Conceived as a new incarnation of the Masters of Evil, the Thunderbolts were initially formed by Baron Zemo. Attempting to save his familial henchman, Erik Josten (Goliath), Zemo summoned the help of several MOE alumni: Beetle, Fixer and Screaming Mimi.
Feeling the "reunion" an omen to exact revenge on Captain America and the Avengers, Zemo began organizing his team. However, before he could strike, his hated rivals and the Fantastic Four seemingly died battling Onslaught. Exploiting the absence of public champions, the Masters of Evil began masquerading as heroes, scheming to work themselves into a position of trust and power.
Particularly desiring access to the Avengers' and SHIELD's files for personal gain and for-profit underworld distribution, Zemo dubs them "Thunderbolts", finding the name "crypto-fascist but friendly". Adopting new codenames, Zemo becomes Citizen V, an ironic homage to one of his father's World War II adversaries. The Beetle modifies his flying armor suit as MACH-1. Undergoing facial reconstructions, the Fixer becomes Techno as Goliath does Atlas. Former female wrestler, Screaming Mimi makes over as Songbird, with alterations to her powerset similar to that of Klaw. Helping the team stay in character, Zemo stages a breakout for their final member: the criminal psychologist, Moonstone (assuming the identity of "Meteorite").
Genuinely succeeding as superheroes, most members began to actually think of themselves more heroically. Shortly thereafter, they encounter Jolt, an Asian-American teenage girl orphaned during the Onslaught incident and given bioelectric powers by crazed geneticist, Arnim Zola. Honestly believing her new friends at face value, Jolt's presence and infectiously upbeat nature only reinforce these newfound noble inclinations.
Soon after, Techno is believed killed in action, his neck broken during battle. Although he soon reappears, his mind transferring into an android body formed from his high-tech equipment, Fixer's real body is ultimately recovered and resurrected some time later by the Commission on Superhuman Activities.
In an ironic coincidence, as the Avengers and Fantastic Four returned, Zemo reveals his own team's identities. Sensing his allies were getting to overly like being heroes, the Baron attempts blackmail to ensure their loyalty. All but Techno turn on him as Zemo uses the mind-controlled Avengers and Fantastic Four against his former underlings. As the Thunderbolts free the heroes and thwart the plot, Atlas, unbeknownst to his teammates, helps a wounded Zemo escape out of a sense of obligation.
Still fugitives, the Thunderbolts make good their own escape in a very unlikely manner, accidentally transporting to the dimension of Kosmos. During the chaos, Meteorite alters her costume, changing her codename back to Moonstone. In Kosmos, they learn that Moonstone has no intention of reforming, only turning against Zemo out of an amoral sense of self-preservation. She also commits regicide while there, swearing the others to secrecy. Returning to Earth, they set up shop in Colorado, pondering their next move.
Marvel's Most Wanted
Joining at this time is another Arnim Zola experiment, African-American teenager Charcoal and the Avenger Hawkeye, himself a reformed super-villain. Hawkeye convinces his new team that he could get them pardoned, providing they turn in MACH-1, the only member to have committed murder (on record). Given a suspiciously all-too-tempting opportunity to join the mysterious Crimson Cowl's new Masters of Evil, Jenkins agrees to Barton's terms. However, what Hawkeye hides from the group is that even despite MACH-1's surrendering, the US Government refuses to give the group their pardons.
After a final confrontation at the Masters of Evil mini-army's mountain headquarters  wherein the Thunderbolts discover the Cowl to surprisingly be Dallas Riordan, Mayor's office liaison/friend from earlier days, the would-be heroes take the base for their own.
While exploring, the group discovers Ogre, a former member of Factor Three, an obscure group of X-Men villains and the base's original owners. Tasked as caretaker when the group disbanded, Ogre is also left in custody of a highly dangerous mutant teenager (Humus Sapien) Factor Three had kidnapped, placing him in suspended animation when it became apparent his powers were uncontrollable. Accepted into the Thunderbolts, Ogre is then promptly stabbed by Techno, placing him in stasis alongside his charge. Assuming Ogre's appearance, Techno once again became the team's "new" mechanic.
In exchange for stealing top secret weapons technology from evil industrialist Justin Hammer, MACH-1 is freed from prison. As a "witness protection" maneuver, Techno alters Jenkin's body, making him African-American in appearance and giving him a new set of "MACH-2" armor.
