Aside from “Who would win in a fight?”, no debate gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, former Bride Rebecca Henely-Weiss and Bride-to-Be Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the . . . er, tuxes? And more importantly . . . why did (or didn’t) the marriage last? Today we look at the wedding of Apollo and Midnighter… (A Year of the Knockoff Special!)
The Couple: Apollo and Midnighter
The Issue: The Authority #29
Published: July 2002
Today: The New 52 reboot wiped out their marriage, although the new versions of the characters are still dating. Also, they never raised their adopted daughter Jenny Quantum/Quarx in the new universe but she seems to be doing OK.
Rebecca: Gay and lesbian representation in superhero comics existed—whether overtly or not—before Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch introduced Apollo and Midnighter into their Wildstorm comic The Authority in 1999. Yet having an openly gay superhero couple, particularly one that was basically an R-rated Superman and Batman pastiche, was unique and audacious at the time. So was Mark Millar’s decision to have the couple marry at the end of his run on the comic, making them the first same sex superhero marriage. For that, The Authority #29 is legendary but hoo-boy is this comic a product of its time and its really divisive author.
Kayleigh: Before I talk about this comic, I have some news! If you were wondering how much longer this column would last since Rebecca got married last summer, fret not, because I got engaged on New Year’s Eve! [✨✨✨!— Ed.] So as I embark on this long, strange ride toward mawwiage, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of snark over evil overlords trashing venues and which 80s teen superhero had the tackiest bridesmaid dress to carry us through the year.
As for The Authority, I’ve always been curious about the book, because Midnighter and Apollo are important, groundbreaking characters, but the ultraviolent, militarized, kevlar-and-combat boots (aka “realistic”) take on superheroes that dominated the early ’00s was a big obstacle. I’m glad I read this issue because of its place in comic book history, but it also made me really thankful I haven’t read the whole run. Luckily, I know Rebecca has us covered.
Rebecca: The issue where Apollo and Midnighter marry is the end of a long storyline where the ultra-moneyed class dispatched The Authority, whose work interfered with their interests. They send a genetically altered hillbilly with an infinite power set out to defeat the heroes and replace them with a new, more immoral team dedicated to upholding the status quo. Midnighter—the only member of the team who wasn’t captured and tortured—was able to free Apollo and set off a chain reaction to free the rest of The Authority/kill their replacements, but he nearly loses his life in the process. Luckily, Swift learned of a failsafe password last issue—something that nobody would ever say—to disable the hillbilly. (SPOILER: It’s “Welcome to the Oval Office, President Gore” in one of the cringiest moments of the issue.) Torn between the choice of saving Midnighter or saving the Earth from a cosmic event, the team decides to … save Midnighter and let the rest of the world figure out how to fix the problem themselves. Guess what? The world does! Happy wedding and adoption!
I really hated so, so much of this storyline. I’m not opposed to deconstructionist takes on superheroes— Kayleigh and I met over our mutual love of Watchmen. Yet there’s a special obnoxiousness to a storyline that puts its heroines through sexualized violence/humiliation and not have the characters deal with any trauma from it. We’ll just turn the bad guy into a chicken that might get raped by his relatives and consider that a done deal. Kayleigh and I have complained about storylines that only make the wedding a small part of the issue’s end but by the time this comic was over I was just thankful something nice was happening largely separate from the storyline.
Kayleigh: When the very first scene was Swift glibly stopping the attempted rape of her teammate I knew this was going to be an exasperating read. No one in this comic is allowed to express an emotion other than bloodthirsty, skull-cracking rage–not entirely surprising, given the horrific situations they’ve escaped. But when they send their enemies to their deaths while laughing about how other heroes used to put supervillains in jail, or refer to an already-dead character as “that Japanese bitch” twice, it doesn’t at all dispel the criticism that these comics have a fascistic streak. And Jesus Christ, what can be said about Millar and Gary Erskine’s grotesque hillbilly caricatures, right down to the chicken-fucking and one-strapped overalls? Did Millar see Deliverance when he was 10 and think it was the comedy of the year?
