With the news released that the New Warriors are getting their own TV series (starring Squirrel Girl, who will be a member of the New Warriors on the show), we thought it would be nice to fill you in on the history of one of Marvel’s longest-running teen superhero series, “New Warriors,” which launched during the boom period of the early 1990s but managed to last past the comic book bubble bursting, surviving when most other comic books that were launched at the same time had been long canceled.
Since their original series ended, Marvel had relaunched the New Warriors a few times, with each attempt being vastly different from the others, and the New Warriors also ended up playing a major role (if a sad one) in one of Marvel’s most popular crossovers ever. Read on for 15 things you need to know about the New Warriors (in chronological order).
15. THEIR CREATORS MIGHT SURPRISE YOU
Sometimes, when new comic book titles are launched, the characters are first given a debut in another, more popular series. This is similar to what is called a “backdoor pilot” in television, where characters will appear on a popular show before their own show debuts (like the cast of “NCIS: New Orleans” first being introduced in an episode of “NCIS,” stuff like that). The Thunderbolts, for instance, made their debut in an issue of “Incredible Hulk.” However, even though Peter David and Mike Deodato were the first creators to handle the Thunderbolts, we know that Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley actually created them.
In the case of the New Warriors, though, their famed original creative team of Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley were not their original creators. In fact, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, the creative team of “Thor” were the ones who put together the new teen superhero team in “Thor” #411, along with a brand-new creation of theirs, Night Thrasher, the leader of the team. Nicieza and Bagley were then given the assignment for the ongoing series featuring the characters, which didn’t actually appear until about half a year later.
14. THEY WEREN’T SIDEKICKS
After the introduction of Robin, the Boy Wonder, in 1940, sidekicks became a major part of the superhero game, with pretty much every superhero of the era having a teen sidekick. The first team of teen heroes, the Young Allies (originally the Sentinels of Liberty), were driven by two teen sidekicks, Bucky and Toro (sidekicks to Captain America and Human Torch, respectively). Similarly, the most famous teen superhero team, the Teen Titans, were originally formed when the teen sidekicks of Batman, Flash and Aquaman teamed up (soon joined by Green Arrow’s sidekick and Wonder Girl, who was the only non-sidekick at the time, and even she was retroactively turned into a sidekick).
Stan Lee, though, famously disliked the idea of teen sidekicks, so Marvel really didn’t have any (heck, their main superhero star, Spider-Man, was a teen himself!), so the New Warriors were notably made up of two teens who had had their own title (Nova and Speedball), a young hero who had hung out with Thing (Marvel Boy), a cousin of Namor (Namorita) and a new hero (Night Thrasher). Their independence was an important part of their identity.
13. NIGHT THRASHER: DWAYNE MCDUFFIE’S RESPONSE
When DeFalco and Frenz introduced Night Thrasher in the pages of “Thor,” there was a Marvel editor who had a problem with the character. You see, earlier in 1989, the Rocket Racer (a 1970s Spider-Man villain who rode a high-powered skateboard) was brought back into the comics as a hero in the pages of “Web of Spider-Man.” Now, at the end of the year, another black hero using a skateboard, Night Thrasher, had been introduced.
McDuffie found it bizarre that, at a time when Marvel had very few black heroes, a quarter of them were skateboard-themed heroes. So, he then wrote a satirical pitch for a new series, “Teenage Ninja Negro Thrashers,” featuring Rocket Racer, Night Thrasher and two new characters, Dark Wheelie and a mysterious black guy on a skateboard dubbed “that mysterious black guy on a skateboard.”
McDuffie later was the co-founder of Milestone Comics, an excellent line of books starring original black superheroes, with Static being their most famous creation. McDuffie was one of those rare people who pointed out a problem and actually did something about it himself.
“New Warriors” was not the first ongoing series written by Fabian Nicieza, as he had taken over two of Marvel’s “New Universe” series, first “Psi Force” in 1987 and then “Justice” in 1988. Both series (and the “New Universe” line in general) were finished by the end of 1989, so Nicieza was without a regular gig until “New Warriors.” Bagley, for his part, had done work on a licensed comic, “Visionaries” and the last few issues of “Strikeforce: Morituri.” So they weren’t complete no-names, but they were certainly not stars.
By the end of 1990, Nicieza was also wrote scripts for Rob Liefeld’s “New Mutants,” which soon relaunched as “X-Force.” When Liefeld left the book after a year, Nicieza became the full-time writer on the book. Around that same time, he succeeded Jim Lee as the writer on “X-Men.” Bagley, meanwhile, was chosen to follow Erik Larsen on “Amazing Spider-Man,” the flagship Spider-Man title, after the first year of “New Warriors.” So the “New Warriors” creative team was now also responsible for three of Marvel’s highest-selling comic book titles. Bagley left the book after #25, to concentrate on “Amazing” and Nicieza left the book after #53.
