Comic Concepts: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents

It’s been awhile since the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents had a comic book.  IDW Publishing currently holds the license and when it was announced some years ago, I came up with this concept.  Figured it was time to dust it off and make some tweaks.

 

The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were created in the 60s and published by Tower Comics by Wally Wood and Len Brown (and possibly Larry Ivie).  The team was published numerous times over the decades and the concept was revived by DC comics in two short lived series in 2010 and 2011 and IDW Publishing in 2012.

None of those series lasted long, which is a shame as the concept is excellent.  Check out the Wikipedia listing for more information on the concept’s history.

The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves is a concept that has always interested me.  There is a lot of potential there for stories that run from political thrillers to straight-up super heroes.  I don’t know why the concept didn’t take off with any of the recent attempts.

When IDW acquired the rights, they announced a search for a creative team for the book.  I typed up a quick proposal for what I thought would make an interesting series.  Like everything, I think long term, so there was potential in my proposal for the book to last awhile.  I sketched out ideas for the first four issues, the opening arc, as well as major plot points up to issue #25.  I had a list of ongoing subplots and some specific plot points that would be explored.

I even wrote the first pages of issue #1.

One of the things I wanted to do was expand on the Subterreans.  Why just this one race?  Why not others across the world?  If the Subterreans were underground, were there races in the oceans, the air and above ground?  Could this be the origin of mermaids and sasquatch?  In my concept, it was.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Outline

By Troy Osgood

In 20XX the existence of the Subterreans was discovered (the year would be adjusted for when this gets published).  A deep mining operation broke through into a cavern that contained a village of humanoids  The village was decorated in precious stones and the miners slaughtered the inhabitants.  Because of the death of some of the miners the incident was reported but claimed as “self defense”.  The existence of a race of people living within the earth spurred researchers and scientists deeper into the world’s core, disturbing the inhabitants.

Soon after the new race, called the Subterreans, retaliated.  Soldiers erupted from caves and fissures in the Earth, wearing armor and carrying weaponry not seen by humans.  Many died on both sides and a peace was brokered between the Korlo, inhabitants of the Subterreans largest city/kingdom and the newly formed Higher United Nations.  The Higher UN’s mandate was to serve as go-betweens/ambassadors with the Subterreans and humans.  The HUN’s official mandate is “to represent the people of the world to those within and beyond the surface”.

This did not sit well with many humans and Subterreans.  A terrorist calling himself The Warlord broke away from Korlo and started carrying out attacks on the surface world.  Scientists and businesses, seeing the untapped potential in the new technology of the Subterreans as well as the riches, started sending mercenary troops into the Earth.  The Higher UN formed T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) to enforce the treaties in place between the Subterreans and the surface world, to police as necessary.

In 20XX+2, an engineer named Emil Jennings, made an amazing discovery.  Prior to this there had been no way to integrate the Subterrans technology, called Sub-Tech, with human technology.  Jennings found a way.  He created three items based off the principles of Sub-Tech, but utilizing human technology, and had plans for more.  This made Jennings a wanted man.  His new discovery would be wanted by all the forces in the world, both above and below the surface.  Jennings contacted THUNDER and requested asylum.  Well the team was enroute, the Warlord attacked and killed Jennings. The Warlord could not stand the thought of human and subterran tech being integrated, the idea was blasphemous to him.  Before he could make off with the prototypes, the agents arrived.  The team took great losses, but the Warlord was driven off.

It took years before the Higher UNs engineers could figure out how Jennings had created the devices and make their own.  A flaw in the design was discovered.  Sub-Tech runs off the energy of the wearer’s own body and because of the differences in human biology and Subterrean an overuse of the items could kill.

In 20XX+5, the world is at a relative balance.  The Warlord is still at large, making attacks across the world.  Relations have been opened with the world below but businesses, and countries, still deal in black market Sub-tech, as well as other black market goods like food and drugs.  There is a new arms race with goods being passed back and forth and new technologies being developed almost daily. Only the devices created by Jennings are able to mimic the principles of Sub-Tech for human use, but that hasn’t stopped others from creating new and terrifying technology.

