When the Silver Age of comics officially established that superheroes were cool (and profitable), many saw a quick buck to be made. Created by Wally Wood in 1965 for Tower Books as an attempt to break into the long underwear market. Assembling a team of top-notch creators including Dan Adkins, Dick Ayers, Reed Crandall, Steve Ditko, Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, Joe Giella, Gil Kane, Joe Orlando,Paul Reinman, Mike Sekowsky, Chic Stone, George Tuska, and Al Williamson, Wood sculpted not one title but a family of comic books to rival the success of both Marvel and DC Comics. The genius of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is that it consists of a team of super-powered individuals working for a government agency that also employs a group of non-super-powered covert field operatives known as the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad. Think of it like folding S.H.I.E.L.D. into the Avengers.
The superheroes were classic Silver Age types, the everyman Dynamo saving the world yet striking out with his boss and the boss’ secretary, the strange NoMan who housed the mind of a genius inventor who was immortal yet could never again be human, the tragic speedster known as Lightning who died a little more the faster he ran and of course the double-agent Menthor who nobly sacrificed himself to save the very people he was assigned to kill. The line of books expanded to a Dynamo and NoMan spin-off as well Undersea Agent. The comics themselves were more like magazines, bulkier in look (and therefore much costlier than the Marvel and DC counterparts), made up of a series of stories rather than one feature.
Since the short-lived series folded after 20 issues in 1969, several attempts have been made to reboot the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, most notably the 1984 Deluxe Comics series featuring the work of George Pérez, Dave Cockrum, Keith Giffen, Murphy Anderson and Jerry Ordway. DC Comics came into ownership of the characters some time ago yet aside from an attempt in 2003 to modernize the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents that was quickly squashed by Joe Carbonaro (whom DC had licenses the property from), nothing much has happened. I recall that the series was assigned to writer Marc Andreyko and cover artist JG Jones, but that the concept was deemed disrespectful to the source material by Carbonaro.
Here’s the announcement from DC Comics in Previews:
DC PRESS RELEASE
THE T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS RETURN IN HARD-HITTING NEW MONTHLY
One of the best-loved super-teams of the Silver Age is reborn for a new era in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #1! The series hits the ground running this June in an all-new, monthly series that takes the classic Tower Comics characters and sets them against a dire threat to all of humanity!
The series is written by Marc Andreyko (BLACK SUN, Torso), with art by Manuel Garcia (Thunderbolts) and Jimmy Palmiotti (21 DOWN, RELOAD) and painted covers by J.G. Jones (Y: THE LAST MAN covers, WONDER WOMAN: THE HIKETEIA).
“This series will feature all the classic characters from the original series, but while the names Dynamo, Lightning and No-Man remain the same, everything around them has changed,” says Dan DiDio, DC’s VP – Editorial and editor of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS. “We’re taking a more contemporary look at these heroes, their motivations, and the world around them.”
Operating outside the jurisdiction or boundaries of any one nation, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents seek world peace, and the coming Age of the Alpha-Human is a threat to mankind that only they can fight! But can the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents save a world in constant turmoil? Expect non-stop action and adventure as the tales of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents unfold!
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #1 will be solicited in the April issue of Previews (Volume XIII #4) and is scheduled to be in stores on June 4.
The lack of a new ongoing title made the release of several Archive Editions look quite peculiar as they were likely intended to function as a reminder to fans and an intro to those unfamiliar with the cult property.
At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, that all changed:
Following the passing of Joe Carbonaro, DC Comics has officially announced that they have formally acquired the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and that the characters will be folded into their continuity (likely as part of a Final Crisis Multiverse fall-out sub-plot). There are those who say that this is sacrilege and others who think it’s about time. Personally, I think it’ll all be over in two year’s when the next Crisis over-writes this one.
In any case, if this brings more attention to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents by Wally Wood and his team, I am all for it. The ideas are so brilliant and the characters so much fun that they speak to almost anyone who enjoys the medium.
There is some very interesting discussion here on the revival/re-imagining and the like including some well-stated words from Kurt Busiek.
There is also a brilliant excerpt on the subject from the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Companion here, complete with interviews with Andreyko and Carbonaro.
More as it comes…