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The Thunderbolts – Marvel’s Super Team of Bad Guys That Aren’t Really Bad Explained

5 Minute Read
Mar 30 2024

Thunderbolts came about because of a Charles Xavier screw-up and Baron Zemo’s need to take over the world. This is how it happened.

Compared to most of the other teams introduced in the MCU, the Thunderbolts are relatively new. They first appeared in the comics twenty-six years ago. Like DC’s Suicide Squad, it’s made up of not-so-reformed baddies who decide to fight for the side of good (sometimes).

The team’s creation was hinted at in the MCU’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Black Widow, and Wakanda Forever. It was announced that the team was getting its own movie earlier this year.

via Marvel

Thunderbolts: The Antihero Team

First appearance: Incredible Hulk #449 (November 1996)
Creators: Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley

“Justice, like lightning, ever should appear to few men’s ruin, but to all men’s fear.”

Thunderbolts #1

After Earth’s biggest superheroes were declared dead thanks to Onslaught (surprise–they weren’t really dead), Baron Zemo decided to replace them with a group of criminal villains he could lead called the Masters of Evil. He convinced them to rebrand as the Thunderbolts and put them in a place of trust and power–like the Avengers. All by doing villain stuff like deceiving the authorities and the public. 

via Marvel

Zemo being Zemo, he couldn’t hold the secret intentions of the team. They enjoyed the respect they were getting, so the Thunderbolts defected and reformed into a virtuous group. Over the years since they left Zemo behind, the Thunderbolts have been led by Hawkeye, Luke Cage, and the Winter Soldier. Captain America mentored them for a bit. They’ve also fallen victim to bad leadership and turned into a corrupted, brutal patrolling force for Norman Osborn and Wilson Fisk (not at the same time).

The Thunderbolts have participated in several large story arcs since they arrived on the scene including Secret Invasion. They were contacted by the Commission on Superhuman Activities after the Superhuman Registration Act became law. The agency convinced the team to capture super-villains and convince them to join the pro-registration side.

Thunderbolts (1997) #11 cover by Mark Bagley, via Marvel

READ MORE: Essential Thunderbolts Comics

Thunderbolts: Original Team Members

Beetle aka MACH-1 – Abner Jenkins was a mechanic for an aircraft producer who got tired of the daily grind. He built a suit of armor, called himself Beetle, and became a merc for hire. He was pretty lousy at it until the Masters of Evil recruited him.


Fixer aka Techno – Paul Norbert Ebersol was a child prodigy and grew up to be a super-talented engineer with an arrogance problem. He opted for the criminal life because it would afford him the respect he thought he deserved. He worked with HYDRA before joining Masters of Evil.

Goliath aka Atlas – Erik Josten was an American soldier turned mercenary. He was mutated and infused with ionic energy by Baron Zemo’s Ionic Ray.  He’s been loyal to Zemo since.

Moonstone aka Meteorite – Karla Sofen was a psychiatrist. She enjoyed manipulating her patients into paranoia rather than helping them and wound up under the tutelage of Doctor Faustus.

Screaming Mimi aka Songbird – Melissa Gold was a runaway who eventually found her way off the streets by becoming a professional wrestler (it was the late 70s). Her criminal career began when she started doing ops for Roxxon Oil Company, which garnered attention from Zemo.

thunderbolts members
Thunderbolts #1 art by Mark Bagley, via Marvel

Thunderbolts In the MCU

Theories about the team being added to the cinematic universe started when Zemo was imprisoned on The Raft at the end of The Falcon and The Winter Solider. Based on the announcement at D23 this year, the team was cobbled together by the CIA in all of those post-credit scenes. Members of the movie team are from across the MCU:

  • Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) – Black Widow
  • Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) – Ant-Man & The Wasp
  • Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) – Black Widow
  • Red Guardian (David Harbour) – Black Widow
  • US Agent (Wyatt Russell) – The Falcon and The Winter Solider
  • Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) – Captain America: Winter Soldier
  • Contessa Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)

Daniel Brühl’s name hasn’t been brought up. His take on Zemo was a stand-out and fan favorite and deserves at least a cameo or episode. I can’t see them dropping him unless the actor doesn’t want to return. I’m going to hope there’s going to be a prison break followed by some clunky dancing in this movie.

thunderbolts MCU
via Marvel

Who Will Keep These Thunderbolts in Line?

This bunch isn’t exactly evil, but they’re not about to be the next Captain America (sorry, John). They could all benefit from some therapy and maybe a nap. A stern leader with an acerbic sense of humor and great fashion sense might help. Enter Valentina Allegra de Fontaine played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.


Valentina has a really turbulent history in the comics. She first appeared in the mid-1960s and trained as a SHIELD agent under Nick Fury (they had a romantic thing for a hot minute) until it was discovered that she was a Russian sleeper agent. At one point, she was Madame Hydra and worked within Leviathan.

She’s known for doublecrossing and doing what she has to rise in the ranks of organizations to get what she wants. She’s also known for her amazing hair, catsuits, and her hand-to-hand fighting skills.

She’ll be a great handler for this moody bunch.

Secret Warriors #3 (2009) via Marvel

The movie was initially set to debut on July 26, 2024, but faced setbacks due to the WGA and SAG strikes last summer. It’s currently in production, and its release date has been moved to May 2, 2025. Star Florence Pugh recently gave fans a behind-the-scenes look at Marvel Studios in Atlanta.


Author: Mars Garrett
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