In late 20XX+4 the Higher UN was finally able to replicate Jennings devices.  The prototypes are kept under lock and key, in the tightest security imaginable.  With these devices they created a team of super powered individuals to help fight the threats from both the Subterreans and the humans.  The devices take their energy from the wearer and have to be carefully monitored.  Alongside the super powered team is a squad of non-powered humans from across the globe.  Together the THUNDER Agents protect the world from the new, and growing, arms race.  There is much that comes from under the surface, beyond Sub-Tech, and much of it is wanted by humans.  There are a number of plants found that have healing properties as well as negative properties and drug-like effects.  Since precious metals and gems are readily available, the deals are usually paid for in things not found underground: wood, ivory, paper, etc..

Sub-Tech is an odd mixture of organic circuitry based on different elements instead of electricity, as well as base metals.  It is larger and more cumbersome then human technology, for the most part, but seems to have an element of mysticism to it.  Sub-Tech interacts directly with the user, forming an almost symbiotic bond. Human tech manipulates energy and matter but needs to be independently powered.  Sub-tech, the power comes from the wearer, from within the body.  Because of his death, and his paranoia about records, it is unknown exactly how Jennings was able to discover how to replicate the unique properties of sub-tech and duplicate the effects using human technology.

Subterrenia is huge by our standards, with caverns as large as small towns, spread out all over the world.  It is possible to travel from Alaska to Great Britain through those caverns.  There are many strange creatures and other races under the earth but at this time only one race of Subterreans have been interacted with to any great extent. Humanoid in size and shape but covered in a rock hard leathery almost-reptilian skin.  The Subterreans are very smart and sophisticated, having a culture similar to ours and a government modeled after the dark ages.  It is suspected that the Subterreans have had contact with humans before as they seem to have copied some of our mannerisms; wearing clothing, using technology, etc..

The Higher UN is more of a taskforce, with member nations having signed a document allowing THUNDER a broad range of abilities (similar to Interpol) to police Sub-tech across the world.

Currently there are three devices in use by THUNDER; the Thunder belt, the invisibility cloak, and the Menthor helmet.

Notes on future issues:

-discovered Jennings was half-Subterrean

-Subterreans have appeared through-out history

-more races discovered: bat-like race that flies through the caverns and mountains, Yetis/Sasquatch, aquatic race in the depths of the oceans. These are the basis of many of the creatures of legend.

-history discovered that those races are the ancestors of humans.  Humans evolved and took over the surface, pushing those others into the depths with our numbers and rapid development.

-Vulcan, Raven, Lightning added as well as Dolphin (aquatic, Theresa Jones)

Ongoing subplots:

-Menthor’s breakdown

-Relationship between Dynamo and Franklin

-Colleen Franklin’s disillusion with the Higher UN, betrays the team and becomes the Iron Maiden (captured by Athena along with female agent, ends up killing female agent)

-evolution/creation of S.P.I.D.E.R. (Secret People’s International Directorate for Extralegal Revenue) a conglomerate of business leaders that join forces to get a stranglehold on sub-tech and the subterrean world itself for their own uses

-Susan Franklin is killed. Left behind by orders of Higher UN. (this is the act that starts Colleen on the path of becoming the Iron Maiden)

Characters:

Dynamo (Leonard Brown) – Len sees things in black and white.  There is no gray in his world.  Former Army Ranger and high school football star, he’s the stereotypical boy scout.  He’s slow to action, not hot headed, but stubborn once he makes up his mind.

NoMan (Dr. Anthony Dunn)- Dunn created an android body that was able to withstand high heats and other hazardous conditions.  The body was originally designed for deep drilling and later modified for Subterrean exploration.  Dunn was a member of the Higher UN team tasked with replicated Jennings equipment.  His work focused on the mental properties of the Menthor helmet.  Discovering he had a fast acting cancer, Dunn used the helmet to transfer his brain wave patterns into an android body.  He has since built other ones and can transfer from one body to the other as needed.  It was recently discovered that every time he transfers he loses a little bit of his memory and emotions.  He has started keeping a journal, recording his thoughts as well as a mission log.  He can recreate the events, but not the emotional connection.  Dunn was given the invisibility cloak to wear.  He has created backups of his mind, so if he loses too much he can download a reboot but then loses all the new memories since the last backup.

