Update: Well, that was fun while it lasted.
So who will Marvel’s newest incarnation of Marvel’s the Thunderbolts be?
Sometimes you write for work. Sometimes you write for fun.
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This is the latter. Because I don’t know who the new Thunderbolts are. And it might not be too long before we all do. Marvel Comics teased the new line-up in silhouette on February 10 promising a full reveal on February 11. So this may have a very short shelf life.
But I think I know who they could be. And I think I know who they should be and probably someday will be.
Because in the 25 years since Marvel pulled off its greatest storytelling trick ever with the reveal of the villain-in-disguise original line-up/concept, the publisher has been searching for a formula to capitalize on the original’s surprise success.
We’re going to do us all a favor and forget 2003’s initial short-lived rebrand of the title focused on an underground fighting circuit populated by new supervillains (fun fact: I was Marvel Comics’ marketing communications manager for that one, and … yeah). But since then the franchise has largely focused on rotating line-ups of villains and anti-hero-type characters with messier agendas than the altruistic superteams like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
Currently, the team is the enforcers of New York City Mayor Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin, who police the streets for superheroes that have been outlawed in Fisk’s city in the Devil’s Reign event storyline.
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The new series rebrand will almost certainly launch out of the events of Devil’s Reign and might set it up perfectly for the version of the Thunderbolts that always seemed inevitable.
The original Thunderbolts were villains disguised as heroes and for 25 years it’s been nagging at me that the concept is ripe for a 180-degree turn to feature a supervillain team made up of superheroes in disguise.
Real-life crime-fighting has always involved law enforcement and investigative officers going undercover – sometimes deep undercover – in the criminal world. And Wilson Fisk’s New York, which has a criminal mastermind as its official head and has banned superheroes, seems ripe for the concept of heroes trying to infiltrate the criminal apparatus from the inside.
Now Marvel has already gone down this road somewhat in a short-lived 2014 series called Avengers Undercover featuring lower-profile younger characters who tried to infiltrate the Masters of Evil.
I’m conceiving of a Thunderbolts who, like the original team, have a high public profile and would be higher-profile pre-existing superheroes in new, villainous guises.
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Marvel’s blacked-out teaser from February 10 doesn’t immediately remind of any known superheroes or supervillains and seems set up to reveal a set of what appears to be new characters ala the original Thunderbolts line-up.
But couldn’t say Daredevil, who now has a lot of reasons to take on a disguise in the Kingpin’s New York City, fit in the silhouette on the left?
I’m just sayin’…
While Marvel will likely never pull off the trick it managed with Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley’s first volume, a disguise-in-reverse Thunderbolts concept would at least play off the original’s true core premise more than any subsequent incarnation has.
So we’ll see what Marvel’s subsequent new Thunderbolts announcement reveals in just a few hours. But the good news for me is either I’m going to be right, revealed right when the series launches almost certainly in May, or I’ll have finally scratched this itch and gotten it out there for the next time Marvel needs to reinvent the Thunderbolts.
I also don’t mind being wrong. As I say, sometimes these are just for fun.
The original Thunderbolts didn’t meet our qualifications for the best superhero teams of all time, Because… you know.