The Wildstorm Universe is a part of the DC Comics multiverse that some movie-going fans may not be aware of. In DC’s complicated past of Crisis, separation, and Convergence, the many universes that makeup DC Comic’s lore can sometimes be hard to track. And not many of the superheroes that live there have been featured in big Hollywood blockbusters. That is, until now. James Gunn has just announced a film from DC Studios called The Authority. It will feature the most powerful metahumans from the Wildstorm Universe and will show movie fans what makes these superheroes different: they aren’t afraid to overthrow the government.
That’s right. Wildstorm is a place where metahumans are willing to use force against political leadership if they start hurting others. In the DC world that we know, heroes live side by side with governing bodies, though they still exist somewhat outside of the law. They respect their decisions enough to allow elected officials to lead the people. In the Wildstorm Universe, a group of lethal super-humans has conquered the United States and now imposes their will over the citizenry. It’s an interesting take on superheroes, in some ways making this world more realistic than the one in DC’s mainstream timeline.
There are a lot of big differences between the Wildstorm Universe and the regular world we know from DC Comics. First, and perhaps most important is where the metahumans come from. In Wildstorm, one of the most important factors in defining the universe is Earth’s relationship with the Kherubim. These are a species of humanoid, space-faring aliens that had been watching Earth for a long time before humanity became aware of them. They would travel through the galaxy, going from one planet to another, integrating their genes with compatible populations, and attempting to subjugate the planets. A large number of metahumans got their powers from interbreeding with this alien race and inheriting an altered genome which allowed them to manifest powers.
Another breed of metahumans is those who are “gen-active.” Similar to the X-gene from Marvel Comics, activating the gen-factor in a normal human usually causes the emergence of psychic powers. One difference is that these abilities grow stronger when many of these humans are within close proximity to one another. Other humans discovered their powers from more traditional sources, like scientific experiments or some kind of magic, but many other heroes in the Wildstorm Universe got their powers via the radiation of a special comet. Wildstorm refers to these super-humans as “Seedlings” because this comet supposedly has seeded many planets with its radiation.
Wildstorm is a very extra-terrestrial universe. It is, in itself, its own multiverse. In this particular part of the DC canon, there are many parallel Earths and many universes to pass between. The Justice League may have The Watchtower (or the Hall of Justice depending on how old you are) but The Authority has an interdimensional ship called the Carrier. The Carrier exists in a space between realities called the Bleed. Powered by its own tiny universe, the Carrier can move in and out of universes easily. This is largely how The Authority has maintained its autonomy and stayed outside the jurisdiction of any government or Earthly power.
Gunn is probably so excited about The Authority movie because he has the chance to tell a different kind of superhero story. Much in the way that The Boys put superheroes into the real world and subjected them to restraints like public opinion and foreign relations, so too did Wildstorm put superheroes in the path of the government. The Authority is largely famous for its coup d’etat. After a complex conflict with a member of another superhero team, and destroying the entire state of Florida, The Authority staged a bloodless coup of the American government and placed themselves in control of the United States.
Things went pretty well for a while. They fixed the healthcare and oil industries and reorganized gun control. And although it seemed the right thing to do at the time, soon after this spectacular usurpation, the American people began to revolt. They were led by a group of patriotic superhumans who called themselves the Sons of Liberty, and after they defeated The Authority, they took over control of the States. After a period of manipulation, fascist control, and some strange past-life hijinks, The Authority reassembled to save America from its own twisted fate.
But the complicated storyline is just one example of how these superheroes sometimes intersect with real-world political problems. In most other comic book runs, protagonists are largely concerned with issues that directly affect them or the superhero jurisdiction that they are super-responsible for. The Wildstorm Universe went out of its way to put its heroes in a conflict with the government, and eventually have them rule over a world of regular people. If these heroes are going to enter the main canon of DC Studio’s movie and television storyline, we can expect The Authority to be a different kind of superhero movie.