When the “Thunderbolts” were introduced into the Marvel Universe years ago, they were a revolutionary concept: villains pretending to be heroes and then eventually working to become heroes. Beginning with issue #110 of “Thunderbolts,” the revolutionary concept will be in the hands of a comic book revolutionary – writer Warren Ellis. CBR News spoke with T-Bolts editor Tom Brevoort about what fans can expect when Ellis’s run begins in January.
It was Marvel that offered Ellis “Thunderbolts” and they were pleasantly surprised at his response. “We went to Warren with the idea and much to our surprise he fell in love with it,” Brevoort told CBR News. “He hasn’t specifically mentioned why this is a compelling move for him, other than that he thought it would be fun, and his natural affinity for evil.
“What we went to him with, in essence, was, ‘they’re the ‘New Avengers’ of villains. And then we sussed out with him which new characters he wanted in the series, and who he wanted to carry over – it’s about a fifty-fifty split.
“The cast going into Warren’s first issue includes Venom, Moonstone, Bullseye, Songbird, the Radioactive Man, Swordsman, Penance and Norman Osborn,” Brevoort continued. “But that’s no promise that the line-up will remain static, even for 22 pages necessarily.”
Ellis and new artist Mike Deodato’s first twenty-two pages will have the Thunderbolts continuing their work for the U.S. Government on the frontlines of the “Civil War” conflict. “The Thunderbolts’ stated mission is to protect the public by tracking down and apprehending unregistered superhumans of all stripes,” Brevoort explained. “Within that mandate, however, is the idea of the Thunderbolts as almost a work-release rehabilitation program for hardened criminals. This approach clearly worked with many of the original Thunderbolts, who’ve turned over a new leaf and become largely productive members of society. So there is a rehabilitative element to them as well.”
Since the T-Bolts are a team of former villains working for the U.S. government, some readers might be looking to compare them to another famous team of villains employed by Uncle Sam, DC Comics’ Suicide Squad. “The Thunderbolts will be visible, public heroes, sanctioned by the Commission on Superhuman Activities and backed by the government,” Brevoort stated. “They’re not at all covert, though – so that’s one great difference between them and the Suicide Squad. You’ll get a sense as to just how public they all are by page 16 of Warren’s first issue.”
As regular readers of “Thunderbolts” know, it takes a strong, often manipulative personality to hold the team of former villains together and under Ellis the T-Bolts will have a leader that could give Machiavelli lessons. “The person who’s been put in charge of the Thunderbolts program is Norman Osborn,” Brevoort said.
With Ellis coming aboard as new writer and Norman Osborn becoming the new leader of the “Thunderbolts,” some fans might be wondering what’s happened with current “Thunderbolts” scribe Fabian Nicieza and current T-Bolts leader Baron Zemo. “All told, between the vintage ‘Thunderbolts’ and the ‘new’ series, Fabe’s written something in the vicinity of 80 issues of the title – more if you count the limited series, and ‘Citizen V’ and annuals and such,” Brevoort said. “It’s been a nice, long, meaty run – albeit with a year-long hiccup right in the middle of it – but it felt like it might be time for a change. Not too much of a change, though – the next thing Fabe has coming up is a limited series springing out of his last arc on T-Bolts, entitled ‘Zemo: Born Better.'”
Ellis’s stint as “Thunderbolts” writer is set to begin in January and last at least a year. In those twelve months readers can expect a variety of stories. “His ‘Thunderbolts’ is a bit difficult to peg,” Brevoort said. “It’s dark and fascinating and funny and satirical and dramatic and edgy and contemporary, and not precisely like anything else he’s done to date.”