this "message" all the while collecting a rather handsome check in the process. Don't let the Authority find out, Mark. They aren't very fond of rich people.

I could write for hours about the myriad instances of anti-West, anti-capitalist and anti-US gibes found throughout the editions of The Authority. But that's too easy. I actually can withstand such if the overall story is a good one. But as science fiction writers, oft times The Authority's creators let their political bias get in the way of the actual genre in which they subsist. For instance, in the "Fractured Worlds" trade, writer Robbie Morrison has Authority leader Jack Hawksmoor proclaiming Democratic Party talking points:

[President] Kent's trillions in tax cuts that benefitted those rich enough not to need them and royally screwed everyone else will be repealed. The income generated will be used to ensure that everyone in this country has basic health coverage. Over 43 million Americans are without health insurance. As far as the Authority's concerned, medical care should be a right, not a privilege!

Now understand this: The Engineer, one of the Authority's members, had her blood replaced by nine pints of hyperintelligent "machinery." She can, literally, work miracles with the stuff. Why doesn't writer Morrison have the Engineer develop a nanotech-based immunity "program" that every American -- heck, every world citizen -- can get vaccinated with? All six billion humans wouldn't ever have to worry about things like the common cold, the flu, or sinusitis ever again. Heck, in one Authority volume, Hawksmoor indeed brags that the Engineer would have cancer cured "before Christmas." So ...?

The Authority's headquarters is known as a "shiftship" -- a sentient, city-sized entity powered by an entire universe's total energy output, and which can traverse dimensions as easily as you or I would change the channel on our TV. But what does the Authority do when they assume power over the US? Threaten the government and the oil companies to adopt "environmentally friendly forms of energy." (Hawksmoor even issues an edict in one volume about converting all vehicles to bio-diesel fuel!) Now wait -- the Authority's HQ could power the entire freakin' planet Earth and then some, but they want everyone to convert to freakin' bio diesel?? I thought these folks wanted to better everyone's lives!!

And then there's the Right to Bear Arms. You just knew that writer Morrison, like Millar (and probably just about every other UK writer before 'em) was going to "rectify" that! When a reporter asks Jack Hawksmoor "What about the constitutional Right to Bear Arms?" he replies, "What about the right of innocent children to go to school without getting gunned down? Of law-abiding citizens to walk the streets without fear?" He then notes that if voluntary measures to turn in guns aren't followed, the Authority will begin confiscation:

Believe me, if any trigger-happy asshole out there really wants the gun to be pulled out of his cold, dead hand, we'll be more than happy to oblige.

Of course, the aforementioned Engineer could probably whip up a nanotech-based personal security system for every Earth citizen (like a force field) without batting an eye, but why let common sense science fiction get in the way of blatant "progressive" pontificating?

Eventually, the Authority decides to give up their control in the two-volume trade "Revolution." The team comes to the same realization that the Squadron Supreme did in the classic Mark Gruenwald-written twelve issue series -- that progress at the "end of a gun" may not be perceived as progress at all. Written by current Captain America scribe Ed Brubaker, "Revolution" still can't resist the anti-US swipes. Here, the Authority has to tangle with a team of World War II-era heroes who have been "regenerated" by old Authority nemesis Henry Bendix. And these "Greatest Generation" icons are revealed to be anything but (of course!). One is a complete racist ("I wanna get out there and shred those gook-lovin' race-mixin' sons of bitches!") and the leader's "super charisma" leads to mass killings of people who follow the Authority's Doctor's religion.

Lastly, there's the team's threat to the new president in the trade "Human on the Inside" (at left). With civilian control of the US re-established, the prez has the temerity to send US warships towards North Korea because it just admitted to possessing "weapons of mass destruction." Hawksmoor threatens the president, telling him to turn around the carrier group. Again -- this makes no science fiction sense. Even if the Authority relinquished "official" power, they still are defacto guardians of the planet. Why wouldn't they do something about North Korea themselves? Why would they even let the situation get as far as it did, where the prez felt he had to send a battle group to the country? But an even better question is, how did union-buster John Ridley get writing chores on a title like The Authority?

Ultimately, The Authority fails because of its inherent contradictions. If the team really wanted to make a better world, it would have shared much (or all) of the magnificent technology at its disposal with the whole Earth. Remember -- it wouldn't matter to them that the general public "might not be ready for it" as is the premise of many a sci-fi yarn. This is the Authority. Basic paradigms are out the window with them. They want(ed) to make a better world now and do it their way. The fact that the team doesn't do this shows that the title's many writers just wanted a vehicle by which to vomit their left-wing politics. The Authority at its end is selfish; they keep all of their HQ's tech to themselves and indulge themselves with it (much like Millar and co. make mega bucks for using a friggin' word processor). In a way they're entitled to it, given the amount of times they've saved the world. But spare us the "better world" stuff if you're not really prepared to offer it.

Posted by Hube at March 25, 2008 05:57 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Obviously, I have to defer to your knowledge of comic books, but you sure it's not a satire of the Left? It's hard to believe the writers don't seen the obvious issues you point out.

