With two cases focusing on the issue of gay marriage going before the Supreme Court this week, we thought we’d take a look at truly one of the most awesome comics couples in recent years, “The Authority” heroes Midnighter and Apollo and why their low-key relationship matters.
On one side, you have the leather and body armor-clad Batman analog who plans 10 steps ahead to brutalize his opponents into submission, defeat, and/or grisly death. On the other side, there’s your bioengineered ubermensch who, like his partner in violence, isn’t afraid to burn evil with fire (or his heat vision). As far as pitches go, “What if Batman and Superman were a couple and also willing to kill” is certainly an exploitative and a quick way to get some cheap heat for your book, but in bringing these two characters together in “The Authority,” Warren Ellis evolved them beyond the simple elevator pitch.
Introduced back in Wildstorm’s “Stormwatch” #4, both characters were the result of genetic and physiological tinkering by villain Henry Bendix; Midnighter (real name: Lucas Trent) hardwired for violence, a source of black comedy and some interesting character development/introspection during the pre-reboot years. If the Authority was the Justice League with the serial numbers rubbed off, then as the team’s Batman/Superman analogue, these two were the most dangerous (and fascinating to watch). While their relationship was only hinted at during Elli’s “Stormwatch” run, it was made explicit in the eight issue of “The Authority” (right in the middle of an invasion by the dimension-hopping Sliding Albion).
In Ellis’ hands, Apollo was simultaneously the levelheaded and sympathetic one while Midnighter was the terrifying hard man who hid a deep well of loyalty to his friends and allies in The Authority. The two were married under Mark Millar in the “Transfer of Power” storyline (a good story which balances out the grossness of Millar’s implied rape-avenged-by-rape subplot involving a captured Apollo, Midnighter, and knockoff Captain America the Commander). The duo would go on to raise Jenny Quantum as their daughter, providing both friction and weight to the couple’s relationship as they grappled with raising a hyperintelligent, powerful daughter as two of the most dangerous men in the world.
Far from being “issues” characters like Northstar and his boyfriend whose name I fail to recall, the pairing was simply organic, a function of two characters who’d worked together for ages (they fought crime together as rogue superheroes following the fall of the original Stormwatch), ultimately finding each other and sticking together through thick and thin. I’m not trying to sentimentalize what are essentially two very violent dudes who enjoy each others’ company, but as a pair, they work so well and I love that their love is just an easy, natural part of those books.
They’re around now in DC’s “Stormwatch” but it’s not quite the same after the pair’s relationship was set back to zero and recent issues adding Zealot to the mix as a potential complication (strictly high school jealousy stuff). Still, for a few years there, they were glorious, and the most imminently readable couples in comics.