Who Are The Thunderbolts? Marvel's Antiheroes Team
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Who Are The Thunderbolts? Marvel’s Antiheroes Team

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BY October 1, 2022

In Marvel comics, there is an infamous group of reformed supervillains. These are the Thunderbolts. They are a team of anti-heroes that has been changing according to the era in which we move. Marvel Studios will soon release Thunderbolts movie , which has generated many expectations among fans, who, due to the changes they have undergone over time, are wondering who they are. Today we will learn more about who are the Thunderbolts.

Thunderbolts Movie Officially in Development

Thunderbolts Poster Image: Marvel Studios

Now that we have a Thunderbolts movie confirmed in the MCU, it is worth reviewing the history of these characters. Marvel Studios have confirmed that the film director will be Jake Schreier and that casting and production are underway. Changes from the original team are likely to come, with Yelena Belova, Red Guardian as David Harbour, Bucky Barnes as Winter Soldier, Taskmaster as Olga Kurylenko, and Ava Ghost as Hannah John – Kamen.

Who are the Thunderbolts?

THUNDERBOLTS (2022) #1 cover by David Nakayama Image: Marvel Comics

The Thunderbolts are a group of anti-heroes who execute suicide missions. Their original leader was Baron Zemo, following the Avengers’ tragic demise in the crossover events. 

Their mission was to help protect the world, but no one knew that this new Thunderbolts team was the Masters of Evil in disguise. As time passes, these former villains begin to enjoy being heroes, so they prefer to overthrow Zemo as their leader.

This team has changed over time, so its lineup and leadership differ from when it started. So from its beginnings until now, several members have left, and others have joined. What does stand out in the Thunderbolts is their very gray morals, unlike the Avengers.

Thunderbolts – Origin and Biography

Hulk #449 is About to Spike - GoCollect Image: Marvel Comics

The Thunderbolts were born not too long ago, and their creators are Mark Bagley and Kurt Busiek. We see it in the comics for the first time in 1997 in The Incredible Hulk #449, Peter David wrote it, and the illustration was in charge of Mike Deodato.

This original Thunderbolts concept came to the pair as a way to reform from villains to heroes, so the pair gave new identities to the familiar Masters of Evil.

So, in the events of the 1996 Onslaught crossover, with the death of the Avengers, the Thunderbolts were born. They started as a group with superpowers that came to protect and save the world.

The stories continued, and the group overthrew their original leader Zemo, trying to become heroes on their own merits, with Avenger Hawkeye eventually taking the lead.

These stories not only materialized in comics but also brought out a book that got rave reviews for the secondary characters used from other Marvel comics, where the publisher used continuity-themed storytelling.

Marvel eventually turned this originally Echelon team into a Teaser for their series. Similarly, the team appeared in a one-shot called Tales of the Marvel Universe.

Limited Series Avengers/Thunderbolts

Who are the Thunderbolts Image: Marvel Comics

One thing Marvel knew how to do was to keep the Thunderbolts’ identities secret before the book was released. So, we see them in 2004 in the limited series Avengers/ Thunderbolts, which continued the events of #75. Then, in 2005, Marvel launched the second series with New Thunderbolts #1, which reestablished the original story that had been modified in 2003.

With the arrival of Thunderbolts #100 there was another change of writer. Warren Ellis enters the scene, which gives way to a new Thunderbolts team, where they are again villains, this time working for the government, and their mission is to capture unregistered superheroes. This team also appears in Spider-Man’s New Way to Die, where the first confrontation between the hero and the Thunderbolts occurs.

In issue #121, Marvel Comics replaces again Thunderbolts writer by Christos Gage, who was in charge of writing three on-shots, including a four-issue tie-in with Secret Invasion. 

In 2008, Andy Diggle took over. It begins with issue #126, in 2008, debuting with two issues, which gave the entrance to a new team formation. Thunderbolts #128 – 129 story based on Dark Reign, the aftermath of Secret Invasion, came Magnus Opus4-issue Deadpool crossover.

