They say you just can’t keep a good man down. Well, in a very real sense, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are a group of superheroes to which this statement most eminently applies. Created by Wally Wood in 1966 for Tower Comics as his answer to Marvel’s Avengers and DC’s JLA, his superheroes weren’t just a bunch of costumed, super-powered vigilantes, they were, in fact, duly deputized officers of the law working for the United Nations (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. stands for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves). The agents themselves consisted of Dynamo, NoMan, Menthor. Lightning, Raven, and Vulcan, while their back-up THUNDER Squad (a non-super powered para-military team) consisted of Virgil “Guy” Gilbert, Dynamite (Daniel John Adkins), William “Weed” Wylie, Kathryn “Kitten” Kane, and James “Egghead” Andor.
In the years since their “birth” The heroes have been published by a total of seven different publishers, including Tower (‘65–’69), JC Comics (‘83–‘84), Red Circle/Archie (’84) Deluxe (‘84–‘86), Penthouse (‘95), DC Comics (‘03–‘11), IDW (‘13–). They have also been rumored to have been associated with numerous other publishers, some of them where the licensing deal never materialized for one reason or another or associated with some publisher who didn’t have a license but thought that they existed in the public domain. (A falsehood foisted upon the public by Dave Singer who co-opted the Agents for his own Deluxe Comics and away from their rightful owner, John Carbonaro during the ‘80s.) Carbonaro finally regained control over the Agents, but after that protracted publishing and legal nightmare, he was never able to quite get the agents back on solid footing again.
After Carbonaro passed away (February 25, 2009) His estate finally did manage to finally cut a deal with DC Comics for a re-launch of the title which occurred in 2010. The initial series ran 10 issues, and not only introduced the audience to a new team of Agents by writer Nick Spencer; it also took great pains to wrap up what had happened to the original team. This series was followed by a second six-issue series that built on that initial foundation, giving additional depth and background to both the new as well as to the original team. Once that license ran its course, the license has been picked up by IDW Publishing which has now released three new issues, a $1.00 reprint of the first Silver Age issues, a bound trade paperback collecting issues 1–4 of the Silver Age run.
It is interesting to note that IDW has taken a completely different track with these wonderful characters; where DC attempted to continue the legend of the characters (presenting them years later), IDW is essentially re-launching the concept by showing us how the team was initially formed. The first three issues present us with how Dynamo was recruited, as well as some “new” background information about both Kitten Kane and Iron Maiden. As long-time fans of the series (as well as a personal friend to Carbonaro before he passed), we are particularly interested in this take on these classic characters, and wish IDW well with its control over them.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing comicbooks for some 30 years. During that time, his reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular comicbook articles and reviews.