Marvel’s antiheroes generally have violent and morally gray agendas that alienate them from the Marvel Universe’s more gallant champions. Because of this, they more often than not work alone. So what happens when several of these characters discover they can do more damage to their various foes together? Will their antisocial personality traits and violent agendas allow them to pull together as a team? And how will the rest of the Marvel Universe react to the group when they eventually learn of their existence?
In late 2012, writer Daniel Way began answering those questions when he brought together the Red Hulk, Elektra, the Punisher, Deadpool, Mercy, Venom and the newly-crimson-hued Leader to form a new incarnation of the “Thunderbolts.” This Summer, writer Charles Soule takes over for two special spotlight issues, before his regular run on the series begins in August with issue #14.
CBR News spoke with Soule and his editor Jordan D. White about their plans for Marvel’s morally murky misfits, which include a tie-in arc to the event series “Infinity” as announced at Marvel’s “From NOW! to Infinity” panel at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.
CBR News: There are six issues of “Thunderbolts” before the tie-in to “Infinity” begins. How do they set the stage for “Infinity?”
Jordan D White: Well, up through issue #11, we’re wrapping up Daniel Way’s final arc on the series in which the team takes on gamma-powered Crimson Dynamos that have been souped up by a new player in the terror industry — not to mention that that new player has some very close ties to one of our core team members.
After that, we have the two one-shot issues Charles is writing, one focused on the Punisher and one setting sites on Mercy. All of those issues are going to be revealing or changing things emotionally for our core team, so it’s not so much that they’re setting the stage for the “Infinity” event itself as it is setting up the state of the team when “Infinity” hits.
Charles, you began your run on “Thunderbolts” with what was meant to be a two-issue fill-in gig. How does it feel to have your run become an ongoing one and now that you have extra space, what role do you see your cast of characters playing in the larger Marvel Universe?
Charles Soule: It feels pretty fantastic, to be honest. I was jazzed to be asked to work on the two fill-ins. They were my first work at Marvel, so they were a pretty big milestone for me professionally even if it ended there. I wasn’t expecting to do more, although I couldn’t help but start kicking around ideas in my head for where the T-bolts might go after those two issues were finished. If it had stopped there, I would have been more than happy, but now that it looks like I get to stick around for a while, I’m excited to see what else I can build in this particular sandbox.
White: Yeah — I’ve been a fan of Charles’ writing for a while now, and was very happy to be able to have him come on the book for those two issues — but I’m even happier that now that he blew us away with those two scripts, we’re going to be able to keep him on the series long term.
Soule: As far as the Thunderbolts’ role in the larger Marvel Universe, I think this is a team that’s not really a “team,” if you get my meaning. They’re not trying to execute some larger mission that they all believe in (Avengers), they aren’t drawn together by a common quirk in their genetic makeup (X-Men) and they aren’t a group of villains looking for redemption (earlier Thunderbolts incarnation). The current ‘Bolts are all loners, essentially. So, the question is basically, why are they together, and what are they hoping to get out of their time on the team? I’m going to address both of those questions in my first issue of the “Infinity” crossover, and I think the answers are quite cool.
“Infinity” sounds like a sweeping, cosmic epic, and the cast of “Thunderbolts” generally doesn’t have that kind of big-picture perspective. With that in mind, how do they fit into the “Infinity” tapestry??
Soule: The Thunderbolts can work in any scenario, I think. Big-scale or small-scale, it can all work. The stories are more about their particular, unique viewpoints, which could charitably be called “unheroic.” The Thunderbolts aren’t bad, exactly, but I wouldn’t say they’re shining beacons of hope and light, either. They offer a cool contrast to the way some of the other Marvel U heroes approach one of these crossovers.
We know how Captain America’s going to react to something terrible attacking his planet — he’s going to buckle down and save the day. But what would, say, Elektra do? I mean, unless she’s got a good reason to get involved, she’s going to stay the hell out of it. (I’m going to make some rubber bracelets with WWED on them, I think — GOLD MINE.)
My point is, putting the Thunderbolts in the middle of a cosmic crossover could be exactly what people don’t expect (the fact that you asked this question supports that theory, for one thing), and doing what readers aren’t expecting is almost always a good thing.
Now, the information I have here makes it sound like the crossover starts out as a crime story that quickly evolves into something else. Is that fairly accurate?
Soule: In broad strokes, that’s more or less correct, but the way it plays out is where the fun lies. We begin with the team heading to New York City to deal with (and by “deal with,” I mean the Frank Castle version of the phrase) a unique gang of criminals that the Punisher’s never quite been able to deal with his on his own. I don’t want to get into too many specifics, but I will say, “Infinity” is a huge blast of a story, and the Thunderbolts are going to find themselves in over their heads pretty quickly — which is right where we want them. Nobody likes a story where the good guys don’t have to work for it.
Whose perspective will this story be told from? Will your “Infinity” tie-in feature different perspectives along the lines of your initial two issues? And who will they be facing off with?
Soule: Punisher is sort of the driver of the first arc, but it’s going to flip back to the team book idea in a big way. Red Hulk, Red Leader, Deadpool, Venom, Elektra, Mercy — they all get their big moments. I think you have to mix up the big action scenes with character work, otherwise no one’s going to care when the craziness starts to go down. It’s just pretty pictures of people punching (shooting, stabbing, zapping) other people, and while I like that just fine, there’s no reason we can’t do more.
It’s an “Infinity” crossover, so take what you know about the bad guys of that event and apply it here. Add some seriously devious, effective criminals who have managed to survive in New York City for decades despite Frank Castle hunting them down every waking moment and, of course, the Thunderbolts biggest enemy — themselves. Stir well, bake for five issues and enjoy.
Who’s handling the art for this arc?
White: We have Jefte Palo coming on as our new artist for the book! He’s done some really great books for us in the past — I, for one, really loved the “Taskmaster” mini he did with Fred Van Lente — and I think he’ll be able to nail the grit of this series. We’re incredibly excited to have him on the book, and can’t wait to show off to everyone how great the characters are going to look.
Finally we’ve talked in depth about your immediate plans for “Thunderbolts,” but are you able to offer up any hints or teases about what’s in store for the characters following their “Infinity” tie-in?
Soule: Sure — as part of the “Infinity” arc, the Thunderbolts realize that one of their own is a gigantic, gigantic problem that will need to be dealt with immediately before such party takes them all down. That makes up the core of the post-“Infinity” arc, and it just might end up with a new member taking said troublesome party’s place.
I want to make all of my stories big, ballsy and bad (er, I mean that last one in the Michael Jackson sense) — and the “Infinity” arc’s going to make that brilliantly clear. In fact, I’m keeping that in the back of my mind for every T-bolts story I write. Three Bs for “Thunderbolts,” every time!
White: We’re considering changing the title to “Thunderbbbolts.” Not sure what marketing thinks.