For over fifty years, the superhero property T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents has changed hands across a variety of publishers, reintroducing the government-sponsored team for new readers. From their 1960s espionage-tinged origins to plans to integrate the property into the DC Universe, the title has one of the more convoluted backgrounds, both in-universe and legally, of any widely distributed and well-remembered comic book title.
Now, CBR is taking a look back at the history of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and how the property has changed over the years.
WHO ARE THE T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS?
Inspired by the wave of espionage films led by the James Bond film franchise and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. television series, artist Wally Wood and writer Len Brown created the team, with input from co-creator Larry Ivie. Debuting in November 1965's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 published by Tower Comics, the eponymous team served as an extension of the United Nations, tasked with peacekeeping missions around the world.
In a failed attempt to save a UN scientist from the forces of an international terrorist known as Warlord, special operatives Leonard Brown and John Janus and dying scientist Anthony Dunn use the advanced technology in the besieged lab to gain super abilities and form the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad, with additional team members joining to battle Warlord across the globe. As the series progresses, it is revealed that Warlord and his followers are part of an underground humanoids known as the Subterraneans who seek to conquer the surface world.
WHO'S IN THE T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS?
The team is led by Brown, who uses a high-tech device known as the Thunder Belt to give himself super-strength and endurance for 30 minutes at a time before shutting off due to the physical stress on Brown's body. In this form, Brown takes on the codename Dynamo. Janus was originally a double agent for Warlord but joins the team after putting on the Menthor Helmet which boosts his mental abilities to realize the error of his ways while becoming the aptly named hero Menthor. As UN scientist Dunn dies, he transfers his consciousness into an android which he has built named NoMan which can become invisible for ten minutes at a time.
The team is later joined by Lightning, a man with super-speed with the unfortunate side effect of physically aging him whenever he draws deeply into his powers, Raven, a man with enhanced senses that pilots a rocket pack, Vulcan, a man with the power to emit sonic waves, and Undersea Agent, who are a father-daughter duo with experimental suits that let them navigate the depths of the ocean. The team is backed by a support team including the weapons specialist Dynamite, technical expert Kitten, and safecracker Weed.
WHO PUBLISHES THE T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS?
Initially published bimonthly by Tower Comics, the first volume of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents ran for 20 issues before Tower went out of business in 1969. In 1981, the property was purchased by John Carbonaro as part of his new comic book company JC Comics, which published issues in 1983 and 1984. Meanwhile, David M. Singer claimed the property had since lapsed into the public domain and published his own volume of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents through his company Deluxe Comics in 1984 before being sued by Carbonaro and forced to recognize Carbonaro as the legal owner to the property.
Following the closure of Deluxe Comics, a short-lived revival of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was attempted in 1987 by Solson Publications and by Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios in the 1990s though neither project saw completion. In 2009, DC Comics acquired the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents license from the Carbonaro estate and set out to make the property part of the DC Universe by introducing a new incarnation of the team led by NoMan, with an added emphasis on the superheroes' various powers having lethal side effects on them. In 2012, the license then transferred to IDW Publishing, with a new series by Phil Hester and Andrea Di Vito that had a new Dynamo save the team from the villainous Iron Maiden.