It is unusual to think just how much of an impact on American comics was made by Bryan Hitch and Warren Ellis‘ pioneering run on The Authority twelve (!) years ago. ‘Widescreen’ art stylings imitating Hitch’s work became essential in comics, a surprisingly sophisticated evolution of the increasingly lazy splash pages of superhero comics. Readers were instead treated to comic art that challenged even the frame-bursting excesses of Michael Bay movies and it is easy to see how Hitch’s The Ultimates itself has inspired the scale of the upcoming Avengers movie from Joss Whedon.
It seems fair to say Bryan Hitch’s announcement over Twitter that he is leaving Marvel represents the end of an era. In his time with the company he has collaborated often with Mark Millar, continuing their relationship from arcs on The Authority following the departure of Warren Ellis. Together they redefined classic Marvel properties such as The Avengers and The Fantastic Four, bringing to the company stalwarts a frisson of the controversy attracted by The Authority. It’s interesting to think that during the first issue of Mark Waid’s run on Marvel’s First Family in 2002, the script features a character commenting on the excesses of the Authority-style of action, only for the very same characters to receive the Hitch treatment themselves in 2008.
Bryan Hitch’s art reflected the increasing spill-over of comics into the film industry, the massive scope of his action scenes – not to mention several sly cameos of Hollywood personalities – drawing attention to the humble medium of comics as an attractive prospect for the entertainment industry. For an illustrator of his calibre to be leaving Marvel at this point in his career, the suggestion is that whatever is coming next is big. Very big. Let the waiting for the next big thing begin.