Meanwhile, brainwashed CSA Agent, Henry Peter Gyrich seeks to destroy the team. Gyrich, using a mentally-manipulated Jack Monroe as the new Scourge of the Underworld, begins a systematic assassination campaign against the Thunderbolts. Jolt, the first target, is killed in a diner with a bullet between the eyes. Monroe then travels to South America and kills Baron Zemo. Finally entering the Thunderbolts' home, he destroys Techno and allows Atlas to implode into a storm of ionic energy.
In actuality, all four survived in some form: the robotic Techno uses Jolt's electrical powers to resurrect her from the dead. Zemo's mind is transferred first into the comatose body of the male Citizen V and later into Techno's mechanical "Tech-Pack". Although remaining deactivated, Techno's "Tech-Pack" also cybernetically replaces the broken segments of his real body's spine, soon becoming government property. Atlas merges with Dallas, crippled in a vendetta battle with the real Crimson Cowl, becoming an ionically-charged hybrid super-being.
As the Thunderbolts reel from this unfolding murder mystery, Jolt learns of Hawkeye's lie about pardons, straining relations. Meanwhile, Moonstone finds herself going insane due to her alien power source. She begins falling in love with Hawkeye and learns that the spirit of the original Kree Moonstone was trying to turn the unrepentantly amoral Dr. Sofen into an honest woman.
Confronting Gyrich just as Dr. Valerie Cooper gathers her own team of government-sanctioned heroes, the Redeemers (including the Baron Zemo-controlled Citizen V and resurrected Fixer), the Thunderbolts stop his plan to utilize experimental nanite technology to kill off all known superhumans. While his scheme is defeated, it's quickly revealed that Gyrich is infected with the nanites himself and that Baron Strucker is the real mastermind. Hawkeye uses the events as leverage to get pardons for the Thunderbolts but Gyrich threatens to go public with the way Hydra used him just to spite Barton. Ultimately, Gyrich agrees to stay quiet, giving the Thunderbolts their pardon. However, Hawkeye has to go to jail for aiding the then-fugitive heroes evade capture. Hawkeye agrees as the team disbands.
Jolt and Charcoal, the only Thunderbolts without criminal records, fold into the Redeemers program under the leadership of Captain America and Zemo-possessed Citizen V. The Redeemers, save for V, Fixer and Jolt, are promptly slaughtered by the super-villain Graviton. The Thunderbolts reform to defeat him but in the process, several (Citizen V/Zemo, Fixer, Jolt, Moonstone, Jenkins as MACH-3 and the merged Erik/Dallas Atlas) are transported to Counter Earth, the world where the Avengers and Fantastic Four resided after Onslaught. There, the Thunderbolts encounter their own analogues, including that world's versions of both Heinrich and Helmut Zemo and the Phantom Eagle, counterpart of the original Moonstone.
Transferring Zemo's disembodied mind from the Fixer's "Tech-Pack" into his double's body, he kills his Counter-Earth "father". After the Thunderbolts destroy a rocket, exposing it as a plot by Counter-Earth's Nazi Germany to control their world's computers, Zemo convinces them to stay and act as planetary leaders. Instead, Moonstone steals the alien gem of the mentally unstable Phantom Eagle for herself, causing her powers to increase to cosmically dangerous levels.
Rebirth and Endings
Meanwhile, Hawkeye escapes from prison alongside several super-villains. SHIELD contacts him with a pardon offer. Justin Hammer has died and his daughter, the Crimson Cowl, has found a chemical weapon making every super-villain the Hammers ever employed into part of a loyal on-call army. Helping create the serum and the only one capable of activating it is the villain, Plantman. With the telepathic terrorist Mentallo serving as a middleman, Hawkeye reluctantly helps Plantman escape so the Cowl can get her hands on him. The plan fails miserably and Hawkeye is forced to watch as Plantman murders an innocent prison guard to escape. However, before Crimson Cowl can kill Hawkeye or acquire Plantman, Songbird saves the two. They then form a second group of Thunderbolts. Plantman adopts the name "Blackheath" as several former members of the Crimson Cowl's Masters join: Carinal (Harrier), Gypsy Moth (Skein), Man-Killer (Amazon), and Cyclone. Hawkeye motivates the group by revealing that unless they stop the Cowl, they will become her slaves, as they've all been exposed to the poison.