11. THEY ARE BASED ON ANOTHER MARVEL TEAM
The fascinating thing that was revealed in the first issue of “New Warriors” was that the initial lineup of the New Warriors was not originally intended to be the initial lineup, as Night Thrasher did not originally intend for Namorita or Speedball to be members of the team. You see, Night Thrasher had been orphaned at a young age when his parents were murdered and he was obsessed with the idea of family. Thus, his view of the perfect superhero team was the first family of superheroes, the Fantastic Four. He felt that four was the ideal number for a superhero team.
He was the Mr. Fantastic stand-in (as he was the brains of the team), Nova was the Thing (strong guy), Marvel Boy was the Invisible Woman (his telekinesis was like her invisible force fields) and Firestar was the Human Torch (for obvious reasons). However, his perfect plan was thrown for a loop when they ended up teaming with two other teen heroes, Namorita and Speedball, to stop an attack by Terrax. He had no good reason why Namorita and Speedball couldn’t be on the team, so the New Warriors were formed!
10. AN EVEN DARKER ORIGIN
While that’s what Night Thrasher thought was the motivation behind the formation of the New Warriors, the real motivation was far more sinister. You see, years ago during the Vietnam War, a group of soldiers came across a temple and Tai, the leader of a powerful magical cult. She promised the soldiers great power if they each married one of the female members of her cult and had children that could then be used to tap into a magical nexus. They all did so, except for one soldier who was already married. That soldier was Dwayne “Night Thrasher” Taylor’s dad. After one of the soldiers, Andrew Chord, seemingly lost his wife and children in a car accident, Tai forced him to kill Dwayne’s parents and take in Dwayne as a replacement.
Tai needed the children to tap into the power of the nexus, but she feared that killing them would screw things up, so her plan was to find substitute super-powered young adults to be the sacrifices. Thus, she manipulated Dwayne into forming the New Warriors so that they could be the new sacrifice. Instead, she ended up being sacrificed to the nexus herself.
9. LET THERE BE JUSTICE
The events of their battle against Tai formed the basis of “New Warriors” #18-25, the work that Fabian Nicieza has said that he is the most proud of in his career. However, the other plot going on at the same time was a fascinating example of showing what a superhuman murder trial would look like. Marvel Boy’s father was abusive throughout Marvel Boy’s life and finally, during one of the beatings, he used his powers to toss his father through a wall, killing him. He went on trial for murder and was ultimately convicted of negligent homicide.
He was a model prisoner, of course, and was released from jail early. He took on the new name Justice and adopted a new costume designed by Darick Robertson, who had succeeded Bagley as the main artist on the series. Justice and Firestar had formed a strong romantic relationship and had even gotten engaged at one point.
8. THE BOOK BECAME A SPIDER-MAN TITLE
In the mid-1990s, Marvel decided to try an experimental approach in how to handle the Editor-in-Chief position. They relieved then Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco of the job and split the position between five different people, each of whom were responsible for a section of the company. Mark Gruenwald had the Marvel Universe titles (Avengers and Cosmic stuff), Bob Harras had the X-titles, Bob Budiansky had the Spider-Man titles, Bobbi Chase had the “Marvel Edge” titles (a made-up term to lump in the solo heroes with no connection to other books) and Carl Potts had Epic and Marvel’s licensed comic book properties.
“New Warriors” didn’t really fit into any of those categories, so in order to keep the book going, it was determined that it would become a Spider-Man title by having Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter Parker, join the team in his Scarlet Spider identity. “New Warriors” (at this time written by Evan Skolnick, with Patrick Zircher as the main artist) was directly tied into the Spider-titles throughout the infamous “Clone Saga.” When Scarlet Spider took over as Spider-Man, he left the team. By this time, the multi-Editors-in-Chief approach had ended and Bob Harras had been named the solo Editor-in-Chief.
7. POST-CANCELLATION CHANGES
After a number of changes to the membership of the team (as Justice became the leader, following Night Thrasher and Namorita both leaving), the New Warriors got back together with a mostly-classic lineup (plus former Avenger Rage, who had joined in the #20s) just in time for the series to end with “New Warriors” #75 in 1996. That was around the same time that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were seemingly killed during “Onslaught,” so the New Warriors would show up a few times in new titles like “Thunderbolts” just to establish that they were still in action (it was also nice to see Bagley draw the Warriors again).
When the Avengers returned, Justice and Firestar actually ended up joining the newly-reformed Avengers as probationary members, and had to quit the New Warriors. In early 1999, Nova was given his third chance at an ongoing series, and in the first issue, Night Thrasher disbanded the New Warriors. That would not turn out to be a long-term hiatus, though.
6. DOUBLE TROUBLE
Perhaps buoyed by the relaunched “Nova” series (but probably just because it had been a few years since the previous volume, as it wasn’t like the “Nova” series was selling gangbusters), Marvel decided to give the New Warriors a second chance. Writer Jay Faerber and a few different artists (beginning with Steve Scott) was the creative team behind the series, which was now driven by Speedball, who wanted to get the gang back together and managed to convince Nova and Namorita to rejoin (they were dating at the time), as well as former member Turbo, plus new members Aegis (who had a magical breastplate once worn by Hercules) and Bolt (a mutant associate of the mutant hero, Maverick, who was dying from the Legacy Virus).