Menthor (John Janus)- Janus is a sociopath.  He is not well.  It was discovered that the Menthor helmet can only be used by individuals with “disturbed” brain patterns.  Janus fit the description.  With the helmet he can project his thoughts onto others, making them see what he wants them to see and hear.  When wearing the helmet, Janus’ brain patterns are adjusted to normal.  But because of the flaw, he can’t wear it all the time. The helmet, it’s discovered later, was based of a Subterrean behavior modification device (worn by criminals to keep them docile well they do slave labor in the fields), it is because of that that it requires someone with “disturbed” brain patterns.  Menthor has a habit of finishing your thoughts, which most find unnerving.

Agents: Virgil “Guy” Gilbert (leader of the team and only member to have been involved in the Jennings incident); Daniel John “Dynamite” Adkins; William “Weed” Wylie; Kathryn “Kitten” Kane; James “Egghead” Andor; Craig Lawson; David “Davey” Jones (and later his daughter Theresa); “new” agents: Jackson “Jax” MacNeil; Jamison “Mustang” Talltree

The Warlord- A Subterrean named Torun.  Once a general in the army that retaliated for the attack on the village.  In that attack his mate and children were killed.  He took out his anger on the humans and enjoyed doing so.  When the treaty was signed he was upset, not able to get revenge for the deaths. He left and took many others with him.  He is loyal to Subterreana and will do anything to protect it.  He fears that the humans will mean the end of his race.  He does not agree with King Gorlug, who signed the treaty, and works to replace him with someone more hardline to the humans.

Higher UN staff: Ambassador Niles Davidson, General William MacCauley, Professor Nicholas Winchester

Issue 1: Opens with the death of the current Dynamo well stopping an attack by the Warlord’s forces.  The Agents are forced to retreat and the HQ team has to blow up the belt, killing Dynamo.  He was thought dead, but his vitals started again just as the button was pushed, angering Doctor Colleen Franklin (the team’s doctor who monitors their vitals during missions)  There was no way for the Agents to get to his body and retreive the belt, which was already being pulled away by the Warlord’s men.  The Agents retreat, pursued by the Subs.  Leonard Brown is activated as the new Dynamo and sent to help the rest of the team.

Meanwhile some of the non-powered Agents break up a smuggling ring.  Human gang is taking sub-drugs and selling on the streets. The deal is broken up, the humans and most of the subterreans captured.

Dynamo arrives and manages to help the team escape the Warlord’s forces.

Issue 2: Dynamo is being interviewed by Franklin.  Standard post-mission, but the relationship between the two starts to develop.  Ambassador Davidson and Susan Franklin (sister to Colleen) are sent to meet with the Subterreans to learn more about the recent incursions to the surface and the increase in the sub-drug.  Agent Mustang wanders off on his own to check out his contacts and see what he can discover.

Time is spent with Dynamo, NoMan and Menthor as well as the other agents.  Mustang discovers where the drugs are coming from and calls in the troops. Link is discovered to a business above surface that are using the drugs to develop new techs and pharmas.  A double agent approachs Janus.

Issue 3: Mission operatives arrive in China. Ambushed by Warlord’s forces.  Battle.  Doesn’t go good.  Humans that are working with Warlord are revealed.  Humans have super powers.  Ends with Janus set up to betray the others.

Issue 4: The helmet prevents Janus from betraying the other Agents, who do not know of the potential danger.  Agents manage to defeat/capture the super powered humans, but some escape.  Epilogue has one of them arriving at a secret location and meets with a conclave called SPIDER.

Issue 5: Mercenary group seeking riches in Subterrean take a village hostage.

