Thunderbolts was a brand-new Marvel super-hero comics, launched in 1997. It was conceived by Kurt Busiek and designed by Mark Bagley.
Such new series have a high casualty rate. Thus, an unfair fate similar to that of, say, Power Company, could be feared.
However, the book’s twiiiist was a home run. By the last page of #1, the “brand new heroes” were revealed to be a bunch of established super-villains in disguise. Many people wanted to know what happened next, and the book remained a stable and successful part of the Marvel Universe for 20+ years.
This is a team profile – what we sometimes call a “base camp” entry. It explains all the basics, the storylines, etc.. So we don’t have to repeat everything in every single profile for a Thunderbolts member.
This article is a bit long, so it was cleft into halves. The second part of the Thunderbolts team profile is here.
Redemption of its members.
- Pre-Osborn versions of the team generally addressed whatever threats that arose which weren’t solved by other groups. Although when Zemo was in charge they tended to have specific goals (take over the world, fix the problems on Counter-Earth , Project: Liberator, stop the Grandmaster controlling the Wellspring of Power).
- When the CSA took control of the group, they were assigned to capture unregistered powered individuals.
- As a covert operation under Osborn’s control, they did whatever he wanted them to.
- Reorganised under the supervision of FACT (the Federal Advisory Committee to Thunderbolts), they were assigned operations sanctioned by the committee, and were occasionally taken on unauthorised missions by Cage.
Extent of operations:
- The incarnations based in New York generally limited their operations to the surrounding areas.
- While on the run the team was mobile for a period dealing with problems near where they happened to be. Working out of their Mount Charteris base, they would sometimes travel further to deal with problems they considered their province.
- While based on Stormfront, they acted internationally.
- Under Osborn’s control, their operations have primarily been restricted to the US, with only a couple taking them abroad, which have generally been secret and illegal.
- When Cage led the team their use of Man-Thing as a transport system allowed them to operate internationally, and even in other dimensions.
Bases of Operations:
Former bases of operations:
Four Freedom Plaza, Mount Charteris, Attilan, Folding Castle, Thunderbolts Mountain, and The Cube.
They’ve had a fluctuating relationship with the various incarnations of the Avengers.
Number of active members:
Number of reserve members:
Currently the team is under the control of Luke Cage, with Songbird, Fixer and Mach V acting as wardens to the prisoners.
Known Members (at the group’s dissolution):
- Luke Cage.
- Mach V.
- Mr. Hyde.
- Toxic Doxie.
- Trickshot (Barney Barton).
Known former members:
- Ant-Man (O’Grady).
- Baron Helmut Zemo (Citizen V).
- Black Widow (Romanova).
- Blizzard (Gill).
- Cobalt Man (Tony Stark).
- Cyclone (Fresson).
- Harrier (Cardinal).
- Hawkeye (Barton).
- Man-killer (aka Amazon).
- Mister X.
- Photon (Genis-Vell).
- Radioactive Man.
- Scourge (Nuke).
- Skein (Gypsy Moth).
- Smuggler (Conrad Josten).
- Speed Demon.
- Swordsman (Strucker).
- Vantage (Atlas, Citizen V).
- Venom (Gargan).
Known special agents:
Generally a criminal record and a desire to repent for their action (in theory, anyway).
Justice, Like Lightning…
The Thunderbolts began as a world domination scheme by Baron Helmut Zemo. He recruited a new team of Masters of Evil, and had them adopt new costumed personas, and had them surgically altered to hide their identities. Zemo became Citizen V, Moonstone became Meteorite, Fixer became Techno, Goliath (Josten) became Atlas, Screaming Mimi became Songbird, and Beetle (Jenkins) became Mach I.
Calling themselves the Thunderbolts, they pretended to be heroes, in the wake of the disappearance of the world’s pre-eminent heroes.
Following a debut battling the Hulk, they were soon greeted as heroes, establishing themselves in New York. Dallas Riordan was assigned as their liaison to the Mayor’s office, and they were allowed to use Four Freedoms Plaza as headquarters.
They battled a number of threats to the recently damaged city, such as the Wrecking Crew, and a new Masters of Evil led by a new Crimson Cowl.
They also helped orphaned teenager Hallie Takahama. Hallie had escaped Arnim Zola’s labs after being empowered by his experiments, to try rescuing the other kids he was experimenting on. Zola was stopped. Due in part to Meteorite’s machinations, Hallie, taking the name Jolt, joined the group.
