Monday, September 27, 2010

The Authority

I have been reading The Authority trades in my spare time.

Reading The Authority opens my eyes a lot to what could really be happening in comics, which is, pretty much, anything you can imagine. It’s actually poorly written, but it does stretch the bounds of the imagination. They have a Superhero called Apollo who is, essentially, Superman.

He shoots beams from his eyes, can lift buildings, fly in space and swim in lava. He is one of the least powerful member of the team. The villains they face are like nothing the DC universe has ever seen. A man so powerful he can snuff out the sun or stop time forever. There is a hero who can command entire cities to attack whoever he wants, including entire armies, by sucking them inside building walls or bludgeoning them with bricks and mortar.

Imagine New York City attacking an invading force of 10,000 soldiers.

There is an alien being that needs to be defeated that is essential God, as in, it created the Earth and has returned. It is so large it blocks out the sun from millions of miles away. Its arteries are so huge you can fly a fifty mile wide ship through them.

It makes me laugh realizing what is possible (anything) in comics, yet DC feels the need to make Superman less powerful every now and then so people will think he can be beaten. Which I find laughable not just because he’s been beaten several times, but his villains can control entire armies of robots, or are smarter than Einstein or as strong and invulnerable as he is. Not to mention he has vulnerable friends and people he has to protect while fighting these villains. His friends can be used as pawns or threats.

If you feel Superman needs to be de-powered, read the Authority and look at heroes fighting God and a villain who can snuff out the sun. If you think Superman needs to be less powerful, you’re a bad editor, a bad writer, or someone with no imagination.

While I wanted to end with that little conclusion, I have to also mention a scene from The Authority that buttresses my point. Apollo and the entire Authority take on a group that is clearly supposed to be The Avengers and they get their ass kicked. Apollo almost dies from “Thor’s” lightning plus morningstar beating.

Here’s the thing – If you want a Superhero beaten, you, as the writer, can have him be beaten.

It’s as simple as that.

In what I consider bad writing, Apollo recovers, charges up in sunlight for five hours and then takes on the entire team and decimates them.

It makes no sense, but the writer can do whatever he wants.

While not highly recommended, I would pick up the Mark Milar written trades to see just how far you can go if you feel like it.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Superman doesn't need to be written as less powerful. The Silver Surfer is ten times as powerful—not that anyone would know this from watching that piece of shit movie, but I digress—and still struggles w/ villains of equal or lesser power who are merely exceptionally cunning. Not to mention villains who dwarf him in power outright, e.g., Thanos (who usurped the role of Eternity on two separate occasions), Mephisto, et al. But Superman isn't boring merely because his enemies aren't used effectively. He's boring because he's supposed to be boring. That's the point of the character. I contend Superman is the Lawrence Welk of superheroes; the white-bread-to-the-core boy scout who won't offend the nice people in the midwest. Hell, he's even written as being raised in Smallville for chrissakes. Wonder Woman is much of the same, obv. Christopher Priest said it best—anyone trying to do something with a white bread stiff of a character is doomed from the start.[1]

    Some of the best comic book characters—in my humble opinion—are the ones none of the suits really give a fuck about one way or the other. In other words, under-the-radar 3rd stringers the corporate execs aren't turning into action figures. Bill Mantlo wanted to do a story where Spider-Man fathers a bastard child all the way back in 1985. Then editor in chief Jim Shooter wouldn't let him do it since the company had so much invested in the character in terms of licensing deals w/ Underoos, coloring books, etc.[2] 20 years later J. Michael Straczynski tossed around the same angle and was again denied by the editors, this time w/ some bullshit "age the character too much" excuse.[3] I don't buy it for one second. David Michelinie turning Iron Man into an alcoholic was unprecedented.[4] Kudos to whoever green lighted that decision. Before that, the greatest substance abuse I'm aware of in a major comic book was Speedy's heroin addiction in Green Arrow. [5] And even then, that was a sidekick and the whole thing reeked of propaganda. Harry Osborne's LSD trip was just as bad.[6] Just once, I would like to see the protagonist of a semi-notable DC/Marvel title smoke a joint without consequence.

    Still, I'm not really all that bothered by the backwardness of the comics system. Once you learn how the game is played, you learn where to look for hidden gems (Quantum & Woody, Marvelman, Machine Man 2020, etc).

    The other thing is every once in a while the suits fall asleep at the wheel when a character is overproduced. At one point Spider-Man had 3 titles and only one 22 year old editor. That's how you get someone like Peter David sneaking through and delivering a story about the Sin Eater getting high on dust and blowing away Jean DeWolff. [7] Or Frank Miller turning Karen Page into a heroin addicted porn star. Good times.

    With that said, I tend to stay away from the MAX line produced by Marvel since it generally seems to devolve into exploitation comics (do we really need male-on-male prison rape and switchblade castration in the pages of The Punisher?)

    1. http://www.digital-priest.com/comics/wonder_woman.htm
    2. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=147
    3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwen_Stacy#Sins_Past_and_Sins_Remembered
    4. Iron Man, Vol 1, no. 120, Mar. 1979
    5. Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Vol 1, no. 85, Sep. 1971
    6. Amazing Spider-Man, Vol 1, no. 97, Jun. 1971
    7. Spectacular Spider-Man Vol 1, no. 107, Oct. 1985

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