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The Thunderbolts were wolves in sheep's clothing. This superhero team, debuting in The Incredible Hulk #449 (1997) before spinning off into their own title, was introduced when the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were presumed dead (after the “Onslaught” crossover, building toward the ill-received “Heroes Reborn” promotional stunt that reintroduced their titles). In Thunderbolts #1 (1997), written by Kurt Busiek and penciled by Mark Bagley, the “T-Bolts”—Citizen V, Meteorite, MACH-1, Songbird, Atlas, and Techno—are welcomed by a world yearning for champions. Readers are in on their secret, however: Earth's newest superheroes are actually some of its most dangerous supervillains, the Masters of Evil—Baron Zemo II, Moonstone, the Beetle, Screaming Mimi, Goliath, and the Fixer, respectively—assuming faux-altruistic identities in strategist Zemo's ruse to manipulate public opinion and eventually dominate the society the “heroes” appear to serve. As the series progressed, the Thunderbolts battled the Rat Pack, the Wrecking Crew, the Mad Thinker, a new Masters of Evil (Crimson Cowl II, Klaw, Flying Tiger, Tiger Shark, Man-Killer, and Cyclone), and the Elements of Doom, and admitted a new member, Jolt, to the team. But the shrewd Citizen V (Zemo) did not anticipate that most of his co-conspirators would actually enjoy being heroes! To maintain a chokehold on the team, Zemo exposed their identities to the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. in Thunderbolts #10 (1998), but the TBolts in turn revolted against him. With Zemo unseated, the outlaw Thunderbolts continued their superheroic careers, although under media and police scrutiny, their series branded “Marvel's Most Wanted.” The admission of new characters like Charcoal and established personalities like Hawkeye (the Avengers' archer who began his costumed career as a criminal), plus some of the coolest hardware in comics—VWings (hover-boards), the T-Bird flying car, and their ultra-sleek ThunderJet—kept the series fresh through most of its 81-issue run; it was rebooted in 2004 as New Thunderbolts.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.