Created by writer Warren Ellis and artist Bryan Hitch, The Authority took the standard superhero tropes and shook them up with a manga-influenced "widescreen" style that used splash pages and large panels to make the business of saving the world actually look impressive for once.The original series appeared in May, 1999. The story continued on from the recently cancelled Stormwatch, where most of the team members first appeared during Ellis's run. Ellis started The Authority by blowing up Moscow and continued in suitably bombastic fashion, threatening the Earth with an imperialistic army from an alternate universe and a battle with God itself. Hitch's detailed but kinetic panels conveyed the action with aplomb and the series's style essentially spawned the trend for Decompressed Comics.Later writers took the team in a slightly different direction. Picking up on the idea that the team originally formed to improve the world, not just save it, they had them executing dictators, defusing international crises and even pulling a coup d'etat on the US Government itself. However, as Status Quo Is God, they have only rarely been able to effect any kind of serious change.The team's original members were:
Jenny Sparks, "The Spirit of the 20th Century" (a woman who is reborn every 100 years, embodying that century's—or in past times, era's—central concept - in this case, electricity. She was the leader of Stormwatch's black-ops subteam, and assembled the Authority to continue their job on her terms.)
The Midnighter, "Night's Bringer of War" (a Batman pastiche who can work out how to win a fight in his head before it's even begun; he is also Apollo's gay lover and later husband. He shared an origin with his partner.)
The Doctor, "The Shaman" (the mightiest magic-user on Earth and the latest in a long line of shamans to defend the planet; also an ex-junkie.)
Jack Hawksmoor, "The King of Cities" (A man experimented on by aliens who were actually humans from the 70th century who has a symbiotic relationship with cities, granting Super Strength and psychic abilities relating to a city and what happens within it. He was a member of Jenny's Stormwatch Black team.)
Swift, "The World's Greatest Huntress" (A woman with the ability to grow wings and claws, low-level Flying Brick powers, and superhuman senses. Part of Jenny Sparks's Stormwatch team, and in fact the only character from pre-Ellis Stormwatch to survive into The Authority.)
Both Jenny Sparks and The Doctor eventually died and were replaced by Legacy Characters, Jenny's next incarnation (Jenny Quantum) and another Doctor, respectively. By 2007, the other members remained in the team, and other characters, such as Rose Tattoo (Another ex-Stormwatch member and the Spirit of Murder, transformed by the current doctor into the Spirit of Life), joined.As the series went on, the stories tended to get more and more outrageous, not to mention Anvilicious.Rather aggressively satirized in the Superman comic book What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way? and its Animated AdaptationSuperman Vs The Elite, in which their Expies beat up Superman, who was concerned about both their violent methods and the pointlessness of killing them. He worked it out without killing them although it didn't look that way, making it a very frightening moment.With the 2011 DC reboot, the Wildstorm characters have been absorbed into the larger DC Universe, and the rebooted Authority characters are now the core of a new Stormwatch.
"The Authority" vol. 1 (1999-2002). 29 issues.
"The Authority Annual" (2000). 1 issue.
"Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority" (2000-2001). 5 issues.
"The Authority: Kev" (2002). A one-shot, popular enough to gain sequels.
"The Authority" vol. 2 (2003-2004). 15 issues, numbering started with issue #0.
"The Authority: More Kev" (2004). 4 issues.
"The Authority: Revolution" (2004-2005). 12 issues.
"The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin" (2005-2006). 5 issues.
"The Authority" vol. 4 (2006-2007). 2 issues. Abortive attempt at relaunch. The project conflicted with the schedule of writer Grant Morrison and was abandoned.
"A Man called Kev" (2006-2007). 5 issues.
"Authority: Prime" (2007-2008). 6 issues.
"The Authority" vol. 5 (2008-2011). 29 issues.
"The Secret History of The Authority: Jack Hawksmoor" (2008). 6 issues.
"The Authority: The Lost Year" (2010). 10 issues. Continuation of vol. 4, starting numbering with issue #3.
Always Someone Better: The Authority basically assumed they were the baddest asses in the Wildstorm universe, and everyone else in the Wildstorm universe thought that way too. And then they met a guy named Captain Atom...
Anti-Hero: The team started out as extremely violent against potential world-ending threats, and was perfectly willing to kill thousands of invading superhuman terrorists, or cause extreme collateral damage in doing so. However, this is no different from the actions of regular soldiers, and could initially have been argued as type III, as they were extremely benevolent in other respects: such as helping to clear up the disaster zones after any conflict; feeding and hosting millions of war refugees, or victims of other disasters; protecting them from militias; freeing them from tyrannies through much less human casualties than a standard military could manage (through outgunning scare tactics); reforming supergenius criminals to help their research for cures to various diseases or life-improving technologies; and overall genuinely making the world into a better place. However, later writers who didn't like the themes arguably severely flanderised and tried to twist around the more idealistic notes that Ellis and Millar introduced, so among other things the team was tricked into "overthrowing the government of the US, and briefly taking over" (rather than, say, China, which would make far more sense).