These Thunderbolts finally defeat the Crimson Cowl but not before she captures them with help from Cyclone and vivisects Plantman, who mutates into a plant creature neutralizing the toxin in all infected people. Soon after, the group is sent to the V-Battalion's base regarding a spatial rift disturbance. Returning home, the Thunderbolts close the spatial rift from the Counter-Earth side, leaving Jolt behind in the process to join the Young Allies. As the two teams unite and the rift is closed, the V-Battalion's base is destroyed.
In the aftermath, Atlas and Dallas find themselves separated again into their respective bodies. However, Dallas gains Atlas's ionic powers. Hawkeye, Amazon and Skein left the team while MACH-3 and Harrier return to prison. Zemo is left to lead after convincing Hawkeye that he wants to reform, helping the world instead of ruling it. Zemo then goes on to reveal to his team that he lied. He still wants to conquer the world... just to save it.
Avengers/Thunderbolts: The Best Intentions
Zemo leads the Thunderbolts (now including Dallas Riordan, under the codename "Vantage") in an attempt to deactivate the powers of all other superhumans on Earth. The Avengers, once more counting Hawkeye among their ranks, oppose them. During this affair, Iron Man infiltrates the Thunderbolts, assuming the identity of the "Cobalt Man". Ultimately, it is revealed that any power the Thunderbolts siphon is channeling into Moonstone, caught in an overwhelming spiral of madness from possessing two alien gems. Despite summoning Jolt as a last minute attempt to pull Sofen back from the edge, Iron Man has Hawkeye lobotomize her in order to stop the destructive rampage.
While saving Captain America's life during the conflict, Zemo's face is again severely burned. He takes Moonstone's twin gems and flees, vowing revenge for the way the Thunderbolts and Avengers "destroyed" her. Jolt returns to the Young Allies and Counter-Earth as a de-powered Blackheath returns to prison. The Fixer flees as well while Vantage retires to a government job. Songbird is offered reserve membership in the Avengers but turns it down. MACH-3 is paroled from prison, deciding to form a new team of Thunderbolts.
Zeroes to Heroes
Abner Jenkins reforms the team after being released from prison. Along with Atlas and Songbird, the team's new recruits include formerly insane alien hero, Captain Marvel, now calling himself "Photon" and several former villains: Speed Demon, Joystick, Blizzard and the Radioactive Man. The new team battles Atlantean super-terrorists Fathom Five and Baron Strucker's Hydra organization, secretly the team's financial backer.
After defeating the plot, Purple Man is mysteriously teleported away and brought before his real boss, Baron Zemo. Zemo tortures the Purple Man by inducing rigor-mortis in his body and threatens to send him back to prison, nullifying his powers.
Attack on the New Avengers
As part of the CSA, Hank Pym and Warbird offer to pardon the members of the Thunderbolts still with outstanding legal problems. Their bargain is in exchange for the group publicly attacking the New Avengers, looking to humiliate the latest incarnation of the self-sanctioned franchise.
Only "Spider-Woman" escapes the sneak attack, beating Joystick senseless. The rest of her team is beaten by the Thunderbolts. Songbird tells Captain America that her team could beat the New Avengers any time. In the end, it is discovered that Baron Zemo is the mastermind behind the entire scenario- not only to humiliate Captain America but also testing to see how far the Thunderbolts would go for a chance to be pardoned.
Fixer, The Squadron Sinister and Zemo's Revelation
Fixer resurfaces and recruits both MACH IV and Blizzard to work with him on a top secret project. Meanwhile, Speed Demon is confronted by the new female Doctor Spectrum, looking to reform the Squadron Sinister and take over the world. Speed Demon accepts, quitting the Thunderbolts. Former Defender (and former original member of the Squadron Sinister) Nighthawk is offered membership into the Thunderbolts by Songbird. Also at Gold's request, Man-Killer returns.
Zemo reveals himself as leading Fixer, sending his group to confront Songbird and the others about Photon's increasingly unstable powers. Citing him a risk to reality, Zemo ends up killing Photon. He then resumes control of the consolidated team.
