Snuck in amidst New York Comic Con news from the publisher that included a relaunch of its “G.I. Joe” comics and a new event spotlighting its “Mars Attacks!” license was the word that IDW will soon publish new comics starring the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents — artist Wally Wood’s cult classic 1960s superhero team.
Of course, many fans reading this may be asking, “Wait! Wasn’t DC Comics publishing that book just earlier this year?” And their recollection is correct. Launching in 2010, DC released 16 issues of stories about the super-powered super spies in a well-received run by writer Nick Spencer. However, as IDW Editor-in-Chief and CCO Chris Ryall explained, the timing of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents rights transfer wasn’t a situation where he wanted to look a gift horse in the mouth.
“It was an odd one,” Ryall told CBR News with a laugh. “It’s rare that a company has a property like this, is doing comics with it and then within a few months, things revert back where it’s able to be brought elsewhere. I really enjoyed what Nick Spencer did at DC. I thought his first series in particular was a great re-imagining of the property. It is a little odd to go from DC having this a few months ago and now being under our auspices, but it’s fun for us to do a superhero thing, which we don’t normally do here unless it’s something special like John Byrne’s ‘Next Men’ or something creator-specific.”
Debuting in 1965 under the Tower Comics label, Wood’s original “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” series had reputation as an ahead of its time treatment of superheroes, and for that reason alone, Ryall was interested in IDW taking a crack at the comic. “I think something like this makes sense for us. It’s more than the team that gets mutated and then brought together — these are employees working for the government who are paid to be superheroes. Looking back on it, the original Wally Wood stuff always felt very much like ‘Mad Men’ meets superheroes. I think that premise and that ’60s feel of a working man’s superhero is a nice idea that can be taken in different directions.”
And finding that right direction is exactly what Ryall is looking to do in the weeks ahead. “This literally came together a day or two before the New York con,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people in mind that we’d like to talk to, but what I really like about announcing when we don’t have a specific team in mind is that it allows us to look out and see who’s interested in this thing. That’s fun for me, too — talking to different people who were big fans or have an idea for how it can work that I never would have thought of. It’ll be fun to get different takes put together and see where it heads.”
Asked if the IDW series would use the Wood issues as canon, continue on with some of Spencer’s “next generation” ideas or relaunch the series completely, the CCO said he was waiting to see what worked best. “That’ll come out of talking to creators,” Ryall explained. “I’m always wary of having too much of an editorial direction in mind before I talk to creators. I’d like to see what they have to bring to it before dictating to them. But with what Nick did, it would be a challenge to weave the Wally Wood stuff and his stuff and our stuff together into something cohesive, though that it could be a fun challenge. Or it might be cool to do what we’ve done with properties like ‘Turtles’ and ‘Transformers’ and start from the ground up to take it in a slightly different direction.”
But one area Ryall does know IDW will be moving forward in is re-presenting the original ’60s material. “We can do reprints,” Ryall promised. “There’s no chance of doing something like an Artist’s Edition. That stuff is likely scattered all over the world and impossible to track down at this point. We do have rights to the old material, though, and with all the things we do like ‘Turtles,’ I love to put out older editions of the material alongside the new stuff. That’s always a lot of fun, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who haven’t seen the Wally Wood material or the ’60s issues. So we’ll be doing a combination of both old and new material.”
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on the latest revival of the “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” at IDW.