When Tom DeFalco’s 12-year run on Spider-Girl was announced as ending earlier this year, it wasn’t clear what the writer’s next project with Marvel Comics would be — or if there would be one at all.
A few weeks before Spider-Girl: The End hit stores in late August, details surfaced that DeFalco and Spider-Girl artist Ron Frenz would be returning to Thunderstrike, a character they created more than 20 years ago in the pages of Thor. Fairly surprising news, given that Thunderstrike was killed off at the end of his solo series in 1995, and other than a temporary resurrection early in Kurt Busiek’s Avengers run, hadn’t really been heard from since.
“Our editor, Tom Brennan, said, ‘Hey, would you guys be interested in doing a Thunderstrike limited series?’” DeFalco said in a phone interview with Newsarama. “My reaction was, ‘Thunderstrike? He’s dead!’”
Though character resurrection is a routine occurrence in superhero comics, DeFalco, who served as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics from 1987 to 1994, is skeptical of the practice.
“I think it’s created very unrealistic concepts in the mind of the readership,” the writer said. “They’re convinced that death is only a temporary problem.”
So, how to approach this new Thunderstrike series? While DeFalco isn’t forthcoming with too many details, advance solicitations reference a “new Thunderstrike,” and the previously released preview pages for #1 make it obvious that Thunderstrike’s son, Kevin Masterson — who took over the mantle of Thunderstrike in Spider-Girl’s “MC2” alternate timeline — is heavily involved.
“My whole career seems to be not doing what people expect me to be doing,” DeFalco said. “Though I truly loved doing Thunderstrike the first time around, I wasn’t so keen on going back and re-doing stuff, or picking up where we left off, and neither was Ron.”
The original Thunderstrike, Eric Masterson, debuted in 1988’s Thor #391, and subsequently filled in for the Thunder God for a number of issues, including during the Infinity Gauntlet event. Under the name Thunderstrike and wielding an enchanted mace that read “the world still needs heroes,” the character starred in 24 issues of his own title, also written by DeFalco.
DeFalco said that him and Frenz’s plans for this series were different than what Marvel originally expected, but soon Brennan, who also edited Spider-Girl, was on board.
“Brennan’s a member of the team; he’s been with us long enough,” DeFalco said. “He goes — ‘This isn’t what we expected, but if you’re going in this direction, you can do this too,’ and the next thing, he’s caught up the whole madness too.”’
Since Thunderstrike has been away from comics for so long, DeFalco is mindful of readers who may have never encountered the character before, or those familiar who simply need a refresher. Yet he’s also avoiding preaching to the converted.
“With all serial fiction, you walk a tight rope,” DeFalco said. “You have to take it for granted that part of your audience has never seen Thunderstrike before. If you are someone who never has, this series will be totally accessible for you. It will tell you everything you need to know.
“And yet, we also dance a fine line, because there are Thunderstrike fans out there — Ron and I know because they always show up with their comic books whenever we make appearances — and it’s got to be done in an exciting enough way so they’re not bored by information they already know.”
Thunderstrike isn’t just the re-imagination of a long-dormant Marvel property, it also represents DeFalco’s return to the present-day, mainstream Marvel Universe continuity. The writer said it was a bit of an adjustment to once again be writing in its ever-changing climate.
“It takes a little while to get back up to speed, because the Universe is changing so rapidly,” DeFalco said. “This is going to sound like an old fart’s view of fiction, but part of the fun of series fiction is that you walk in with certain understandable touchstones. Sherlock Holmes, there’s going to be Baker Street; Dr. Watson’s going to be coming in and helping to narrate the story. It’s nice to turn over that apple cart every once in a while. But if all you’re doing is turning over the apple cart, after a while you don’t have an apple cart.”
Throughout his career, DeFalco has been known for producing all-ages comics like Thunderstrike, though DeFalco said that his definition of that concept is different than the one commonly held today.
“These days, all-ages comic books, to most comic book fans, say, ‘little kids,’” he said. “To someone like me, all-ages is Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Walt Simonson’s Thor, and most of what Alan Moore did for DC Comics.”
DeFalco developed a dedicated online fanbase through his work on Spider-Girl, though he stressed that though the creative team remains the same, this series is a separate entity.
“Kevin Masterson is not Mayday Parker, and Thunderstrike will not be Spider-Girl,” DeFalco said, adding, “I’ve read some of the online guesses as to the direction of the series, and nobody’s even close.”
In his final pitch for Thunderstrike, DeFalco, who is reviving the “Sam Hill” character for Archie Comics but doesn’t have any further Marvel work scheduled after this series wraps, once again showed his tendency towards a classic approach.
“If you’re looking for one of these quiet stories where the resolution is handled because everyone talks nice to each other, forget it,” he said. “This is a comic book, and we play to the strengths of the medium.”
Thunderstrike is scheduled for five issues, with #1 in stores this week.
Will THUNDERSTRIKE twice? (OK, sorry about that one...)