Joystick reveals she is working for the Elder of the Universe, Grandmaster, attacking Speed Demon.
Operation: Justice Like Lightning
As Baron Zemo's Thunderbolts prepare for their final battle against The Grandmaster, Dallas Riordan meets with Songbird privately to discuss the the team's future and potential incorporation into the 50-State Initiative. Songbird is told that she can take a few current Thunderbolts with her when establishing a new team. Working under the auspice of the Initiative, Zemo amasses a veritable "Thunderbolts Army" for his personal showdown against the Elder for the "Wellspring of Power", ultimately becoming lost in a dimensional nexus created by his pirated moonstones' unwieldy energies.
During a battle between Pro- and Anti- Superhuman Registration forces, Goliath is killed by a clone of Thor. As an eye-opening moment for many, the Pro-Registration side loses more members than anticipated, necessitating a fast-tracking of the 50-State Initiative. The CSA, with help from Songbird, gathers Bullseye, Lady Deathstrike, Jack O'Lantern, Jester, Taskmaster and Venom (Mac Gargan) to capture the underground "Secret Avengers". Not taking chances, Mister Fantastic tags each member with nanobot technology to monitor and curb their actions. Before fighting as a unit, Jack O'Lantern and Jester are deployed to capture Spider-Man but are promptly killed in the process by the Punisher.
As the heroes' Civil War ends, Norman Osborn is named Thunderbolts Director, persuading various villains to join his new incarnation on a more permanent basis. Moonstone, Radioactive Man and Swordsman agree to under Songbird's CSA arrangement. However, any presumptions of authority Gold may have entertained are short-lived as Osborn lays down his bold new order, nominating Sofen as deputy leader.
Their first official mission as specialized superhuman marshalls is to capture the fugitive Jack Flag, coming out of retirement defiantly unregistered. During the mission, Moonstone has the Thunderbolts manipulate the situation to save face on a television broadcast, making Flag look like a genuine threat to the public. Still besting his pursuers, Jack is ultimately unable to escape the wrath of Bullseye, the team's "shadow operative", and is viciously paralyzed.
The team's next target is the Steel Spider in the Southwest. Through the timely intervention of Sepulchre and American Eagle, he is able to hold them off. Steel Spider defeats Swordsman and throws Venom off a building. American Eagle harpoons Moonstone's hand to the Thunderbolts's Zeus aircraft, taking her away from the battle. The three unregistered heroes are finally beaten by one of Radioactive Man's blasts. During this time, Songbird also tricks Bullseye into believing that she has disabled his nano-chain. Killing his two handlers, he tries to kill American Eagle. The Eagle beats Bullseye badly and, upon learning of his escape, Moonstone fires his nano-chain, causing the assassin seemingly-permanent paralysis. While American Eagle and Sepulchre escape, Steel Spider becomes the battle's other casualty, his arm being ripped off and devoured by Venom.
Later on, four telepaths held captive in Thunderbolts Mountain use their powers to turn the team members against each other. They coerce Swordsman into blowing up the Zeus transport, killing countless support staffers in the hangar, urge Venom on a carnivorous rampage, induce Radioactive Man into threatening to give everyone in the base cancer and unhinge Norman Osborn into resuming his Green Goblin persona, also killing many in the wake of his madness. Moonstone is nudged into attempting to kill the visiting Doc Samson and her troubled young teammate, Robbie Baldwin. However, Samson and Robbie remain unaffected by the rampant madness and are more than ready for her.
Swordman defeats Venom, although he is defeated and seriously injured in turn by Osborn. While using his "Penance" powers to defeat Moonstone, Robbie rediscovers some of his seemingly-lost "Speedball" abilities with Samson’s help, using them to save Sofen from a crash. Meanwhile, Osborn continues his Goblin massacre until confronted by a very angry Songbird, who deduces the source of the insanity. Gold defeats Osborn yet both collapse.
As the telepaths think their plan a success, Bullseye, recovering from nano-surgery to repair his damaged spine, walks away from the operating table. Grabbing some scalpels, he heads to the detention area and kills the four telepaths for practice, unaware he is actually saving the team.
As the dust settles, Samson wants Robbie out of the Thunderbolts program. Baldwin refuses, believing it is the best place to earn his redemption for being involved in the catalytic event of the heroes' Civil War. Osborn tries to downplay and dismiss the entire incident but Songbird and Samson reveal incriminating footage, using it to force him into giving her total command of the Thunderbolts.