Rebecca: Mark Millar—writer of books such as Kick-Ass, Nemesis, and Superior—has spent a large part of his career carving out a pretty secure niche in the “What if superheroes were complete assholes?” genre. (It’s actually kind of funny that his run opened with The Authority fighting a palette-swapped, monstrous version of the first Avengers team given that he got to re-envision the actual Avengers as the most monstrous versions of themselves in Marvel’s The Ultimates.) I can’t speak to how Ellis and Hitch handled these characters, but I read the entire Millar Authority run in anticipation of this reviewing this comic and I had the same frustration with it I’ve had with most of Millar’s work. He has good ideas, in this case what would happen if superheroes decided to topple dictators/solve refugee crises and the moneyed political class decided to take revenge. Yet his execution is simultaneously juvenile and self-impressed with how transgressive he’s being. It’s hard to take this as a well-thought-out examination of superheroes dealing with real life problems when the final boss is a sadistic super-powered hillbilly. I get it’s a parody, I just find Millar more tiresome than funny.
I’m also frustrated at how little Millar seems to care about characterizing the members of The Authority. I’ve read 13 issues with Swift at this point, I could not tell you a single thing about her other than that she has wings. Mostly what I learned about Apollo and Midnighter from this run is that one is powerful, the other is extremely intelligent, they both love brutal violence and each other. And hey, considering that there was something of a push in the late 1990s/early 2000s for gay male representation that didn’t involve tragedy and wasn’t overtly feminine I guess Apollo and Midnighter were what the people wanted. I just have trouble separating them and this storyline/issue from the rest of Millar’s annoying body of work.
Kayleigh: While writing this I thought, “Wait, does Midnighter speak a single line in the comic where he gets married?” I scrolled to check—he does—but that shows how little an impression he makes in this comic. It was kind of a surprise to see Apollo get more badass action moments since cultural osmosis has given me the idea that fandom and DC care more about “Batman Who Kills” than his better half. (Midnighter’s had two solo books and Apollo’s had none; I hope Apollo isn’t the jealous type.)
Rebecca: Anyway, I guess it’s time to talk about the wedding itself. It’s a bit of a bummer that the couple really only has one panel at their own wedding and we don’t see their outfits in full. I could complain about the female minister being surprised at having to say “husband and husband” during the vows—but on the other hand the judge kept messing that up when my dad and stepdad went to get their New Jersey civil union status changed to a marriage, so I guess it’s something that happens. I do like Gary Erskine’s Apollo and Midnighter basically reversing their black/white costume color scheme for their big day, though. The outfits on the other Authority members seem appropriate for their characters, too. I particularly like Angela Spica/The Engineer’s white slit dress with the opera gloves.
Kayleigh: Reading this scene, I was mostly struck by the fact that Apollo and Midnighter don’t have any dialogue during their own wedding. Part of me appreciates that two men getting married and adopting a child is treated with “this is fucking happening, deal with it” frankness in 2002 (it’s easy to forget just how much public opinion has shifted on same sex marriage in 16 years), but then Grunge from Gen13 cameos just to make a disgusted face, because the creative team couldn’t resist one juvenile “men kissing men are gross” reaction shot, and I don’t particularly feel like giving them much credit. At least Apollo and Midnighter can usually be counted on as major players in comics about Stormwatch and The Authority, so I can’t be as cynical as I am about Marvel marketing the hell out of Northstar’s marriage to Kyle Jinadu and then severely under-using him for the next six years.
Rebecca: I’m far from an expert on the New 52 reboot— from my vantage point it just seems to have done away with a big chunk of the DC marriages we’ve covered for this column. I do appreciate that Midnighter has gotten a lot of development separate from Apollo; still, it’s kind of a bummer that these characters got taken back to square one via reboots. Since Wildstorm was going to be folded into the greater DC Universe like all of their properties these days (let me take a moment here to growl at Doomsday Clock) it was bound to happen, and this issue will always be the first. Yet considering the wedding is also the bright spot of a pretty rocky series run I can’t help but find its dismissal a shame. Oh well, maybe they’ll get back to ripping out spines as a married couple again some day.
Kayleigh: As for the New 52, the Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco Midnighter and Apollo miniseries is worth a read if you’re interested in a queer writer giving the couple a big, epic, Orpheus and Eurydice-style romantic journey to hell and back. As poorly as The Authority #29 has aged in terms of its politics, humor, and deconstruction of superheroics, I’m glad people are still invested in these characters and telling new stories about them 16 years later when other of-that-era superheroes like the aforementioned Ultimates have already been sorted into the dustbin. I’m glad I finally got to see Apollo and Midnighter’s wedding, I just wish I didn’t have to see the hillbilly chicken-fuckers first.