One of the biggest twists in the modern day history of Marvel Comics came at the end of 1997's "Thunderbolts" #1 by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Mark Bagley. The final page of the issue revealed the book's cast of characters were not the heroes readers initially thought them to be. In actuality they were members of the Masters of Evil posing as heroes in order to gain access to the secrets and power of groups like the Avengers. They soon found playing hero can be a dangerous thing and the members of the Thunderbolts decided to break from their leader, Baron Zemo, and try to reform and become actual heroes.
The Thunderbolts continued their quest to be heroes right up until the time of the super hero "Civil War," when the team came under the control of the U.S. government and Norman Osborn who corrupted the group and used them for his own villainous purposes. Recently those original Thunderbolts were given another chance to be heroes when several of the team's original members joined forces with Luke Cage to implement a new Thunderbolts program that would give convicted super criminals a shot at redemption by combating various threats.
This new incarnation of the T-Bolts has been plagued by several problems. Its most recent when original team member Fixer and several of the group's criminal members turned their headquarters into a time machine and escaped into the past where they became lost. In March's "Thunderbolts #171, writer Jeff Parker and artist Declan Shalvey kick off a new story arc that sends the time lost T-Bolts back to the team's early days where they'll come face to face with the members of the team's original incarnation.
CBR News spoke with Parker about the arc, announced yesterday at their "Avengers: Shattered Heroes " panel at New York Comic Con.
CBR News: Jeff, it looks like the rest of this year and the beginning of next year will see the Thunderbolts involved in a time travel story. As a writer, what do you find most interesting about time travel? What sort of challenges do they present you?
Jeff Parker: As a fan of James Burke's "Connections" series, I'm always fascinated with the idea of modern people being placed in the past, and how they would deal with that. A lot of people have the arrogant assumption that our ancestors would be be less enlightened and knowledgeable than us, but that's really not the case. And the Thunderbolts find that just because they're going back to when there weren't mutants and super people all over, they still don't necessarily have the edge.
We know the T-Bolts time hopping trip comes to an end in March with a voyage to the team's early days. What are some of the eras they're going to visit before that? And will it just be Fixer's faction that's lost in time? Or will Songbird, Mach V and Ghost's group also be traveling the time stream in search of Fixer's faction of fugitive Thunderbolts?
It doesn't exactly end there, it goes someplace stranger still. And it gets medieval along the way! But it's the end of the line for somebody. Plus someone will make it through to chase the Bolts back through the ages.
At what point in the Thunderbolts early days do the present day T-Bolts arrive? Have the Thunderbolts just burst on the scene as heroes? Are the Avengers and the Fantastic Four still in another dimension because of the events of the "Onslaught" story line? Has the young heroine Jolt joined the group? Or is this later after the team has been exposed as villains?
You're close on the time period and line up, but I still want to keep it a little secret. They're still thought of as heroes.
What's it like writing the Thunderbolts of this time period? How do these characters compare to their current day counterparts?
It's a different point in their lives, Mach 1 and Fixer still have some wildness to get out of their system before they finally realize a criminal life isn't the sanest one. Moonstone -- it's hard to say if she ever really changes.
In terms of plot and themes what is this arc about? What events set the story in motion?
A powerful figure will help stop the Bolts from continuing back in time, and Moonstone is the connection back to our century. But it's not quite enough to get them to their departure point. Responsibility is a big theme throughout this. The team is actively trying not to destroy history.
Will that quest to not destroy history bring them into conflict with original T-Bolts leader Baron Zemo?
If you wanted classic Zemo, this is about the best you can get. The undiluted guy, straight from the time.
Sounds like an epic conflict. We know you can't reveal much about its outcome for fear of spoilers, but it seems like you've been building to this story for quite awhile now. How pivotal is this arc in the long term story that you're telling in "Thunderbolts?"
This arc continues movement with the team that will kick off some new directions for other characters. The book keeps the dynamic progression going strong.
It's the future versus the past in "Thunderbolts" #171, on sale in March.