As Armin Zola delivers a newly-cloned Andrea Strucker to her twin brother, the Swordsman, in an unsanctioned deal circumventing Osborn's leverage over Strucker, the group is thrust into the Skrull Invasion.
Thunderbolts Mountain is attacked by Skrull sleeper agent, Khn'nr, aka "Captain Marvel". Barely surviving the fight due largely to Khn'nr's mental instability, the group goes on the offensive against the invaders in Washington, D.C.. During the fight, Andrea is paired with her brother, Moonstone and Bullseye under suspicion that she is a Skrull spy. However, when Moonstone feints betrayal, joining with the Skrulls in order to bait Andrea into revealing herself, she is shocked to realize that Andrea is indeed a clone. This culminates when Bullseye murders the female Strucker in order to save Moonstone. With Norman's help, Sofen frames the Skrulls for the deed.
Defeating the Skrulls in DC, Norman begins playing up his team's role in the defense effort to the media, making them out as the force saving the Earth from Tony Stark's bungling. The Thunderbolts journey to New York, reluctantly aiding in the final battle against the Skrulls. Osborn gains greater publicity as he is seen getting the "kill shot" on Skrull Queen Veranke across worldwide broadcasts.
After Songbird goes off on Norman Osborn for leaving her alone to deal with a Skrull who nearly killed her, Osborn and Moonstone reach an agreement to get to do some "housecleaning". Their plan comes into effect while Norman is in Washington, preparing to assume control over the disorganized remains of SHIELD. Radioactive Man is deported back to China after Norman has his work visa revoked. Moonstone drugs Penance and reveals her plans to send him to a corrupt maximum security mental institution, where he is to be held prisoner for the rest of his natural life. Moonstone then aids Bullseye and Venom in attempting to overtly kill Songbird. Nearly neutralizing Moonstone and Bullseye, Songbird is attacked by Venom as she attempts to get away on the Zeus. Bullseye manages to sneak up behind Melissa for the kill but is saved by the Swordsman's intervention. Destroying the jet, Swordsman orders Songbird to run, telling her that he will tell the others she was vaporized in the crash.
Swordsman confronts Norman regarding his not being offered a slot on the new "Dark Avengers" team. As suspected, Norman never planned on fulfilling his vow to resurrect Swordsman's sister or to give Strucker a full presidential pardon upon completion of his Thunderbolts contract. Norman responds to Andreas's threats by murdering him with his own sword, dumping his body out a nearby window.
With Bullseye, Moonstone, and Venom transferring to Norman's new "Dark" Avengers, the Thunderbolts were "officially" dismantled. However, in actuality, Norman redesignated the unit as his personal "black ops" covert squad. The new Thunderbolts members included "Black Widow (Yelena Belova)" (actually the original Black Widow, Natalia Romanova, undercover as a plant for Nick Fury), Ghost, Paladin, Headsman, Mister X, Ant-Man and Scourge. Norman Osborn threatened to fire and secretly execute any member of the team making mistakes or becoming insubordinate.
As revenge for attempted blackmail against Osborn, one of the hit-squad's first missions became killing Deadpool. Deadpool thwarts the hit with unlikely assistance from the Taskmaster. The Thunderbolts then travel to Madripoor to recruit Mister X. Osborn also adds a mysterious new incarnation of Scourge. Songbird eventually returns and he again has his team try to kill her. "Yelena" abandons the team after Scourge takes over, revealing to Songbird her true identity and intentions. Escaping, the two only end up leading Osborn to Nick Fury. Osborn orders the Thunderbolts to kill Black Widow and Songbird, shooting Fury himself. However, "Fury" is revealed as a Life-Model Decoy. After Black Widow and Songbird escape again, Scourge is revealed to be the former Super-Soldier, Nuke.
Norman Osborn later places new recruit Grizzly on the team as they fight the Agents of Atlas. The fight between the Thunderbolts and the Agents rages on as deadly chemicals cause both teams to retreat. As the Thunderbolts return to their new Cube base on the Zeus, their pilot informs them that there is an important message from Osborn. Holographically, Norman informs the team that there is an important assignment in Broxton, Oklahoma but doesn't disclose details. Upon seeing Osborns' face, latent programming in Scourge misfires and he begins shooting. The bullet goes right through the hologram but hits Headsman in the cranium, horrifying his teammates.
