The Authority - the comic history of DC's black-ops Justice League

The Authority in DC comics
(Image credit: DC)

The Authority is coming to the new DC Studios film universe as one of many new projects recently announced by co-CEO James Gunn. And though the superhero team has often been described as something like an edgier Justice League, the Authority's history on and off the page is so much more than that.

(Image credit: DC)

Originally created for current DC publisher Jim Lee's WildStorm imprint by writer Warren Ellis and artist Bryan Hitch in 1999, the Authority spun out of concepts that actually originated years earlier at Image Comics in the comic Stormwatch, before the entire WildStorm imprint and all its characters were bought by DC in 1998. 

In their original incarnation, the Authority is a kind of black-ops superhero team of anti-heroes who are willing to go to almost any lengths necessary to save the world, with a power level nearly equal to the Justice League but a much grayer moral compass.

The original roster of the Authority included:

  • Jenny Sparks, the 99 year old 'Spirit of the 20th Century', later replaced by Jenny Quantum, her 21st century counterpart
  • Jack Hawksmoor, who can symbiotically connect and communicate with cities
  • Swift, who has wings and talons
  • The Engineer, who can create constructs out of the nanites in her blood
  • The Doctor, a magical shaman
  • Midnighter and Apollo, bio-engineered super soldiers who are lightly based on Batman and Superman, and who are married

Over the years the roster of the Authority has changed across different incarnations of the team, but some of those core members are almost always present.

2011's New 52 reboot changed the history and makeup of the DC Universe, bringing several WildStorm characters into the core DC reality, including Midnighter and Apollo from the Authority, who became members of a new DC based Stormwatch team.

Despite the incorporation of some of the Authority's members into the DC Universe, the original version of the team itself has been dormant since 2009, when the last Authority story in the original WildStorm continuity was published.

(Image credit: DC)

In 2021, writer Grant Morrison and artist Mikel Janin launched an alt-timeline version of the team in the four issue limited series Superman and the Authority, in which an older Kal-El assembles a new incarnation of the Authority including DC characters Enchantress, Manchester Black, Lightray, OMAC, and Natasha Irons/Steel, along with Midnighter and Apollo from the original Authority.

But there's a ray of hope for fans of the classic team, as the original Authority seems to be joining the DC Universe in some capacity as of 2022's WildStorm Anniversary Special #1, which included a story featuring Jenny Sparks and much of the rest of the original Authority.

None of the characters have shown up since, but with DC Studios announcing a movie based on the Authority using art from Bryan Hitch which seemingly indicates they'll draw from the original team, it seems like a matter of time before the team returns to comics in some capacity.

Read up on all of the new DC Studios projects in development.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)