It’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. time (again)

In our on-going effort to keep you all up-to date on the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents new adventures (here), (here), (here), and (here) we want to let you all know that there is a new DC Comics issue out and it has been reviewed (by yours truly), here.

There is also an eighth issue out by now, but we haven’t seen it yet. As soon as we locate and secure a copy, we’ll share that review with you as well, promise.

The Perfessor

Bring the T.H.U.N.D.E.R.

This month DC comics has not only issued the third issue of its new, updated T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, but it has (re)issued a 100-page spectacular one-shot of classic Wally Wood T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents material. What could be cooler than that? With this third issue, we start to delve deeper into the new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and see that it operates — on many levels — quite differently than Wood’s vision of these characters. As stated, In Wood’s (and subsequent) versions we still were working with the original cast. As we’ve seen, in this new DC version, membership on this team isn’t as stable as it has been in the past.

In Wood’s comics, entire stories were told in four to 12 page installments, so on some level reading a full 20-page T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent story is a tad disconcerting all on its own. Still, knowing that the Agents can die and actually watching die is even more difficult, given more of a harder edge to the series. In the first issue we were reintroduced to the organization, along with its new protocols, then in the second issue we got an in-depth look into the life of the current Lightning, Henry Cosgei — an Kenyan native from the Kalenjin tribe. We learn that statistically speaking the Kalenjin are historically the fast people on the planet, so that one of them became Lightning was inevitable.

We also learn that the terrorist organization known as Spider has spies throughout the world (even inside T.H.U.N.D.E.R.), and that there is way more going on here than what simply meets the eye. Issue Three gives us a boarder view of the organization, again giving us background on one specific agent (this time the original NoMan who is still alive), as well as more info on the current mission that T.H.U.N.D.E.R. is running (an attempt to extract the original Raven from the clutches of Spider). Again, things are not quite right, and again the story continues into the next issue.

While it is difficult to make a fully-formed opinion on whether this new version will hold up as well as did the original, it is safe to say that both DC, and the creators who have been chosen to carry on Wood’s beloved legacy, are making every attempt to not only measure up to the original work, but raise the bar as they bring these characters into the modern era. In issue #3 as we explore the past of NoMan it becomes obvious that the agency has existed in “real” time (or as close to “real” as comics can get), as we see references to NoMan and Raven’s past operations tagged to approximate years.

It may seem odd to publish the new material alongside Wood’s original work that is exactly what DC has chosen to do with the 100-page one shot. By placing the two sets of comics next to each other (the 100-page Spectacular and the three new issues), those differences are obvious, the shorter wood stories, the simpler, more straight-forward nature of the stories that Wood produced. The newer material still renders clean, defined artwork, but it is the stories that tell the tale; today there is more characterization, more subterfuge, darker, more convoluted stories. Sure it is easy to say that not only did Wood live in a simpler time, but that he had a different agenda with the characters.

All that aside, it is still great that some new fans get to see from whence these great characters came. Plus, with the Wood material, fans can once again thrill to the master’s work on these iconic characters. It was also recently announced that the next hardcover collection of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents will be the Deluxe work. Again, an interesting move, as that material was never considered cannon. Also, once it had been acquired by John Carbonaro in his victorious lawsuit over Deluxe’s publisher, was suppressed. Hopefully the material that John Carbonaro himself commissioned (for JC Comics, Archie, and Omni), will also be brought back in one of these Archive editions.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, a second (closer) look

I have now had the opportunity to check out DC Comics‘ second issue of The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and well, I hate to say it, but I’m almost about ready to pull my near-unanimous support for the title, based solely upon my read of this second issue, and that, my friends is truly a damn shame.

I really want this book to succeed, I also really want to like it, but, I’m afraid that if the writing follows the industry’s current standard to pad out each story so that what used to be an eight-to-10-page story now fills a full-blown graphic novel, that neither is going to actually happen.

