After completing "Escape to the Stars" James and studio-mate Michael Sawyer were licensed by John Carbonaro to do their unique version of the 1960s classic T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. At the time the rights to the original books were in legal limbo, but when the dust cleared, Carbonaro ended up holding on to the rights of all T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents publications.
"One of the reasons that we ended up getting a license to do T.H.U.N.D.E.R. was that we had pitched the idea to Solson Publications," said James. "Solson was the brainchild of Gary Brodsky, son of Sol Brodsky, the man who helped Stan Lee make Marvel Comics what it would eventually become, thus the name Sol-son. Editing the line for Gary was Rich Buckler, who knew some of my earlier work and was also acquainted with John Carbonaro from the time they were both working for Archie Comics. Rich was working on the Red Circle Line, and John was doing his JC Comics in association with the Riverdale gang. So getting this connection was great."
For about six months, Mike and James completed story and pencil artwork for two and a half issues of what they called T.H.U.N.D.E.R., giving Philip Hwang a chance to reprint "Escape to the Stars" under the Solson masthead.
But, in the fickle world of publishing, projects can fall through quickly. "It didn't quite turn out as we hoped it would," said James. When it was over, "we had a box full of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. number one to show for our trouble and a bit more experience in the ways of comic book publishers."
In 1988 T.H.U.N.D.E.R. was picked up by Syncronicity Comics, which lost backing just as James was finishing issue two.
Contacts and good working relationships, however, often lead to work in publishing. Through John Carbanaro in 2001, James had the opportunity to ink the famous "missing" Paul Gulacy issue, penciled for Omni Comix, but never published, which was used to pitch DC Comics on the Archive Editions, and a new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series. "As it turned out the pages were a big hit," said James. "Paul liked them, John liked them and I started making sure every editor I knew had seen them. I think that helped John when he went to DC to work out a deal to do the Archive Editions. That makes me feel good."
To find out what's going on with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents today, visit www.thunderagents.com.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. issue one, page 13 - Working with Michael Sawyer was different than James' previous comic drawing experiences. "Michael gave me a run down of what he wanted on the page, but left the interpretation very much up to me. After several years working full script this was like having wings attached."
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. issue one, page 31 - Mike and James based the female Dyanamo Lyn Brown character, and her costume, on a friend named Brown and her cobalt blue top and white skirt.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. issue one, page six - Pencils and Duo-Tones by James, inked by Ron Wilber. James used friends to model most of the faces, including the "French" fellow in the first panel, Matt Feazell, creator of Cynicalman.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. issue two, cover -Inked by Jackson "Butch" Guice.
Above, THUNDER pages by James and Mike Sawyer. Thunder copyright Michael Sawyer and James E. Lyle under license from John Carbonaro. Thunder Agents and all associated materials are COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARKS of John Carbonaro.
Below, James' inked Paul Gulacy pages. Thunder Agents and all associated materials are COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARKS of John Carbonaro.
The "missing" Paul Gulacy issue, inked by James. "The opportunity to actually ink someone of Paul's caliber and reputation was a big boost," said James. "Paul wasn't sure about me at first, we finally had a phone conversation and compared notes. I told him that my purpose in doing inks on anyone's pencils is to try and make the other guy look good, that it was a matter of personal integrity to me." Surprisingly to James, the two discussed their Christian faith, and Paul made up his mind. "He said, 'I'm not gonna get picky about them, just don't screw 'em up!' With that as my okay I went to work on the book, totally petrified! As it turned out the pages were a big hit."