HERO HISTORY: The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad

by

  Or – “Think “Mission: Impossible” Only With Awesome Red Blazers and No Peter Graves…”

The various inventions of Professor Emil Jennings allowed The Higher United Nations Defense Enforement Reserves  to empower their agents with super-abilities for the new era of spycraft, but even before they branched out into supers, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. was overthrowing tinpot dictators and defending liberty around the world.  Once Dynamo, Lightning and their ilk arrived, there were still old-school agents doing their thing, and the Best of the Best of the Best (HOO-AH!) was the elite T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad, the team who went in when all other options had failed.  Each agent is master of many disciplines, and all can be counted on to not only outfight, but also outwit and out play those who would attempt to poison my brothers threaten democracy and the forces of good.  This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Daniel John “Dynamite” Adkins, James “Egghead” Andor, Virgil “Guy” Gilbert, Kathryn “Kitten” Kane and William “Weed” Wylie of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves…  The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad!

We open in the headquarters of T.H.U.N.D.E.R., a building filled to the gills (as was the wont of spy agencies back in the day) with giant tape-driven computers and machinery that serves no real function.  There exists also, apparently, a lack of chairs, causing the team to draw straws to see who gets to sit. (It might also be noted that Weed, as an escape artist, has a incredibly dexterous hands.  I’m not saying he cheated or anything…  Just mentioning.)  The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad is at the ready, awaiting the clarion call of duty!

Each member of the squad has years experience in the field, and has mastered many different forms of combat.  Their official dossiers provide a clearer overview of what brings each of them to the table…

James “Egghead” Andor’s specialty is listed as “Super-brilliant tactician.”  (As for the reason why he’s not listed here, it’s a short story to which we’ll get in just a moment.)  In any case, when agents of the evil Warlord attack a bleeding-edge weapons facility, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad engages them on their own terms.  The team quickly discovers that the Warlord can take control of their own minds.  Egghead quickly assesses the situation, and heroically leaps into the fray to defend his team…

The battle rages out of control around the facility, as T.H.U.N.D.E.R.’s ground troops battle the Warlord’s footsoldiers in a small scale war, while Egghead and his team struggle to break the Warlord’s telepathic stranglehold on his men…

Egghead’s falls, but his gambit manages to free one of his comrades from the psionic field…  Even better, the teammate freed from mental dominion is the man who can do the most damage in a fist-fight.  Faithful Spoilerites, I give you “Dynamite” Adkins.

With the laser cannon wrenched back from the invaders, our heroes not have to attempt to get it back to T.H.U.N.D.E.R.  But, what would YOU do if you managed to grasp your objective, only to be confronted with Warlord’s artillery units, blocking your escape?  I’ll tell you what the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad did…

Oh, right.  Incredibly powerful experimental weapon in your possession.  I suppose that’s kind of a no-brainer.  The team’s second outing doesn’t go nearly as well, as they find that the small nation of San Bolivar (a key source of radium, and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. ally) has been the site of a massive political coup by it’s own military (not to be confused with being overthrown by pigeons, a massive political COO) and the democratically elected president held hostage.  They are able to find the man, but the forces of General Bestia find them before they can attack.  Showing great courage under fire, Egghead makes a fateful decision…

James Andor’s death allows the team to take down the military strongman, and return the tiny nation to peacetime footing again.  Soon after Egghead’s death, the technological wizards of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. develop another process, one that will be key in defeating a group of terrorists known as the ‘Dust Bandits.’  The four remaining team members are gathered, and asked to risk their life for freedom.  Their answer?

Every member of the Squad is willing to lay down their life for the greater good of humanity, but it is eventually discovered that team leader Guy is best-suited for the process (which turns him into powered agent Lightning, a story you may remember from a previous H.H.) but before any of that happens, the speed-inducer charged Squad members roll through the Dust Bandits like Sherman through Georgia…

Guy’s ascension from peak human agent to superhuman agent is one that nearly every one of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad envies, at least a little bit.  In fact, when the science teams manage to create Agent Raven’s wing-cape, “Weed” Wylie is chosen to test the device.