Batman Can Breathe in Space: The Engineer, post-Ellis, as she needed to use her nanotech to create a helmet and breathing apparatus during his run. Quite possibly Midnighter himself, as he claims to be able to survive in anaerobic environments.
Midnighter is shown using a rebreather to meet up with Apollo when he has to live over the cloud that blocks the sun in later issues. He did say he could briefly survive in such, so maybe it doesn't work for long term exposure.
Averted in the most badass way possible when Apollo, when asked how he too can breathe in space, simply replies— "I don't." "Just like that?" "Well, I'd look pretty silly if I tried, wouldn't I?"
Beware the Superman: Between Knight Templarish, brutally violent superheroes and supervillains that kill millions For the Evulz, Muggles of Wildstorm universe live their lives in constant fear. You know it is bad, when the first reflexive reaction of the people upon seeing a previously-unknown super is to beg for mercy.
Black and Gray Morality: While the Authority tend to be violent and brutal, a lot of its villains are arguably orders of magnitude worse. Memorable examples include Kaizen Gamorra, who killed millions for fun, or Regis, who headed an empire on an alternate Earth that turned all of China into a rape camp.
It doesn't help that the leaders of the countries the Authority fight to protect have the habit of being revealed as morally bankrupt or outright stupid. Like when they created the G7 Authority and subjected the originals to horrific treatments. Or the US government who were easily manipulated into making a botched attempt to enter the Bleed, despite being warned this was a really bad idea, to try and exploit other worlds and killing the entire state of Florida.
Bloody Murder: The Engineer can use the nanites in her blood to make just about anything.
Bond Villain Stupidity: When the cabal of wealthy private citizens that secretly run the world decide that they have finally had enough of the Authority and their attempts to change the status quo they send Seth, their SuperSuper Soldier, to take the team down. Seth easily defeats and disables every one of the Authority without even smallest amount of difficulty, firing, consuming and blowing them all to pieces...and then he hands them over to his superiors who do not kill the Authority, but instead decide to imprison and torture them for months instead of just executing them. Swift in particular is kept as a Sex Slave and servant to one of the Cabal without any sort of security or monitoring after being conditioned, so once she hears enough to learn how to defeat Seth she just kills the entire cabal and gets the rest of the team together.
Calling Card: Kaizen Gamorra in the original storyline, symbolically drawing his family's symbol (a circle with three knots) on the Earth, with Moscow, London, and Los Angeles as the knots.
Canon Discontinuity: Issues 23-26 of the original run (a Filler arc which starred the replacement Authority created after Seth dispatched the originals) were never referenced again, removed from collected volumes and featured very contradictory characterization.
The Cape: An analysis at Too Busy Thinking About Comics points out that the heroes of the Authority under Ellis/Hitch, once the violence and counter culture are stripped from them, are closer to the oldest school superheroes, lacking even the sort of conflict introduced by Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four.
Deep South: Seth is possibly one of the most mean-spirited uses of this trope ever.
Depending on the Artist: In the second volume of The Authority, halfway through there is a different artist, and everyone suddenly looks grittier, wrinkled, and pouty lipped. Jack Hawksmoore and Apollo are particularly victim to this in regards to making them look almost repugnant.
Midnighter's hair color seemed to switch with every artist. Eventually a writer just had him say he likes dying his hair.
Depending on the Writer: Abnett and Lanning's 17-issue run showed the Authority in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, working closely with civilians to protect them from outside threats, risking their own lives when half of them had been Brought Down to Normal, and generally being very human and relateable. Come January of 2010, and issue #18 by Bernardin and Freeman shows the Authority casually abandoning said civilians, including such gems as Midnighter wearing Spikes of Villainy and beating up an old man who protests.Mood Whiplash ensues.
End of the World as We Know It: Happens twice, the first time supposedly, because nothing really changes as a result and the whole event is quickly forgotten by writers, the second time for real, with Earth being reduced to a blasted wasteland, very laws of nature twisted, and most of the Authority depowered.
Evil Counterpart: After defeat at the hands of Seth, the Authority was replaced by corporate versions of each member:
The Colonel, a violent, misognyist British ex-footballer with electrical powers. (Jenny Sparks)
Street, a black gangster with golems formed from pavement (Jack Hawksmoor)
Rush, an inoffensive Canadian woman with wings (Swift)
Teuton, a German, bi-curious, solar-powered heavy (Apollo)
Last Call, a sadist, Italian, homophobic brawler (Midnighter)
The Surgeon, a French alchemist, given control over the Doctor's powers
Machine, a Japanese woman using the Engineer's stolen blood
Expy: Apollo and Midnighter fill roughly the same roles on their team as Superman and Batman respectively, but actualy character-wise, Apollo is actually Wildstorm's version of The Ray, a rather obscure DC character.