This particular story, Live Fast Die Young follows the New Lightning, a young man from Kenya named Henry Cosgei, who is from a particular tribe in Kenya that are all great runners. The story almost slavishly follows Henry as he progresses from a young man to Lightning, even as it jumps through his life it concurrently follows the present-day story of the two T.H.U.N.D.E.R  back-room operatives (recruiters-cum-handlers if you will) who convince Henry to run for them.

Sure, I know that it is typical for writers to serve up an “off-speed-pitch” in the middle of their story-lines to flesh out the backgrounds of their characters, but this is the second issue, and we are already here. Personally I think it was too soon in the chronology to slow the story down quite this much, but hey, what do I know?

Still, while it is a tad premature to bail so completely on the series, I will admit that I’m not quite so enthusiastic as I was just 30 short days ago when I snatched up and read issue #1. Now I’m going to have to wait a few more issues before I go so far out on a limb as I previously did.

Needless to say, I’ll keep you all informed.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. once again!

Truthfully, I wasn’t ever sure that I would live long enough to actually see this day. No, seriously. This week a brand-new issue of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents hit the stands for the first time in like 15 years. (The last original occurrence of the Agents appeared in OMNI Comics #3 (1995). Prior to this single story (the first in a new, authorized line) there were two other unauthorized occurrences of the Agents (Deluxe Comics, ’84 & Solson Publications ’87). Other than the Omni appearance the previous authorized appearances were in Texas Comics, the JC Comics line, and Archie Comics’ Red Circle Comics line (all ’83).

I had all but given up hope. Then,after my friend John Carbonaro (legal owner of Wally Wood’s legacy), passed away a year or so back, I was approached by the executor of John’s estate to consult with him on the disposition of the property (to the point, he wanted to know who had expressed interest over the years, and who might offer him the best options for licensing the property; a service I was happy to perform). I had written extensively on the characters, and even contributed to The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents web page. Well, as you all know by now, the characters wound up at DC, and, well, now that I’ve read the first issue, I have to say two things.

1) So far, I really like what I see

2) John would have hated it.

Please be assured, this is no reflection on the quality of the comic (which is a good as any superhero book I’ve ever read), but simply because John had a very specific vision of who these characters are (were) and, well, this wasn’t it. John saw his role in the Agents story as a caretaker for the legacy of Wally Wood. He never wanted to re-imagine them (even though virtually everybody who wanted to license them wante to remake the Agents; not so much as Wood left them, but as they (the new creators) envisioned them.

No, this isn’t what John wanted. For years I argued with him against this stance, now that he is gone, I trully understand what he was trying to say all along. Again, this is not to reflect poorly on what Nick Spenser has delivered, this is just “different” from what John wanted, based on his perception of who the Agents were as originally perceived by Wood.

Still, to the issue at hand.

DC’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. The original team is long since gone (dead, one presumes), and well, by the end of the first issue, so too is the current team (sorry this might be something of a spoiler, but as it is something of the core precept of this new incarnation, there really is no way around revealing it. You see, as we always knew, the items that endow the Agents with their super powers are slowly killing them (which is what made the Agents truly unique in the first place), this new incarnation takes that aspect and amps it up to the max.

Let me just let that settle in for a moment. Everyone is expendable. As a fan of the original series, I’m not quite sure I like that, but as a fan of the series, I think it is truly a wicked-cool idea. Think of it as the cast of the original Law and Order TV series, only in spandex and with a life-expectancy. Over the 20-year run of the series, every character was replaced at least once, and some, several times (with one or two returning in the same roles). This way, the writer can play around with the ever-fluctuating dynamics of the group.

From a creative point of view, the book will (or should) never get stale. If one character becomes boring, or plays out his or her story, simply write them out of the series and replace them with someone else. Cast becoming too squeaky clean? Mix it up with some bad boy/girl characters. Alter the diversity or gender ratio of the group. Want to really shake thing up? Kill off the most popular character.

