Or – “Not Bird, Nor Plane, Nor Even Frog…”

The 1960’s featured a proliferation of spy organizations, from Nick Fury’s SHIELD, to Derek Flint’s ZOWIE, even Napoleon Solo’s UNCLE. In fact, for a time it seemed that the only thing more plentiful in the mid-60’s than intelligence operatives were superheroes, so it was natural that, eventually, SOMEBODY would discover a way to combine the two. The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were created in response to a dangerous world, working as operatives of the United Nations to combat threats that your average super-friend wouldn’t have the reach or resources to combat, and foremost in their field operations was the irresistible force of today’s Hero History subject. Neither as invulnerable as that Kent kid, nor as smart as Tom Wayne’s boy, he nonetheless was the lynchpin of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. in all its incarnations, showing what the average man was capable of in extraordinary circumstances. This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Leonard Brown, agent of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves… T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent DYNAMO!

As a founding agent, the story of Dynamo begins with the moment that first catalyzed the United Nations superhuman defensive force, with a daring raid on the laboratory of one Professor Emil Jennings. The heroic peacekeepers storm in, hoping to take the Professor away to a safehouse where his life will no longer be endangered by terrorists wanting to steal away his work…

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Sadly for the Professor, the troops have arrived too late to save his life…

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A cold comfort comes in the fact that they managed to chase away the Warlord’s troopers before they were able to capture the pinnacle of his work, a number of special devices that can be used to simulate super-powers!

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Strength. Invisibility. Telepathy. The building blocks of superheroism… One man, armed with all three devices would be a veritable Martian Manhunter unto himself, but T.H.U.N.D.E.R. realizes the danger in having one person wielding all three weapons. Instead, they choose several candidates for Professor Jennings’ innovations. Enter Leonard Brown, low-level T.H.U.N.D.E.R. administrative assistant, on his first assignment…

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“Hey, kid… Howdja like t’be Tom Welling?” The proposition is a simple one, allow the scientific wizards to test the Thunderbelt on you, and possibly become mightier than any man alive. Of course, the possibility of a horrific and painful end is out there, as well. So, you got that goin’ for you. Which is nice…

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Luckily for him, Professor Jennings wasn’t all hot air, and the device does indeed give him the power to shatter steel with his bare hands, but only for short periods of time. Over the long haul, the Thunderbelt would overwhelm even Len’s superior physical conditioning, and could even kill him. With the addition of a steel-mesh costume that will offer him protection even when his powers are inactive, Leonard Brown becomes Agent Dynamo! He receives training in espionage, in combat, in all manner of spycraft, but when a mysterious “iron fog” begins immobilizing entire CITIES, the time for training is over…

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His first field mission goes quite well, as Dynamo clashes with warriors both human and cybernetic, searching for the mastermind behind the iron fog. His mission goes so well that he forgets about the time limits inherent with the Thunderbelt’s powers, until he receives a harsh reminder regarding his limitations…

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Dynamo struggles, but is eventually overcome by a horde of robots and fatigue, and is captured by the mysterious Warlord’s minions, including the operative known in hushed whispers as the Iron Maiden (no relation to the Fog, one presumes.) It’s a meeting thick with portentous meaning for both of them…

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The Iron Maiden doesn’t kill him, though she easily could, instead leaving him in a death-trap that he could only escape using wits, cunning, and a little help from his friends. A fellow agent manages to slip Len the Thunderbelt, and with one twist of the dial, Dynamo is fully-charged and ready to play ‘Samson At The Temple.’

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What’s most entertaining about Len’s situation is that, even though he has become a globe-trotting steel-clad idol of millions, he’s still a junior-grade administrator in his organization, and still only gets to find out the information appropriate to his paygrade. One bright spot, however, comes in the form of a pretty young woman named Alice and a growing mutual attraction, though it won’t save him from being called on the carpet for his shortcomings…

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Dynamo is NOT relieved of duty (though I have to say *I* would chafe hard at a direct order to run from conflict, and I’m not even a super-agent) and his belt is improved with several James Bond gadgets, all the better to face the likes of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., O.G.R.E., A.I.M., or S.H.E.E.S.H., and information as to the whereabouts of the Warlord’s latest gambit.