Actually, Apollo being shown as a ray analogue was only in "countdown Arena", and the writer specified that the events of that book didn't actually make Apollo a Ray analogue. "Because Majestic is more or less the Superman analogue from Wildstorm. Of all the Wildstorm characters, I wanted Apollo in the book and, with Superman spoken for, the best match we could come up with was The Ray due to the solar-powered connection. It doesn't necessarily mean Apollo is a Ray analogue, just that Monarch grouped him together with the other two." Later, Final Crisis #7 depicts both Apollo and Mister Majestic as being the Superman analogues for their Earth.
He also refuses to harm children, to the point of refusing to go back in time and kill Hitler while he was in his infancy. This was after his severe reluctance to kill the infant Jenny Fractal, no matter how necessary it was, so it may be the reason he's unwilling to cross that line again just to save his own life.
Genius Loci: All cities, as long as Jack's there to talk to them.
Get Back in the Closet: In a textbook example of this trope, a panel depicting Apollo and Midnighter kissing was censored, while apparently Apollo getting raped by another man is just fine, as long as it's not pictured.
Goo Goo Godlike: Jenny Quantum's reality-bending powers manifest when she's about three days old, and she immediately starts using them to help the Authority.
Heart Is An Awesome Power: Swift can, uh, fly! And grow claws! But these powers are actually very effective since she is fast and strong enough to tear apart jet fighters from other dimensions and Speedsters.
Especially true in the post Number of the Beast setting: Swift is now one of two Authority members (the other being Midnighter) whose powers still function reliably. Jenny Quarx and the Doctor are missing or presumed dead. Consequently, she's now tied for the position of most effective member of the group.
Heroic Sociopath: Emphasizing the "Sociopath" more as time went on, see the Designated Hero entry above.
... but the emphasis on the "Sociopath" has always been true about the Midnighter. He's a killer all the way through, and he never pretends to be anything else.
Hero Insurance: The Authority are one of the few superhero teams who acknowledge that the massive collateral damage from their battles can and probably has caused civilian casualties. The general understanding is that it's an unfortunate but necessary evil, since allowing their enemies to rampage unchecked would cause even more death and destruction. It's also worth noting that they try to limit the damage when possible, such as evacuating civilians and fencing in the combat zone, and are frequently on hand afterwards to help with the emergency services dealing with the aftermath.
Jobber: There was a period where the Authority didn't have their own ongoing series, yet were still supposed to be the most powerful superhero team of their Earth. This led to the team only being used so that they could be jerks to the protagonists of other series, then swatted down to show off how cool those other heroes were. Examples include Stormwatch: Team Achilles, and Gail Simone's Gen13 (where they substitute "realize what jerks they're being" for "swatted down"). Notably not the case in Captain Atom: Armageddon, where they were portrayed as the Badasses they are... it's just they were up against a bigger Badass than they were.
Made of Plasticine: Most anyone Midnighter gets his hands on. In one case he rips a guy's skull and spine right out.
Actually seems to be even more pronounced with Jack Hawksmoor, at least in the earlier series when it was a more ensemble book, not so much Midnighter and Friends. Midnighter, brutal as he is, does use finesse; Jack just wails away with his superstrength. He kicks guys' spines out on several occasions.
Manly Gay: Apollo and Midnighter, especially the latter.
Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Jeroen. Every other Doctor as well. In fact, the only Doctor who is explicitly confirmed to have actually been a doctor(he was a heart surgeon) was an Omnicidal Maniac who had the position of The Doctor revoked.
Also Jenny Sparks in her mini solo series. Apparently during her brief time in Austria she felt sympathetic for a young artist trying to sell self-made postcards to passers-by. She decided to tell the poor lad he had absolutely no talent in art and should just stop trying. She whatsoever thought he HAD a rhetoric talent and therefore advised him to try politics. The said artist's name?...Yeah. To be fair, she tried to fix it.
Oh Crap: Don't cross Midnighter (or worse, hurt Apollo), or you will wear this expression. For either two seconds or until your face rots off.
A prime example is when Apollo is subdued and then raped by a member of a government-sponsored superteam given the directive to neutralize The Authority. In a later confrontation this same super is paralyzed from the waist down by Apollo and the last we see of him is a look of horror on his face as The Midnighter stands over him with an evil grin, holding a rusty, but operational jackhammer.Make whichever Dr. Horrible references you deem appropriate.
And many more, such as Kaizen Gamorra watching as the Midnighter pilots the Carrier on a collision course with his skyscraper fortress in the first arc.