When the Elements of Doom began attacking targets around New York, the Thunderbolts responded, clashing with them a couple of times before the Elements created a base in Central Park. The Thunderbolts snuck in, but were soon captured.
While their escape attempt got Techno’s neck snapped, they managed to beat the Elements, and Techno downloaded his consciousness, saved by his tech-pac, into a robotic body he assembled from the available junk.
Shortly after the missing heroes returned, the Thunderbolts’ deception was revealed by Zemo. He had become concerned that some of the group seemed to be adapting too well to their new roles.
On the run, they had little option but to join Zemo on the next stage of his plan, aboard an orbital satellite. There, he used clearances they’d gained during their deception to facilitate their take over of the minds of everyone on Earth.
At the urging of Jolt, who’d stowed away with them, Meteorite, Songbird, Atlas and Mach I turned on Zemo. They had to face his controlled Avengers and Fantastic Four by this time, but eventually managed to foil his plan, although Zemo and Techno escaped. Faced with the freed Avengers and Fantastic Four, the remaining Thunderbolts disappeared before any decision could be made.
On The Run, part 1
They had been transported to Kosmos. This is the other-dimensional world which served as the source for “Pym Particles”. Atlas had previously been a prisoner there, due to be tried and executed for the damage size-changing had caused to their world. The Thunderbolts became involved in its civil war.
Manipulating things to aid their escape, Moonstone (having reverted to her previous identity) struck a deal to murder the king. She did kill him, with only Songbird and Mach I witnessing the deed. They left Kosmos in turmoil. Jolt’s wished that they could help, but the rest convinced her it was too big for them.
Back on Earth, Jolt barely managed to convince them to continue working to redeem themselves. Initially, they only stayed together for survival. Hunted by the authorities, they clashed with the Great Lakes Avengers (angry after renaming themselves the Lightning Rods in the Thunderbolts honour), a robot Hulk, and Graviton.
The latter encounter they only survived by Moonstone convincing him his plans lacked scope, which he took as a challenge and departed.
On The Run, part 2
They also again clashed with the Crimson Cowl’s Masters of Evil. But the Cowl called a truce, offering them a place in her group. She gave them time to decide for themselves, and despite Jolt’s encouragement they were close to accepting.
While deciding they came across an attempt by the Imperial Forces to take control of a small town. They battled the Forces and their agent, Charcoal, and were on the verge of victory when the Masters of Evil appeared, demanding their answer.
Incensed at having a clear victory snatched from them, they turned on the Masters. The Thunderbolts hunted them down and disrupted their latest crime. But they only escaped the battle due to the surprise assistance of the Dreadknight. The Knight accompanied them back to their safe house, where he revealed himself to be Hawkeye.
He offered to help them reform, claiming to have a deal with the CSA to let them earn pardons. The one condition he made was that the one known murderer in the group, Mach I, must turn himself over to serve time. Jenkins eventually agreed, and went to prison.
Under New Management, part 1
Charcoal soon tracked them down, asking to join. He had been an unwilling member of the Imperial Forces, forced into working for them by his father. He was accepted, and accompanied the group as they tracked down the Masters of Evil in their secret headquarters near Burton’s Canyon, Colorado.
The Masters had expanded their numbers to 25 by this point. But their plan to extort money from the world’s governments by controlling the weather was well under way, so Hawkeye led the group in attacking them anyway.
The Thunderbolts were eventually successful, capturing most of the Masters. They unmasked the Crimson Cowl as Dallas Riordan, who’d lost her job due to association with them.
The team had to again face Graviton. He had established his own empire of Sky Island, recruiting criminals as his army and bestowing a fraction of his powers on them. Even with help from Angel, the team were captured.
They were only freed when Jolt and Charcoal, who had been forced to attend school rather than accompany them, arrived after acquiring gravity nullifying technology. They managed to beat Graviton, reversing his powers and banishing him to another dimension.
Under New Management, part 2
Having taken up residence in the complex the Masters had previously used, under Mt. Charteris, they found an existing resident. That was Ogre, who had hidden from previous residents, but whom they managed to befriend. Soon after meeting him, however, he was subdued and secretly replaced by Techno.
The team was shaken by the assassination of Jolt. She was killed in her civilian identity by an unidentified sniper, who turned out to be Scourge. Their investigation of her death was delayed by a number of things, including the reappearance of the Beetle.