Later we have Thunderbolts #133, written by Miguel Sepulveda, and the artwork for #138 by Jeff Parker, who stayed until the end of Dark Reign, which featured a crossover team of Atlas agents, renewing the team again. 

Already in #175 the team is renamed Dark Avengers, ending in issue #190. At the time of Marvel NOW, Marvel Comics launched a new Thunderbolts series, where the team is now formed by Deadpool, Red Hulk, Elektra, Punisher, and Venom, which ended in 2014 with issue #32.

Thunderbolts Team Members

The original team members, when Zemo summoned them changed over time. Those who were former allies of the incarnations of the Masters of Evil at the time of the attempt by Goliath, Zemo’s former bodyguard, are no longer the same.

Who are the Thunderbolts Image: Marvel Comics

The new Thunderbolts Marvel launched them with New Thunderbolts #1, where they would be part of the team Atlas and Songbird, including Joystick, Photon, Blizzard II, Speed Demon, and Radioactive Man. Baron Strucker’s HYDRA organization fought against the Atlantean terrorist group Fathom Five, and he founded the returning team.

The new team undertook new adventures that would keep the world safe, defeating Swordsman in Purple Reign. But that also led them to attack and humiliate the new Avengers. Because of pending legal problems with justice.

Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts

Who are the Thunderbolts Image: Marvel comics

Another new team is introduced with Thunderbolts #110, featuring writer Warren Ellis and artist Mike Deodato. They give a new direction and roster to the team, under the control of Norman Osborn. Those who made up this team, for the most part, were villains who wanted to be redeemed, among which stood out.

  • Leader, Norman Osborn
  • Field Leader, Moonstone
  • Penance
  • Diana
  • Radioactive Man
  • Swordsman
  • Poison
  • Songbird

After the Marvel Comics Civil War occurred, the Thunderbolts took on a new mission. Any superhero who was not registered as specified in the “Superhuman Registration Act” they were to track down and arrested.

H.A.M.M.E.R’s Thunderbolts

Since Osborn’s betrayal of Songbird and the other Thunderbolts, who do not have morals like their leader, the businessman decided to form another team. In this new group, we have Moonstone, Venom, and Bullseye now transferred and integrated as part of the team:

  • Field Leader Scourge
  • The Phantom
  • The Black Widow
  • The Executioner
  • The Paladin
  • Ant-Man
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Mr. X

This crew formation didn’t last long. After trying again to assassinate Songbird, Yelena’s abandonment of the team, after Scourge goes on to lead Thunderbolts, and Black Widow’s escape, everything takes a turn. Norman places Grizzly in the team when they go to fight against the Agents of Atlas, which ends in the arrest of most of the team, except Ant-Man and Paladin, who manage to escape.

Luke Cage’s Thunderbolts

Who are the Thunderbolts Image: Marvel Comics

The Heroic Age storyline shows us that a new team is formed after “Siege”. This section materializes when Steve Roger, the Captain, takes Luke Cage to a raft to assemble a new Thunderbolts team, which would bear no relation at all to what was formed by Osborn.

With this, the new leadership tries to take up the original idea of criminals trying to redeem themselves by doing good. So, they recruit Moonstone over the disagreements of some team members as Songbird. They also include Ghost, who at the time was revealed to him and betrayed Osborn, Crossbones, which has the mission to attract the other Thunderbolts to Cage. Another member is Juggernaut, who answers to Professor X, and Man-Thing, who serves as a means of transportation for the Thunderbolts.

Winter Soldier’s Thunderbolts

Winter Soldier's Thunderbolts Image: Marvel Comics

After the events of Avengers: Standoff! Winter Soldier forms his own Thunderbolts team. This new team was joined by Atlas, Fixer, Moonstone, MACH – X, and Kobik. These first three were helped by Winter Soldiers, MACH-X, and Kobik to evade SHIELD, so they decided to become part of the Thunderbolts and thus try to prevent SHIELD from using the Kobik project again.

This whole facet ends very badly, again with a destroyed team and with an infamous proposal from Zemo that ends up making Fixer, Moonstone, and Atlas abandon the team, and destroy the rest.