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Unfortunately for Dynamo, his hated enemy has created a powerful creature, dubbed Dynavac, to counter his own strength and durability. To his consternation, Dynamo finds that Dynavac shares more than the first two syllables of a name, possessed of power equal to (or perhaps even superior) to Dynamo’s own. Their battle is beautiful and awful to behold…

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The mysterious masked man in green pushes Dynamo to his absolute limits, dragging the battle out for so long that the power of the belt begins to wane. The newly installed belt radio suddenly rings out with the order to retreat, to run from his opponent, a command that he reluctantly obeys…

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Attacking his person is one thing, but attacking his fellows? Destroying his headquarters? Kidnapping his erstwhile love interest? Dynamo has had all he can stands, and he can’t stands no more! Returning to T.H.U.N.D.E.R.’s temporary headquarters at Cape Kennedy, Dynamo commandeers a ROCKET (!) and take the battle to the Warlord’s doorstep in style!

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Re-entry is nothing for the invulnerable T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent, with life, liberty, and the lovely Alice Robbins hanging in the balance, and Dynamo serves as one-man invasion force, vowing that nothing and no one better stand in his way…

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Cutting through the enemy troops like Sherman through Georgia, Dynamo is unstoppable until he once again comes up against Dynavac, his counterpart in smashery and breakage. This time, though, Dynamo has done his homework (with a little help from the brain boys at T.H.U.N.D.E.R.) and uses his tremendous strength for a very specific purpose…

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Dynamo’s style is undeniable, using his super-human durability to great advantage in his battles. Len Brown’s background as a mousy middle-manager leads to him being absolutely fearless in his work. When a Communist agent known as Red Dragon makes himself a nuisance in an impenetrable part of the jungle, Dynamo isn’t willing to wait for anyone to clear the groundcover, choosing a more… DIRECT method of egress.

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Still, the life of a devil-may-care super-spy/superman isn’t all beer and pretzels. When he finally gets the courage to ask the lovely Alice out on a date, Len finds that his dual life has a way of interfering with what Dean Martin would call ‘matters of amore…’

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Still, no matter how difficult balancing his careers becomes, Dynamo finds himself enjoying his field work, showing a side of himself that his regular paperwork would have never allowed, a side that thoroughly enjoys the physicality of being a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent. And it’s easy to see why, not every administrative schmuck would get a chance to punch a T-Rex innaface…

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Allow me to reiterate for those of you in the cheap seats: DYNAMO PUNCHED A T-REX INNAFACE. Let’s see your Batman try that, true believers. Still, as his career continues, Dynamo finds that a certain spectre of the past keeps popping up…

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…The Iron Maiden. It turns out, though, that she has been as preoccupied with Dynamo as Dynamo has been with her, as the armored mercenary explains (but not until AFTER she has captured the D-man for her evil boss.)

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Iron Maiden manages to save Dynamo’s life, activating the Thunderbelt AND taking a bullet for the big guy, making him wonder what exactly is up with her. He is so taken with the thought of Iron Maiden (although he thinks that she gave her life to save him) that he even blows off poor little Alice the receptionist. Dynamo continues his awesomeness in the field, though, even serving as a human torpedo to save wear and tear on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. equipment…

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When a number of crimes are committed by someone who seems to have superhuman strength, the signs point to Dynamo, who is put under surveillance 24/7. He only manages to slip away with the help of a mysterious young beauty who calls herself Rusty, a woman who seems eerily familiar…

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Dynamo manages to get out of his jam, but the additional complications of a janissary of unknown morality who wants to kiss and/or kill him makes his life even more unusual. When an experimental generator goes awry, his steel-hard frame is charged with otherworldly energy. Rather than panic, or accept that he’s going to be electrocuted, Dynamo uses the situation to his advantage.

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Garth Ranzz, eat your heart out! The life of a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent isn’t all romance and zappin’ bad guys, though. As with Dynamo, the other Agent’s device are dangerous as well. When tragedy befalls the team (a long story which I will be getting to in our next Hero History, so don’t fret about my obscuring certain details of the events) even the unflappable Dynamo loses his cool, leading the remaining Agents into battle in a vengeful rage…

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Still, no amount of revenge will bring back their fallen friend, and Len Brown and his compatriots are forced to gather to honor their fallen comrade…

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In a telling fashion, though, even when the villains responsible were brought to justice, more evil world-beaters stepped up to take their place. Some even managed to come from beyond the boundaries of our own world, as what seems to be an alien invasion force arrives. An agent is dispatched, but doesn’t return, causing Dynamo to step up and offer to save the day…

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Once in space, Dynamo doesn’t immediately find his partner, instead confronting flying saucers with evil intentions. (Hey, it was the ’60s. Things like this happened…) So, what do you do when confronted with superior alien technology, armed only with American know-how and steel-hard skin? Improvise.