This was the look on Midnighter's face, right before Captain Atom tosses an unconscious Apollo at him in Captain Atom: Armageddon.
Outside Context Villain: most of the major arc opponents are these. They come upon the Authority unprepared and hand them their own asses, then the Authority work out how to deal with them, and return the favour.
Overshadowed by Awesome: Swift is frequently this compared to her teammates, despite having powers roughly equivalent to Hawkgirl, who frequently holds her own amongst the rest of the JLA.
Power Creep, Power Seep: While the Authority have always been heavy hitters, they all had reasonable limitations when written by Ellis, such as Angie's limited supply of nanoblood to use as weaponry and Jack's inability to survive outside of a city. Millar ignored this entirely when he took over and gave several characters new powers to boot, and almost all later writers have kept them at their new power level or higher.
Rape and Revenge: As mentioned below, the Commander raped Apollo. The last we see of him, it's implied that Midnighter intends to return the favor—with a jackhammer.
Rape as Drama: The Commander, an Expy/Take That against Captain America does this to a couple of nurses during a mission to find the infant Jenny Quantum and then Apollo after Thor expy Storm-God knocked him down and drains some of his solar charge via a lightning strike. This results in Midnighter being pissed and the aforementioned Oh Crap example and it's implied that Midnighter's going to return the favor and use the jackhammer to rape Commander back.
Reed Richards Is Useless: Lampshaded and averted. The Engineer, in particular, spends a lot of time making multiple copies of herself and spreading them around the world so she can simultaneously build wind farms, address the UN, research cures for diseases, etc., and Habib's first act upon becoming the Doctor was to create peace in the Middle East.
Reluctant Warrior: When Jenny formed the Authority, Jack and Shen had to adjust to the fact that it would often be necessary to kill their enemies. The former was extremely reluctant to kill and was disgusted by the two times he had to do so during his time in Stormwatch, while the latter was highly spiritual and preferred to avoid violent solutions whenever there was any other option. This... didn't last that long, mainly due to It Gets Easier and different writers.
Sapient Ship: The Carrier a spaceship that, while being made of metal, is fully sapient. However, it has only once spoken directly to anyone (and then it was only to tell hapless assassin Kev Hawkins what a prick he is).
Stripperiffic: The Engineer's aforementioned skintight nanosuit is very skintight.
Strong as They Need to Be: As a result of power creep in the series, what The Doctor can do is limited solely by whatever the plot requires at the moment. Authors often try to portray him as a Glass Cannon to counter his effective omnipotence and invincibility, but come on, when you are explicitly stated and shown to have enough mojo to create and destroy universes, concocting some sort of personal shield shouldn't be particularly hard.
It was explicitly and graphically confirmed that complete dismemberment isn't enough to kill a Doctor, seen when the Renegade Doctor temporarily regained the powers. He'll just pull himself back together like nothing happened, so any frailty that a Doctor shows is entirely their own failing and not a real weakness.
This is what originally kept Jeroen from overshadowing the rest of the team. He tended to be either wacked out on heroin or suffering from severe lack of confidence, plus a requirement for his reality shifts to be largely nature-based. Unfortunately later writers got rid of those flaws.
Although best embodied by the villain Three-Willy Seth: a government conspiracy spent billions of dollars cramming every enhancement they could come up with into him. He has powers numbering in the quadruple digits. Some of them are hard to even conceive of- his mention of "nuclear poop vision" was probably a joke...
1,204 powers, to be exact, although he exaggerates that to 2,012.
Weaksauce Weakness: Jack Hawksmoor becomes catastrophically ill if he spends too long outside a sufficiently large city; one of his powers allows him to travel between cities without assistance. Fortunately, the Carrier is large enough to count as a city; unfortunately, Stormwatch's old satellite base wasn't.
Seth's powers can all be disabled by saying a seven-word phrase that "no one will ever say."
Weapons Grade Vocabulary: There was an issue where Apollo and Midnighter were trying to stop the deaths caused by a killer word: anyone who heard it would kill themselves, but not before whispering the word to someone else, repeating the process.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: All of The Authority, really, but the Midnighter and Jack Hawksmoor tend to stand out as the most hardcore about their ideals and the most brutal.
Plot Tumor - There was a two-page joke scene of Swift sleeping with Gen13's Grunge in "The Nativity." Later, Adam Warren escalated it into an ongoing affair, mostly because of the effect of the reveal on Grunge's Woobie girlfriend.
Writer on Board: The writer of the day tending to using the comics to ram their beliefs about politics and superhero comics at the reader; particularly obvious during Grant Morrison's run.
And also Mark Millar's. And pretty much every other author's run except the original Warren Ellis. And even him, though to a lesser extent.