Friday, March 29, 2013

365 Comics...87: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. #1 (1987)

I was completely unfamiliar with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents when DC started publishing a new title featuring the Silver Age heroes back in 2010.  I gave the series a shot and became an instant fan.  I learned from interviews with series writer Nick Spencer that the series was carrying on in continuity with the previously published storylines rather than wiping the slate clean. Then I discovered that there were only really about three dozen comics featuring T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents in total that came prior to DC getting the rights, so I've been on a quest to get them all (but on the cheap).  I know of the Tower comics, the JC and Archie comics (as discussed in 365 Comics #35), the Deluxe comics, but I had no idea about the extremely short lived Solson Publications series (titled just T.H.U.N.D.E.R.).  It lasted one issue.

Solson was a short-lived publishing house founded by Gary Brodsky, the son of noted Marvel executive Sol Brodsky.  Legendary illustrator Rich Buckler acted as publisher.  They're primarily known for... well, they're not really known for anything.  Solson was yet another in a long line of came-and-gone black-and-white indie press that appeared in the 1980.  They published such wonders as "Codename: Ninja" ("So real, you'd swear it was a movie") and "Reagan's Raiders" (President Reagan and his cabinet do Rambo and Commando one better!"  Here's the back cover ad for some of their publications (many of which I doubt actually made it to press).

There's a good bit of background about T.H.U.N.D.E.R. in the TwoMorrows T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Companion and it's evident from the comments of the creative team (Michael Sawyer and James E. Lyle) that the project came together in any form at all was fortunate, but those fortunes ran out very quickly.  The creators were disappointed with the cheapness of the publication and the fact that notes on the printing of the book were ignored.  The series, intended as a four-issue mini with a plotted out follow-up, wasn't entirely dead in the water, as Rich Buckler had negotiated with rights holder John Carbonaro a 5-year licensing deal, but deals with alternate publishers ultimately didn't wind up with a published book.

The book itself is actually quite decent.  Set in the wake of the exaggerated fallout of an excessively conservative, xenophobic, Reagan-era landscape, America has sealed off its borders, removed themselves from the United Nations (as well as booted the U.N. from New York) and is cancelling all visas, deporting any non-citizens, rooting out illegal aliens.  But the government-sponsored "White Guard", street-level foot soldiers, are stirring up even more trouble, seeding violence among the small groups of illegals, letting them "take care" of each other.  A resistance group of Americans and Francophones clash, people die, and in the chase, four of the clashing resisters discover an abandoned gateway to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Mountain and an off-kilter NoMan.

It's an alternate take on the Agents but it still adheres to continuity, utilizing the characters and situations from the past with a dedicated eye towards making it modern (1980's modern that is).  Michael Sawyer's script is good, obviously taking influence thematically from The Dark Knight and Watchmen, but told in a more conventional comic book story structure.  The art from James E. Lyle and Ron Wilber is very much '80's feeling, in the same mode as Tim Hamilton (Trouble With Girls), Bill Willingham (Elementals) or Ben Edlund's early Tick work.  It's a little sparse in the background department and the faces and poses can be awkward at times, but it's the work of young artists with some genuine talent.  In the aforementioned Companion, Lyle notes he did not like the inking, expecting more of a Klaus Janson-style, but Ron Wilber's inks are more akin to Jerry Ordway... it's good overall, but I can see how that would be disappointing.

In all a happy find in the 50 cent bin and a curious addition to the T-Agents collection.

No comments: