With the news of the December-debuting Marvel NOW! Thunderbolts still fresh — starring Red Hulk, Punisher, Elektra, Venom and Deadpool — Newsarama now brings you the first interview with series writer Daniel Way on the book. Way makes it clear that it's not a black ops team like Secret Avengers or Uncanny X-Force — being led by Red Hulk might make that tricky — and that instead the Thunderbolts will be hitting their targets in the "loudest way possible." Series editor Jordan D. White told us earlier that this incarnation of Thunderbolts is not a government-sponsored team; as Way puts it, "They are the consequence of evil deeds, pure and simple." The writer also discussed re-teaming with Preacher artist Steve Dillon, who he previously worked with on Wolverine: Origins, Supreme Power: Nighthawk and Bullseye: Greatest Hits; plus detailed his thoughts on each of the five initial team members — including Deadpool, who Way's sticking with after wrapping his four-year run on the character's solo ongoing series in October. Newsarama: Daniel, Thunderbolts is a series with a very unique place within both Marvel and the comic book industry in general. It's one of the few new series from its era that's really endured, and though it's been characterized by frequent overhaul, it's usually retained a recognizable central concept. What was attractive to you about Thunderbolts? And though it looks like you're definitely going in a different direction, what would fans of past runs on the book find familiar with what you're doing?
Daniel Way: I can't help but think the reason this title has endured while others from that era haven't is because of the incredible work that [Kurt] Busiek and [Mark] Bagley did when the title was first launched. I think comics fandom is still gasping from that particular gut-punch — last page of the first issue, everything you thought you knew flew right out the window.
It's that sense of danger, of volatility, that I'm trying to preserve with my take on the series. In addition, I really enjoyed the political themes introduced by Warren Ellis, so that will also be an aspect with which fans (especially recent fans) will be familiar.
Nrama: It looks like the most prominent difference from most past Thunderbolts incarnations is that while everyone in this group can certainly be considered antiheroes, they're not villains, and are in fact being led/gathered by an Avenger. So, presumably, their goals are very different than past Thunderbolt squads — so what's their mission statement? It sounds sort of like an X-Force-type team, without being mutant-centric. What threats are they uniquely suited to take on? And, to cram one more question into this paragraph, will this be an uneasy team dynamic as one might expect, or will they find that they actually work together quite well?
Way: Yes; this is not "another X-Force." This is also not a covert ops team. When the Thunderbolts hit a target, they'll do so in the loudest way possible. Separately, on their own, these characters were waging open-ended campaigns. Why were they on their own? Why has no one stepped in to help them? Would not the world be a better place if organized crime was eliminated, or The Hand summarily wiped out?
Whether due to indifference, moral quandary or political agenda, there are pockets of infection throughout the MU that have been allowed to fester and grow. This team of Thunderbolts exists to cut out that infection, wherever it is found. They do not recognize boundaries or borders, be they moral, political or geographical. They can and will strike anyone, at any time, without warning. They are the consequence of evil deeds, pure and simple.
Nrama: You're certainly familiar with artist Steve Dillon (and he's certainly familiar with drawing the Punisher) — what do you think makes him the right choice for Thunderbolts, and is your approach to this series any different than your past collaborations with him?
Way: Well, this is definitely a "bigger" book… I mean, once you throw Red Hulk into the mix, the scale automatically goes through the roof. This team doesn't tackle small problems, and it doesn't provide discreet solutions.
What I've asked Steve to do — and which he's done, incredibly — is complement the global scale of this series. We all know that, of the small group of artists who can do it at all, Steve Dillon is one of the best there is at communicating nuance and human emotion through his artwork and visual storytelling. What we tend to forget is that this guy cut his teeth doing some of the most bombastic comics ever in 2000 AD and Warrior. What you're going to see in this new series is an amalgamation of these styles; a perfect storm of shock and awe. As comics fans, we're used to seeing insane, widescreen destruction. With Steve, you'll feel it.
Nrama: Let's look at the team members individually. At the forefront is the Red Hulk, which in some ways seems like a no-brainer — back when the Thunderbolts first debuted in the '90s, people guessed that Thunderbolt Ross might have something to do with it, and now he finally does. What do you like about the character, and since he's the leader of the team (and this looks to be the main series featuring the character thus far in the Marvel NOW! era), is it fair to say that he's the de facto main character?
Way: Red Hulk is the metaphorical 800-pound gorilla in this situation. He's also a former general with decades of battlefield experience. Only Red Hulk has the capacity to lead this team, and only Thunderbolt Ross has the clarity of vision to effectively deploy them.
Nrama: Deadpool is in the book, certainly good news for fans of your run on the character's solo book. What aspects of the character are you looking to explore that you couldn't in his own series? And since he's part of the seemingly similarly structured Uncanny X-Force series, would you say he'll be filling a similar niche in this book as he does there?
Way: Though he's not a mutant, Deadpool is a member of X-Force for one simple reason: He's a killer. That's not, however, why he's a member of the Thunderbolts. Red Hulk has plenty of killers, already — what he doesn't have is someone versed in non-linear tactics. Red Hulk — Ross — knows every play in the book but what Deadpool knows isn't in the book.
That being said, Deadpool does kill a whole lotta people in this series.
Nrama: Venom is also in another team book right now, Secret Avengers. Is his playing the same type of role in this book? And though the Venom you wrote back in the 2003 series is very, very different from where the character is now, do you see anything in common with what you did then and what you're doing now?
Way: The only common thread in those two series is that the symbiote is a character separate from the host, and that is definitely something that I'll be using.
Previously, Flash Thompson was given an incredible weapon to use… and was then told not to use it to its full potential. This was not acceptable to Flash or the symbiote. Within the Thunderbolts camp, however, there are no such restrictions.
Nrama: Elektra is an intriguing choice; she hasn't been seen much in the past couple of years, and isn't known for being a team player. What can you share at this point about her motivations, and how she'll fit in with the rest of the group?
Way: Well, none of these characters are really "team players" but Elektra is definitely a standout in this regard. Elektra remains on the same path she set upon when her father was murdered, the same path that has led her time and again to her own death. Her motivation is to reach the end of that path… alive. And for that, experience has taught her, she'll need allies.
Nrama: Then finally, the biggest x-factor, so to speak, is Punisher. Not only is he definitely known as a solo act, Red Hulk's Avengers teammates are declaring war on him starting in October with the War Zone miniseries. What's exciting to you about placing Punisher in a group dynamic?
Way: Punisher's involvement — why Red Hulk wants him on the team — is actually an important plot thread in this series. After all, he's the one character on the team without any superhuman or supernatural powers. He's just a man, committed fully to a course of action that will surely lead to death and failure… and yet, he soldiers on. Does this make Punisher less human, or more? Suffice it to say that "salvage" is a term never far from Thunderbolt Ross' mind.More from Newsarama:
- Marvel's VENOM Team Talk Flash Thompson's Big Move
- Way's DEADPOOL Exit Strategy: Supervillains, Hit-Monkey
- SDCC 2012: The AVENGERS Enter The PUNISHER's WAR ZONE