By Kiel Phegley
With Norman Osborn stepping up into the most powerful job in the Marvel Universe, Marvel's Dark Reign story line serves to shake up perhaps no book more than THUNDERBOLTS.
Luckily, the villain-driven team led by the once (and future?) Green Goblin earned a new writer last month in the form of the acclaimed Andy Diggle. And although THUNDERBOLTS presents his first Marvel work, the writer, and new artist Roberto De La Torre, crashed into the series with shoot 'em up style, pitting the team's more renegade factions against mainstay Songbird in a deadly game which rebuilds the entire squad starting in January 21's THUNDERBOLTS #128. We grabbed Diggle for a quick snap shot of what villainous stars like Black Widow and the Ghost hold for the future of the team everyone loves to hate.
Marvel.com: You just started your run with Norman Osborn and his team before SECRET INVASION #8. How hard was it to get the ball rolling on your story considering all the big pieces getting moved around you on the board?
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It was a tricky place to start, as my first two THUNDERBOLTS issues took place after the end of SECRET INVASION #8, but went on sale beforehand. Now we know that Norman Osborn was appointed to replace S.H.I.E.L.D. and take charge of the Avengers operation, but I had to kind of tip-toe around that without revealing it directly. It also meant that I couldn't introduce the new
Thunderbolts team until our third issue, which made it a lot harder to hit the ground running. Fortunately, [previously THUNDERBOLTS writer] Warren Ellis had left me with lots of juicy plot threads and character conflicts to tie up, so that made things easier.
Marvel.com: Norman's new position is giving you a chance to totally rework the team. When Marvel invited you on to the book, was a new cast assumed, or is it something you wanted to work in?
I had to change the team line-up, although I was given pretty much free reign to choose the new members. It wouldn't have made any sense for Norman to keep Songbird and Penance on the team if he wasn't forced to do so, so our opening story pretty much had to be about Norman clearing the decks. That's why we called it "Burning Down The House." What can I say, I was a Talking Heads fan back in the day!
Marvel.com: That said, so far in your issues, we've already seen a few turns ahead for the established T-Bolts, Songbird especially. What kind of plan do you have for the former cast members? Will they continue to play a role in the world of the Thunderbolts, or are you freeing them up to go elsewhere in the Marvel U?
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Songbird's been with the Thunderbolts since the first issue, and I don't want to throw that legacy on the scrapheap—even if Norman does. Songbird's seriously pissed at the way Norman's twisted her team into a sick parody of what it used to stand for and she intends to do something about it if she can. But now that Norman's just about the most powerful man in the Marvel universe, where does she start?
Marvel.com: Norman has given lip service to disbanding the Thunderbolts all together. With that in mind, what are the circumstances that require him to put this new team in place, and what's their mission statement moving forward?
The previous Thunderbolts team were [Commission on Superhuman Activities] marshals assigned to hunt down renegade superhumans. Now that Norman no longer answers to the CSA, he has "officially" shut down that team. What nobody knows is that Norman hasn't actually shut down the Thunderbolts at all—he's merely taken them underground, turning them into his own personal covert hit squad. They're "off the books," completely deniable. No rules.
Marvel.com: At the lead, we've got Yelena Belova, otherwise known as the second Black Widow. What does Norman have on her to bring her into the fold? Does she provide a little bit more stable leadership than has been seen on the T-Bolts of the past?
Yelena's worked for the K.G.B., S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA and even Blade's vigilante group Vanguard. Norman describes her as "a warrior without a war."
He's finally able to give her the raison d'etre
and resources she was always trained for but never fully attained before, and that leadership role appeals to her ego. But she's also hiding some has dark secrets of her own. Unfinished business...
Marvel.com: The rest of your team is a pretty surprising combo of characters from Ghost to the Irredeemable Ant-Man. How in the world did you put this crew together? Are some of these favorites of yours or just some guys who you thought created the right kind of dynamic?
I'm really pleased with the way the new team together. Yelena was always top of my list, and since she was already appearing in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS, that made her an easy get. I knew I wanted the new team to have a black-ops espionage vibe, with more of an emphasis on covert sneaking and infiltration skills than overt energy-blasting, fighting-in-the-sky type spectacle. They can leave that stuff to the Dark Avengers.
So basically I came up with a list of personality types, skill-sets and superpowers that I wanted, and my most excellent editors Bill Rosemann and Tom Brevoort suggested various characters who might fit the bill, however obscure. It didn't matter if they were famous or popular—they just had to be right
. The great thing about obscure C-list characters is that you have a ton of wiggle-room to re-invent them and just go a little crazy; make them cool.
Marvel.com: The first story arc with the new squad involves the president, Air Force One and the Green Goblin. You're certainly not taking things slow, are you? How does this opening shot help or hurt Norman's wider ambitions?
Tough to answer that question without spoiling it, I'm afraid. Suffice it to say, as issue #128 begins, the
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Thunderbolts no longer officially exist. The new president has just been inaugurated, and he's a little concerned about the amount of power his predecessor has given to Norman Osborn. Couple that with the fact that Songbird gave Doc Samson incriminating video footage of Norman as the Green Goblin massacring CSA staff in Thunderbolts Mountain, and suddenly Norman's position of power isn't looking quite so secure.
Marvel.com: Marvel also just announced that you'll be working on a crossover with DEADPOOL and Daniel Way. From the T-Bolts end of that story, who wants to nail Wade the hardest, and who might be the most nervous around the so-called "Merry 'Merc with a Mouth"?
Norman makes it very clear to his new team that anyone who screws up will be removed not only from the team, but from the face of the Earth. So that fact that they're going up against the supposedly "unkillable" Deadpool makes them all a little edgy. Yelena's the one with the most to gain—and lose—and she cooks up a cunning plan to take Wade down. Needless to say whenever Wade's involved, things don't go quite
according to plan.
Marvel.com: Finally, with Norman being all over the Marvel U with the Dark Reign branding, what is it that makes THUNDERBOLTS a unique and vital title moving on through 2009?
The fact that there are no rules means anything can happen in this book. I've got carte blanche to kill off any characters I want, so nothing can be taken for granted. There is no status quo. THUNDERBOLTS has always a been about the possibility of redemption, and while Norman has done his best to expunge any trace of conscience from his new team, some unlikely heroes might just emerge—assuming they can stay alive long enough. During the Dark Reign, nice guys finish last.
We hope you've enjoyed Dark Reign-Makers, and keep checking back here on Marvel.com for the latest on Dark Reign!
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