“Weed” chooses not to take on the role, finding that extended aerial combat makes him nauseous, but that’s not the last time that the Squad flirts with superhuman status.  When Agent Dynamo over-extends himself in a battle situation, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. brass decides that an understudy is needed, in case the all-too-human Len Brown is out of action.

“Dynamite” proves adept at cracking skulls in his costumed identity (cleverly named Dynamite), but finds that his overall stats are a bit low in the INT and WIS stats to be a full-time hero.  Still, even once his belt is taken from him by agents of the evil organization known as S.P.I.D.E.R., Big D has a few tricks up his skin-tight sleeves…

As a wise man once told me, “Never underestimate the power of EXCESSIVE FORCE.”  Guy’s ascension to the ranks of the powered team apparently bothered “Weed” more than he would ever want to admit, as we see when an unscrupulous mesmerist uses “Weed” to get to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. by hypnotizing him to think that his dream of active super-agent status has come true.

Still, his powered comrades save his life, and the Chief orders them to follow Weed in order to find out more about the hypnotist who manipulated him.  To that end, each of the heroes uses their OWN powers to help Weed simulate his own super-abilities…

It’s also interesting that T.H.U.N.D.E.R. recycled Dynamite’s costume for Weed to use, although the ever-practical Agent Wylie had the sense to add a gun to his ensemble.  The team tracks Weed back to Doctor Oom (although, it looks a bit like they whited out the first letter of the second name…  Wonder what THAT could have been?) and the powered agents all get captured.  After spending the entire mission with his partners covering him, Weed finally gets his chance to return the favor…

By mission’s end, Weed is convinced that his normal life as super-capable James Bond-type two-fisted tough-guy operative is enough for him.  Indeed, there comes a point where all of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad prove themselves easily as capable as any of the super-types.  Indeed, when Kitten is kidnapped for nefarious purposes, it is Weed and Dynamite who track her where the powered agents fall short…

Their distaff member is rescued, and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad continues to show true bravery in the field.  When former leader Lightning is kidnapped by the evil Warp Wizard, Dynamite courageously leaps into action, taking a stolen teleportation device and leaping into what could be certain death to save his fellow agent…

Dynamite’s brute strength overcomes the Wizard and returns Lightning to the fold.  But equally as impressive as Dynamite’s brawn is Kitten’s infiltration skills and subtlety.  As for Weed, he gets by on resourcefulness and quickness of wits, as he shows ably when captured by a dim-witted super-villain duo…

It soon becomes quite clear that the non-powered Squad is as useful in the field as their superhuman counterparts.  Indeed, Dynamite even finds a way to level the playing field with Dynamo’s Thunderbelt-induced invulnerability using some clever tricks of his own…

You may have noticed that there hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion of Kitten Kane thus far, but even the female member of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad can easily kick the butt of your average lackey, thug, or henchman.  (Or even Stephen, for that matter.)  And while her primary specialties are in the technological fields, Ms. Kane isn’t afraid to bust a head or two when the mood strikes.

Aftr Guy’s exit from the team, Kitten takes over the leadership role, although the Squad’s day to day operations tend to run themselves pretty smoothly without much interference.  Weed and Dynamite aren’t really leadership material anyway.  Still, you have to admire a man who can pull off a sequence of events as awesome as THIS:

Or, for instance, what happens when an evil dictator slaps Weed in prison and calls in the heavy artillery to destroy the powered T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents?