Posted by: Paul Smith at March 25, 2008 06:29 PM

I'm sure, Paul. Millar, Ellis and the others are well-known lefties. They've plenty of other work that shows it.

Posted by: Hube at March 25, 2008 06:32 PM


It struck me: you think these guys who these sort of stories think Bush is the fascist?

Posted by: Paul Smith at March 25, 2008 08:58 PM

Well to be fair, Wright's other book, "Stormwatch" has a group of mostly no-power Special Forces up against the Authority. Their leader, Santini, challenges the Authority to leave the US alone and go intervene in China which needs it.

But yes, the series encapsulates the hatred and dislike of ordinary people. The desire to ... Rule.

Joe Casey's WildCATS 3.0 does exactly what you suggest. After the death of Lord Emp and his "ascension" into godhood or whatever, Spartan (the android) decides superheroing is pointless. He'd rather use his technology through his shell corporation to change the world. Clean and limitless energy. New medicines. With enough corporate espionage and international intrigue hanging over from the old days to keep things interesting.

Spartan is not interested in Ruling anyone. In fighting pointless fights. In killing or dying. Rather in changing the world, particularly through technology allied with marketing. By changing both material circumstances and social attitudes.

The problem with comics overall is that they are a closed shop, no new writers, with cliquish fashions (Geffen is out right now) and appealing to an ever diminishing group of 42 year old fanboys. Nothing particularly original has been since the early 1990's, and are self-referential coasting on work done in the 30's-60's.

A gay Superman and Batman? A drugged out hippie Dr. Fate? A gay Hawkwoman? None of that is original either. Jim Shooter gets a lot of flack, but at least Solar, Magnus, Shadowman, Ninjak, Eternal Warrior, X-O Man O War, Bloodshot, Turok, H.A.R.D Corps, Armorines, and Harbingers were unique.

Heck you could argue that Malibu: Prime, HardCase, the Strangers, Firearm, Solitaire, Freex, etc. along with Dark Horse: Hero Zero, Ghost, X, Monster, Motorhead, Barb Wire, King Tiger, Titan, Catalyst: Agents of Change, Vortex etc. and Valiant represented the last gasp of comics creativity.

Their characters were not derivative. Not based on Marvel or DC characters. Had their own unique universe. Did not concern themselves with Ruling other and ordinary people, often instead seeking to be left alone or dealing with their abusive to psychopathic powerful brethren. Rather than seeking World or National Rule they often focused on their own internal lives.

This emphasis on Rule over ordinary people (Marvel's current storyline, DC's as well) results IMHO from the dislike of ordinary people that infects almost every creative person today. Which is why their stuff stinks

Posted by: Jim Rockford at March 25, 2008 09:41 PM

Comments like these:

"incredibly powerful super-beings decide to impose their will and values onto a population that they deem is just too stupid to do what's right."

"These scumbags you elected to serve you have decided to serve themselves at every turn, instead."

"The women and men who defend this nation are not our enemies. The worthless bastards who lied, schemed, and cheated their way into power are the ones we're after."

These examples, I thought, perfectly represented the current Republican leadership, ever since the neocons took over the Republican party. I can almost hear Tom De Lay's voice uttering them as I write...."

How can you say these Republican values represent Progressive tendencies? There doesn't seem to be enough evidence to "make that jump".

Curious as to how you came up with that analogy?

Posted by: kavips at March 25, 2008 09:45 PM

How can you say these Republican values represent Progressive tendencies?

I didn't. I said that "progressives" make such ridiculous statements. I guess I'll count you among the mix, kavips.

Posted by: Hube at March 26, 2008 07:31 AM

Here's the thing: If I were a reader, I'd be just as unhappy if the roles were reversed and the liberals/democrats were abjectly evil. Making the villain so starkly evil makes for poor storytelling IMNHO. Plus, many people who do bad things are misguided but not nec. evil.

Posted by: Duffy at March 26, 2008 08:11 AM

Duff: I totally agree. Hell, as I said, I can take the progressive politicking if the story is outstanding.

Jim R.: I never got into any Wildstorm titles other than The Authority. Thanks for the info. (Nothing excuses Micah Wright's lies, however.)

Posted by: Hube at March 26, 2008 08:16 AM

Agreed Hube. One of the themes through Stormwatch was that the Authority protected super-powered criminals and terrorists through super-human solidarity, and that a super-terrorist group that killed a lot of people in NYC (9/11 analogy) was protected by the Authority because they were superhumans.

The Stormwatch team was deliberately mostly human, no special powers, and therefore the underdogs.

What comics have failed to do is address the demands, backed up by murder and terror, of Muslims that people in the West do as they say. No criticism of Islam allowed, or Mohammed, or Muslims, or promotion of Christianity, or baptizing converts, or anything. Even in the West.

This is a remarkable chain of events and like South Park parodied, comic writers deliberately ignore it.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at March 28, 2008 08:07 PM