Unable to contact Jenkins in prison, their investigations led to a new Beetle. This one they found breaking into a Hammer Industries compound, where he faced a number of Hammer’s costumed flunkies. The Thunderbolts were unable to stop him, and when they did finally catch him, his armour proved to be vacant.
Under New Management, part 3
Jenkins soon contacted them. He revealed that he’d been forced to secretly work for the CSA, but had managed to fool them into believing he was in the Beetle armour while he played his hand.
Hawkeye helped him force the CSA to let him secretly return to the group. The official stance was that he was serving his time. Undergoing surgery to have a new face also accidentally gave him a different skin colour – though it was not so much an accident as a practical joke on Techno’s part. Jenkins donned a new suit of armour, becoming Mach II.
Their investigation was again halted when Citizen V appeared asking for protection from the V Battalion. She revealed herself to be Dallas Riordan, who had previously been captured by the real Crimson Cowl, and forced to pretend to be her. Before they could help her, the Crimson Cowl’s cowl appeared and teleported her away.
The Thunderbolts joined forces with the Avengers when Count Nefaria kidnapped Atlas and Wonder Man. Nefaria planned to use their ionic energies to make everyone in the world be respectful to him. He was stopped, but Atlas’s form became extremely unstable.
Becoming overtaken by a Kree personality within the Moongem, Moonstone fled the team. She sought sources of knowledge on the Kree by breaking into the Fantastic Four’s base, then unsuccessfully sought the Inhumans.
Eventually learning of the Supreme Intelligence’s prison on the moon, she travelled there and confronted him, but found little help. The Thunderbolts tracked her down on the moon, as did Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell), who offered them aid on Titan.
Accompanying him, they conferred with Mentor and ISAAC. The two explained that Moonstone’s emotional uncertainty about the changes she was undergoing had caused her to subconsciously access the memories of a previous wielder stored within the Lifestone. They sealed these off so they would no longer bother her.
However, they also decided that she was an unsuitable host for the power. They took the Thunderbolts, apart from Hawkeye, prisoner.
While Hawkeye argued that Karla should be allowed the chance to redeem herself, Captain Marvel allowed the other Thunderbolts to gain their freedom. He did so with the awareness that in one possible future he and Songbird were married. Mentor reluctantly agreed to allow Karla the chance of redemption, and Genis promised to keep an occasional eye on her on his behalf.
The Hunt for Scourge, part 1
Scourge hadn’t stopped his attack on the team during their absence, having slain Zemo in his South American hideout, and launched a brief, aborted attack on Techno. It only halted when he realised that Techno was keeping Jolt’s body in statis, working to revive her, and that killing him would also kill her.
Scourge had been programmed to carry out the assassinations, but didn’t really want them dead. Thus, he managed to delay his programming to allow Jolt the opportunity.
But after Scourge had spent a week hidden inside Techno’s body at microscopic size, his programming forced him to act. Bursting out of Techno, he caused enough damage to require Techno to download his consciousness in order to escape. This would have left Jolt dead though, and Techno chose to sacrifice himself in order to wake her.
Returning to find Scourge about to kill the dangerously large, comatose, and unstable Atlas, she interceded. That lasted until Scourge convinced her that the nearby town would be under threat should Atlas not be dealt with. She reluctantly allowed him to continue, apparently obliterating Atlas.
The Thunderbolts soon returned to Earth, to be reunited with Jolt. They had to quickly vacate their base, though, as Atlas’ destruction had brought S.H.I.E.L.D. to their doorstep.
The Hunt for Scourge, part 2
Tracking Scourge to an airport, they dragged him off his plane. The Thunderbolts thus learned that he was actually Jack Monroe (Nomad). He had been pumped full of nanites which forced him to obey Henry Peter Gyrich, head of the CSA, who had ordered him to assassinate the Thunderbolts as the first step in a plan to rid the planet of all superhumans.
Infiltrating the CSA facility, they came up against the Redeemers. This group used former identities of the Thunderbolts, and had mostly been taken over by Gyrich. The team included the Fixer, or a clone of his human body the CSA had recovered from Zemo’s South American hideout.
The team discovered that Jolt’s new electrical powers neutralise the nanites’ control. They thus managed to free the Redeemers and stop Gyrich. They learned that he had also been infected, and was controlled by Baron Strucker.