During the Siege of Asgard, Norman wishes his Thunderbolts to infiltrate Asgard's armories and steal Gungnir, Odin's spear, capable of turning the tide in his favor. Running afoul of Dr. Pym's Mighty Avengers, Scourge uses the spear to sever U.S. Agent's left limbs.
After Norman Osborn's fall, a new team of Thunderbolts forms at the behest of Steve Rogers. Based out of the Raft maximum security super-prison, this team is spearheaded by Luke Cage and includes veteran members (Songbird, MACH V and Fixer) as handlers, providing support to an all-new field team of rehabilitating prisoners (including Moonstone). Operating from the island prison, the team utilizes a very unique transportation system: none other than the dimensional-warping abilities of Man-Thing himself, now housed at the Raft in a special swamp-like terrarium. His friend Jennifer Kale once broke in to free the shambling muck monster, believing him mistreated. Although Man-Thing returns of his own accord, it becomes apparent how susceptible to magical attacks the Raft is. To this end, Cage works with Doctor Strange to recruit Satana.
After acting out on a mission, the Juggernaut is benched. While the Thunderbolts and the new Beta Team, derogatorily dubbed "Underbolts" by Moonstone, are on a mission in Iraq, the Hammer of Kuurth strikes and destroys the prison. The Juggernaut is transformed by the mysterious weapon into Kuurth, Breaker of Stone. Heavily damaged, many prisoners escape the Raft in the ensuing chaos. The Thunderbolts return but are too late to stop the largest group of escapees.
Attempting to aid in the global panic, a handful of the 'Bolts manage to transport their command tower, the Raft's only remaining undamaged structure, from the island to a crisis in Chicago using Man-Thing's powers. However, due to enchantments placed upon him by Satana, the creature is also in the throes of evolution. Caught in an accidental teleportational vortex, the team and their tower are cast backwards through time, giving their handlers the impression of a most elaborate jailbreak.
Equipment: None known.
Transportation: T-Bird, Thunderjet, T-Wagon
Weapons: Each Thunderbolt teammates' arsenal
- Andy Diggle, the new writer, has mentioned that the cast will rotate around some core members, based on missions.
- During the super-hero Civil War, an army of captured criminals was organized under the Thunderbolts moniker (often referred to as the "Thunderbolts Army"). Divided into numerous groups, they were stationed around the US and kept in contact through Overmind, worked to quell the number of super-powered individuals created when the Grandmaster accessed the Wellspring of Power. As the number of super-powered civilians rose, the majority of the members deserted the ranks, hoping to save themselves.
- Steve Rogers gave a list of criminals who he was planning on enrolling into Cage's Thunderbolts team in Heroic Age: Villains #1. This list comprised of Absorbing Man, Answer, Badd Axe, Bison, Bloodshed, Constrictor, Doctor Sax, Grizzly, Hydro-Man, Mad Dog, Man-Killer, Redeemer, Ruby Thursday, Skeleton Ki, Vector, and the Young Masters.
- No trivia.
- 81 Thunderbolts (Earth-616) Members
- 274 Appearances of Thunderbolts (Earth-616)
- 99 Images that include Thunderbolts (Earth-616)
- Team Gallery: Thunderbolts (Earth-616)
- Fan-Art Gallery: Thunderbolts (Earth-616)
Links and References
- ↑ Onslaught Marvel Universe #1
- ↑ Thunderbolts #25
- ↑ In truth, Dallas was innocent, having been captured while attacking the Masters in her own iteration as "Citizen V". The real Crimson Cowl (Justine Hammer), using her cowl to teleport out of her costume seconds before her unmasking, replaces herself with Dallas- making her take the fall for Hammer's crimes. As revealing the truth would require her to expose the existence of the V-Battalion (the brains behind the "Citizen V" hero identity), Dallas refuses to deny or defend herself, convicted as such. However, she would be ultimately busted out of prison by said V-Battalion.
- ↑ Thunderbolts #100
- ↑ Civil War #4
- ↑ Civil War #5
- ↑ Fear Itself #1