Bernardin and Freeman's New "Authority"

Considered by many to be the original widescreen comic, "The Authority" has not only been the home to epic storytelling and groundbreaking superhero characterization since its launch in 1999, but WildStorm Productions has also fueled the franchise with a who's who list of top creative talent, including names like Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. This week, a new era of "The Authority" begins with a brand new creative team in place: writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman ("The Highwaymen") and artist Al Barrionuevo. Bernardin and Freeman pick up the proverbial pieces from an explosive run written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning that tied directly into the 'World's End' storyline - a post-apocalyptic event maxiseries that included all of the Wildstorm Universe core titles: "The Authority," "Wildcats," "Stormwatch: Post Human Division" and "Gen¹³."And while the new run, beginning with issue #18, is not considered a re-launch by the writers, Freeman and Bernardin told CBR News that their stay on the title will be clearer, more linear and feature the all-important "easy to jump into" aspect for new readers or for those who left the title earlier in the decade. Oh, and they promised to "blow shit up."

CBR News: First off, what's your knowledge of the source material? Have you followed The Authority since the team was first introduced in 1999?

Marc Bernardin: I read Warren Ellis' first six issues - collected as "Relentless" - and fell in love with the attitude, the rebellious insouciance. I then went back and read the "Stormwatch" trades leading up to The Authority's debut to see how all those pieces slotted into place. After that, I followed Warren, and then Mark Millar...and then "The Authority," how do you say, eluded my gaze for a while. I'd check in every now and again, see what Robbie Morrison or Ed Brubaker or John Ridley were doing with the ol' gang.

Adam Freeman: I read Warren's run as well and loved it. I was always wanted to like JLA but could never get passed the white bread/earnestness of it. This was like a JLA created just for me. The characters just felt real. Like Marc, I kinda fell off after that. I would check in periodically, but other books got my money.

What is it about The Authority that makes it different from other super-powered teams? And maybe this will have the same answer, but why do you think The Authority works as a team?

MB: Me, I think they work as a team because no one else would have them. They're damaged goods, the lot of them. But sometimes it takes being broken to know how to put things back together.

AF: I am not a fan of teams. The Fantastic Four have always been together, but what other teams really need each other? Love the X-Men, love the Avengers but those are bands where every member has put out a solo album. The Authority always felt, to me, like a cohesive unit. A dysfunctional, fucked-up one, but from a character and story perspective, cohesive.

Over the past decade, some big name talent has been attached to this property, including Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Is it intimidating to follow in the footsteps of these industry legends, or does it make the assignment all the more exciting?

MB: We're all standing on the shoulders of giants. It can be daunting, if you think about it. But we don't. It's a bit like riding in an elevator; in order to preserve our sanity, we decide not to remember that the only thing separating us from a headlong plummet to the basement is a few inches of metal.

AF: Besides getting Warren's blessing, we didn't concern ourselves with it too much. We have total respect for everyone that built the canon before us, but if you get bogged down in that you'll drive yourself crazy. We actually looked at it like, "I guess WildStorm came to us because they like what we do, so let's do what we do."

Do you have favorite members of the team?

MB: My favorite is one that we don't get to write, Jenny Sparks. I love the idea of a hero who, no matter what she does, is going to die. And knows she's going to die. It's something you almost never see in modern superhero comics: the mortal hero. And that element of temporal fragility speaks to me.

AF: I agree. I would have loved to write for Jenny. But who knows... maybe we could have our own Century Baby?

Is there an arc or storyline that you consider the definitive run of "The Authority?"

MB: My love for the Ellis run is well documented, so it should be clear where my loyalties are.

AF: Me too. And the "World's End" stuff was/is a blast. Not enough people give WildStorm credit for creating a cataclysmic event and sticking to it. There were no spells, no alternate universes that magically put everything back where it was. So many huge story arcs claim, "Nothing will be the same," and then 10 issues later...it is.

