As the current head of H.A.M.M.E.R., Norman Osborn has numerous super teams under his control and the ability to use them for a number of purposes. Publicly, Osborn is known for spending time leading his (Dark) Avengers, with whom he is seen saving the world or pursuing fugitive heroes like the New Avengers. However, there is one team under Osborn's command which has a singular, far more secretive and sinister purpose. That's the Thunderbolts, and when Osborn sends them into the field, it's so they can eliminate targets with extreme prejudice.
Currently, the Thunderbolts are locked in a struggle with the Agents of Atlas. The undercover hero team posed as weapons dealers in order to double cross Osborn and slow or cripple his attempts at increasing the firepower he can use in achieving his ends. Osborn realizes that he was double crossed and has, and next month, the Thunderbolts are sent on their most important sanction to date under his command. It's a mission that takes them to Asgard and Broxton, Oklahoma - the frontlines of the Marvel event story "Siege. CBR News spoke with newly-minted "Thunderbolts" writer Jeff Parker about his plans for the team during and after their involvement in the mythic assault.
CBR News: The majority of the Thunderbolts are pretty clear in their motivations for being part of the team, and for most of them it's a a chance to exercise their strong homicidal impulses. Ghost's motivations are pretty enigmatic, though. What do you feel are his dominant character traits and what do you think Ghost ultimately wants?
Jeff Parker: Ghost is largely defined by what he doesn't want, actually, and for whatever reason, he's very against large controlling interests. Ghost is one of those mystery figures who's backstory is still very hidden, and he's pretty enigmatic as a result.
In issue #139, you added a new character to the T-bolts line-up in Grizzly. Since this is the second time you've used him, I'm guessing you have some affinity for Max Markham. What makes the character so compelling to you?
He just seemed perfect to add to this mix - they needed another strongman, and I'd already established him working "for the government" under Osborn's authority. He's more of a lifelong troublemaker, though, not a psycho like much of the group. So, by comparison, he seems kind of "normal."
Also in issue #139, you sent the T-bolts into battle against the Agents of Atlas, a team whose adventures you're also currently chronicling. One of the things the two teams meeting illustrated is that the dynamic between the T-bolts is the exact opposite of the dynamic of the AoA. What's it like writing a book where none of the characters really trust each other?
It's a very harsh and paranoid world to immerse yourself in. Put yourself - as a character - through the situations established with the ground rule that probably no one has your back, and someone may even be plotting against you. That's just something none of the Agents of Atlas have to worry about, and all of the Thunderbolts do.
The T-bolts' battle with the AoA seemed to really affect Scourge/Nuke rather dramatically. Is there anything you can say about what's running through his mind in the final pages of issue #139? It seems like he's coming to terms with some pretty heavy realizations.
Well, we've been giving a peek behind the curtains with him already, to let the reader see how hellish the world is through his eyes. And that's really going to be exacerbated in #140, as you'll see. I should call the issue "The Mind of Scourge." Or Nuke. Skuke?
The T-bolts vs. AoA battle comes to an end in issue #140, which is in stores today. Any hints or teases about what fans can expect from the issue? The solicits seem to indicate that one of your cast members is going to die...
Yeah, someone certainly dies, in no uncertain terms and in no way of coming back. And in the harsh manner you might expect here in this incarnation of the T-bolts! But will it be - someone small?
In February, you'll kick of a "Thunderbotls" storyline that will tie into the current event story "Siege." What's it like working on such a high profile event storyline?
It's fun - I'm also working on "Fall of the Hulks," and I have to admit, it's a blast to go large scale! Plus I got to read all the secret stuff and bug Bendis.
What can you tell us about the plot and themes of the "Siege" issues? Is this a superhero vs supervillain scuffle, or is this story more of a high tension cat and mouse game that takes place in the middle of a war?
This is where we see why Norman has set up a team so completely geared towards stealth and infiltration. He has a very key job for the team as the Siege goes down, and they have haul ass to Asgard to make it happen. This is the biggest thing they've been involved in as a team.
It looks like the T-bolts' primary adversaries in the "Siege" storyline will be the Mighty Avengers. Can you reveal why Osborn has unleashed the T-bolts on the Mighty Avengers and what's it like pitting these two teams against each other? Are there any specific character match ups you're particularly enjoyed writing, like say, Scourge vs. USAgent?
It's not Osborn putting the T-bolts against the Mighty Avengers, it's someone else alerting the Mighties to their plan.
And yes, I was very happy to be putting Scourge/Nuke up against USAgent. Talk about two sides of the same coin who turned out differently! Or maybe not so different...
There are also going to be some interesting match ups you probably won't anticipate, and some that you'll say "of course," like when Ant-Man goes against Stature.
What can you tell us about the tone of the "Siege" storyline?
The tone is much in line with the overall "'Siege" story, but maybe you get more of a micro view of the whole thing as played out by our cast. This incarnation of the Bolts was handpicked by Norman Osborn. Now - is his calculating brilliant mind enough in the end to win out? Or are teams something more organic that need to happen at a ground level and not be designed from above? Doesn't trust matter? We'll get all those answers when the Thunderbolts reach Broxton. It is very much the definition of "reap the whirlwind."
The next few months find you working with Miguel Sepulveda and Wellinton Alves. What's it like working with these artists?
Miguel really pulls out the stops with the depiction of Asgard, this is clearly the kind of grand setting he enjoys. It really gets across the bigness of this story.
Wellinton I'm new to, but boy, a splash page of his just arrived in the email earlier and I was quite happy! Both men are making this a real spectacle that defines and redefines some Marvel characters for a long while.
Is there anything you can say about what the end of "Siege" means for "Thunderbolts?" Will the series continue, and if so will the status quo of the book become radically different?
Most of the team leaves the "Siege" profoundly affected - it's not a small event for them by any measure. And the whole program of the Thunderbolts - which the public didn't realize was still operating at all! - is about change in a major, major way. Only one member will be returning after this!
Yes, the status quo of the team undergoes a major overhaul for the new era to come. It's going to synthesize a lot of what readers like about recent history and re-instill some elements from the early days of the book. I'm pretty excited to be part of this rebuilding! The new set up becomes crucial to the overall structure of what's to come in the Marvel Universe and gains some high-level players.