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Wouldn’t you like to see Dynamo’s resume? “Shot down alien spacecraft with rock. Punched T-Rex innaface. Types 150 wpm.” Still, being tough doesn’t mean that he’s completely invulnerable, as Dynamo finds out the hard way when his belt is stolen by an evil mastermind…

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Dynamo’s hospital trip isn’t the first of its kind, as the all-too-mortal Agent insists on putting himself in dangerous situations, with or without his powers. As he grows more and more sure of himself in his costumed identity, though, Len Brown finds himself dealing with the same problems, especially as regards women…

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With the nefarious Iron Maiden, fiancée Alice Robbins and field agent Diana Dawn interested, you may wonder what it is about Len Brown that makes women fall head over heels for him. Is it the hair? The suit? The big lightning bolt on the chest? Truth is, it’s the courage, and even T.H.U.N.D.E.R. squad agent Kitten isn’t immune to his charms (much to Dynamo’s regret.)

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Often when you find a hero of great physical prowess, you occasionally question their mental and psychological toughness. Pete Rasputin popped his cork a time or two, Lead of the Metal Men is a few coins short of the full bill, and even the wonderful Hercules occasionally punches first and lets others ask questions later. Not so Dynamo, even when confronted with a strange psychic dreamscape…

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Turns out that the whole thing is a psychological conditioning test, designed to build Dynamo’s defense against psionic attack, the better to finally rebuff an invasion from beyond the stars…

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With his mind thus reinforced, Dynamo is sent through an alien transmatter beam, sent to their planet of origin, where he brings the usual Dynamo brand of massive property damage directly to the aliens’ headquarters. (After all, they SHOT at him when he was on the moon… It’s only fair, right?) But before he can finish the job, Dynamo is distracted by one of the aliens…

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Alien invasions and wacky dream notwithstanding, Dynamo isn’t bad for strategy, either. When enemy agents gain the plans for an “atomic gun” capable of piercing even HIS Thunderbelt-strengthened hide, Dynamo is forced to think fast. What do you do when someone is gunning for you and you have to run past them? Hide in plain sight!

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Dynamo even manages to balance his perspective in a world of “Us vs. Them,” something that many men of his era couldn’t. When Andor (a mysterious humanoid with natural powers rivaling his own) is discovered to be running loose, Dynamo tries to reason with him, believing the man to be more misguided than evil, regardless of the commands of his superiors…

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Amazingly enough, the life that Dynamo leads DOESN’T leave him permanently scarred, rocking in a corner, eating only cottage cheese with applesauce spooned in… But even his tenacity has its limits, and when Dynamo collapses in the field, his friends and colleagues immediately rally around him to make sure he’s okay.

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The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. crash course in psychological wellness (They should try that on the Sentry!) works it’s wonders, and soon Dynamo is back to his old self, throwing his entire being into his job, in a very literal sense…

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Smart, stylish, quoting Robert Burns as he stops a car with his feet… You gotta love Dynamo. Even facing a foe who can make himself completely intangible won’t stop the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent from bringing his quarry to ground…

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I so love that moment. It’s the look on The Ghost’s face as he smugly thinks he’s getting away that sells it. For all his strengths, though, Dynamo has some very human foibles and weaknesses. When facing an all-female gang of thieves, he finds himself hampered by his own chivalry…

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Dynamo’s successes in the field also don’t always transfer themselves into success in the eyes of his superiors. For all his ticks in the ‘Win’ column, the upper hierarchy of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. sometimes gets frustrated with Dynamo’s irritating tendency to think for himself and question the company line.

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He’s even willing to show his feelings (albeit at the wrong time) when Iron Maiden returns, working for another would-be conqueror, and Dynamo tries to convince her that her path is the wrong one. “Rusty” comes to her senses, saving Dynamo, but once again her conversion comes a few moments too late.

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Indeed, his woman-trouble in the office quickly becomes woman-trouble in the field as well, as he continually battles with the Iron Maiden, trying to convince her to turn to the side of good…

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Eventually, though, Rusty does realize the worth of his words, though it takes a little bit of convincing to get her there. Okay, it takes an all-out alien invasion, spear-headed by giant mutated insect monsters, but still, she eventually turns away from the Dark Side…

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The giant bugs turn out to be the handiwork of the selfsame alien invaders that Dynamo and company have repelled twice before, attacking on a whole new front. The use of insects proves incredibly successful, with the monstrous creatures almost able to overcome Dynamo’s massive strength and durability.

