Jeff Parker and Declan Shalvey on "Thunderbolts" Past and Present

Marvel continued its six-day streak of press conference calls today with news of the ever-twisting world of "Thunderbolts." This follows last Friday's announcement of "AvX: Versus", Monday's in-depth discussion of Rick Remender and Gabriel Hardman's "Secret Avengers," the reveal on Tuesday that Walter Simonson will join Brian Michael Bendis for an arc on "Avengers," Wednesday's announcement of Cullen Bunn writing "Captain America & Hawkeye", and yesterday's unveiling of Mark Waid and Greg Rucka's "The Omega Effect" and its impact on the worlds of Spider-Man, the Punisher and Daredevil.

On hand for the call were "Thunderbolts" writer Jeff Parker, artist Declan Shalvey, editor Tom Brennan and moderator and Marvel Junior Sales Administrator James Viscardi to tease the upcoming time travel events in "Thunderbolts."

This year marks the 15th anniversary of "Thunderbolts," and Issue #172 begins the "Thunderbolts vs. Thunderbolts" arc, Viscardi said, with Parker adding Brennan suggested the story. "We just couldn't stop saying 'Thunderbolts,' until this just naturally happened," the writer joked.

Parker explained the Thunderbolts can now move their tower through time, as Man-Thing's lair -- and thus the Nexus of Reality -- is beneath it. But now, "the Thunderbolts keep going back further in time, farther from where they need to be" until the King Arthur arc -- when they're thrown to a very specific point: when the team first masqueraded as heroes.

Brennan explained about suggesting stories that he only speaks up when he sees a great opportunity for Parker's skills.

Parker said when he first took the assignment, he "wasn't reading a lot of mainstream comics" and because of the name and because the team debuted in "Hulk," he thought "it was a team put together by Thunderbolt Ross to fight the Hulk." He soon got much more acquainted with the concept.

Parker described Fixer and Moonstone as "the heart of the story," since Fixer sees "what he was then and what he is now." "He gets to meet the younger him and wonders, 'Would he be proud of the me now?'" Moonstone, though, "will try to take advantage of the situation because she knows the future."

Brennan noted as a kid, he "always hated when villains would team up, because you always knew they were going to turn on each other." This makes him especially proud of the Thunderbolts, where the characters "actually help each other." However, looking at the original team, he noted three characters become heroes, and "Moonstone will always be crazy and evil" but on some level, she "cares about these people."

Brennan also said the current team "did not choose to be together, the government put them together," which will provide an interesting contrast with the original Thunderbolts team.

"This is probably the biggest story we've done so far," Parker said, adding that Shalvey was particularly excited about showing a certain event. Brennan joked that "A Thunderbolt will die!" and "Another one will save the planet!" while Parker added that the title will be changed to "T'underbolts" in "deference to Declan" and his accent. Shalvey in short order pronounced "Thunderbolts" correctly, to show he could.

Shalvey said he's a big fan of drawing V and Atlas, but "it was a lot harder to draw the older costumes than I realized, especially from different angles." He added his back issues "are in tatters" from using them for reference. Shalvey joked that original artist, Mark Bagley, "was making it up from panel to panel."

The artist added the issues actually use locations he has drawn recently. "Having to reference my own work made me feel strangely legitimized." He noted, despite some time on "Thunderbolts," this is "the first time I've done a typical 'superhero in New York' scene."

Brennan said this was likely because, "in a Jeff Parker script, an artist is going to be given, 'there's a giant fish, and he's walking across the moon'" rather than more standard scenarios.

Parker noted there was a problem of chronology. "You never want to date something because of Marvel's moving timeline," but he'd suggested a nineties-looking reporter. "I went straight to Teri Hatcher," Shalvey said, referring to the actress who played Lois Lane on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman."

Asked about favorite fights, Parker said "Fixer vs. Fixer," Brennan "Moonstone vs. Moonstone," while Shalvey chose "Hyde vs. Atlas."

Parker said he is trying to evoke a "nineties vibe" in the characters' speech and actions. "When we begin the book, it begins in the time of Onslaught," which will feel like an old "Thunderbolts" comic. "Then we finally bring the Thunderbolts into it, before you think you've bought some old reprint you didn't know about."

Brennan said it's "perfectly encouraged to go with the style of the time, but avoid specifics." Shalvey said too much referencing "could put people in the '90s rather than following the story."

Parker mentioned the actions of the future Thunderbolts will matter to the older Thunderbolts' future history. "A decision is made," Brennan added, "that changes everything." "This story matters to the Thunderbolts history," said Parker. Shalvey, the only member of the team who did not have the whole story in front of him from the beginning, said, "I came to a moment where I went, 'what?!?'" He added the moment "could have been a cliche, but we really pulled it off."

Asked about certain characters, Parker said, "I thought about squeezing Dallas [Riordan] in, like maybe if Atlas had to go have sex or something" but she didn't make sense for the story. Jolt will also not appear. "Declan didn't want to draw Jolt," he joked. "That's not true," Shalvey said. Shalvey also corrected Dallas's surname pronunciation for all on the call: "It's 'Rear'den.' It's an Irish name."

According to Brennan, Fixer's journey will hit a turning point, and he will make a decision of leadership.

"I really was not expecting Boomerang to jump up in front the way he did," Parker said when asked about surprising characters. "That's when I get excited about a story, when you realize you're creating this breathing thing."

"I was also a little worried how I'd handle Ghost," he continued. "He's really easy to lapse into a cliche if you don't do it carefully." The origin story helped to flesh out the character in his own mind, and showed "how you, too, could end up being a super-villain."

Brennan said he's enjoying Centurius as "an evil genius who has to keep people alive." "I love this guy because he keeps his ego in check, and that's part of his evil genius."

Asked about a general idea of how much time has passed, Parker settled on "more than ten years." Brennan, hedging, said it would have to be more like five years. "It's more fun to write as ten years, but it works as five. It would be a busy five years," Parker said.

"I'm just saying this so I don't get yelled at later," Brennan added.

Apparently, Baron Zemo is most stunned by the future team's appearance -- and his own absence from the team's ranks. "He cannot help but notice that he's not there, not a part of this thing that he started," Parker said.

When asked about integrating "Thunderbolts" into the Marvel U, Parker teased a big fight coming. Brennan said that, "in the present, Luke Cage does not have a Thunderbolts team," and will have to put one together.

Brennan said the book was "very fortunate to have Mark Bagley on covers for this arc," and noted the significant achievement of a 15th anniversary.

"I am going to be doing an interview with the B-team -- Busiek, Bagley, and Brevoort -- and ask what they were thinking," Parker said, noting the original "Thunderbolts" series "was this great stunt, one of the great switches in superhero history." What was presented as a straight-up superteam was revealed on the last page of #1 as the Masters of Evil. "It made a big splash in the shops."

With that, the call-and week of Marvel's Next Big Thing Extravaganza-wrapped.

"Thunderbolts" #172 is in stores in April.

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