The modern age of the Marvel Universe is one of heroes and villains armed with strange and fantastic abilities and technology. However, it’s not the only time period touched by the fantastic. Magic, alien cultures, and high technology have been a part of the Marvel U since its beginning and throughout time heroes and villains alike have used these forces to exploit and protect their fellow man.
Some of the “Thunderbolts” roster in writer Jeff Parker and artists Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey’s ongoing series know this first hand after a rogue faction of the team led by Fixer transformed the team’s headquarters into a time machine and travelled back in time. They’re goal is to return home, but the machine is malfunctioning and the team has been moving backward in time instead of forward.
The team is currently stuck in Arthurian England where they’ve run afoul of the era’s most famous defenders — King Arthur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. CBR News spoke with Parker about the current storyline and the tale that follows — a celebration of the “Thunderbolts” 15th anniversary that rockets Fixer’s faction of the T-Bolts forward through time to the team’s early days where they’ll come face to face with the original villains masquerading as heroes version of the Thunderbolts.
CBR News: Jeff, with Fixer’s faction of Thunderbolts traveling through time, it seems you get to further develop these characters and add to the larger story you’re telling, but we imagine, more importantly, it allows you to stretch your muscles to tell fun and different stories you might not normally be able to tell in a mainstream superhero book.
Jeff Parker: Yes, it’s a (sadly) rare chance to embrace some different genres and show that these characters work in those scenarios. Boomerang is just as entertaining in King Arthur’s court as he is fighting Daredevil. I think it’s especially fun for the artists. Kev Walker does cool redesigns for each age that make sense for the characters. Declan Shalvey brings the perfect atmosphere to a Jack the Ripper story.
The renegade T-Bolts are currently stuck in England during Arthurian Times. What made you want to send the characters there? Was it simply to have them bump up against characters like Merlin, Arthur, and Lancelot? Or were there other reasons as well?
That will become clearer in part two of that story. But I also wanted to show that the Knights of Camelot were the big league superheroes of their time — unlike the Mark Twain story, you can’t just go back and dominate because you’re from the future.
“Thunderbolts” #169, in stores now, ended with the renegade T-Bolts imprisoned in Merlin’s dungeons beneath Camelot, and the other inmates included a host of mythical and monstrous creatures Merlin uses as components for his spells and potions. That last page really seems to suggest that something is rotten in Camelot and with Merlin. What can you tell us about the story, which continues in “Thunderbolts” #170, on sale next week? In terms of larger plot and themes what is the T-Bolts Camelot adventure about?
It’s the same Merlin. Come on, you’ve read “Thunderbolts!” You know things aren’t going to be what they appear on first glance in this book. At the same time we try to distinguish Merlin as something other than a man, which is how he sees himself. And the standards of that age aren’t the same as ours — it doesn’t make the knights less noble or heroic though. Jump a few more centuries ahead and how good will we come off?
There’s also some extra fun for people who have read the Arthur legends, but you don’t need to know them.
It looks like next month’s “Thunderbolts” #171 is another done-in-one story focusing on one of the T-Bolts members still in the present day, like you did in issue #168. This time it appears the focus is on Songbird. What made you want to focus an issue on Melissa Gold? What do you find most interesting about the character?
Songbird has been the backbone of the team in various incarnations for a long time. And she needs a break, so she goes on vacation for the first time in maybe ever. But since this is “Thunderbolts,” it turns out to be not the relaxing experience she might have envisioned. Because she has a very creepy fan out there!
Before we begin discussing the T-Bolts vs T-Bolts story that begins in April’s “Thunderbolts” #172, I wanted to talk just a little bit more about the Thunderbolts still in the present day. Going forward, what kind of presence will they have in the book? Will you continue to check in with them periodically for the next few months? Or will they be coming face to face with Fixer’s faction sooner rather than later?
Their presence will return soon in a big way — for all they’ve accomplished in actually sending Ghost after the team, and rounding up escapees all over the country, the core team appear to be failing to the overseers of the Thunderbolts. That’s the Federal Advisory Committee to the Thunderbolts, who sometimes seem to help, other times function as adversaries. And all they see from their view is a missing roster and Luke Cage busy with Avengers much of the time.
Issue #172 kicks off an arc that will send the time tossed T-Bolts back to the early days of the Thunderbolts and have them confronting the group’s original villains in disguise incarnation. It also marks the 15th anniversary of the “Thunderbolts” franchise. How did it feel to celebrate that anniversary?
It’s a real accomplishment for a book launched then to still be around today. I’m glad I could be a part of that legacy.
With a story involving both Fixer’s team and the original Thunderbolts, you’re juggling a lot of characters in this tale. Who are some of the prominent players? Will it mainly focus on characters with present and past counterparts like Moonstone and Fixer? Or will others such as Hyde, Ghost, Centurious and Boomerang be featured?
They will all be in there, and yes it focuses heavily on the characters who will be appearing in duplicate. Zemo is surprised to see a Thunderbolts team that has nothing to do with him. Moonstone(Meteorite) is shocked to see she’s still with them.
When “>we last spoke about this story during New York Comic Con you weren’t able to reveal much about plot details. Now that some time has passed, are you able to reveal anything more about the plot? Can you tell us how the two T-Bolt teams come into conflict and how that conflict will manifest? Is this a cat-and-mouse story? A battle royale? Or something different?
The way they come together is fun and I don’t want to spoil it, you’ll see next issue. But the main thing is that the greatest risk comes to pass. Throughout the time travel, there’s been an ever increasing chance the Thunderbolts would screw up the course of history. And this is the story where they do it!
It seems like the central antagonist in this story is the founder of the Thunderbolts, Baron Zemo. What’s it like writing Zemo back when he was still a power hungry super villain?
Pretty straightforward! He’s not conflicted at all with what he wants — which is everything.
Your Thunderbolts Vs. Thunderbolts tale begins about the same time “Avengers vs. X-Men” kicks into high gear. Will that event affect or tie into this story at all?
No, they stay well apart.
We’ve talked very specifically about your upcoming plans, but can you wrap things up by offering any hints about what kind of year 2012 will be for “Thunderbolts?”
It’s a year of enormous developments for some of the characters, and ultimately for the team itself. A lot of things that have been building start coming to a head now! I love the enthusiasm the book’s readers show online and at conventions. Thanks all of you for being so cool.
“Thunderbolts” #170 hits shelves February 15th.