Speculation Like Lightning! Thunderbolts!
There are two types of speculators: those who lead and those who follow. By the time news hits, cheap copies of relevant keys are gone and sometimes all that are left are overpriced, often lower grade scraps. It’s the individuals who actually read and research comics who ultimately profit by making insightful, sometimes far-out, connections that puts them far ahead of the market.
There has been speculation that Marvel wants to produce a Thunderbolts movie. Five years ago, one site went so far as to report that James Gunn expressed interest in the property. The connecting theme of the series is that each team features established antagonists that, for one reason or another, reform to some degree. From the original team that debuted in Incredible Hulk #449 to Warren Ellis’s team (Thunderbolts #110) to Andy Diggle’s Dark Reign team (Thunderbolts #126 – 127) and the Marvel Now Team (we’ll just skip the six fight club issues), there’s a bevy of characters and teams to choose from if Marvel Studios develops the property. Interestingly enough, some of the members have already been introduced in films.
If the Thunderbolts find their way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I would not expect to see the entire original team of Songbird, Meteorite/Moonstone, Atlas, Techno and Mach IV. It’s more likely that a film (and ultimately the team) would spin out of either of the two rumored events that Marvel reportedly would like to develop, namely Secret Invasion or Dark Avengers/Dark Reign. This run, the Norman Osbourn era, features characters we’ve seen on the big and small screens, including Black Widow, Bullseye, Venom, Ghost and Ant-Man (albeit not Black Ant, the Eric O’Grady version). Think of these teams as Marvel’s answer to DC’s Suicide Squad. While these characters would make an amazing team on their own, two other members have been attached to almost every iteration of the the team: Moonstone and Songbird.
Moonstone, who assumed the heroic mantel of Meteorite in Incredible Hulk #449, actually debuted as Karla Sofen in Captain America #192 (1975) as a criminal psychologist in the service of Dr. Faustus. She appears in Incredible Hulk #228 (1978), where she steals the moonstone from the original, Lloyd Bloch. Both of these issues are fairly common and have even been spotted in discount bins. There are 61 copies of Captain America #192 in the CGC census with graded sales ranging from $250-450 for 9.8s (8 in the census). In April 2019 a 9.8 Incredible Hulk #228 sold for $325. There are 111 graded books in the census and 24 9.8 copies.
Melissa Gold, who also traded the Screaming Mimi moniker for Songbird in Incredible Hulk #449, was first introduced as a female wrestler in Marvel Two-in-One #54 (1979). The highest grades of the book sell for north of $100 with 57 graded copies and 21 9.8s in the census.
If the property is developed, I would also expect Marvel Studios to use the Ghost from Ant-Man and the Wasp. The male incarnation of the character was introduced in Iron Man #219 (1987), which still sells well. Recently, a 9.8 copy sold for over $300 with over 197 graded copies (37 9.8s).
Beyond those bronze and copper characters, there are a few other characters who could fit. It is heavily rumored that Yelena Bolova will appear in the solo Black Widow film and ultimately replace Natasha Romanoff in the MCU. Initially appearing as Yelena in the Thunderbolts in issue #128 (2009), it’s later revealed that it was Natasha disguised as her to infiltrate the team. However, if Marvel Studios wants to place Yelena on a team, the Thunderbolts might be a better fit than the Avengers. Inhumans #5, her first appearance, has sales of 50,820 copies according to Comichron, only 11 graded CGC copies (2 9.8s) exist. Her first full appearance in Black Widow #1 (1999) is currently a hot book as well, especially the J.G. Jones and Dynamic Forces variants. With sales of 67,791 between two covers, the Dynamic Forces variant is the rarest with only 7,500 copies.
The Marvel Now team of Red Hulk, Deadpool, Elektra, Agent Venom, and Punisher does feature characters whom have all been technically introduced into the MCU, Since Marvel Studio has a penchant for developing secondary characters in films, any combination of Grizzly (Amazing Spider-Man 139), Headsman (Untold Tales of Spider-Man #8), Paladin (Daredevil #150), Radioactive Man (Journey into Mystery #93), and the Andreas von Strucker version of the Swordsman (Uncanny X-Men #194 and 200) are possible. One long shot for the team, Scourge, has tremendous potential and the character’s books are cheap.
Throughout the 80’s in Marvel books, writers used the Scourge of the Underworld to eliminate underused characters. Introduced as a hit-man who kills super villains in Iron Man #194 (1985), the original character ultimately met his demise in Captain America #320 (1986). However, it turns out that the individual is actually a team of Scourges and versions of the character do appear in issues of the Thunderbolts. The perfect place to introduce this character(s) is the Falcon and Winter Soldier Disney+ streaming show as a serial killer of super villains and enemy combatants. Iron Man #194 is still a cheap pickup at around $50 for a 9.8, with low representation in the census with 52 graded copies.
Besides the 1:20 and 1:10 Venom covers (Leinil Francis Yu In issue #100 and Jock in #127 respectively), there are some other covers in the series to consider. No Thunderbolts collection is complete without a copy of Hulk #449. While copies of the book are plentiful in the market, be on the look out for a newsstand copy. Higher grades are very hard to come by and expensive. Thunderbolts #1 (1997) features one of the most shocking moments in comics, the revelation that these protagonists are actually the Masters of Evil, who took advantage of the absence of the other Marvel heroes who were zapped away by Onslaught. The issue was heavily printed, but there is a second printing of the comic, which is identifiable by its pink background rather than green. The issue also features the cameo first appearance of Jolt (Hallie Takahama), who makes her full debut in issue #4. (Look for a newsstand copy of that issue as well.) Furthermore, Thunderbolts #128 from the Dingle era, which debuts the new team of Black Widow II, the Headsman, Ant-Man III, Ghost and Paladin has an underrated Clint Langley 1:15 cover featuring the Headsman.
I truly believe a Thunderbolts film (or streaming show) is inevitable. While all of this represents wild speculation, consider that a “Thunderbolt” even exists in the MCU: General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross. What if he forms his own team, which he can control, to counter the Avengers? While Songbird and Moonstone are best bets for making a cinematic version of the team, imagine the onscreen dynamic between them and Ghost, one of the Black Widows, and even Venom and/or Deadpool!
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