Posts Tagged ‘Penthouse Comix’
Much like the old characters from Charlton, Fawcett, Milestone, and MLJ Comics, DC has recently acquired the full rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents team and is folding them into the DCU in their own title. Before I get into a review of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1, however, I should probably tell you a bit about their extremely convoluted history.
Created by artist Wally Wood, the team originally appeared in November 1965’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 published by Tower Comics. For a while the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) Agents consisted of NoMan, Dynamo, Lightning, and Menthor, four heroes who were given powers by an invisibility cloak, a strength-enhancing belt, a speedster suit, and a telepathy helmet respectively. Only problem was that the power-granting items also slowly killed their users. Other heroes came and went (like Sea Devils rip-off sister team, U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. Agents) before the series ended at issue #20 and Tower Comics folded.
For years, the team remained dormant (aside from a British publisher, L. Miller & Son, Ltd., reprinting the original issues in black and white sometime during the mid-70s) until John Carbonaro bought the rights in 1983 and planned on rebooting the series (with the aid of David Singer) on his own JC Comics. Unfortunately, he and Singer had a serious falling out and Carbonaro only got as far as two issues before JC Comics fell through. That same year, Texas Comics released Justice Machine Annual #1, the only issue they ever produced, which featured a team-up story between the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and their in-house superhero team, the Justice Machine.
In 1984, Singer and Deluxe Comics claimed that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were now in public domain (bullshit!) and began releasing a series under the name Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents with a fantastic line-up of artists including George Pérez, Steve Ditko, Keith Giffen, and Jerry Ordway. Unfortunately for him, Carbonaro still owned the rights and sued the shit out of Singer and Deluxe Comics, ultimately winning the suit and putting them out of business in 1986.
In 1987, Gary Brodsky, son of Marvel legend Sol Brodsky, attempted to release a four-issue black-and-white limited series through his own Solson (Sol’s Son, get it?!) Publications. One issue was released before the company went belly-up (probably because most of their books were either right-wing propaganda or anti-feminist screeds). FUN FACT: Following the demise of Solson Publications, Gary decided to make a series of videos teaching guys how to pick up women with titles like “Alpha Up and Rock Her World” and “How to Be a Prick Women Love.” Seriously. Look at his fucking website.
Rumor has it that in the 1990’s Rob Liefeld claimed the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and wanted Dave Cockrum to release a series on Liefeld’s Extreme Studios before it fell through. If that’s true, it’s a bit strange considering that Carbonaro still owned the rights to the superhero team, going so far as releasing a final story in 1995 in Penthouse Comix’s (yup, that Penthouse) OMNI Comics #3.
Finally, some time during the early 2000’s, Carbonaro and DC Comics struck a deal and a DCU T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book was in the works. Well, it would have been, except Carbonaro shot down every idea DC presented to him. See, DC really wanted to shake things up for the team while Carbonaro decided that nobody from the original team should die (despite the fact that the whole point of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was that their powers would ultimately kill them). Aside from a few DC Archive hardcovers and a couple of statues, nothing really came of it.
On February 25, 2009, John Carbonaro died. July 2009, DC Comics announced at SDCC that they were moving forward with a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book. Yesterday, it came out.
So, how is it?
Written by Nick Spencer (Shuddertown, Existence 2.0), T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 tells the story of the United Nations scrambling to replace the recently deceased Lightning and Dynamo following a trap set by S.P.I.D.E.R. (the villains from the original Tower Comics run). Without explaining too much about the original team, it sets up the premise that the original NoMan and the new replacement members must save Raven (another Tower Comics character) from S.P.I.D.E.R. It’s surprisingly engaging, considering that the team hasn’t had a proper canon story since the 80’s outside of Penthouse (man, how I wish I were joking). As odd as it sounds, the book does a good job establishing the team without giving the its members a proper introduction, instead focusing on the staff behind the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (so, I guess whatever “The Higher United Nations” is). Plus, the art by the single-named duo of CAFU (Vixen: Return of the Lion) and BIT (Batman and the Outsiders) is pretty damned good (if you can overlook the fact that everybody looks like they’re wearing crazy amounts of eyeliner).
Here’s hoping that where the Red Circle books kind of petered out, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents can take a seat next to the rest of the DC Comics greats.