By Tim O’Shea
With January’s THUNDERBOLTS #20.NOW, artist Carlo Barberi joins writer Charles Soule to up the ante on the lethal team as part of All-New Marvel NOW!
To take advantage of Barberi’s arrival, the creative team also welcomes a fresh team member—Ghost Rider—as well as a new headquarters. We caught up with Soule and Barberi to learn all that’s in store.
Marvel.com: Charles-, how did the idea to bring Ghost Rider into the THUNDERBOLTS mix come about?
Charles Soule: Well, part of the fun of a team book is thinking about how to shake up the lineup. And while I think the existing team is really fun, one element that’s missing is a “magic-user,” if that doesn’t sound too odd. The T-Bolts we have now are mostly soldier or warrior types, while Ghost Rider is a motorcycle stunt-jumper who is also the Spirit of Vengeance who also has a flaming skull on occasion. It’s a different tone and texture, and I think it’ll be really cool. I was considering who might be a good fit from early on, and I think Ghost Rider is absolutely that.
Marvel.com: For you both, how does a literally volatile character like Ghost Rider react to the other Thunderbolts and vice versa?
Charles Soule: When we first see Johnny Blaze, he’s not in a great place. Life has not been kind to him, and he’s looking for anything he can find to distract him from some bad choices he’s been making. So, his time with the ‘Bolts starts that way, and his first reaction is literally “what the hell are you guys doing working together—you seem to hate each other!” Over time, as he learns more about the team and their “Very Special Missions” dynamic, he starts to see the potential of a group like this. So, he reacts with mild confusion, then tension, then acceptance, then more tension. It’s fun.
Carlo Barberi: I don’t really know what’s going to happen with this addition to the group, but what I can tell you is it’s going to be great with Ghost Rider in the mix. Not only does he open up the opportunity for full new adventures but, let’s be fans for a little bit here. I mean, Ghost Rider, Deadpool, Punisher, Elektra, Red Hulk, Venom and the Leader? Come on, it’s a ticking bomb with five seconds on the clock!
Marvel.com: Carlo, adding Ghost Rider to the mix, am I right in thinking this gives you the chance to work supernatural elements into your art?
Carlo Barberi: Yes of course, I don’t remember ever drawing something magical, I mean professionally. But I can’t wait to start working in new approaches to the mystic arts.
Marvel.com: Everyone on the Thunderbolts team has their own interests and baggage, Charles, what kind of trouble and threats does Ghost Rider bring to the series?
|Ghost Rider by Julian Totino Tedesco|
Charles Soule: Ghost Rider first appears in the series because the T-Bolts come to him looking for help. He has access to certain things that the team needs. As far as trouble, well, trouble follows the Ghost Rider everywhere he goes. He’s the Spirit of Vengeance—which has a dual meaning, to me. He takes vengeance, sure, but it also means he’s got tons of people—and monsters, and devils, and evil of all descriptions—who want to take vengeance on him.
Marvel.com: Carlo, what is it about the THUNDERBOLTS unique team dynamics—described by Deadpool in a recent issue as "The Selfish Avengers"—that has you excited about teaming up with Charles on the book?
Carlo Barberi: I have worked on different kinds of teams over my career but nothing like this one. And what got me excited when I read the script—right from the beginning—was the way every character has his personality well-defined and that you can see immediately what kind of interaction they have with one another. It's not an easy task, these guys are insane, even Ross. Plus the book has everything: adventure, action, romance, magic and guns; what else you can ask for?
Marvel.com: Charles, reflecting upon the series since you first took over as writer, how pleased are you with what you've done so far with the team and looking ahead what future plans do you have?
Charles Soule: I’m weaving in a bunch of plot threads that I expect to pay off down the road. I have plans for things that happened in my very first issue—#12, the Punisher-centric story—to reappear. The structure of the series is built around Thunderbolt Ross asking the team to help him clean up his old messes in exchange for helping each member with one mission they need to get done. As we see those things start to get accomplished, it gets complicated. Like, if Punisher’s thing gets done—which we’re in the middle of with the currently-running INFINITY arc—does he feel the need to stick around to do everyone else’s mission? How long will that last as new members come and go? And of course, there’s something Ross is building to as well—there’s a huge problem waiting in the wings that he hasn’t even broached with the team yet—so that will be fun to layer in.
I’m really happy with how the book has gone so far. Daniel Way set me up with a great foundation to build from, and it’s one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on. I just love the cast, and it’s a blast to write them interacting.
Marvel.com: With this cast of characters, there are always a lot of surprises; without giving away too much can you hint at which members of the team may really shock us in the coming months?
Charles Soule: The Leader. And Deadpool’s always surprising, even when he’s not trying to be.Marvel.com: Charles, every writer when teamed with an artist seizes upon the opportunity to script scenes that he knows the artist will leap to do. Now that you're collaborating with Carlo, what kind of scenes can we look forward to?
Charles Soule: Well, I’m learning quickly that he’s capable of some amazing feats. For example, there’s a new location we’ll be seeing a lot of, and even though we only see a little bit of it in the scripts he’s gotten so far, he went ahead and designed the whole thing. He sent me a bunch of maps and so on; it felt like playing D&D or something back in the day, when you see all the locations in the module map and you can’t wait to see what crazy things will happen in all those evocatively-named spots. I haven’t written anything yet that he hasn’t nailed—I’m not sure that’s possible!
Marvel.com: With issue #20.NOW!, there are some major changes coming to the series, including a headquarters switch. When the status quo of your book gets to alter so substantially, as much as fun as that will be for the reader, how enjoyable a creative element is it to pursue for you two?
Charles Soule: Spoiler—this is the location I was referring to in the last answer! I love that we get to do the things we get to do in this book. THUNDERBOLTS seems to be a book that can weather fairly substantial tonal shifts depending on which character you’re following, or which ones you put in a scene together. You want some wackiness with just a touch of old man grumpiness that’s a little sexy deadly? That’s Deadpool, Red Hulk and Elektra. Would you rather have cold, merciless grumpiness? Then it’s Punisher instead of Red Hulk. You can make a lot of flavors happen with this book’s ingredients, and that’s a lot of fun for me.
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