The CSA did not want the superhuman community to learn about what had gone on, as the initial plan having been Gyrich’s anyway. They made a deal that gave the Thunderbolts pardons for all their crimes, provided Hawkeye served time for his. He agreed, and the others were released to their new lives.
Redeemed, part 1
Jolt and Charcoal were recruited into the Redeemers, who became agents for the CSA. The Redeemers moved into the Mount Charteris base recently vacated by the Thunderbolts. Initially led by Captain America, the new Citizen V soon took over (although it was actually Helmut Zemo’s consciousness that was in control of the body).
Gold and Jenkins stayed in Boulder, trying to fit into normal lives. She had a harder time of it, slipping back into petty theft for a while. Genis helped her overcome this, and she slowly began to adapt, getting a job selling audio equipment.
Sofen had trouble finding a job, due to her boredom with mundane life and general arrogance. So when offered the opportunity by Graviton to help him find his true potential, she took the easy path, agreed, and planned to manipulate him to her own benefit.
With her help, his vision increased in some ways. Although he remained fixated on achieving dominance, but he also learned how to use his powers more creatively.
Deciding he had learned enough, he attacked the Thunderbolts’ former base, where he found the Redeemers. He easily killed most of them before Sofen caught up to him, including Charcoal, and apparently Jolt, although Fixer survived the attack.
Redeemed, part 2
Initiating his greater plan, Graviton trapped the world’s heroes in gravitic cocoons. He also levitated the major cities as he prepared to terraform the planet into his likeness.
Deciding they had to help, Gold and Jenkins made for their former base. They were joined there by Dallas Riordan, now linked with the returned Atlas in a symbiotic form, and Citizen V, who provided them a new Sonic Carapace and Mach III armour the V Battalion had developed. The group, along with the returned Jolt, attacked Graviton.
The battle got more complicated when Fixer noticed that Graviton’s other-dimensional flunky, M’reel, was siphoning off the energies Graviton was using. Fixer killed him, but it was too late to stop the invasion force from his home dimension.
Realizing he’d been played, Graviton helped the Thunderbolts against the invasion force. But he was sorely wounded, and they had to work without him. Songbird encased the team in a solid sound bubble. Graviton was sucked into another dimension, while the Thunderbolts inside the bubble were transported to Counter-Earth , leaving Songbird behind alone.
On The Road, part 1
Songbird was approached by S.H.I.E.L.D.. They revealed they’d recruited Hawkeye to investigate a conspiracy within his prison. This had seen him escape with a group of other prisoners, and they wanted her to track them down.
She caught up to them at a Hammer Industries facility. She learned they were searching for a powerful weapon left by the recently deceased Justin Hammer. Subduing the rest of the prisoners, apart from Plant Man, who agreed to work with them, she and Hawkeye continued following the trail.
It led them to Europe, where they clashed with the Crimson Cowl’s new Masters of Evil. They learned that the weapon was a biological toxin Hammer had had all powered operatives he’d employed (and others besides) dosed with. This compound would make them susceptible to control.
They convinced the Masters, who all had the toxin in their systems, to join them in hunting down the Cowl.
On The Road, part 2
They adopted new names and costumes, to obscure their identities from the Cowl (okay this part doesn’t entirely make sense). Plant Man became Blackheath, Gypsy Moth became Skein, Man-Killer became Amazon, Cardinal became Harrier, and the unwilling member Cyclone didn’t bother changing his identity.
They tracked her to Symkaria. They learned she was actually Justin Hammer’s daughter, Justine, and she had another group of Masters waiting for them. They were briefly captured, and Justine experimented on Blackheath. But before she could force him to unleash the spores she needed, the team freed themselves. They took down the Masters, and Skein dissolved the cowl with a thought.
The Masters defeated, they then had to keep Blackheath out of S.H.I.E.L.D. hands long enough for him to recover and neutralize the toxin.
They were immediately contacted by the V Battalion, based in Symkaria. They needed assistance with the Vanguard, their base ship, created from technology reverse-engineered from recovered alien tech. It had begun imploding in a way which could endanger the entire planet. Hawkeye asked the others for help dealing with the problem, and all but Cyclone agreed.
Preventing him from fleeing, Hawkeye left Cyclone in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, while the rest of them investigated the problem.
Meanwhile, on Counter-Earth…
Brave New World, part 1
Banished to Counter-Earth, the Thunderbolts (including Zemo, whose consciousness had transferred from Citizen V into Fixer’s Tech-Pac just before they’d been transported) soon encountered the Thunderbolts of that world, led by Heinrich Zemo.
