T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Companion Cover
November 1965 – November 1969
May 1983 – January 1984
November 1984 – October 1986
January 2011 – June 2012
2013 – present
|Number of issues||
James "Egghead" Andor
Kathryn "Kitten" Kane
William "Weed" Wylie
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is a fictional team of superheroes that appeared in comic books originally published by Tower Comics in the 1960s. They were an arm of the United Nations and were notable for their depiction of the heroes as everyday people whose heroic careers were merely their day jobs. The series was also notable for featuring some of the better artists of the day, such as Wally Wood. The team first appeared in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (cover-dated Nov. 1965). The name is an acronym for "The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves".
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was a bimonthly comic book published by Tower Comics. It ran for 20 issues (Nov. 1965 - Nov. 1969), plus two short-lived spin-off series starring the most popular super agents (Dynamo and NoMan). To launch the project, Wally Wood huddled with scripter Len Brown (and possibly Larry Ivie) on a superhero concept Brown had described to Wood a year earlier. Brown recalled, "Wally had remembered my concept and asked me to write a 12-page origin story. I submitted a Captain Thunderbolt story in which he fought a villain named Dynamo." With a few changes by Wood and a title obviously inspired by the success of the spy-fi television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the then-current James Bond film Thunderball, the series got underway. Tower Comics went out of business in 1969, and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents went into limbo.
In 1981 the rights to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were bought by John Carbonaro, who published several issues of a new series in the early 1980s under his JC Comics line, the last of which was published through Archie Comics' Red Circle Comics line.
L. Miller & Son, Ltd.
Meanwhile, in the UK, L. Miller & Son, Ltd. and some of its successors published large monthly compendiums of uncoloured American superhero comics up until the 1980s, often reproducing T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents material.
In 1984, David M. Singer's Deluxe Comics began publishing a new series, Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, featuring some of the best artists of the era, including George Pérez, Dave Cockrum, Keith Giffen, Murphy Anderson, Steve Ditko, Rich Buckler, and Jerry Ordway. Singer claimed the group was in the public domain. A lawsuit by Carbonaro claimed otherwise. The lawsuit was eventually decided in US District Court in favor of Carbonaro, with Singer acknowledging Carbonaro’s registered copyrights and trademark. Under the decision, Carbonaro also received, among other things, an assignment of all rights to Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and an undisclosed sum of money. Deluxe Comics closed its doors in 1986 when several major distributors failed to pay sizeable past-due invoices.
In 1987, Solson Publications produced one issue of T.H.U.N.D.E.R., a planned four-issue limited series which was never completed. A second issue was almost done. This series was not quite set in the same universe as the original series and took the characters in a different direction.
In the early 1990s, Rob Liefeld (of Extreme Studios) claimed to have the rights to publish T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. He even advanced Dave Cockrum money to do the series. Liefeld was said to have told Cockrum that he had free rein and no approval needed on his stories from either Liefeld himself, or any of the other editors at Extreme Studios. However, Liefeld claims that Cockrum later came back to him and decided he did not want to do the book, and gave Liefeld no reason.
In the early 2000s, DC Comics planned to release a new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series under license from Carbonaro. Work for about two issues of a new series was completed, but Carbonaro put a stop to it as it made radical alterations to the characters. DC failed to create a series in line with the original series and tone, but began publishing reprints of the original Tower series in their hardcover DC Archive Editions format in a total of six volumes. Carbonaro died in early 2009, and at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, DC announced that they had acquired the rights from his estate. At that point, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was planned to be brought into the DC Universe, as DC had recently done with the Milestone Media and MLJ Comics heroes.
On July 19, 2010, it was announced that a new series would begin publishing in November 2010 with a creative team of writer Nick Spencer and artist CAFU. The team consists of the original NoMan and a team of new heroes wearing the classic T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents costumes. In a departure from the classic series, the new Lightning is African. The series lasted 10 issues. In late 2011, DC published a six-issue miniseries.
Fictional team history
The first issue introduced the first three T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents: Dynamo, NoMan and Menthor. In that issue, United Nations soldiers storm a mountain laboratory of a UN scientist, Professor Emil Jennings, driving off the forces of the Warlord. The scientist is dead, but he leaves behind several of his inventions — super weapons to combat the Warlord's worldwide attacks. These inventions provide superpowers.
In subsequent issues, additional agents were added. Gilbert of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad is given the Lightning Suit and becomes a super agent in the fourth issue. In the second issue, it is revealed that the Warlord is actually a Subterranean, and his forces are humanoids who live under the surface and have engaged in a war with the surface world to reclaim it from humans. Also in this issue, Egghead is killed in action, but later reappears as a villain in an issue of Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.
With the threat of the Subterraneans ended, new villains appeared in the original series. Issue #9 introduced S.P.I.D.E.R. (Secret People's International Directorate for Extralegal Revenue), the main villains for the rest of the series. Other menaces included the Iron Maiden, an armored mastermind (introduced in the first issue as a possible love interest for Dynamo) who worked for the Subterraneans; Andor, a fast-healing telekinetic superhuman created by the Subterraneans who was introduced in Dynamo #1; along with Red Star (Communist menace) and others.
