Posted by Jennifer
This past year, I discovered a line of comics I’d never really given much consideration in the past: DC’s Wildstorm imprint. I caught up on Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina (which, granted, isn’t really part of the Wildstorm Universe), read all of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Sleeper and the Point Blank miniseries that preceded it, and finally investigated The Authority for the first time. While I enjoyed the first two items on that list without much conflict, and found myself intrigued by Warren Ellis’ 12-issue introductory run on The Authority, the Mark Millar run that followed caused me considerable consternation, primarily in its treatment of women and gay characters.
The Authority is pretty seminal as far as comics history goes. It was the first major ongoing superhero series to take the superhero concept and apply it to a less idealized world, a world where superheroes might decide to exert their will over humanity to forcibly make the world a better place. Everything about the comic was more graphic and more adult — not to mention more “widescreen” and “high octane” — than had been the norm for comics at the time, and it also featured one of the first — and still the best-developed, longest-lasting — gay superhero relationships in mainstream comics, between Superman and Batman analogues Apollo and Midnighter. I knew all of these things going into the comic, and they were largely the things that attracted me to the series in the first place.
I’ve notoriously had trouble with the comics of Mark Millar; their over-the-top ultra-violence is often too much for me, and I find many of his jokes and developments juvenile and tasteless. But I had enjoyed Ellis’ work and wanted to continue following the characters, and so I went into Millar’s run on The Authority with as open a mind as possible, vowing not to pre-judge the book on the basis of Civil War and The Ultimates and trying instead to remember his Superman: Red Son miniseries, which I’d enjoyed much more. Unfortunately, Millar’s run on The Authority reminded me more of the former two series than the latter, featuring as it did some of the worst excesses of his writing, including a reliance on an inbred hillbilly stereotype as a villain and cheap shots at other mainstream comics (like the Stan Lee analogue who creates awful superheroes to destroy the Authority). But worst of all was the gratuitous and problematic presence of misogyny and homophobia.
(Spoilers for ten-year-old comics follow; read at your own risk.)