Acker & Blacker Pit the Punisher Against the "Thunderbolts"

If you're looking to form a super-powered strike team to eliminate some of the Marvel Universe's most dangerous threats recruiting a group of powerful and highly efficient killers might seem like a good idea -- but you have to be cautious of the group's internal chemistry. After all, how long can a dangerous mix of lethal and highly volatile personalities exist in harmony before they explode and destroy each other in the process?

Acker & Blacker Take Over "Thunderbolts" in June

That's the question looming over the current incarnation of the "Thunderbolts", and new writers Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, the creators of the "Thrilling Adventure Hour" stage production (and spinoff graphic novel), will answer it directly when they take over the series from current writer Charles Soule starting with with June's issue #27. CBR News spoke with the co-writers about their take on the "Thunderbolts" and their opening arc on the series, "Punisher Vs. Thunderbolts."

CBR News: Ben and Ben, you guys created and still write the monthly "Thrilling Adventure Hour" shows and have also written for television. Comics are clearly a labor of love for you. What is it you find most appealing about writing for comics? And how does it feel after writing a graphic novel and a couple of Annuals to be given the chance to write your first Marvel ongoing series?

Ben Acker: There's lots that's appealing about writing comics. It's a different kind of language from the other media in which we write. A completely visual medium, to contrast the completely audio nature of writing "Thrilling Adventure Hour." And in both TV and fake radio, we have the luxury of actors selling our words. In comics, it's just us and the artist. It's exciting.

Ben Blacker: As far as writing for Marvel, it's so fun getting to play with someone else's toys. We grew up reading these characters, and now we get to make them say and do things. It is exciting and there's a lot of pressure to do right by them.

You guys are taking over the "Thunderbolts" ongoing after penning last year's Annual, which suggests to me that you have some affection for these characters and the dynamic between them. What made "Thunderbolts" an interesting assignment for you? What about them as a group functions so well for the series?

Blacker: "Thunderbolts" has what any great ensemble has -- different personalities bouncing against one another. Friction that comes from differing ways of seeing the world. That's fun stuff to write. And it comes to a head in our first arc.

Acker: In "Thunderbolts," these are a bunch of guys who shouldn't be on team at all and they're on a team together. And we like the morally gray area they work in -- doing things the Avengers or FF wouldn't.

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Let's talk a little bit about the individual members of the group and some of the dynamics between them. Let's start with the team's two gamma powered members, the Red Hulk and the Red Leader. Clearly there's no love lost between them and they're both dangerous individuals. Why do you think they tolerate each other?

Acker: They tolerate each other because each thinks he's the one in charge.

Blacker: Like us!

Acker: Yup! Red Hulk is a great strategist, and he thinks he has all the angles covered, including Red Leader. And Red Leader is one of the smartest characters in the Marvel U, so he is -- or thinks he is -- always one step ahead of everyone.

Blacker: They're two sides of the same irradiated coin. Ross will stop at nothing to get his way. Red Leader is certain he'll get his way; a much greedier darker way. We'll see who's right.

The relationship between Punisher and Elektra is another one that involves intense feelings. How do you think these two characters view each other and their roles on the Thunderbolts? What do they mean to each other? And what does the team mean to them?

Blacker: Charles Soule, from whom we're taking over the book, did a terrific job walking the tightrope of this relationship. These are two characters for whom emotions are difficult. Neither would ever admit that there are feelings for the other.

Deadpool, of course, has not been a fan of the relationship between the Punisher and Elektra, but he's also grown in some way thanks to his own solo adventures and will even be married soon. I know you don't want to penalize readers who don't read the ongoing "Deadpool" series, but what can you tell us about your take on the character when your run on "Thunderbolts" begins? Will his marital status and some of the traumatic events he's endured in "Deadpool" color the way he reacts to or views his teammates?

Acker: Yes. To all of it. Deadpool has a big decision to make in the second issue of our first arc, and the events of his solo title weigh heavily in his decision.

Blacker: We are big fans of what [Gerry] Duggan and [Brian] Posehn are doing in "Deadpool," and it will come into play in this arc.

You've written Deadpool a couple of times now, but I don't believe you've written Johnny Blaze at all. What do you find most interesting about the Ghost Rider? What does he adds to the team and the book?

Blacker: Blaze is an interesting guy because, despite having enormous power, he's a biker at heart.

Acker: A different kind of guy on a team of soldiers and mercenaries. Despite being filled with death, he's arguably the Thunderbolt who is the most full of life.

Artist Carlo Barberi is currently drawing "Thunderbolts" and will return to the book when you guys begin your run. He definitely has a knack for and understanding of the characters, but what other artistic strengths do you feel he brings to the book?

Acker: Man, Carlo is one of the best artists around. He really grounds the world and characters in the real, which you need in a book like this.

Blacker: He's also an expert at tone. There are horror undercurrents in "Thunderbolts," just by dint of how dark it can be, and Carlo really sells that. Check out the "Thunderbolts in Hell" stuff that Soule is doing now with Carlo, and you'll see what I mean.

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Your first "Thunderbolts" arc pits the Punisher against his teammates. Can you talk about what triggers the conflict and the Punisher's chances against his teammates? Is the Punisher out of his league? Or is he the type of guy to have a number of contingency plans designed to eliminate his teammates?

Acker: "Punisher Vs. Thunderbolts" has been a long time coming. Frank was never comfortable on this team, didn't buy into Red Hulk's philosophy, so we're finally bringing that to a head.

Blacker: Punisher is a blunt instrument. The kind who makes contingency plans, sure, but most of those involve shooting or blowing someone up real good.

Acker: Not intricate plans.

Blacker: No, certainly not.

Finally, what can you tell us about your plans for "Thunderbolts" beyondyour initial arc? What types of genres and tones can readers expect? Can you hint or tease some of the antagonists that you have plans for in the series?

Acker: We can't say too much right now.

Blacker: We want to play with the underpinnings of the original team, and really every team since: villainous heroes and heroic villains going up against heroic heroes and villainous villains.
Acker: We're so excited to be taking on this book, this team, and workingfor Marvel. We love what came before on this book, and we hope the fans will trust us to do right by the team and by them.

Acker & Blacker make their "Thunderbolts" debut alongside artist Carlo Barberi in June with issue #27.

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