The 2010 DC Comics series began with S.P.I.D.E.R. kidnapping the Raven and killing Dynamo and Lightning, leading to new versions of Lightning and Dynamo being recruited, along with the original NoMan, who had left the team because he was losing his humanity. It was established that by this time there were a number of people had been behind the costume of each T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent, since the devices that gave them their powers are eventually fatal.
Also introduced are T.H.U.N.D.E.R.'s recruiters, field agent Colleen Franklin and salesman Toby Heston. In the assault on S.P.I.D.E.R. to rescue the Raven, it is revealed that Toby is actually the brother of S.P.I.D.E.R.'s new leader, given a false personality to infiltrate T.H.U.N.D.E.R. When he attempts to use the Menthor helmet to gain the Raven's secrets however, he regains the "Toby" personality, similar to the effect it had on Janus.
The Iron Maiden manages to escape T.H.U.N.D.E.R.'s custody, leaving Colleen to be raised by T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Years later, Colleen tracks down the Iron Maiden and after extracting some information from her with the help of Toby Heston, leaves her to be killed by the daughter of one of her former victims.
Soon, the Subterraneans, defeated back in the early 70s, start an uprising. It was the existence of the Subterraneans that lead to the establishment of the Higher United Nations and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. The uprising is led by Demo. The new Dynamo is killed and a new Raven is introduced. In a backup series, a new UNDERSEA Agent is introduced.
- Dynamo — Leonard Brown wears the Thunder Belt, which makes him super-strong and invulnerable for short periods
- Menthor — John Janus gains mental powers from the Menthor Helmet. Actually a double agent for the Warlord, when he wears the helmet, he turns to good. After Janus dies in issue #7, two later agents wear the Menthor Helmet.
- NoMan — Dying scientist Anthony Dunn transfers his mind into an android body of his own design. With a wide number of these identical bodies, he can transfer his mind to any of them should something happen to the one he is in. The addition of an Invisibility Cloak completes the transformation into NoMan.
- Lightning — Virgil "Guy" Gilbert wears the Lightning Suit, which gives him super-speed but also ages him at an accelerated rate
- Raven— Craig Lawson wears an experimental rocket pack
- Undersea Agent — Lt. David "Davy" Jones and his daughter Theresa both wear the suit
- Vulcan — Travis F. Riley is a sonic-powered agent
- James "Egghead" Andor — a brilliant strategist, Andor dies in issue #2, reappearing as a villain in later issues
- Dynamite — Daniel John Adkins is the "weapons man"
- Kathryn "Kitten" Kane — technical device expert
- William "Weed" Wylie — locksmith and safecracker
- Colleen Franklin — T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent recruiter; later revealed to be the daughter of Len Brown (Dynamo)
- Toby Heston — salesman and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent recruiter, he is actually the brother of S.P.I.D.E.R.'s new leader
- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, Vol. 1 (reprints T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1–4), December 2002, ISBN 1-56389-903-5
- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, Vol. 2 (reprints T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #5–7; Dynamo #1), June 2003, ISBN 1-56389-970-1
- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, Vol. 3 (reprints T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #8–10; Dynamo #2), March 2004, ISBN 1-4012-0015-X
- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, Vol. 4 (reprints T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #11; NoMan #1–2; Dynamo #3), June 2005, ISBN 1-4012-0152-0
- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, Vol. 5 (reprints T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #12–14; Dynamo #4), 2005, ISBN 1-4012-0164-4
- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, Vol. 6 (reprints T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #15–20; plus covers of four Undersea Agent issues), February 2006, ISBN 1-4012-0416-3
- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, Vol. 7 (reprints Deluxe Comic's Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1–5 and a story from OMNI Comix #3), July 2011, ISBN 1-4012-3148-9
- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Vol. 1 (reprints DC's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1–10), November 2011, ISBN 1-4012-3254-X
- Ivie, Larry (July 2001). "Ivie League Heroes". Comic Book Artist (14): 64–68.
- Sodaro, Robert J. "The Resplendent Sound of T.H.U.N.D.E.R.!" Comics Value Annual (1999). Archived on ThunderAgents.com. Accessed Feb. 8, 2014.
- "News from Hither and Yon: JCP News". The Comics Journal (71): 16. April 1982. Archived from the original on August 19, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2012. Additional WebCitation archive, August 19, 2012.
- "Blood and T.H.U.N.D.E.R." The Comics Journal #97 (April 1985), pp. 7-11.
- "Deluxe suspends T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents," The Comics Journal #100 (July 1985), pp. 20-22.
- "CCI: DC Universe Panel". comicbookresources.com. July 7, 2009.
- Segura, Alex (July 19, 2010). "Meet the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents". The Source, DCComics.com.
- Segura, Alex (August 18, 2010). "A first look at CAFU’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents". The Source, DCComics.com.
- Phegley, Keil (October 26, 2012). "IDW RECRUITS WALLY WOOD'S "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
- Cooke, Jon B., ed. (2005). T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Companion. TwoMorrows Publishing. ISBN 1-893905-43-8.