Even given his status as the weird, nebbishy one, Weed Wylie has moments of awesome that you or I would have to work a lifetime to achieve.  As for Kitten Kane, she finds her own nirvana with Guy Gilbert…

After a very complicated series of events (aliens masquerading as communists set up a base on the moon, from which the attack Earth with giant mutated insects that threaten life itself) Weed and Dynamite leap into action, super-sonic style!  Sadly, though Weed and Dynamite are ready to confront swarms of fifty-foot yellowjackets, their planes aren’t quite up to the task at hand…

I find it kind of funny that Weed manages to eject from a plane at altitude, pop his chute and start gunning down monstrous bugs with a Tommy Gun without losing his ever-present cigarette.  (As an aside, none of Weed’s cigs are ever shown to have filters, and they look hand-rolled.  If you met a gun who was always relaxed, has weird hobbies, and is nicknamed “Weed,” what might you imply about him?  I’m not making any judgements here, but that may not be one of your standard brands…)  With their modern equipment bolluxed, the intrepid T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad does the best they can with what they have…

The alien invasion is successfully repelled, thanks to the Squad, the agents, and a newfound ally in the female Menthor, but their next opponent hits a little bit closer to home.  Dynamo, NoMan and Raven are captured by a mysterious new villain (and 2-time WCW Cruiserweight Champion) called Psychosis, but close inspection reveals a familiar face on his egg-shaped head…

After his heroic sacrifice, Egghead wasn’t actually killed, but just badly wounded.  Understandably upset that no one sought to verify his seeming demise, the scarred former agent built himself some armor and set about to get revenge…

His target of choice: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent Lightning.  But a net cast that wide will always net a few things you didn’t necessarily bargain for, and Psychosis gets the heroic Kitten Kane!  With Lightning suffering from the delayed effects of repeated uses of the speedsuit, the distaff T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent comes in guns-a-blazin’ (quite literally) to save her teammates.

But, poetically enough, it’s Lightning who sweeps in and saves the day, poetically taking down the man who blamed him for being left behind.  The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad even takes on a new member, a man code-named “China,” which is strikes me as more than a little bit questionable.  Of course, his own behavior is pretty tasteless as well, stumping to be Guy Gilbert’s replacement as Lightning before assessing either Gilbert or the other agents effectively.  Weed and Dynamite put the new kid in his place quickly…

The Squad continues both their solo operations and support missions for the super-powered agents, but as the world and the nature of the menaces they face change, so do their methods.  Kitten commands more than just her compatriots in the field, bringing along battallions of soldiers, and dealing with threats to national security with extreme prejudice…

Though her relationship with Guy Gilbert has soured by this point, both Kitten and Lightning hold some residual affection for one another, as shown when both Kitten and Guy’s NEW girlfriend Tracy (aka the second Undersea Agent) from an attack by cyborg werewolves.  (Yes, I know.  That concept is by turns awesome or ridiculous.  I suggest we coin a new term to explain it: “AWEDICULOUS!”)  Given the choice between current and former flames, uess which girl he chooses?

The very existence of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad is intrinsic to the concept of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents themselves.  As normal humans operating in a world of powers and armor, the Squad continually proves that it’s not cosmic rays, alien rings or bats flying through your window that makes you a hero:  it’s the content of your character, and your response to adversity.  Dynamo and company go into battle time after time, knowing that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad has their backs, and more than one banana republic has remained in the control of the people rather than any number of evil two-bit dictators because of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad’s actions.  Indeed, the members of the Squad are just as much heroes as the super-agents, with the downside of not getting the adulation or the awesome costume and powerset.  Kitten, Dynamite and Weed (Heck, even Egghead, Guy, and the horrible China) are the necessary link between man and superman, and it is they who really put the AGENTS in T.H.U.N.D.E.R.

**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, or click the handy link below for more T.H.U.N.D.E.R. goodness.

Dossier: T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agent Dynamo
Dossier: T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agent Lightning
Dossier: T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agent Menthor
Dossier: T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agent Raven
Dossier: U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. Agent

The adventures of The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad 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 and by Blue Ribbon Comics, as well as several other one-shot companies) 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: Looks like this is the END!  But we’ve saved the most complex for last…  What’s blue, 75 years old, has an invisibility cape and multiples bodies?  Be here as we plumb the secrets of the most unusual T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent of all…   NOMAN!