BEHIND THE SCENES: THE SECRET ORIGIN OF TARANIS
Taranis was made for a game.
Now that I have your attention, let me explain.
Taranis, like so many of my other characters that are appearing in projects these days, began his life as a character in the old Marvel RPG. My friends and I played it quite often, and by the time of his creation we’d been playing it for years. Our original campaign is where STEEL WOLF, SAGITTARIUS THE ARCHER, AUREN, and The (original) NEW ALLIANCE were born. And it was a campaign we loved. But after a while, we decided we wanted a change of pace. Something different.
My friends and I were pretty much Marvel Zombies. Those were the books and characters we loved the most above all others. So we decided we wanted to run a campaign tied tightly to that world. Originally, we all decided to be bad guys, so we each made a snake-themed villain and played as members of THE SERPENT SOCIETY. But the fun of that wore off pretty quickly. So we needed something new.
Thankfully, the Marvel Universe is a multiverse. So that was the key to where we began. We each decided we wanted to play AS our favorite Marvel character but not actually BE that character, if it makes sense. So we came up with a contrived plot where one of Doctor Doom’s Doombots traveled to a world without superheroes in an attempt to conquer it for him. The Avengers tried unsuccessfully to stop him, and the mechanics of the dimensional portal he used prevented any living being from crossing the threshold without being disintegrated.
Did I mention this is a bit of a long story…?
Anyway, what we decided was that in order to help this unprotected world, the Avengers would send a vehicle full of weapons and technology to this world. Tony Stark WAS a weapons dealer after all. And in order to make sure that all these wonders would be used by the right person, Thor commissioned a new hammer that was the equal of Mjölnir named Skyspanner, and used it to seal the vehicle in an enchantment. And since only one who was worthy would be able to wield the hammer, that hero would make sure the technology was in turn used by people who shared those values. And that’s where “Thunderlord” comes in. Donal Stoner finds the vehicle, and is the only one able to lift and wield the hammer, being transformed into an obvious Thor ripoff. He in turn equipped other heroes and together, they fought and defeated the Doombot (who was now going by a different name which I forget).
In the years that followed this campaign, when my friends and I all went our separate ways thanks to life’s normal progression, Thunderlord kinda sat in my sketchbook. Being so closely tied to Thor, I didn’t see much use for him as I started playing with the idea of producing my own comics, choosing instead to focus primarily on Steel Wolf (who was easily extracted from his Marvel beginnings and connections).
But decades later, I was speaking with fellow creator Andrew Rowland, and the subject of Thunderlord came up. I was kind of playing around with a new design, seeing if I could make something of him, and Andrew suggested that I look to Celtic mythology for inspiration, and Taranis in particular. And after a serious makeover, and the decision to switch the hammer into a shield (though it still has the same name), TARANIS THE THUNDERLORD was born. I proceeded to have some absolutely amazing artists render this new design in ways I could only hope, establishing it as the definitive new standard.
I like to think that if you look at the original Thunderlord design contained herein, pencilled by me back in the late 90s, now expertly inked by Luis Rivera with beautiful colors by Gilbert Monsanto, you can see what elements crossed over from his original concept to how he now appears.
I’m glad I was able to salvage him. And after you read these issues, I hope you are, too.
As my friend Vito Delsante is so fond of saying…
Eric N. Bennett
State College, Pennsylvania