If this sounds callous, perhaps it is, but work with me for a minute here,, why not? One one biggest grips with a series is that nothing can ever really change. Joe Quesada thinks that Peter Parker should not just NOT be married, but Never have been married, because to him, Spidey should remain, if not a teenager in high school, as close to that has possible. Sure sure, Superman, Captain America and other heroes died, but since they still need their respective comicbook companies still need the characters to license T-Shirts, toys and the like, we all know that they are coming back (witness the recent resurrection of numerous Marvel & DC characters over the past couple of years).

On TV, we all know that nothing really bad will ever happen to the title character in a series because they need to be there next week. With shows like Law & Order, that isn’t so true any more. Now, with this same approach in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, the same can be said. Is there a down side? Absolutely, but this reviewer (and friend of John Carbs), thinks that it is a good thing, and while I’m totally sure that John would hate it. I honestly feel that the best way to honor his legacy (to keep the Agents relevant), this is the way to go.

Personally, (and based solely on this initial issue, as well as this approach) I give the new series my full approval. Now (hopefully), Nick Spencer will live up to not only my high hopes, but John’s stubborn endurance, as well as the enduring legacy of Wally Wood himself.

The Perfessor

The Great Carbonaro’s Ghost’s revenge

Some folks just deserve to be Gibbs-Smacked. This post is about one such jerkwad. No, I won’t name him, he knows who he is.

(c) Hal Jones
Several years ago, my good friend John Carbonaro purchased the legendary comicbook characters, Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents. He attempted a couple of re-launches, and then somehow, hooked up with this particularly smarmy asshat. It was this guy that not only wormed his way into John’s business, but then (quite literally) all but stole his business and (legally-owned) characters away. This disreputable slug, then launched a misinformation campaign to disseminate bogus information that John’s legally-owned characters existed in the public domain.

John took him to court, and (eventually) won. Beat the pants off this ganif in fact.

Well, some people don’t know how to take a legal drumming like a man, and back in 2005, this dirt-bag was up to his old bag of tricks, attempting to retcon the truth by still claiming that the Agents were in the PD (they are not, and never were). Well, Carbs may be dead, but he still owns the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

Anyway the thread ended like this:

Let’s just say that John may no longer be with us, but let there be no doubt that his lawyer can still beat up your lawyer. Especially when it comes to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Count on it.

We still miss you John, but that really is some wicked-ass superpower you have, and I hope that, wherever you are, you are watching, and got a real good chuckle out of this.

You friend.

The Perfessor

Great Carbonaro’s Ghost!

Yep, that’s right effendis, it is San Diego’s big cultural event, the International Comic Con, and well, that of course means that DC Comics has an announcement about the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

According to Comic Book Resources, the team of Nick Spencer and CAFU will re-launch the Agents into the 21st Century.

In this relaunch, a new batch of recruits has been asked to take on the mantle of the original Agent’s and while the team faces some difficult choices of their own, Dynamo, Lightning and NoMan are forced to re-visit members of the classic team’s troubled past…and some of its deadliest threats.

CBR News spoke with Spencer about the new series and the writer told us that T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents will operate like no other superhero team currently within the DCU, and that the very concept of heroes vs. villains will not only be explored but tested to the limits in every issue.

According to Spencer, this team will be essentially all-new members sporting the same names (powers and drawbacks) of the original teams. “Everything that happened in the original story is honored and is a part of the story, but this happens some years down the road.” Spencer went on to say that this new vision of the classic team has been influenced by titles like Planetary, The Authority, Secret Warriors and Checkmate. “It’s not a standard superhero book by any means. I think when people check it out, they’ll see that this is really a world apart from anything else that’s out there currently.”

Personally as someone who not only read the original stories, but personally knew John Carbonaro (the man who purchased the characters in the ’80s, and then lived through his 20+ year process of trying time and time again to re-launch the characters, I’m not entirely sure what to think of this, except to say that I hope it does well, as I’ve seen it when it goes badly.

I’ll certainly follow the new Agents for the relaunch. I’ll try to keep an open mind about it all. More than that, I can’t say for now, although it does sound like Spencer does (seem to) have a good handle on it all.

The Perfessor