Issue 8: Death of Susan Franklin

Issue 12: Discovery of aquatic race.  Theresa Jones is working at a oceanic lab when race is discovered.  Father and Agents arrive to help out.  End of arc she is giving the new aquatic suit with father’s disapproval (ongoing subplot).

Issue 15: Colleen is captured by Athena and her forces and completes mental breakdown.  Starts down path to become Iron Maiden.

Issue 25: The true history of Emil Jennings is revealed

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1

Page 1:

Full page panel.  Dynamo (original) is facing us, holding a subterrean tank over his head.  The Warlord’s soldiers are all around him.  Can tell he’s struggling to hold the tank up.  Sparks are coming from the belt.  Warlord Soldier’s blasts are hitting him.

Caption (Higher United Nations, HUN, HQ transmission):  Dynamo is redlining…

Page 2:

Page is divided into 3 panels, running top to bottom.

Panel 1:

Inside the command center of the Higher United Nations.  A large screen surrounded by smaller ones on the sides.  Computer stations in a semi-circle around the edge, facing the screen.  Group of people standing in the middle.  UN symbol on the floor under their feet. General MacCauley, Professor Wincester, Doctor Franklin and Ambassador Davidson.

The large screen shows a grainy video of Dynamo (taken from one of the agents helmet cams).  His back is to the camera.  Can see blasts hitting him.  Edges of shot are wall, as if the camera is hiding behind it. Blasts can be seen hitting the wall, the ground, all around.  More soldiers are beyond the ones around Dynamo.

Small screens show status for Dynamo, NoMan, Menthor.  Dyanmo’s readouts are maxxed.  Menthor’s are normal. NoMan’s is different.  The others are like a hospital monitor.  NoMan’s shows a body. The monitor shows the right arm highlighted red, some small dots of red around the body.

Colleen: We’re losing him.

MacCauley: What is going on out there Colonel?

Panel 2:

Almost the same image as that shown in the screen.  Taken from further back. Can see Egghead (who has the camera) crouched behind the wall, his head barely poking over.  Dynamite and Weed are at the edge returning fire.  Gilbert is in the foreground with NoMan, who is missing his right arm, and some other damage (matches the monitor from panel 2).  Menthor is next to Egghead, sitting calmly, head looking down.

Gilbert: What’s it look like?  Intel got it wrong and we’re outgunned.

Panel 3:

Same shot, but  closer to the wall.  Right behind Egghead.  Can see Dynamo throwing the tank.  The belt is sparking more than before.

Egghead: Colonel…

Page 3:

Panel 1:

Long panel across the top.  Behind Dynamo, close to him.  The tank lands, scattering/killing some of the soldiers.  The belt is really sparking.  Energy blasts are still hitting him.

Panel 2 to 5 are four smaller panels across the middle of the page.

Panel 2:

From in front of Dynamo.  He drops to one knee, gasping for breath, in obvious pain.  The belt is sparking and glowing.

Dynamo: uh… ar…

Panel 3:

HUN HQ.  Franklin is pushing a tech out of the computer chair. She’s staring at the monitor, which is a duplicate of Dynamo’s monitor from Page 2-Panel 1.

Franklin: Dammit.  He pushed too far.  The belt is overloading.

Panel 4:

Closer up on Dynamo. Can see the belt and his face.  He’s sagging, leaning heavily on his knee.

Panel 5:

A blast hits him full in the chest, forcing him backwards.

Dynamo: AAAAHH!!!

Panel 6 takes up most of the bottom part of the page.  Panel 7, about the same size as Panels 2 to 5, is next to 6.

Panel 6:

Dynamo falls backwards, kicking up dust.  The belt is glowing bright and a lightning like effect is shooting off from it.

Panel 7:

HUN HQ.  Franklin hits the table in front of her, staring at the monitor.  All the readouts of flatlined.

Franklin: He’s dead…

Page 4:

Panel layout and sizes as desired and work for the flow of the page.

Panel 1:

MacCauley and others are looking back at Franklin, who’s staring at the monitor in front of her.

Davidson: Dead?

