Thunderstruck

Thunderbolts cast: How the MCU team is changing the comics

Thunderbolts is a brand-new take on some classic Marvel characters.

Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2021

Ghost

Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen, appeared in Ant-Man and the Wasp. The daughter of Hank Pym’s colleague Elihas Starr, she gained her quantum-shifting powers in the same failed experiment that killed her father.

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A very different Ghost appears in Marvel comics, starting as an Iron Man villain. Ghost’s powers come from “flux-state processors” he invented and fused with his body, enabling him to become intangible and hack electronics with ease.

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Ghost first joined the Thunderbolts during the Secret Invasion era, when the group was led by Norman Osborn. At the time, the group also included Ant-Man.

Red Guardian

The MCU’s Red Guardian, played by David Harbour, is a Russian super-soldier and adoptive father to both Black Widow and Yelena Belova. The two teamed up to free him from a Siberian prison, where he was sent after disappointing his general.

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Multiple Red Guardians have appeared in Marvel comics. Created as a Soviet counter to Captain America, he was married to Black Widow before she defected to the United States. He’s never been a member of the Thunderbolts in the comics.

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Taskmaster

Olga Kurylenko plays Taskmaster (aka Antonia Dreykov) in Black Widow. She’s brainwashed by her father, the overseer of the Red Room, into acting as his most ruthless agent. Taskmaster can perfectly mimic and counter her opponents’ fighting styles.

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The comic version of Taskmaster shares Dreykov’s mimic ability, but nothing else. He uses his power to both fight superheroes himself, and train other villains at criminal academies he establishes around the world.

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Versions of Taskmaster have appeared in dozens of storylines. He joins the Thunderbolts during Marvel’s Civil War, then returns when Wilson Fisk takes control of the group.

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U.S. Agent

Played by Wyatt Russell in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, John Walker is a government-chosen successor to Captain America. After being stripped of the role for his violent methods, he’s later instated as U.S. Agent by Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.

Julie Vrabelová. ©Marvel Studios 2021

John Walker was first named Super-Patriot, but only appeared in one comic. The character returned to take Captain America’s place, but as a violent reactionary willing to kill his enemies. After his cover is blown, he goes into hiding to later emerge as the even more extreme U.S. Agent.

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U.S. Agent joined the Thunderbolts as the team’s leader in a 2021–2022 storyline, although he took orders from Wilson Fisk.

Winter Soldier

In the MCU, Hydra brainwashing turns Captain America’s pal Bucky Barnes into the Winter Soldier. Appearing in multiple movies as a villain, he’s eventually freed from his brainwashing in Wakanda and aids Sam Wilson in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

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The broad strokes of Winter Soldier are similar in Marvel comics. A brainwashed Bucky Barnes acts as an assassin for decades before being freed from his mind control by Captain America, with the help of a MacGuffin called the Cosmic Cube.

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Bucky briefly takes over as Captain America before faking his own death and returning to covert operations as the Winter Soldier for S.H.I.E.L.D. Post-brainwashing, Winter Soldier does join the Thunderbolts, but with an entirely different team than what we’ll see in the upcoming movie.

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Yelena Belova

Appearing in Black Widow and Hawkeye, Yelena is played by Florence Pugh. Along with her sister Natasha Romanoff, Yelena was trained as an assassin by General Dreykov in his Red Room.

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In Marvel comics, Yelena is obsessed with proving herself a better Black Widow than Natasha Romanoff. She’s manipulated by Dreykov, Hydra, and A.I.M., even gaining superpowers as a cyborg “Super-Adaptoid” at one point before reforming and allying with Romanoff as White Widow.

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Yelena is believed to be a member of the Thunderbolts under the name Black Widow at one point in the comics. However, it’s revealed to be Natasha Romanoff in disguise, infiltrating the group for S.H.I.E.L.D. Don’t expect the same twist in the movie.

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