The team had some success, and by the end of the series, Night Thrasher (who had been revamped as a martial arts hero) decided to rejoin the Warriors and whip them into shape as a high-functioning superhero team again. Sadly, “by the end of the series” just meant issue #10, as the relaunch was very short-lived.
5. THE REALITY SHOW
Night Thrasher lost his personal fortune when it was discovered that a recent breakthrough his company had made — a powerful medicine that could possibly be a cure for cancer — was actually caused by the mutant powers of the son of one of the biologists working on the project. The biologist then died himself, trying to prove his cure was real and not his son using his powers to control the cancer cells. With their key product now a joke, the company was ruined and Night Thrasher ended up adopting the orphaned boy.
Night Thrasher came up with a new way to make money, which was to make a reality series based on the New Warriors fighting crime. He managed to enlist Nova, Speedball and Namorita (along with Microbe, the mutant he adopted). The networks added the telekinetic Debrii to the team to cause drama and help the ratings of the show. Written by Zeb Wells and drawn by Skottie Young, the book was a comedic approach to superheroing.
4. CIVIL WAR CHANGES EVERYTHING
It’s amazing that, for all of the history of the New Warriors, their biggest role in comic book history is probably for the tragedy that kickstarted “Civil War,” one of Marvel’s most popular crossovers ever. The New Warriors were filming their reality show while they had tracked down a group of supervillains in Stamford, Connecticut (Nova had left the team to fight in the “Annihilation” cosmic crossover event and Debrii had also left the team, so it was just Night Thrasher, Speedball, Namorita and Microbe). One of the supervillains, Nitro, exploded, killing over 600 people, including dozens of schoolchildren (since the fight had been near a school). Night Thrasher, Microbe and Namorita were all killed.
The government used the New Warriors as an example of how dangerous un-registered superheroes could be, so they passed the Superhuman Registration Act, which led to a war between superheroes over whether they would obey it or not. Meanwhile, Speedball, who had survived the explosion (although it shorted out his powers), became so guilty that he began wearing an armored suit with spikes inside of it — one for each person who died (larger spikes for the children)- and began to call himself Penance.
3. THE NEW NEW WARRIORS
Soon after “Civil War” ended, with Iron Man’s Pro-Registration side now in charge, a new group of New Warriors showed up, seemingly led by a resurrected Night Thrasher! This series (by Kevin Grevioux, Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco) featured a group of de-powered mutants, including Jubilee, who had custom-made suits of armor which, combined with stolen technology from superheroes and supervillains, gave each member of the team new powers (Jubilee became Wondra).
As time went by, the team learned that they were being manipulated by Night Thrasher, who was actually Bandit, the brother of Night Thrasher (who had been a regular cast member in Night Thrasher’s 1990s spinoff series from “New Warriors”). All of their seeming acts of resistance against Iron Man and his forces were really a plot to build a time machine to go back and save his brother. Instead, they ended up in the future, where a resurrected Night Thrasher had taken control of the country. Bandit was forced to kill his brother. The team then disbanded.
2. THE NEW WARRIORS RETURN!
After initially fighting on Captain America’s Anti-Registration team of superheroes, both Justice and Rage ultimately registered with the government and joined the Avengers Initiative, a program for training registered superheroes. Justice was a trainer at the camp. We learned that two other trainees, Slapstick and Ultragirl, had joined the New Warriors off-panel some time before the original team had disbanded. Justice and Ultragirl began dating.
Eventually, Justice felt that the Initiative was corrupt, and he joined the Counter Force, a group of resistance superheroes, along with Rage, Slapstick, Ultragirl and Debrii (who had been a trainee, as well). Eventually Bandit/Night Thrasher joined them and they reclaimed the New Warriors name once Bandit’s team disbanded. Speedball eventually came to terms with his guilt and reclaimed the Speedball name (while still suffering from serious trauma). When the Initiative ended, Justice and Speedball became trainers at the Avengers Academy for new teen superheroes.
1. THE MOST RECENT RELAUNCH
When the Avengers Academy gig ended, Justice and Speedball decided to get the New Warriors up and running again. They heard about a new Nova and ended up recruiting him, even though the new Nova, Sam Alexander, was barely a teenager. This led to the most recent “New Warriors” ongoing series (by Chris Yost and Marcus To). Justice, Speedball and Nova ended up in a fight with the High Evolutionary.
Along the way, they ended up teaming up with the second Scarlet Spider (formerly known as Kaine) and his telepathic superhero friend, Hummingbird. The other new members were Sun Girl, daughter of the Spider-Man villain, Lightmaster, who wanted to use her father’s technology for good; Haechi, a newly empowered Inhuman; and Water Snake, an Atlantean. Essentially, it was a cross-section of the Marvel Universe. This series sadly did not catch on, either, and ended after just 14 issues (although former New Warrior, Silhouette, at least joined before it finished!). However, with them gaining their own TV series, odds are we’ll see a new “New Warriors” series soon!
What was your favorite incarnation of the New Warriors? Let us know in the comments section!