Panel 2:

The three men look back at the screen.  Davidson is looking at the health monitors.  MacCauley and Wincester are looking at the main screen.

Wincester: General, look

Panel 3:

Shows the grainy image in the monitor.  Dynamo’s body can be seen with the belt still glowing.  Fire from the agents is hitting around but warlord soldiers can be seen advancing on the body.

MacCauley: Colonel, do you see…

Panel 4:

Gilbert is next to Egghead watching the same scene as the three men at HQ.

Gilbert: I see it.  We can’t get to him.

MacCauley (over radio): Understood.  Retreat and regroup.

Panel 5:

Gilbert stares at the body, with the Warlord’s soldiers getting closer.

Gilbert: Dammit

Panel 6:

Grabbing Egghead by the shoulder and pulling him along, Gilbert moves away from the wall.  Weed is still firing but Dynamite is moving away as well.  Menthor is still sitting calmly, head looking down.

Gilbert:  You heard the man.  Let’s go.  Menthor…

Panel 7:

Close-up of Menthor.  He’s looking up now, staring at Gilbert.  The mask is expressionless.

Menthor: Yes. I can do that.

Page 5:

Panel 1:

Menthor stands up, energy blasts hitting around him.

Panel 2:

He calmly turns around, facing the oncoming soldiers.  Dynamite is standing up, next to Menthor, providing covering fire.

Panel 3:

The eyes of the helmet seem to glow. He is standing straight but loose, arms to the side, appearing calm.

Menthor: Disappear.

Panel 4:

From behind the soldiers.  Can see Menthor and Dynamite in the background, standing up behind the wall.  Mist is starting to form around Menthor.

Panel 5:

Same shot with Menthor and Dynamite surrounded by mist, which is creeping in towards the soldiers, who are now standing nearly on top of Dynamo’s body.

Panel 6:

Basically the same shot, but the mist covers everything, hiding everything.  The soldiers are looking around in confusion.

Page 6:

Three long panels across the page.

Panel 1:

MacCauley and Wincester are turned away from the screen, walking towards the row of computer stations.  The screen behind them shows the agents running through what looks like jungle.  Camera is from Egghead’s view.  Looking at Weed in point with NoMan behind.  NoMan looks pretty damaged.  MacCauley and Wincester are pulling out keys (similar to those used on nuclear subs to launch the missles).  Both are wearing them on chains around their necks.

Panel 2:

Back at Dynamo’s body.  The mist is staring to clear and the soldiers are looking around, realizing the agents are gone.  The belt is still glowing but not as bright.

Panel 3:

HUN HQ.  Franklin is at the station, elbows on the table, head in her hands.  MacCauley and Wincester have stopped at stations next to her.  They have their keys in hand.

MacCauley: Is the second belt ready to go?

Wincester: Yes.

Page 7

Two long panels across the page.  The bottom 3rd is a series of smaller panels.

Panel 1:

MacCauley and Wincester insert their keys.

Wincester: This never gets easy does it?

MacCauley: No, it doesn’t.

Panel 2:

At Dynamo’s body.  More soldiers have gathered. What looks like a commanding officer is pointing at the body.  He is talking in the Subterrean language.

Panel 3:

Looking over Franklin’s shoulder at the monitor.  The read-outs show a spike.  A tech, standing behind her (same one she forced out of the seat) notices.

Tech: Ma’am

Colleen: Wha..

Panel 4:

Franklin is looking at the monitor, which has gained more spikes, showing more life.

Colleen: My god… he’s alive.

Panel 5:

Close-up of the belt around Dynamo’s waist.  It’s sparking a little.

Panel 6:

MacCauley and Wincester turn the keys.

Page 8

Two smaller panels along the top and one large one dominating the page.

Panel 1:

Soldiers are reaching down and picking up Dynamo’s body.  The belt is sparking more. The commanding officer is gesturing at them to hurry up.

Panel 2:

The belt’s sparks catch the commanding officer’s attention and he looks down at it.  It’s glowing a bright red color, which wasn’t seen before.

Panel 3:

Big explosion. Have fun.

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