Whether it's an upcoming Marvel NOW! launch title or a long-awaited series like Brian Bendis and Bryan Hitch's "Age of Ultron", Marvel Comics has things covered with a series of special press conference calls to reveal new details on upcoming projects for the publishing initiative, including a new run of "Thunderbolts" by Daniel Way and Steve Dillon.
Announced in September, "Thunderbolts" takes four antiheroes of the Marvel Universe -- Elektra, Venom, Deadpool and the Punisher -- and throws them together as an elite black ops squad under the command of General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, also known as the Red Hulk. Unlike the most recent incarnation of the Thunderbolts, this is a brand new team with no government association and Daniel Way, joined by editor Jordan D. White, were on hand to discuss his plans for the new incarnation of the superhero team.
James Viscardi, Marvel Sales & Communications Coordinator and call moderator, began the call by prompting Way for an overview of "Thunderbolts."
"This book serves as the 'Uncanny X-Force' for the entirety of the Marvel Universe -- at least the terrestrial part," he said. "These are the characters that don't mind getting their hands dirty ... and they're going to be tackling the problematic issues that aren't so black and white with solutions that are violent and explosive and brutal."
Way stated the biggest surprise of the book was how different it was to write the characters as part of a team. "It's a lot more dynamic than I would have imagined coming into it," said Way. "They're working as a unit. Morally speaking, that's actually something that you definitely catch a glimpse of in the first issue. Those personal moral codes and how they conflict with one another -- every character's moral compass ... sometimes leads them on a collision course with another character. It's definitely a huge part of this book. The Thunderbolts are going to war both out there and inside their own camp. As you'll see in the first issue, Red Hulk put a lot of planning into this. It's not like he didn't expect some of this, but he ends up surprised. It's based on an informed opinion that he can lead this group because of what he is -- both the general and the fact that he's this gamma powered juggernaut."
The writer characterized the team as "exponential," noting that when the cast is all together, it's explosive. White stated it's definitely an interesting team when Venom is the most stable member.
In terms of threat, White said they hadn't revealed much about the Thunderbolts' mission. "We can't give away too much because you don't really find out the details of their mission until the second issue," said the editor. Way noted that part of the threat has to do with Ross' participation in some under-the-table dealings with the U.S. Government. "He was an old man. He was almost done with his life. He was in that mode of it's all going to come to a rest. Then he became Red Hulk. All the sins of his past aren't quite so far in his past," said Way. "Through a series of revelations, this is a part of why this Thunderbolts team exists to begin with. Their first mission is following up on one of those sins of Ross' past that he had somewhat forgotten about because it wasn't in the forefront of his mind." Way characterized the threat as Ross' responsibility to address. "Ross is done with compromise. The Thunderbolts, if nothing else, is a representation of that. They are no compromise."
White stated there's potential for each member to "get what they want from this group," and it's possible the team will tackle different issues that affect each member. "To take it to the next level and accomplish their goal, it is going to take bringing on a partner or partners," said Way, who said nobody knows exactly who is on this team when the series begins -- with Ross "not being forthcoming on some issues."
Way mentioned that he'll bring in some of the developments of Deadpool from his long run on the solo series, but what's really attractive to him as a writer is to write the character from multiple points of view and highlight "the really frightening part." "In the ongoing series, you were in Deadpool's head all the time. You didn't get an outside perspective on it," he said. "We're going to start seeing why people are really, truly afraid of Deadpool. In his mind, it's a big joke, but this is a very scary individual. ... Why I'm having such a good time writing Deadpool in the team dynamic is that none of these characters are used to being on a team. But Deadpool's not even used to being around other people. He's the fish most out of water. He, at least at the outset, has some of the most extreme reactions to it."
It's been a while since readers have had an opportunity to see Elektra for some time, and Way said the character was fun to write because we don't know much about her. "It's not something that's generally known, we don't understand her thought process all that much," he said. "You look back and see what makes the character work. You want to stick with those things. Having Elektra be the woman of mystery, that seems to really work for her. That being said, I'm not going to spend a lot of time -- at least there's no plans right now -- to really crawl into her head or really dig into her backstory because these stories lend themselves more to an immediate type of thing." The writer mentioned that Elektra "seems impatient" when readers first see her. "Ross doesn't have to work very hard to get her, but as we move into the second and the third arc, it's going to be very hard to keep her. All the internal stuff, she has no patience for it."
The team is going to be put up against something that puts them at odds with the rest of the Marvel U.
White said a lot of the most interesting stories about Elektra aren't about Elektra at all, but she's used more as a plot element. "For my part as a reader, a lot of times when writers have tried to make her a legit main character who we can understand, it sort of falls flat for me," he said. "It's definitely a very fine line you have to walk, keeping her dangerous and interesting without giving too much of her away."
A character teased for later in the "Thunderbolts" series, Red Leader, is confirmed to be Samuel Sterns, the original leader. "Samuel Sterns plays a big role in the Thunderbolts series," said Way. "In many cases, not the role you think he's going to play." The last time Sterns appeared was at the end of World War Hulk when he was depowered, and he's subsequently been seen a few times in Jeff Parker's "Hulk." "We've got big plans for that guy."
A character teased for later in the "Thunderbolts" series, Red Leader, is confirmed to be Samuel Sterns, the original leader. "Samuel Sterns plays a big role in the Thunderbolts series," said Way. "In many cases, not the role you think he's going to play." The last time Sterns appeared was at the end of World War Hulk when he was depowered, and he's subsequently been seen a few times in Jeff Parker's "Hulk."
Way noted he plans to expand the roster, saying there is one other member of the team that reader's won't see often. "But when she does show up, it'll always have an extremely galvanizing effect," he said. "You never know. We might pick up a few members."
Ross' experience on the Avengers told him more that he'd rather lead a team than be on one -- and there are a few major differences between the Avengers and the Thunderbolts. "The Avengers don't stalk you out of your bed and kill you," said Way. "The Thunderbolts will if that's what's required," he said. "This is the no compromise team. This is the no fucking around team. No beating Dr. Doom into the ground and have him show up a few months later." Way further mentioned that the way the Avengers do things "is compromise to T-bolt Ross. ... It can't be fair to everyone. That's not how the world works. It has to be balance and counter-balance, measure and counter-measure. If you're going to bomb the hell out of an ancient civilization, you should be prepared yourself to be bombed into oblivion."
The writer said there wasn't really a single most volatile member of the group, but at the start, it's Red Hulk. "Ross is calling the orders. If some of these guys have to die, if all of them have to die -- that's just the way it shakes out. That's why he's assembled this Dirty Half-Dozen," he said, going on to say that it's likely Deadpool who is the most volatile. "Right now, it's looking like Deadpool. It is to me simply because the walls are going to start closing in and to have that bomb ticking away in the corner -- I think it could get pretty ugly. You can't just put one in his head and kick him into a ditch."
White noted Dillon had said the book was a departure from his usual work. "'Punisher MAX,' even though there's action in there, there's not as much punching as there is shooting in the head," said White. "He's definitely bringing his A-Game."
To wrap up, Way explained why Deadpool decided to join the Thunderbolts given his time with X-Force. "Uncanny X-Force had rules. Even though they allowed Deadpool into play, he's not a mutant. And X-Force only dealt with mutant issues. He was always allowed in because they thought they could use him at some point. This is in Deadpool's wheelhouse. There's absolutely no rules. They can go anywhere in the world, they can do whatever they want and do as much damage as possible. X-Force was a covert op. This is not. If Deadpool is nothing else, he's a huge showoff."
With that, the call finished out. "Thunderbolts" #1 and #2 hit in December.