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The combined forces of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R., the Iron Maiden, and nearly every costumed human extant is enough to end the invaders pest control problems once and for all, and for his troubles gets… a 48-hour quarantine to make sure that he’s not carrying any alien cooties. For once, though, having an ongoing ‘thing’ with a bad girl works to Dynamo’s advantage…

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Indeed, in a very real way, Dynamo’s weakness, his ‘kryptonite,’ if you will, could be said to be the female persuasion. As a two-fisted ’60s man of action, Dynamo has to overcome his own chivalry (and not a little bit of ego, mind you) in order to overcome a new breed of villain…

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As times change, so do the agents of T.H.U.N.D.E.R., but Len Brown remains remarkably constant. In a newer, deadlier world, Dynamo remains remarkably down-to-earth, maintaining his day job and real life even as he puts on the belt to fight greater and greater menaces…

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The changing times have made the dangers they face more perilous, and have upped the ante for many of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, but Dynamo remains their rock, the invulnerable point-man, throwing himself into each fight because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of his own personal safety…

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Still, no man is an island (Well, technically, I guess NoMan is an android, but you know what I’m going for here) and the new political realities can even catch up with someone like Dynamo. Cue the clock forward a few years, into one of those dystopian futures that have been all the rage since Arnold teleported naked into that biker bar…

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Still, the end of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. doesn’t mean the end of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, as at least one of Dynamo’s cohorts (about whom I’ll have more two Histories from now, if all predictions hold out) is still active, and his lair still functional, even in a world gone mad. When a young woman breaks in looking for sanctuary or resources, the mysterious man in the shadows asks her name.

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The name Lyn Brown triggers memories in the somewhat senile Agent, causing him to remember a man with whom he used to work, a man of steel called Dynamo. Why am I bringing this all up, you ask? Because, dear friends, this flash-forward finally reveals what happens between Len and “Rusty,” the final (though probably not at all canonical) word on what happens to the Iron Maiden/Dynamo relationship.

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Still mistaking “Lyn” for “Len,” our hidden ex-hero has something that could conceivably save the girl from her dreary day-to-day post-nuclear dystopian blah blah blah fishcakes. The shirt doesn’t come ‘One Size Fits All,’ but at the very least, it should work as a minidress…

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Oh, and there’s one final accessory that will complete the ensemble, proof that while the clothes don’t make the man (or, indeed, the woman) they can certainly make the man (or woman) a little bit more resourceful…

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Maybe these events happened, maybe they didn’t… I like to think that somewhere, somehow, a new Dynamo came forth to fight against injustice and probably a giant evil corporation full of corruption and junk. Either way, Len Brown’s real legacy wasn’t that of Dynamo, the implacable force for good, but instead as a regular guy thrust into an irregular situation. Dynamo proved that you don’t have to be rocketed from a dead planet to be a man of steel, and always managed to balance the ‘super’ with the ‘man,’ Clark Kent and Nick Fury together, reminding us that even the mousiest data analyst has an inner superhero, a man of action looking for a dare-to-be-great situation…

**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! You can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ’em all! The adventures of Dynamo can be found at your friendly local comic book store (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents has been published by Tower Publications, by JC Comics, by Blue Ribbon Comics) and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents original appearances have been reprinted in a hardcover archive series as well… They come highly recommended with the Matthew seal of approval. Next up: That mysterious helmet from the beginning of the history? It’s got some powers too. Join us as we reveal the history of the hero that Otter Disaster once referred to as “The Freshmaker,” as we look at the life and times of… Menthor!

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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3 Comments

  1. Sanlear
    December 7, 2009 at 7:26 am — Reply

    It’s great to see Hero Histories continuing. Nice job, as always. I’ve heard of the Thunder Agents (mostly about how they’re coming into the DCU). I learned alot reading this. Thank you!

  2. December 9, 2009 at 12:39 am — Reply

    S’what we do. There’s a whole lot of comic book ground to cover, especially if I want to namecheck ALL my favorites (really the only reason for a project like this.)

  3. December 8, 2011 at 6:21 pm — Reply

    One correction. In that first story, Iron Maiden’s henchmen weren’t robots, but men in suits of armor. One of them even states “We’re pretty invulnerable ourselves, in these suits.” before they charge Dynamo.

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