The Thunderbolts travelled Counter-Earth, planning to hijack a space shuttle launch in Germany to get back to their Earth. But they came to realise how desperate the situation was, and helped where they could.
When they discovered the shuttle flight was being used for a less than noble purpose by this world’s Thunderbolts, they stopped it. The Thunderbolts revealed its true purpose, to control global communications. They then overthrew Counter-Earth’s Thunderbolts.
Fixer took advantage of the fight to place Zemo’s consciousness into the body of Counter-Earth’s version of him. Zemo then returned to assume command of the group.
Brave New World, part 2
Deciding to do what they could to help the people of Counter-Earth, they located the lifeless city of Attilan. The Thunderbolts then turned it into a flying city, on which they gathered refugees from the worst hit parts of the world.
Discovering a growing danger within a buried alien craft, the Thunderbolts teamed up with the Young Allies to try and solve the problem. Learning that it linked to a counterpart on the real Earth, they realised the only solution appeared to be sacrificing one of the Earths.
Zemo was willing to let the original Earth die in favour of the one where he was admired. Fortunately the others came up with a plan for combining their powers to fix the problem.
It succeeded. It also transported them back to their own Earth, although Riordan and Josten were split into separate beings again. Jolt was left on Counter-Earth, where she joined the Young Allies, continuing the rebuilding process the Thunderbolts had started.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye’s group had dealt with the threat’s counterpart on Earth. Regrouping at a vacant villa in the Canary Islands belonging to Faustus (which Moonstone knew about from her time with him) the remaining group discussed how to continue.
Amazon and Skein departed. Mach III decided to return to jail to serve the remainder of his sentence, after Fixer had restored his skin colour, admitting he remembered everything he’d done as Techno. Fixer also restored Atlas’ growing powers. Riordan learned she’d been enhanced by their split, and adopted the identity Vantage.
Harrier decided to accompany Jenkins, to serve the time he had left when the Cowl had broken him out. Moonstone convinced Hawkeye that he should also leave the team, so that they, and she, could try and achieve what they needed to without him.
Project: Liberator, part 1
Trying Zemo’s plan to bring about world peace, the Thunderbolts became more proactive on a global stage. They disarmed rogue states, usually in a forceful but peaceable manner. At the same time, in their Stormfront base in the North Sea, they were assembling the Liberator. This machine would drain all extra-normal power sources on the planet, including a number of super-powers.
The Avengers, in particular Captain America, were dubious of their ultimate goals. They kept close watch on them, with information passed by Songbird to Jenkins in prison, who forwarded it on to them.
The Avengers then proved unable to stop the Cobalt Man’s attacks on various targets. The Cobalt Man claimed to be gathering equipment to help him reduce the build up of nuclear energies within himself. The Thunderbolts arrived on the scene, helping solve his problem.
They offered him a role in their project. He accepted, despite Moonstone’s suspicions. Moonstone would be later proven right when the “Cobalt Man” was revealed to actually be Tony Stark in disguise.
Project: Liberator, part 2
Learning that the drained energies were being stored, the Avengers confronted the Thunderbolts at Stormfront when they made a test run of the Liberator. When the machine was damaged in the confrontation, it turned out that Moonstone, not trusting Zemo, had built in a safeguard. This hack transferred the stored power into her if the machine was damaged, or if she decided Zemo had betrayed them.
Stressed by holding so much energy, Moonstone became highly emotional. She began acting erratically, forcing the two teams to work together to subdue her.
They also called Jolt from Counter-Earth, but the continuing hostilities between the two groups sent Moonstone over the edge. They only managed to prevent her destroying the planet by leaving her comatose, and drawing the Moongems out of her. The stones were seized by Zemo, who disappeared in the ensuing destruction.
The team disbanded following this. Atlas had lost his powers, Vantage got a job with Homeland Security, Fixer had left before Moonstone had gone critical, Jolt returned to Counter-Earth, Blackheath returned to prison to reconnect with his human side, and Songbird, declining membership in the Avengers, went to college.
Soon after their disbandment, Jenkins was released from prison. He announced his intention to start a new Thunderbolts team.
This profile is continued in part #2 !
Source of Character: Marvel Comics.
Helper(s): Darci, Roger, Frank Murdock.
Writeup completed on the 28th of July, 2010.