DeFalco Strikes With Thunder

In comic books, no idea stays dead for too long, but in the case of Marvel Comics' Thor-like "Thunderstrike" series, the mace-wielding hero's upcoming rebirth will be wrought at the hands of the men who created him. Starting this month, "Thunderstrike" returns in [EDIT] a five-issue miniseries by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, the creative team who recently wrapped an all-around epic run on the cult favorite "Spider-Girl."

"We needed to have a reason to bring him back," DeFalco told CBR News of the return of the Asgardian-powered everyman. "We're not big on just doing things. We agonize over pretty much everything. For this stuff to work, the characters have to be real to us. We have to analyze what's happening and why it's happening. That's our standard way of dealing with things."

Originally introduced as a temporary replacement for Thor, the hero Thunderstrike (AKA Eric Masterson) briefly wielded the hammer of the Thunder God until Odin granted him his own enchanted mace as part of a 24-issue solo series that Marvel published in the mid-90s. That comic ended with the death of Masterson, but like all things in the Marvel U, the mace of Thunderstrike can't stay forgotten forever.

"We're going to [introduce] a younger character: Kevin Masterson," DeFalco said, explaining the original hero's son will find the fallen mace as the series starts. "The last time we saw Kevin, he was about 11 years old. He's aged a few years since then. He gets reacquainted with the legacy of his father, but Kevin is not your typical protagonist. We're dealing with a kid whose father was killed going out and trying to be a hero, so Kevin doesn't have the same attitude about heroes as most comic fans do. He's not too happy with the Avengers. He feels that guys like Thor really let his father down when he needed them."

Ramping up the conflict in the series will be appearances from several of the modern Marvel U's biggest heroes including the Avengers and a certain super solider. Asked whether the characters he shepherded for so long as Editor-in-Chief felt different to him after over a decade away from core Marvel continuity, the writer stated, "Steve Rogers is Steve Rogers, and while I applaud a lot of the work that's been done on him over the years, the core of the character is essentially the same. I didn't really notice a significant difference. It's odd. I haven't really been in the regular universe for 13 or 14 years now. I've done a couple of fill-ins here or there, but this is my chance to have a great splash in the Marvel U one last time.

"I think that while we will have some Asgardians in the series - one of whom actually plays a major part - we're not dealing too much with Asgard or that sort of thing. If you're a Thor fan, you may like this. If you're a previous Thunderstrike fan, you may like this. And if you're a fan of the previous action and angst that Ron and I have done, you may like it. But this is kind of its own thing. We took pains to make sure that if you've never read a Thunderstrike comic before, or even a Thor comic, you'd be able to understand this story. It's our job to make it accessible to all readers, so that's what we did," DeFalco said.

As for the comment on this being his last waltz with Marvel, the writer restated his feeling that he won't have too many projects - or at least ongoing ones - with the House of Ideas in his future. "I think what I've always said was that when I was done with 'Spider-Girl,' that would probably be the last regular comic I did for Marvel, which I think people mistake 'the last regular comic' with 'the last comic.' And I still kind of think that. I think our days of working on monthly comics have sadly kind of come to an end."

But it was Marvel reaching out to DeFalco and Frenz that got "Thunderstrike" underway, as the writer recalled. "Basically, we got in touch with Marvel and said, 'Do you guys have anything else for us, or are we done?' And they said, 'Why don't you guys do a Thunderstrike?' Ron and I talked and initially we thought, 'Well, we already did Thunderstrike.' So we bounced around ideas, and one of the ideas [brought to us] was 'Do one of those things where you show how the '80s comics are different than the modern comics.' And we though 'Boy! That sounds like...not a whole lot of fun,' because the guys who read comics today like today's comics and the guys who were reading the comics in the '80s like the '80s comics. What are we going to do, say, 'If you don't like what we like, you're wrong'? Come on!"

The idea wasn't a sure-fire sell with the pair at first, but they eventually found their way to a story they could tell. "We were thinking, 'Maybe we should go out on a high note and finish with "Spider-Girl,"' but Ron and I got talking and one of us threw out a goofy idea and the other threw out another goofy idea. The more we started throwing out ideas, the more we started going, 'You know what? We can bring Thunderstrike back, but not in the way everyone thinks we're going to bring him back!' In a way, this is Thunderstrike as you've never seen him before.

"In some regards, there are all these fake second-generation characters. I think MC2 was really a line with second-generation characters, but usually when you see a 'second-generation' hero, it's from a character you've never seen before. In MC2, everyone used to say ,'It's not the real thing.' Here, we're doing that second-generation in the actual Marvel Universe. But is it the second-generation or the rebirth of the original? You'll have to read to figure it out.

"I've taken a big crash course in what's been happening while we've been gone," he explained of reentering the Marvel Universe proper. "We're going through a lot of the current day comics, taking notes and trying to figure out what's happened. Some of them are contradictory, so it's kind of hard to figure out what's going on. I think we're getting this opportunity because of the 'Thor' movie, but to my surprise, there are a lot of Thunderstrike fans out there who must have been making their presence known."

Of course, just because he won't be heading up a monthly superhero book any time soon doesn't mean DeFalco and comics are done. The writer is hard at work on a number of projects for Archie Comics, including the recently announced reboot of the "Sam Hill" property. "Sam Hill is a private eye, and that's going to be essentially hard-boiled detective stuff done as a comic," he explained. "Each issue, there will be action and mystery, and everything will hopefully be accessible to people who've never heard of Sam Hill - because I'm not sure anybody even remembers Sam! Archie has been really ramp up and battle ahead. They're a very exciting company who's doing all sorts of different things.

"I'm also doing some assorted Archie stories here and there, because that's where I started. It's kind of fun - I guess you can go home. Plus, I'm the kind of person who - well, I'm a bit of a flirt. So I like to do a sword and sorcery thing, a superhero thing, a humor thing and bounce around between a bunch of different projects. I think the strange thing in this industry is that these days, every editor puts you in a box. That's most industries, where editors put you in a box and say, 'This guy can only do this thing.' I'm lucky to have had a really varied career."

"Thunderstrike" #1 ships this month from Marvel Comics.

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