Punisher: War in the Streets

Zemo and Jigsawen today to the city of New York after Castle lost custody. For this, they manage to convince the mayor Wilson Fisk, who reluctantly agrees to join forces to take revenge on the Punisher.

This union was not to the mayor’s liking, especially when Zemo announced at a press conference his new Thunderbolts team, which includes:

  • Ghost
  • Moonstone
  • Radioactive Man
  • Fixer
  • Citizen V, who is disguised Zemo
  • Disguised Puzzle

The team also did not last long. They tried in vain to finish with Punisher, ending Zemo and this one fighting on the roof, not obtaining the expected results, escaping again who was the initial leader of the Thunderbolts.

Mayor Wilson Fisk Thunderbolts

Mayor Wilson Fisk Image: Marvel Comics

Once again, the Thunderbolts form a new team this time. Mayor Wilson Fisk summons you intending to prevent Knull’s creatures from destroying all living beings on Earth. He seeks to save the city with this new team of super-powered agents. For this, he meets with eight of the most known criminals who have worked in the city:

  • Americas
  • Snakehead
  • Star, who is Ripley in disguise
  • Rhinoceros
  • Foreman
  • Mr. Fear
  • Batroc the Jumper

This story does not end very well, either. Despite avoiding that invasion, the mayor takes advantage and makes it seem that the Thunderbolts sacrificed themselves to achieve the mission. Hence they blackmail him to increase their salaries and assign them other missions when they defeat Knull.


The weapons used by the Thunderbolts are unique to each team member so that you can see shields, swords, and James Barres’ prosthetic arm, among others. They have several superpowers that can face villains as well as superheroes.

They have an attack plane where they move Fairchild – Republic A-10 Thunderbolts, equipped with the integrated main weapon, the rotary cannon GAU8/A Avenger, which has seven tubes of 30 mm caliber.

Thunderbolts Appearances

The appearances of the Thunderbolts are varied, and we leave you a brief review of the different media where you can see them.

In the comics

The Thunderbolts first appeared in comics in 1997 with The Incredible Hulk #449, written by Peter David and illustrated by Mike Deodato where their original concept was to reform villains to heroes, so the pair of writers gave new identities to the known Masters of Evil.

On Television

Who are the Thunderbolts Image: Marvel Comics

On the small screen, in the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors “New Warriors,” we see a representation of the Thunderbolts from the Norman Osborn era. Here this team of young superhumans seeks to raid SHIELD to rescue Goblin from custody.

Also, Zemo’s Thunderbolts are in the Avengers: Ultron Revolution animated series. The group is the Masters of Evil in disguise, joining forces with the Avengers to defeat Ulysses Klaue.

Similarly, the Marvel Rosing animated short “Battle of the Bands” features the musical group “Screaming Mimi and the Thunderbolts,” directed by Gold and includes Atlas, Jolt, and Moonstone.

In theaters (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Marvel Cinematic Universe Image: Marvel Studios

On the big screen in 2022 appears the Thunderbolts of Marvel Studios, where the film director is Jake Scheier, and Eric Pearson wrote the script, this is the first film we will see of this team, and its shooting as such is expected in 2023. 

The film belongs to Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and its release will be in 2024. But we know that the film’s plot is still unclear, and to date, it is unknown whether or not there is a script. So, there may be some MCU adaptation of a version of the origin story, where they show the team from the comics and how Zemos recruited them.

Marvel’s Thunderbolts VS DC’s Suicide Squad

This little-known team will stand up to their DC rival, the Suicide Squad. So, we will have to wait and see what Marvel does with this team. So far, the closest they have is the movie to be released this 2024. But if there is one thing we know is that Marvel’s billboard is full. So, there may be changes in the release date. Marvel’s Thunderbolts is part of Phase 5, so its previews are imminent.

Featured Image Via Marvel Comics 



I am a circus aerialist influenced by Dick Grayson and Spider-Man. Fortunate to write about the characters that inspired me. I also have a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Master's degree in International Trade.


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