What are you hoping to bring to "The Authority" as the title's new writers? Will your run be heavily focused on one large overarching storyline, or do you plan to tell tighter, four to six-issue stories?

AF: For me, one of the reasons I often lose interest in a book when it gets years into its run is they often collapse under their own weight. They become so bogged down with their own continuity, subplots that never paid off and so on, that there is little room left to play. For the last year, we continually called up [editor] Ben Abernathy and said, "So when are you going to give us 'The Authority?'"

And he repeatedly came back with, "Well, what would you do with it?" We pitched making it cleaner. Linear. Easier to jump back into. Not a relaunch, a continuation of the world but in clear concise manner. And blow shit up.

MB: I think we're trying to bring a certain amount of accessibility, an ease of entry to the book. Also, big fights. Really big fights.

How do you feel the events of "World's End" have affected The Authority, and will elements of that storyline continue to be played out during your run? Will there be nods and plot threads from earlier runs, as well?

MB: "World's End" has left The Authority feeling battered and bruised and more than a little guilty at their role in the apocalypse. So that will definitely haunt the team - or, at least, the members of the classic Authority that are on our team - during the course of our arc.

AF: Heroes are supposed to save the day, and you could argue that they didn't. Each character is dealing with that in their own way. Some feel guilt, some anger, some are letting it tear them apart while others are externalizing everything and getting too violent, and so on.

Can you share any details about the story you are going to tell, specifically in the first arc?

AF: In the wake of "World's End," if you were given hours to decide, "Should I stay or should I go," what would you do? Would you stay and fight a losing battle or go for help and risk being called a coward for running?

MB: Someone built the Carrier, lo these many years ago. What if they want it back? And with the Carrier responding to, essentially, a star-flung homing beam and returning to its point of origin, who goes along for the ride? And what are they hoping to accomplish on the way?

What can you tell us about the roster? Are there any heroes who will find themselves lit any brighter by the spotlight? From the solicitations it looks like Jack Hawksmoor, Christine Trelane, Deathblow and Grifter will be playing major roles, at least from the outset.

MB: At the start, we've got Jack, Swift, the Engineer, Christine, Deathblow, Grifter, Flint, and Sarah Rainmaker and Roxy from Gen 13. And there are a couple of surprise guests coming in the first, let's say, four issues.

Is juggling the lineup and making the team your own part of what makes this assignment so much fun?

AF: You're gonna love Deathblow and Grifter together. They are a blast to write. Yeah, it was the most fun and the biggest challenge. That was where the minutia of continuity has to come into play - so many teams reshuffling. In many cases it was, "Wow, you mean these two well known WildStorm Universe characters have never been in the same room before? Are you sure?"

I know you've been working hard with Adam Beechen to tie this book into "Wildcats." How closely will these two titles be aligned moving forward?

MB: They're tied together from a purely chronological point of view. Certain events at the beginning and end of our runs will coincide, but given that much of our arc takes place in the great black yonder, there's not too much overlap.

AF: There is also a big reveal at the end of the run that dovetails them together perfectly.

What does artist Al Barrionuevo bring to the project? Why is he a great fit for "The Authority?"

MB: He's like the ink-stained lovechild of George Perez and Bryan Hitch. He can do the smaller character stuff as well as handle the giant spreads of alien ships getting whacked by the mental prowess of a very special boy.

AF: He draws real perty.

What else are you working on, comics or otherwise?

MB: We're finishing "Genius" for Top Cow in anticipation of a SDCC 2010 debut of the first issue, then rolling into another miniseries for Top Cow, an alien-invasion book called "Cell Division." We're finishing up some X-stuff for Marvel as well as working on a couple of OGNs being shepherded by production companies we've got relationships with who are, as they say, looking to get into the space. And then a raft of stuff that it's too soon to talk about.

AF: And I am trying to learn Italian.

MB: Molto bene, signore.

"The Authority" #18, written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman with art by Al Barrionuevo and a cover by George Perez, is on sale January 6.

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